Alternative Christmas Playlist

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Every celebration is in need of a good soundtrack and of all the public holidays, Christmas has no shortage in this department.

However, if you a bit worn out from the incessant playing of ‘classics’, we’ve got you covered with this Alternative Christmas Playlist on Spotify. There’s a nice two hour mix of alternative Christmas cuts from Julian Casblancas, Slow Club, Sweet Baboo, We Cut Corners, Spectrals, Jinx Lennon, Half Man Half Biscuit & more. All in all it’s a pretty nice spread of tunes, and one that’ll hopefully serve you well.

Right, time for me to leave you to it – enjoy!

Hard Working Class Heroes 2016 Preview: 8 Must See Acts

 

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Hard Working Class Heroes takes place in venues across Dublin this week.

Running from Thursday, October 6th to Saturday, October 8th and it will showcase well over 100 of Ireland’s most promising emerging acts. One of HWCH’s biggest draws (and festivals of its ilk) is rambling around, seeing acts you have previously been unfamiliar with. That said, there are a couple of names that immediately jump out and come highly recommended with the much sought after BarryGruff seal of approval*.

The full line-up / stage times for Hard Working Class Heroes 2016 is here. And as always, feel free to share your own recommendations in the comments section below. *May not be much sought after.

Eoin Dolan: Thursday, 19:40 – 20:10 @ Tengu Downstairs

Galway-based singer-songwriter Eoin Dolan is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the finest finds from the past 12 months. Dolan has a real flair for twinkly and whimsical, good old fashioned pop gems, with a healthy dose of Brian Wilson, Syd Barrett and Lennon/McCartney (moments) threaded through the fabric of his sound. His brand of surfy psych-pop is totally charming, entirely irresistible, easy-going and timeless. Dolan’s self-titled debut album was released last month, for a taste of that & what to expect at HWCH, check out ‘Dear Brian'; a playful blend of woozy, soothing sounds, sinuous melodies, SFA-esque synth work, giddy-pop-playfulness and reverb-drenched vocals. Not to be missed.

New Pope: Thursday, 21:40 – 22:10 @ Tengu Downstairs

Galway-based New Pope – fronted by Dave Boland – deal in truly beautiful, timeless and carefully crafted acoustic folk sounds. Passing with a whisper rather than a roar, New Pope’s songs are delivered with warmth and tenderness, as Boland’s distinctive vocal creates a warm, lush atmosphere – and an overwhelming sense of sense of nostalgia. Last year’s YOUTH EP & LP are wonderful and New Pope were excellent at Electric Picnic this year, and if that doesn’t entice you? Check out the layered, lush and beguiling beauty of ‘Love’ below:

Slow Riot: Friday, 20:10 – 20:40 @ The Hub

Limerick trio Slow Riot‘s ferocious, tense and searing post-punk, has marked them out as one of Ireland’s most promising guitar bands in sometime. Taking classic post-punk influences – Gang of Four, Television, Wire – and infusing them with more contemporary ones such as Girl Band and Future of the Left, they create an irresistible and thunderous modern take on a classic sound. Still need convincing? Check out the intense, insistent and menacing ‘Trophy Wife’ below. Peerless.

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Hard Working Class Heroes 2016 Line-up Announced

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The line-up for Hard Working Class Heroes 2016 festival has just been announced today.

The annual festival will return to Dublin once again, running from Thursday, October 6th to Saturday, October 8th in venues across Dublin, incl. The Workman’s Club, Wigwam, The Chocolate Factory, Odessa, Tengu and The Mezz, with more to follow.

Having been away for the past few years, I’m excited to check out a whole host of acts I’ve not had the pleasure of seeing yet. And of course, discovering some new music too. On a first glance a couple of names immediately jumped out; Oh Boland, New Pope, whenyoungEoin Dolan, A.S. Fanning, Adultrock, Galants, EXPLODING EYES, R.S.A.G, Slow Riot & Rusangano Family.

The full line-up for Hard Working Class Heroes 2016 is as follows:

HWCH 2016:

A.S. Fanning / Adultrock / AikJ / Ailbhe Reddy / Alana Henderson / BARQ / Basciville / Beach / Birds of Olympus / Bitch Falcon / Black Wing Bird / BlueMusic / Brian Casey / Buffalo Woman / Callum Stewart / Chris Kabs / Clarence & The Winters / Comrade Hat / Cormac O Caoimh / Craig Gallagher / Cult Called Man / Dammy Ari / Damola / Daniel McDermott / Davina and the Messengers / ELE / Elephant / Ella Naseeb / Elm / Eoin Dolan / Erica-Cody / Evvol / Exiles / EXPLODING EYES / Fangclub / Fontaines / Galants / Ger Fox Sailing / HAIL THE GHOST / Half Of Me / handsome eric / Harbouring Oceans / HAWK / Hiva Oa / JAFARIS / Jealous of the Birds / Junk Drawer / Kid Karate / Le Boom / Loah / Maija Sofia / Maria Kelly / Miles Graham / moossmann / Naoise Roo / New Pope / New Portals / New Valley Wolves / Nocturnes / Oh Boland / Oh Joy / Orchid Collective / Paddy Dennehy & The Red Herring / Paddy Mulcahy / PALE RIVERS / Participant / Patrick Freeman / Paul Creane / Peppy / Petty Youth / R.S.A.G. / Rocstrong / Rosie Carney / Rusangano Family / Samyel / SARAMAI / Search Party Animal / Slow Riot / Soule / Stephen Robinson / Strength / Super Silly / swords / Tablets / Talos / Tara Lee / Tebi Rex / The Blizzards / The Ocelots / The Shaker Hymn / Tiz McNamara / TOUTS / Train Room / Tuath / Video Blue / Vulpynes / Wake America / Wastefellow / We, the Oceanographers / whenyoung / Whim / WOLFF / Wyvern Lingo / Yonen / Young Earth

Early bird tickets to HWCH 2016 are €35 via DICE until August 10th. After that, weekend tickets will cost €45.00 & €20 for nightly tickets (excl. booking fees).

Millions Like Us Podcast – Episode #18

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We’re thrilled to share yet another Millions Like Us with you all, Episode #18!

Every two weeks, Justin & I, in conjunction with Vancouver news & culture site 604now, aim to deliver an eclectic and hand-picked selection of top class music. There’s plenty to chew on with a bumper episode #18, almost 2 hours in fact, of great tunes and plenty of chat, on all manner of topics and music including festivals; as we talk Music Waste and Levitation Vancouver.

You can read more on it over here and of course, listen below (and the tracklist (with links) is after the jump too). You can subscribe to ‘Millions Like Us’ on iTunes & Podcast Republic, Mixcloud & SoundCloud, or find us on Facebook & Twitter. Or you can email us at millionslikeuspodcast[at]gmail[dot]com.

As mentioned previously, Justin has been busy compiling tracks featured in the series. If you’re a Spotify user, then you can access this 6 hours plus playlist here.

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Millions Like Us Podcast – Episode #17

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We’re thrilled to share yet another Millions Like Us with you all, Episode #17!

Every two weeks, Justin & I, in conjunction with Vancouver news & culture site 604now, aim to deliver an eclectic and hand-picked selection of top class music. There’s plenty to chew on with #17, almost an hour & a half, of great tunes and plenty of chat, on all manner of topics and music including festivals; as we talk Music Waste and Levitation Vancouver.

You can read more on it over here and of course, listen below (and the tracklist (with links) is after the jump too). You can subscribe to ‘Millions Like Us’ on iTunes & Podcast Republic, Mixcloud & SoundCloud, or find us on Facebook & Twitter. Or you can email us at millionslikeuspodcast[at]gmail[dot]com.

As mentioned previously, Justin has been busy compiling tracks featured in the series. If you’re a Spotify user, then you can access this 6 hours plus playlist here.

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Millions Like Us Podcast – Episode #16

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After some Mac related issued hampered our first attempt at Podcast #16, we’re thrilled (and relieved) to share yet another Millions Like Us with you all.

Every two weeks, Justin & I, in conjunction with Vancouver news & culture site 604now, aim to deliver an eclectic and hand-picked selection of top class music. There’s plenty to chew on with #16, well over an hour in fact, of great tunes and plenty of chat, encompassing all manner of topics and music including festivals as we talk Music Waste and Levitation Vancouver.

You can read more on it over here and of course, listen below (and the tracklist (with links) is after the jump too). You can subscribe to ‘Millions Like Us’ on iTunes & Podcast Republic, Mixcloud & SoundCloud, or find us on Facebook & Twitter. Or you can email us at millionslikeuspodcast[at]gmail[dot]com.

As mentioned previously, Justin has been busy compiling tracks featured in the series. If you’re a Spotify user, then you can access this 6 hours plus playlist here.

Podcast #16 Tracklist:

PLAZAS  – ‘2 leave U Behind’

Jay Arner – ‘Like A Dracula’

Rusangano Family – ‘Lights On’

Ffug – ‘Love is Stupid’

Com Truise – ‘Diffraction’

Holy Wave – ‘Minstrel’s Gallop’

IcebergFerg – ‘You’re All On My Mind’

Words Hurt – ”Chekov’s Gun feat. Marilyn Carino’

Hinds – ‘San Diego’

Jade Statues – ‘Hydra’

Trails & Ways – ‘My Things’

Jo Passed – ‘Lego My Ego’

BarryGruff’s July 2015 playlist

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A now regular monthly feature, whereby we round up all the blog action with a nice, neat and handy playlist of tracks featured during the month.

July was pretty ace! We had new tunes from The School, The Stammer and DRINKS ahead of their respective, forthcoming new albums, and the return of WE//ARE//ANIMAL. There were excellent new singles from Neon Wolf, Galants, Lethal Dialect, Manor, Kelly Lee Owens, The Expert, Glass Sines and Koloto.

Also featured on this month’s playlist are great tracks from Bedbugs, Effin, Gwenno, Trails and Ways, Open Window and Joan. So, July was pretty good. And that’s all before mentioning that Justin Beats gave Jamie xx’s new record In Colour, the once over, Johnny Feeney reported from Knockanstockan and we had a chat with Trails and Ways. And the small matter of my albums of the year so far list.

Listen to BarryGruff’s July 2015 playlist below.

Knockanstockan 2015 Review

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Given that I’m over 9,000 miles away, there ain’t much chance of me making an appearance at any Irish festivals but in my absence, my mate and intrepid gig goer, Johnny Feeney was at this year’s Knockanstockan. As always, his makes for interesting and thoroughly enjoyable reading. Thanks as always to Johnny and I’ll leave you in his very capable hands. 

While many festivals continue to expand year on year, Knockanstockan have deliberately gone the other direction, scaling back the size of the main arena and removing the main stage for the second successive year. Live music is now concentrated into three main medium-size stages with a further dedicated dance tent, a performance stage displaying varied entertainment such as debate, spoken word and cabaret and a kids area.

The main arena’s compact but not overcrowded. The camp site is close by so everything is a short walk away – a very important fact considering it’s BYOB. However there are bars scattered around the place also. The crowd are boisterous and friendly and there was no sign or reports of any aggression or trouble over the course of the weekend. Due to work commitments, Friday was unfortunately missed but Saturday proved to be a treat. Helpfully, the weather was also kinder on the Saturday with the sun making the occasional, welcome appearance through the overcast sky. And so to the music.

Dublin four-piece rockers Pretty Beast were first up in the Dimestore Tent (it was marked down as the Circus Tent on the timetable). They played a high-octane set of pulsating rock that fizzed along noisily. As the show progressed the tunes became noticeably more danceable with their heavy riffs underpinned by grooving basslines and synths. The charismatic frontman Donie Keaveney owned the stage and worked up quite a sweat, culminating in him perilously climbing to the top of the scaffolding at the side of the stage towards the end.

Sinead White was next up in the intimate amphitheatre, the Faerie Field. It’s a beautiful setting for the Dublin-based singer-songwriter and a nice way to ease into the day. White plays acoustic guitar throughout but is ably accompanied by lead guitar, bass and drums to flesh out her sound. For her closing song, White hands out 50 plastic kazoos into the crowd in an attempt to get the crowd to join in on the chorus. By the time people have figured out how to play the kazoos White has left the stage so all that’s left is the sound of kazoos all over the place. A cue to exit if ever I’ve heard one.

Upon entering the Burrow, White Chalk have already kicked off their set and are in full flight. They’re a seven–piece band with a penchant for anthemic songs and big, singalong choruses –lots of woahs and doo-doos that you can pick up after a listen or two. Think a strange Arcade Fire/Maccabees/trad hybrid with guitars, percussion, cello, keyboards, mandolins and more. Main vocalist Conor Quinn’s country-tinged voice is unique and not what you’d expect and he’s backed by soaring harmonies. They’re armed with very catchy tunes and certainly get the crowd moving. It would be very interesting to see these guys under a roof in a dark room.

Having known nothing about them before Saturday, Hot Cops were easily the find of the day for me. The Belfast three-piece play brilliantly dark, melodic indie-rock reminiscent of Pavement or Surfer Blood. Vocalist and frontman Carl Eccles comes alive with guitar in hand but just as quickly becomes soft-spoken and mild-mannered with barely a hint of a Belfast accent – so much so in fact that while speaking between songs, when one of the crowd suggests he doesn’t sound like he’s from Belfast he apologises! Drummer Conor Ellison is an absolute powerhouse on the drums. Superb.

Fresh on the trails of Hot Cops, Tramore native Rebecca Collins delivers another stunning performance in the Dimestore Tent. You can see why she’s been compared to the likes of PJ Harvey and Anna Calvi – particularly the former. This is theatrical alternative-rock that’s slightly morbid but utterly mesmerising. Collins is a captivating presence throughout and it’s difficult to take your eyes off her.

Having been impressive the weekend before in Longitude, Otherkin produced another storming set on the Burrow stage on Saturday evening. This Dublin-based four-piece play infectious, upbeat grunge/indie-rock with fuzzy guitars and a real swagger. The band clearly look like they’re enjoying themselves on stage and it’s hard not to get carried away with their enthusiasm. Nothing ground-breaking but very enjoyable all the same.

Festival highlight Elastic Sleep are a bit special. The Cork five-piece specialise in dream-pop/shoegaze along the lines of the quieter side of My Bloody Valentine. Muireann Levis provides breathy, haunting vocals around which the rest of the band create bruising, meandering soundscapes. Music to get well and truly immersed in, these are one of the best live bands around today. The Dimestore Tent didn’t ease off in quality all day. No Spill Blood were next on and the Dublin band produced a scintillating, no-holds-barred barrage of heavy synth-rock. A pummeling, chaotic, high-intensity set has the crowd going absolutely mental, the energy in the tent is electric and a fair amount of sweat is shed. Quality.

As night falls on Knockanstockan, various other attractions come into their own. Apart from more heavy-hitting music on the main stages, the Caravan Club Extravaganza (the dance tent) comes alive and various campfires pop up throughout the main arena where one can engage in various levels of entertaining conversation depending on who you end up beside. A great day, a very fine little festival.

Review: Hard Working Class Heroes 2014

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Obviously unable to attend Hard Working Class Heroes this year, having relocated to Vancouver. In my absence there was a more than capable replacement in Johnny Feeney, who was there to sample the sights and sounds (along with the wind and rain) of HWCH 14, now in it’s very respectable 12th year. Thanks to Johnny as always for his time and insight, with that I leave you in his ever capable hands. 

Now in its 12th year, Hard Working Class Heroes shows no signs of slowing down and is deservedly recognised as a top-rate music festival showcasing a mixture of the best established and emerging bands plying their trade in the country today. Spread out over seven separate venues in and around Temple Bar in Dublin, there is certainly a wide variety of quality music on offer.

Weather conditions on Friday night were miserable. Constant, torrential rain and a cold evening meant getting from venue to venue was treacherous, leaving Meeting House Square feeling under attended as the crowds aimed for the warmth of indoors. Dublin five-piece Cfit played a rousing set on the Meeting House Square stage early on Friday evening. They carve out long, epic, grandiose indie-rock with further layers of violin and electronics added on top. Vocalist Noël Duplaa has a deep tone similar to Paul Banks of Interpol but the music surrounding him is a much more uplifting affair. Their closing song tonight, Plausible Deniability, is staggeringly beautiful and euphoric live.

Next up in Meeting House Square are VANN MUSIC – a band well established on the festival scene now having performed at the likes of Electric Picnic, Castlepalooza and Forbidden Fruit. The Dublin synth-rockers perform with a confident swagger and have highly danceable tunes, while front man Aaron Smyth is a magnetic presence on stage as he busts out serious dance moves. These feel like a band destined for bigger things.

Cork shoegaze/post-rockers Elastic Sleep deliver a blistering set in the Mercantile. Bruising, chaotic rock surrounds the minute Muireann Levis whose dreamy, otherworldly vocals are in stark contrast with what’s going on around her. Dreamy and captivating, these were the standout act of Friday night despite having some technical difficulties meaning they had to cut their set short.

Later on Friday in Bad Bob’s, Dott were a very interesting new discovery for me. The Dublin four-piece play dreamy garage-pop which reminded me somewhat of Veronica Falls. Bad Bob’s didn’t feel like the best venue to be seeing live music as there were restricted views and a layout not designed for this kind of event. This became even more apparent as a bigger crowd filtered in for Ghost Estates, the last act to perform on Friday across the seven venues. The four-piece Dublin indie-rockers delivered an accomplished set as usual and tried, with some success, to get some of the crowd out towards the back to fill out the front. Not at all the band’s fault, the issue with the venue made this feel more muted than it might have been.

London-based, Galway band HAWK were the first band I caught on Saturday evening in the Button Factory. The four-piece are a very interesting mixture. On one hand you have a pretty standard alternative-rock set up playing loud, pounding rock while on the other hand front woman Julie Hawk is a more eccentric, mysterious character with her acoustic guitar and haunting vocals.

Cloud Castle Lake were up next in the Button Factory. Playing with the lights way down, the Dublin trio play understated electronic rock. It all feels a bit low key and I can see lead singer Daniel McAuley’s falsetto vocals being tough going for people. With just a single EP to their name to date this may be a band still trying to find their feet.

A delay in the schedule meant Carried by Waves came on half an hour late on to the Workman’s Club stage as Metlybrains? were due to be on. This came as a lucky break to catch these guys playing a lovely brand of breezy, tuneful electro-pop, reminding me in parts of a stripped down Hot Chip. Lovely stuff and a band worth exploring further.

The aptly named Meltybrains? have been on my radar for a while as news of their explosive live shows piqued my interest but I’d never managed to catch them live. Thankfully I wasn’t disappointed with their pulsating live show – what I envisage And So I Watch You From Afar might sound like if they made electronica. Frantic, pounding beats with the band going wild on stage. Trademark freaky Meltybrains? masks are thrown into the crowd for revellers to cover their faces and join them in wild abandon. So exhilarating, so exciting. The perfect finish to a very enjoyable weekend.

Electric Picnic 2014: Johnny Feeney’s 5 Best Acts

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t envious of all the people who made it to Electric Picnic this year, especially after last year’s festival, which was one of my favourite EP’s of all. It’s a small price to pay I guess for a new life over here in Vancouver. In my absence however, the trusty and reliable Johnny Feeney was down in Stradbally for this year’s festival, one of his favourites yet. His knowledge, diverse taste and appetite for music (gigs in particular) is astounding and always provides a refreshing and interesting take on whatever he chooses to write about. I for one really enjoyed his report from the weekend’s antics and hopefully you do too. So without any further hesitation, here are the five acts that impressed him the most at Electric Picnic 2014. Thanks as always to Johnny and I’ll leave you in his very capable hands.

Portishead, Main Stage, Saturday 30st August, 22:35

Trip-hop masters Portishead are not a band renowned for being overly prolific (they’ve released three studio albums in 20 years) or for their zealous touring schedule (they haven’t played in Ireland since 1997) so tonight’s performance on the main stage falls into the once-in-a-blue-moon category which you do not want to miss. The huge crowd at the main stage is recognition of this fact and thankfully they are treated to a very special show. The set opens with ‘Silence’ and its long, clattering intro before lead singer Beth Gibbons comes on stage to a raucous reception.

Gibbons is an enigmatic, mysterious, almost reticent, front woman. Clad in black jeans and black hoody, she delivers her angst-laden, blood-chilling vocals with her head bowed and eyes closed not acknowledging the crowd. As soon as her vocals are finished she turns away from the crowd and the lights, faces the drums and almost cowers in the dark until called upon again. From tonight’s set ‘The Rip’ is especially brilliant early on followed by the gorgeously languid ‘Sour Times’. Other highlights include ‘Wandering Star’, ‘Over’ and ‘Glory Box’. It may be bleak, it may be grim, but this is just magnificent from start to finish.

As the band wave their farewells after the encore there’s more than a hint of a smile from Gibbons. Has the Stradbally crowd won her over or is she just glad it’s all over? We’ll never know. That’s Beth for you, ever the enigma.

St Vincent, Electric Arena, Sunday 31st August, 19:00

On the other hand, Annie Clark, aka St Vincent, has no apparent problems playing to the masses. Drawing in a huge crowd to the early-evening slot on Sunday she delivers a blistering show to an ecstatic crowd. Drawing heavily from her self-titled latest album, Clark opens with ‘Rattlesnake’ before playing recent single ‘Digital Witness’, an infectious, joyous track with blasting horns and an incredibly catchy chorus.

This is an art-rock performance that will love long in the memory. Not only no slouch on the guitar with some crunching, squelching riffs, there are also numerous choreographed dance moves with her keyboard player. Later on, Clark finds herself writhing around on the raised steps at the back of the stage before playing ‘Cheerleader’ standing atop them. A late stage dive into the crowd finds a green mask placed into Clark’s hand. As she’s returned to the stage, she duly puts on the mask and finishes with ‘Her Lips Are Red’. A born entertainer, a wonderful show.

Metronomy, Electric Arena, Saturday, 20:00

People are ready to dance on Saturday night as an expectant crowd awaits Metronomy in the Electric Arena. The band emerge to a hero’s welcome dressed in white suits eerily reminiscent of Liverpool’s ill-fated 1995 FA Cup Final attire and deliver a barnstorming set of highly danceable electronic pop. Their latest record, Love Letters, may not attain the heights of their earlier albums but the title track, in particular, along with the soulful ‘I’m Aquarius’ and the instrumental ‘Boy Racers’ are well received.

The set highlights however come from earlier tracks such as ‘Corinne’, ‘the Look’, ‘the Bay’, ‘Holiday’, ‘Radio Ladio’ and ‘Heartbreaker’. The tent is hopping throughout as punters dance with abandon and the atmosphere is suitably electric. This was an incredible amount of fun and up there as a contender for set of the weekend alongside Chic’s fairly monumental headline show on the main stage later on Saturday evening.

The Altered Hours, Body & Soul Main Stage, Friday 29th August, 20:00

Having never heard of this Cork band before, stumbling across these guys early on Friday evening by blind luck and then being absolutely blown away by them was my very nice surprise of the weekend. Live, they play a really noisey, dirgey brand of rock somewhere between heavier psych-rock and the ear-bleeding shoegaze of My Bloody Valentine.

The mesmerising ‘Sweet Jelly Roll’, from the eponymous EP, has a real Jesus and Mary Chain feel to it. This is hypnotic music that draws you further and further in. Certainly a band worth checking out more of in the future, The Altered Hours play upstairs in Whelan’s on 14th of November. Blind luck can be a beautiful thing.

Benjamin Booker, Cosby Stage, Saturday, 15:45

New-Orleans based Benjamin Booker is only 22-years-old, but you wouldn’t think it from listening to him. Oozing cool on the Cosby Stage on Saturday afternoon and touring in support of his recently released brilliant self-titled debut album, his blues-rock is stomping, soulful and full of energy.

Accompanied by guitar and drums, Booker drums up a whirlwind of rousing rock along the lines of Black Keys or the White Stripes (Jack White was a big influence), but with bags more soul. In fact, the first pause for breath is about two-thirds through the show when Booker disappears off stage, quickly returns with fag in mouth which he proceeds to light up and explodes into song again before jumping off stage and running straight through the entire crowd. Set closer ‘Violent Shiver’ is a beast of a blues-rock track and finishes the show in suitably energetic fashion. Superb.