Category Archives: Music Reviews

Record Store Day 2017

They say old habits die hard. Vinyl, once considered an antiquated format for music consumption, has made an astonishing revival in the past decade to dominate shop shelves and storefront windows; everywhere from Urban Outfitter’s to Sainsbury’s is selling copious amounts of plastic.

But there’s one special day on the calendar no Vinyl enthusiast could have afforded to miss, with the regions premier Independent stores celebrating the tenth anniversary of ‘Record Store Day’ on April 22nd. Shop’s like Hot Rats and Pop Recs are home away from home for many loyal music fans throughout the year, with this special day being their chance to come together and celebrate shared passions.

The event, first begun in the US, is hailed by many as the force behind the Vinyl revival and sees independent record stores selling local fans exclusive releases created especially for the day.

For many years Hot Rats was Wearside’s only independent record shop and still keeps patrons awash with an eclectic mix. Proprietor Marty Yule is no stranger to the realities of Vinyl, being a former member of Punk band The Toy Dolls and beginning the store almost 25 years ago as initially something to do in-between tours.

“Originally the day was to encourage people to pop down to your local independent record shop and perhaps spend a couple of quid at a time when shops were closing at the rate of one a week. Now it’s pretty good business for both the shops AND the suppliers / distributors.” says Marty, “It’s become pretty important, it’s certainly the busiest day of the year. More importantly it seems to get more people into vinyl every year and there’s plenty of press, thanks to ERA, the body that looks after the day.”

Planning and preparation for Record Store Day takes place long before the morning of the event itself. Beatdown Records in Newcastle, themselves a regional favorite amongst music fans, are hard at work in the days approaching.

Store Manager, Nick Wrightson, said: “A lot of blood sweat and tears goes into preparing for the day actually, it’s a logistical nightmare trying to make sure you’ve got the space to get it all in, the knowledge to know what will sell and what won’t. It’s a bit of a juggling act but it’s also a lot of fun.

One of the major contributors for the continued and increased interest in Vinyl is due to the ambitions of younger collectors, who are eager to make up for lost time and add as many pieces as possible, especially those students from across the UK who spend their Education in Sunderland. Grace Tonkinson, of Heaton Manor Sixth Form, and Lilly Thompson, of St Anthony’s Girl’s School in Sunderland found themselves perusing Vinyl on the day but for slightly different reasons. “We’re walking around taking photo’s for Grace’s art” Lilly explained, as best friend Grace clarified that “it’s to do with my A Level Art project, I’m doing a theme on human form and in different environments. I thought this was a good environment to use because it showcases peoples personalities so well, enjoying music.” And there’s certainly plenty of that.

Michael McKnight, Manager of Pop Recs in Sunderland, looks forward to the day and the live music in store, saying: “It’s always great to remind people that we’re here, so I guess it’s a nice excuse for a bit of a party. We have the Cornshed Sisters, This Little Bird and Chelsea Lynch playing on the evening. I’m really looking forward to that.”

And speaking of performers, there was at least one on hand to pick up Vinyl in Sunderland from the moment the store opened its doors early that morning. The euphonious Frankie of Frankie & The Heartstrings took a moment out of his busy schedule to speak with me about Record Store Day, saying that “I think it’s good, I came in today, no idea what the guys were selling and picked up this ‘Bollywood The Psychedelic Years’; which you probably wouldn’t find on a usual day in a record store, so I think it’s a good cause. I think that it’s great that it highlights the plight of the record store…it’s great that it’s celebrated in mass media.”

Although still considered ‘the new guy in the band’, Pop Recs has made a lasting impression across all generations in Sunderland, first opening their store in June 2013 and then launching an incredible Kickstarter campaign in 2015 when the store was forced to close temporarily and relocate. That project saw 642 backers pledge £14,292 and reaffirmed both Pop Recs importance to the region as well as their continued influence among the positivity of inspiring people through enjoyable music.

This year’s Record Store Day provided many treats for fans. One particular favorite was a limited reissue of The Beatles 1967 7” ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ backed with ‘Penny Lane’. The single was originally released to gap the bridge between the bands albums Revolver and it’s follow up, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which celebrates its 50th anniversary on June 1st. “You’re never going to be left with a Beatles album or a Bowie album” Nick tells me, proving classic artists are still as popular with punters today as they’ve always been.

Customer Maxine Wilson was queuing early, her shopping bag to hand and a list filled with relatives and friends choices, those who were unprepared to brave the Sunderland morning themselves. “I queued with a friend two years ago in London” she explains, “it was a bit hectic cause we were out overnight but I got everything I wanted and I was hooked.”

Mistaken for thinking Maxine is a seasoned spin master, she tells me that actually “I take them to my Dad’s because I haven’t got a vinyl player yet, I’m saving up to get a decent one…but I’m going to Vegas this year to get married so I might have to put it back.” Maxine confesses further she’s spent at least £100 on vinyl this month, with no player in sight, proving the records themselves might be more tempting than the ability to hear them.

There has been criticism, given such high profile re-releases, that many exploit the nature of the day, collecting limited items to resell them at profit at online auction sites. This in turn prevents more genuine collectors getting these items at Record Store Day prices.

“If the company’s release interesting stuff fans and collectors will come and buy it. You of course get a percentage of eBay ‘flippers’, but thankfully they seem to be getting less” says Marty, with Michael adding that “I’d guess you’d have to be a mad collector as the records are so expensive. I only ever buy vinyl that I want to listen too”

But the morning’s queue was headed by the purist of the pure, with local man Philip Carrington having the distinction of taking first at the door of Hot Rats. “I was here at five…” Phillip tells me with bloodshot eyes, his tired complexion aside, he’s proud of the achievement, “I’m after the dead or alive…last year was my first one, it’s on the build, the more people and record companies get involved the better it gets”. Gary Weeks, second in the queue, is tight lipped about what he’s looking for but does tell me about a friend of his queuing in Brighton. Apparently he turned up at 2am and was only fourth.

Bronze Medal in the Hot Rats queue goes to Anthony E, his coat pulled against the rain, the heavens opening for a shower as we speak. He’s queued a few years now and it doesn’t seem the weather’s improved, but he sports an optimistic smile and tells me that “I’ve supported the football team all these years so I might as well support my local record store” and then gives Marty a wave as he arrives to open up.

At its heart, Record Store Day is a celebration of everything positive about the impact of good music and comradeship in collecting. It’s brought money to Sunderland this morning and it’s brought a crowd, soon gathering attention from onlookers, to part with their hard earned for records. Whether we celebrate its twentieth or thirtieth anniversary is unclear, but regardless, there’s no denying the positive influence it has had on the landscape of music across the region.

As we ended the celebrations on the day itself, we were given some parting words of wisdom about safely storing and caring for those treasured purchases, so that we might be able to enjoy them for many years to come.

“It’s always worth putting your LP’s in poly lined anti-static inners. Store them upright and away from any heat sources. NEVER touch the vinyl surface with your fingers, hold by the edge and label.” Marty says: “If at all possible don’t play them on them horrible ‘dancette’ things. You need to spend a few hundred pounds on an amp, speakers and deck.” Nick agrees with this, saying that “store it vertically, keep it clean, don’t buy one of those cheap record grinders if you can help it but most of all play them and enjoy them, they do no good sitting on a shelf not being touched”.

A note upon which we are all perhaps agreed then, with Michael adding simply that “As long as people are listening to them, I’m happy”

Interview with Trevor Sewell

Last week I was delighted to get the chance to speak with a musician named Trevor Sewell. Trevor is a North East England based artist who released ‘Calling Nashville’ (his latest album) at an event in The Cluny.

Support on the night came from Rod Clements and Ian Thomson of Lindisfarne and this interview was actually conducted in the same room which I helped BBC3 organise a speed dating event for the show Geordie Finishing School for Girls back in 2011 as a member of the Production Team.

This interview was recorded in 4K by the lovely folks at Eze As Pi Productions (who ARE available for hire and should be contacted) and I’ve included a clip from the Geordie Finishing School show (the Speed Dating clip) below. Which is also fascinating and brings back some good memories.

Kyle Hughes, Freelance Drummer

I first met Kyle when he was drumming for Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal in Newcastle’s 02 Academy in 2015. He was also performing there as the drummer with Twister – who were both the support act AND Ron’s backing band for his headline show.

Ron spoke with me that night and told me that Kyle was one of the most talented drummers he had ever met. And Kyle was later invited to tour with Ron on several occasions. Last December I got to sit down with Kyle and talk about some of the things he had going on. Truth be told, the man hasn’t stopped since this video was made but I couldn’t be happier for this guy.

His own words can describe it better than I can. But I’m in the video too. Enjoy.

Micky Crystal (Tygers of Pan Tang) Interview

Last December I got the chance to interview Micky Crystal from Tygers of Pan Tang. He’s a lovely guy and they’re a great band originally founded out of Whitley Bay, near to where I’ve been based myself the last few years. The band are currently on tour in Europe and they’ll be back on UK soil in November.

The video was recorded shortly after Micky performed live with Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal in Newcastle Upon Tyne as part of Ron’s mini UK Tour.

We filmed this back in December 2016 with the @Ezeaspi guys and I featured it on my radio show, but finally we can release the video too.

More interviews coming soon! Keep watching guys and keep tuning in to my website for all of the comings and goings of what I’m working on and who I’m talking to!

Filmed in 4K. All video rights:


Velvet Revolver, Point, Dublin, 12th January 2005

There’s something special in the air tonight as we approach the Point Theater with Dublin about to witness one of the fastest rising rock bands the music world has seen in a long time. From the release of their album Contraband mid 2004, Velvet Revolver attacked the rock world with aggression not seen since the days of Guns N Roses. And considering this band is compiled of 3 ex-members of Guns N Roses, along with the lead singer of the Stone Temple Pilots, this is hardly surprising.

“Sucker Train Blues” begins the night’s proceedings with a bang. Bare-chested Stone Temple Pilots singer Scott Weiland (who, perhaps now, will finally be recognized as one of the finest vocalists of his generation), is a sex symbol sleaze-machine as he leans across the monitors, snaking his way across the stage. Backed by Slash’s vintage solo’s and legendary guitar lick’s, Duff McKagan’s boiling bass lines, drummer Matt Sorum’s beats and guitarist Dave Kushner’s riffs tonight’s performance is every bit explosive as one could have hoped. When Weiland has finally calmed down, it’s time for “Fall to Pieces” (a song composed about his wife), to which the crowd respond with a triumphant roar. Whether it’s because they know all the words or whether it’s just because this is the first break in a non-stop action-packed set is unclear, but the one thing that’s certain is that it will most definitely become a power ballad of its time, beautifully emotive as it is.

Again, with a certain magic in the air, Duff McKagan starts up his Bass and we are transported back to 1987, as Guns N Roses favourite “It’s So Easy” kicks the crowd up in such a way that there isn’t dry spot left on the walls! McKagan provides backing vocals to this track, allowing Weiland to sing along, but not as powerfully as on his previous efforts. Weiland mutters that “if you liked that, you’ll love this” and the band perform a powerful version of “Big Machine”, giving us time for a bass and drum solo as the song is extended beyond its usual four minute duration, ushering in Slash for a guitar solo before closing with a triumphant repeat of the last verse. Stepping off stage for a brief moment, the iconic guitarist returns with a cigarette, asking why the Irish hadn’t put up more of a fight against their ban, and defiantly smoking it while on stage. Its unclear as to whether the promoters have allowed this, but Slash doesn’t really seem to care, and takes a few more drags before positioning it on the machine head.

“Set Me Free” closes the main part of the show, and gives the crowd a taster of a rather different side to the band. While the song is indeed Velvet Revolver, its lyrics convey the band’s struggle to escape drug-fuelled binges while building the foundations of this band. It’s a fitting end to the main set, and leaves the crowd wanting more, knowing that they’ll get it.

There is time for two encores tonight. The first is a semi-acoustic strum through original Guns N’ Roses song “Used To Love Her” and there own personal acoustic track “You Got No Right”, ushering in a sense of quiet time and reflection. While “Used to Love Her” is apparently a bit of fun for the fans, “You Got No Right” seems to be a very personal song; its lyrics reflecting a personal heartache. A small drum solo ensues and turns into the Guns’ classic “Mr Brownstone”. Relentless in their appeal, the band perform their most recent single “Slither”, the song the crowd have most expected to hear, so why not leave it till last and go out with a bang.

The truth is though that this band have already made their mark, and the guitar residue left in my ears might finish ringing in the morning, but the impact of this band certainly won’t.