Review Of The Month: APRIL 2017.

Esquires Bedford.

There were certainly no fools to be found on the Esquires mainstage on Saturday April 1. As always, The Dub Pistols garnered a mighty sell out show. Fronted by the dapper showmanship skills of Barry Ashworth, this was a party night of big beats, electronic alternative dub hop. As the sounds of Mucky Weekend, West London etc reverberated around the room, everyone present is so glad to be alive and dancing in these sharp fellas company. Support came from a Birmingham based collective called Kioko. Any fans of say UB40, would certainly love these exuberant musicians. They fuse soulful pop reggae to some good songwriting ideas. My particular highlight was Queen Of The Dancefloor, but all round it was a good introduction to a most talented band.

Hosted by The Met Lounge from Peterborough, Thursday 6 saw Holding Absence take centre stage. Crowd turnout to say the least was extremely poor, given the fact that this genre of music is rarely seen on the mainstage. All four bands performing were both energetic and vibrant, emotional when needing to be. Hailing from Cardiff, Holding Absence have only been in existence for some nine months. Interest from labels has been generated though. Fronted by the vibrant, bleached blonde frontman Lucas Woodland. This emotive five piece post – hardcore unit readily impressed with an imaginative and well placed set. Also on the bill were Young Kings. Tonight was, we were told , guitarist Dave’s first show. Naturally he is given a most warm “Welcome to the family” this is a band who always specialise in palpitating rock music, chockfull of pitch racing rhythms. Their frontmans bedroom born angst, certainly gives their lyrics a most true heartfelt frustrated everyman quality. Young Ways is a “personal song” while current single Visitor does prove that this Bedfordshire based five piece certainly do a damn fine job of making trademark British rock misery, sound like strangely rousing stuff. Its such a pity that there were so few like minded teens and twenty something’s in attendance. All the more so when this gig was listed in the Kerrang magazine.

Tuesday 11 featured a hotly anticipated visit from My Baby. Female fronted, they hail from Amsterdam and New Zealand. These Dutch groovers are on manoeuvres in Bedford. Their set unifies a busy midweek crowd, who at first seemed mainly curious, but by the close were waving their arms skywards in total unison. Some would say that the heady and hedonistic days of dodgy rave happenings in various spots near to the M1 motorway are a distant and hazy memory. Watching My Baby, I can vouch that this trio rekindle those times. Solid local support on the night was offered in their own majestic way by Pearl Handled Revolver who’s set list was thus: 1) Rabbit Hole, 2) Loverman, 3) Absinthe In Adelaide, 4) Into The Blue, 5) If The Devil Cast His Net, 6) Help Me Down From The Trees, 7) You Got It Wrong.

Friday 14 was good for the people who enjoy comedy in their musical menu. An Easter special came all the way from Newport, South Wales, as The Legends Of Goldie Looking Chain (GLC) appeared here for the first time. With a projector screening some of their adventures and exploits, Rhys, Eggsy and Cousin Tom (on the decks) went “Through all the levels” to give us a best of their minor hits. Extolling the praises of local pizza Parlour Stone Willys, (“It’s the thick crust”) The lads are in fine form. Their cheeky dittys encompass The A4051 In Cumbran,” smoking loads of weed plus a tribute to their local cornershop for Menswear Express. Fans are actively encouraged to singalong to Your Missus Is A Nutter, while their top three hit Guns Don’t Kill People, Rappers Do, sees people fervently jumping up and down, its madness on the mainstage, ‘You knows it!

A massive town centre power cut that blacked out the whole venue for a couple of minutes just before the close of the Louise Distras set just about summed the Easter Sunday 16 gig. Described by Kerrang Magazine as a ‘one woman sound revolution’ perhaps the folks of Bedford were to busy eating their chocolate eggs to bother watching this feisty twenty something Yorkshire lass. Although crowd turnout is dismally small, Louise speaks with a happy and friendly demeanour and sings with savage fury. Her C.V. is impressive; she is also an independent film maker as well as a poet. This sits easy with being a punk rocker. She speaks of the “Bullshit in society” amongst her collection of songs. Forever Is You and also Love And Money are the pick. A tidy set, sadly neglected by Bedford’s disaffected youth.

Local lad Tom Grennan headlined a sold out homecoming midweek show on the 19th

The next evening 20th saw undoubtedly my favourite Esquires show of the month. Pins were the stars. A five piece all female rock band based in Manchester. Punky in attitude, they put on a fantastic show, crammed full of catch songs. A sizeable crowd voiced their approval. The set starts on a high as they performed Aggrophobe. This recorded single included Iggy Pop’s additional spoken word contribution. Unfortunately the old legend is not in attendance tonight, but the repeated chorus of “So many actions, so many voices” is compellingly addictive to my ears. Bathed in bright colours, the ladies scatterbomb around the stage. All Hail (yet another song from their current Bad Thing EP) contains a most interesting poser! “What will we do when our dreams come true?”Keyboards enhanced, the pulsating motorik of LuvU4Lyf is suitably tight and edgy. Faith Holgate the Pins singer, guitarist rather regrets the fact that tonight’s audience is male dominated and encourages all the ladies present, to join the band on stage. Although a few fellas do invade this sister power moment.

Fronted by Lande Hekt, Muncie Girls headlined on 21st this Exeter punk rock trio performed in front of a sparse Friday night crowd, but still produced a riveting set of songs. Notable highlight was Social Side. It comes from their current album, From Caplan To Belsize and is we are told “About friends”. Sadly for this show, they didn’t seem to have many in the Bedford area.

On Saturday 22 I saw one of the most outrageously fun bands I have witnessed on the mainstage for many a year. They were called Shelter. A retro electro duo, who have been recently supporting Erasure on their tour. The similarity is obvious, but Shelter have their own true stamp of originality. Vocals and programming work in total unison, to produce a head spinning concoction of hi-energy sounds. Vocalist Mark Bebb is flamboyantly over the top in his between song chats, which has such a great rapport with a crowd, intent on partying. Shelter made music for dancing and also bought a big smile to my face. A winning combination.

The highly rated Honeyblood reached Bedford on their nationwide British tour Thursday 27, based in Glasgow, they are singer guitarist Stina Tweedale and Cat Myers on drums. Their sound could be best described as ‘slacker pop kissing grunge’. Lots of songs are performed from their current album Babes Will Never Die. Indeed it’s only the title track composition, that remotely stirs my interest, on what is a patchy set. Stina’s between song pleasantries after a while, got rather boring, it however contrasted her initial comment of, “So Bedford’s fun? You are so excitable; we do not need to say anything”. Unfortunately she did, constantly, mainly about the merchandise they had to flog, a tedious and brain sapping “Broken drumstick competition” just about said it all. I admit I seemed to be in the minority, as a large crowd voiced its approval to songs such as Walking At Midnight and Sister Wolf. The latter even included a band “Panic attack” on stage. Supports included the London based indie punk trio called Doe. They were compelling in their technical expertise and the ability to construct songs of sheer inventiveness. Their short set culled from their 2016 offering called Some Things Last Longer Than You, which has been critically acclaimed by Kerrang.

Friday 28. saw a return of The King Blues. Fusing punk, hip hop, ska and spoken word. They are fronted by a ‘spokesperson’ for his generation. Mr. Jonny ‘Itch’ Fox. He climbs into the fact that we have an impending general election coming up. One of the bands anthemic songs is called Off With Their Heads and it is played with spiteful fury tonight. Perhaps Itch is not converting everyone to his political beliefs (certainly not this reviewer) but you cannot fail to admire his whole hearted beliefs. This is a tub thumping, fist pumping rallying call by a political band, intent on their thoughts through lyrics and music. Crowd surfing happens with much regularity, as the assembled singalong to a set that includes many from The King Blues new album, The Gospel Truth. Mass mayhem is especially reserved for Headbutt. His 2009 single typifies the bond between band and supporters. With the whole world in a perilous state of collapse, The King Blues are probably as urgent and relevant now, as they have ever been.

Sunday 30 saw a first ever Esquires appearance by soul legend Geno Washington And His Ram Jam Band. Now aged seventy three, he wows a pre bank holiday Sunday night crowd with all his old hits. Still as popular as ever, the years were rolled back for so many people. There I would think, be many tired aching limbs on the following Monday morning!

Review by Martin Stapleton.