Looking back, there have been decent pickings on the live front. Something that may have been difficult to imagine at the start of the year. Here’s the best bits of 2021.
2021 has been, perhaps surprisingly, good for gigs and art. Especially considering how dark and despondently the year kicked off. At times it felt as though there was no end in sight and, of course, we appear to be heading into yet another round of cancellations, tests, passports and border controls.
But in the latter half of the year, the gig calendar seemed to be bursting at the seams as previously cancelled shows were rescheduled into an ever more packed itinerary. That meant there was much we missed. But there were gems and nuggets to be found.
Here’s our pick from a crazy year.
This was the first gig for ages and those who were there were effectively guinea pigs. But we didn’t really care that much. The air was heady with euphoria and a bit of a whiff of weed at times, but the drug of choice was the event itself and, of course, ridiculous amounts of alcohol.
The messages on the screens at the side of the stage were encouraging us all to TAKE IT EASY. Yeah, right. As if that will cut the bar takings. This was not the night for heeding the advice. And as it happened, Blossoms were surprisingly good.
It was, however, to be nearly three months before we got to see another gig. Ali Horn took early advantage of the lifting of restrictions and launched his 2021 album, Balcony Boys, at Handyman’s Supermarket.
It was not our absolute first chance to get out since May, but we were having to re-learn how to do things and a mini-meltdown earlier in the week told us we’d have to be a bit careful about life.
Also, taxi drivers had now become something of a scarce resource, with many of them having gone off to work for DPD or Ocado, so we remember the trip home as something of a trial.
This was a gig that was rescheduled no less than seven times, but finally The Lovely Eggs got to pop their Liverpool cherry at District. It seemed like the perfect venue for their punk attitude and it was a superb night.
We felt like we were fully back on it and Jimmy’s was pretty rammed for this one. We re-learned our elbow sharpening technique to get us to the front.
The first of the FestEVOL all dayers at the Invisible Wind Factory and Walt Disco were the stand out band of the day / evening.
Glammed up as far as they could, didn’t give a fuck what they wore. Looks like a nice dress, then cool, I’ll wear that. Feather boa, even better.
The clue’s in the name, but this was gender fluidity on show and proud.
That was three gigs in three days and we quit this one early for a lie down, but it was worth it.
The second of the FestEVOL gigs and we were so glad Revo decided to give us a week’s respite in between to recover. This time every band on the bill was, if not all female, then female fronted. Yes, we’re aware of the argument that says women in rock music isn’t a genre of itself, but nevertheless, this seemed like a statement and one that needed to be made.
Even the day job is starting to return to normal. Having previously spent hours on Zoom, we’re now required to turn up in person from time to time. A rare trip to London had Rough Trade East as an extra-curricular treat to soften the blow.
Our first visit to QU A RR Y since lockdown started and the first chance to see Polexia flexing their muscles around new EP, Immolation. We knew it would be good, but we weren’t prepared for the onslaught. What this band can deliver in a 20 minute set is astonishing.
A trip to Scotland for a long weekend and a search through the Glasgow gig listings found us in Room 2 for this four band, punk, bill. Brilliant fun and a change of scenery, which was cool. One guy even clocked our accent as being from Liverpool. We never thought we had a discernible accent. A friendly, inclusive and safe gig. We’ll be back there when conditions allow.
We’d heard good things about this band, but never seen them before. A cool bit of shouty punk / rock vibe. And a pretty cool name for a band as well.
As part of the Positive Vibrations Festival in Baltic Triangle. It’s more than 10 years since we saw this band last. They didn’t disappoint. Heavy as fuck. And a flute. What more do you need?
“Why do you need a photo of me. The world has enough photos of me, already.”
Yeah, but I don’t have any of them.
It was billed as the Tiny Gig on account of the fact the venue, Hobo Kiosk, can only hold about 20 people. It proves there is good music to be had in smaller venues and for free.
Wild Horses would not have kept us away from this gig. It may well be many years since she was fronting Transvision Vamp, but she still has the moves and the stage presence.
We loved this lot, supporting Ash at the O2 Ritz in Manchester. They gave it everything and didn’t care about the fact the room was nowhere near busy. If they stick around, you’ll be hearing more from them soon. Finishing off with King of the Disco. Yeah, really, this set was outstanding and some of the best fun we’ve had before 8 pm since, well, whenever.
As part of the Smithdown Road Festival, spread around various pubs, bars and coffee shops. All free. And, all good.
In some senses, this may have been the best part of the night. The Tosin Trio came out at full throttle, with their Hendrix style psych / blues thing. Maybe the refreshments helped, but we thought this was magnificent and demonstrates a point we have made time and time, over and over again. Sometimes the best gigs are the free ones, the ones squeezed into the corner of a tiny bar, the ones where you seek out something you haven’t seen before.
The second night of Smithdown Road Festival and Psycho Comedy always deliver. Although, having watched the match in the pub beforehand, we’ll confess to have been feeling a bit fragile by the time this happened. We’ll push on through.
Our love for this band is well documented. They just get better and better. We can’t wait to see what they do in 2022. Mixing noise and performance, they’re unsettling and take no prisoners.
We’ve come to love Nana Funk. Her unique style of cabaret / burlesque just seems to hit the spot. And, she’s a lovely human being as well. This was shot at the Playhouse where she did a solo show. We would see her again before the year was out giving it her inner Graham Norton as a chat show host.
It’s good fun, but she always has a serious point – why the hell does age matter. Just crack on and get on with it.
We kind of knew what to expect from Bo Ningen. And they delivered it without any compromise. District seemed like the ideal venue for them and they appeared to appreciate it, as did the crowd. The love in the room was almost a thing you could touch and feel.
From the moment we walked in with the band at the merch stall to the phone photos we took of them after the gig, it was clear Bo Ningen were fully engaged with this one. It goes without saying, they gave it everything.
There was a slight pause and we went to a record / CD fair in Liverpool. To be honest we weren’t expecting a great deal, but then we spotted this NINE disc Ramones bootleg. That was a no brainer. Other bonus prizes as well. We still haven’t listened to all the Ramones recordings, but from the ones we have heard, then they’re all ace. That’s a job for the coming days.
We’d had a serious car trauma when a wheel decided to blow out on a smart motorway. Highways Agency, AA, all the bells and whistles. They were fantastic and kept me safe, so kudos where it’s due. We felt like the Kaz Stockroom for a bit of a punk fest was the place to be. People we know and a chance to breathe. Piss Kitti helped it along the way.
Finally got the album launch. It was a familiar story of cancelled gigs and a not so familiar fight with a fire alarm on an earlier occasion.
Got there in the end. Magnificent night. Pity it had to be a Monday. But it was worth it.
This was the night we gathered there were eight gigs on in town. Even for Liverpool, that’s a big ask. We chose this one and were glad we did. Just no nonsense rock. And loud. Cool.
Future Yard in Birkenhead is a superb venue and they’ve managed to get some big names to hit that stage. We spoke to Ġenn a while back, so it was good to see them in action for real. They rocked it fine style.
Another trip to Future Yard. Later attempts would prove to be less successful as bands were now getting a bit nervous about the impending doom. But for now, we keep on plugging at it while we can.
Henge had the room bouncing pretty much all the way to the back. They’re a cracking live band and you should see them if you can. We’re still not sure about that hat, though.
Our first and only trip to the M&S Bank Arena this year. We’re not quite sure how the DMAs managed to pull off an international tour in this climate, but they did and fair play to them. The Arena was pretty busy for this one and it’s the band have a huge following.
If you think this world could get any worse, then ask Jimmy Cauty and he’ll put another level of a downer on your view.
Officially called “Estate“, his latest touring work is more commonly known as the Municipal Disaster Zone.
Four scale models of tower blocks inside a shipping container, complete with sound effects and billowing smoke. This was public art done right, and that’s not always easy.
Oh Sees – 10 November 2021
It was a full on psych hit from The Oh Sees and support from Brigid Dawson’s band, The Mothers Network. A superb gig at the Invisible Wind Factory that would have been difficult to better.
Supporting Millie Manders and the Shutup at the Arts Club, we loved the heavy swagger. They had the style and the moves.
A superb gig at The Swinging Arm in Birkenhead for a Sunday afternoon and a new venue for us. Bit delayed as one of the bands forgot to bring any mics with them, but there was beer, so no worries.
A wonderful gathering of freaks, misfits, tattoos, leather and green hair. What a fantastic, inclusive, safe space. We loved every minute of it and its no exaggeration to say this was a life affirming experience.
Not everyone conforms to a norm and there are few places where they can go. This is one of them. Had a massive grin on our face all the way home. And that wasn’t just because of the beer.
By now, things are starting to look shaky again and there’s talk of a second Christmas lockdown. This gig was always precarious, not least as Frank had broken his arm earlier in the tour. However, it happened and at the time we declared it to be the gig of the year. As good as Oh Sees were, this takes the prize. Outstanding stuff.
One of the most innovative bands in Liverpool (along with Lonesaw), Unstoppable Sweeties Show filled the small stage in the Kaz Stockroom and blasted their brand of punk / rock / jazz for 40 minutes or so, although it seemed to be over all too soon. This was sublime.
Well, this was a sorry tale. We were supposed to have been in Paris by now, with a ticket to see Jesus and Mary Chain at the Bataclan. But the French changed the entry rules, literally, overnight and try as we could, there was no way we could sort a test and get the results in time to get to the gig. So we resorted to hastily constructed Plan B. This was the first of two nights NMA played at the Roundhouse and a mighty fine gig it was too.
This was part two of the Plan B. We’d clocked there was an all dayer at the Black Heart in Camden. Half a dozen bands we’d never heard of, but that’s often a good thing. With a punk-ish feel to the proceedings, this was right up our street. Flesh Tetris stood out and we managed to persuade them to have a crack at our 13 Questions a while later.
24 Kitchen Street was absolutely rammed for this one with Michael C Hall being the obvious draw. An eerie sound created by synth and drums, with no guitars. It resides somewhere between Glam and Bowie’s Berlin era.
This was a long time coming. Amsterdam, with the full band (that’s an unlucky 13 of them), don’t often play Liverpool more than once a year and that’s usually a December gig just before Christmas.
Last year’s was cancelled, so the last time they did this was 2019.
They were on form for a sell out O2 and Prowse, as always gives it the full hit. We’ve seen him play many times and, even if he’s on his own doing acoustic, or maybe with a couple of others, he never dials in.
This gig has become a bit of a Liverpool institution for those that know and tonight reinforced it. Here’s to next year.
This was to be the end of 2021 as far as gigs were concerned. Casualties are starting to fall and there are cancellations all over the place. We had plans for another couple of gigs, but they didn’t happen.
Having said that, this does seem like an appropriate place to bow out with a feel good show from Nana Funk at the Unity as she took on the role of irreverent chat show host with a number of freaks and misfits as her guests. It was a suitably festive way with which to draw this year to a close.