I wrote a little ditty about this earlier this year – essentially, a man from the newspaper patch area I cover won a competition to bring the band Ash to his back garden… in the Surrey village of Ash. It was one of the most fun mornings I can recall, and a real treat for me as a big Ash fan.
So here are some of the pics I took that morning that have been lurking on my phone for quite some time, and a few courtesy of one of our photographers.
While bands come and go and eventually fade into obscurity, truly great songs always stand the test of time.
Nonetheless, there always has been – and seemingly always will be – a stigma attached to the label of ‘one-hit wonder’.
Wheatus are refreshing insofar as they cherish their 2000 monster hit Teenage Dirtbag. Yes, it really has been 15 years since ‘that song’ came out – but we’ll get back to that later.
After gracing The Boileroom stage in Guildford less than a year ago, Wheatus returned on Friday (October 9) as part of their celebratory 15th anniversary tour.
And it was every bit the raucous celebration you would imagine; what Wheatus manage so successfully is to put on an old-fashioned request show – with a strong backbone.
That backbone tonight is the band’s eponymous debut album, which they have been interspersing throughout their set in its entirety – give or take a song here and there – during their 20-date UK tour, which wrapped up in Brighton on Monday (October 12).
Tonight, we get the lot, from opener Truffles through closer Wannabe Gangstar. For anyone who remembers this album from their teenage years – and there are no shortage of them in the crowd – this is a real treat.
In fact, it’s probably fair to say that for many of packed into a sold-out Boileroom, Wheatus might well have been, and might well still be, something of a guilty pleasure.
Wheatus revel in their lack of cool; it almost defines them. They stick up for the outcasts and the downtrodden. Their songs are eminently relatable, evoking teenage angst as if it were currency.
The night is made all the more joyous, if slightly peculiar, by seeing a room largely full of 20-somethings belting out every word to songs like Punk Ass Bitch and Love Is A Mutt From Hell.
Lyrics like ‘Hey Mr Brown, don’t have a cow!’ hark back to the mid-90s when Wheatus were formed and these songs were hewn – you can almost imagine singer and songwriter Brendan B Brown channelling his inner Bart Simpson.
With his distinctive guitar style, which sees him caress and pluck at his strings rather than hammer at them with a plectrum, Brown comes across as the reluctant rock star, albeit one who within 15 seconds of taking to the stage is clambering onto the barrier and thrusting himself into the crowd.
Like the crowd last night though, I can hear you thinking – ‘yeah, but what about THAT SONG?’. Trust me, we’ll get to that.
To be fair to the crowd, it was at least a good two-thirds into the band’s set before the first concerted call for Teenage Dirtbag.
“You’ll get your Dirtbag,” quips Brown with a knowing smile, taking requests which sees the band air other fan favourites like Lemonade and The London Sun. A rare cut from their back catalogue even gets a debut airing in the UK.
“This is my favourite Wheatus song,” says Brown ahead of a poignant rendition of Valentine, which serves only to amplify the excitement for ‘that song’.
Cue those distinctive opening chords of Teenage Dirtbag, and with a singalong worthy of a venue a thousand times the size of The Boileroom (and the now obligatory selfie with the crowd), that’s that.
It’s a fitting end to the band’s 15th anniversary celebration here in Guildford. Actually, no, it’s the ONLY possible end.
You could have forgiven The Boileroom for not making a big song and dance of their ninth birthday last week and saved themselves instead for next year.
But then, the popular independent venue in Guildford’s Stoke Fields isn’t renowned for doing things by half measures – least of all when there’s a party to be had.
So what they did instead was pull off a coup booking former Supergrass frontman Gaz Coombes for an intimate solo show on Saturday night (September 19) to cap off the venue’s week-long birthday celebrations.
Ably supported was Coombes by ex-Reuben frontman Camberley’s Jamie Lenman, who cuts an impressive, dapper figure on The Boileroom’s diminuitive stage, filling out every inch of it while switching effortlessly between airy pop anthems and a handful of more introverted, soul-searching cuts at a stroke – or a strum.
All the time, there is a uplifting bonhomie among the patrons of The Boileroom as the clock ticks towards 11pm when Coombes, sporting his trademark pork pie hat and bushy mutton chops, saunters on, slung in an acoustic guitar.
“Alright Guildford?” he drawls, before introducing a stripped back version of Detroit from his second solo effort Matador, released back in January this year.
The perky Hot Fruit and sublime Girl Who Fell To Earth showcase succinctly Matador’s light and shade, while White Noise sees Coombes delve his 2012 debut Here Come The Bombs.
Now very much an established solo artist in his own right, Coombes has often been reticent about giving Supergrass numbers an airing. Two make it onto his setlist tonight, however.
The first is Moving from Supergrass’s eponymous third album; a crisp, luscious croon that contrasts Coombes’ impressive vocal range against just a few modest chords while strains of “moving, just keep moving” elucidate the first real singalong of the night.
It’s a mere warm-up though.
“Hasn’t he got a song for Saturday nights?” shrieks someone in the audience as Coombes retires briefly before his two-song encore. He doesn’t disappoint.
After the customary thanks and platitudes, he tears into Caught By The Fuzz, Supergrass’s first single and first bona fide hit – the song that made their name.
“Just like a bad dream, I was only 15!” rasps Coombes as he recounts, some 20 years later, his very own tale of juvenile delinquency when he arrested for possession of cannabis.
Cue pandemonium. Everyone’s up, everyone’s bouncing, bellowing every word at the top of their voices as if it were 1994 all over again.
Closing out with a final solo number, it’s all over in a flash – good night and God bless from Coombes, who leaves the stage complete – tantalisingly – with drumkit, bass guitar and keyboard all set up.
But besides a few Chinese whispers, and a few conspiracy theories, there’s to be no twist in the tale.
Coombes et all firmly closed the book on Supergrass more than five years ago and with his solo career thriving, don’t hold your breath for a reunion any time soon.
It doesn’t take long for him to emerge from backstage to share a good hour or so chatting with his fans, signing autographs – even posing for a few selfies.
It’s an exultant end to The Boileroom’s ninth birthday celebrations, while leaving just one question unanswered; what on Earth are they going to do for next year’s 10th to top it?
Little did I expect, three months later, to spend my Wednesday morning in someone’s back garden (in the Surrey village of Ash) watching Ash perform their hits Girl From Mars and Shining Light in front of barely 30 people.
Few bands have risen to prominence with quite the same alacrity that propelled Gomez towards the top of the charts during the late 1990s.
The band’s debut album, Bring It On, was a potent statement; a heady gumbo of delta blues and fetid psychedelia that was as unexpected as it was triumphant.
Whippin’ Piccadilly and Get Myself Arrested became indie classics while album cuts Make No Sound, 78 Stone Wobble and Tijuana Lady cemented Gomez’s talent for blending a diverse array of influences yet maintaining coherence.
The album went platinum; so did its follow-up Liquid Skin. Such was its success, Bring It On bagged the band an unexpected Mercury Prize in 1998, besting the likes of Pulp, Massive Attack and The Verve.
Gomez even played the legendary Glastonbury Festival that year – twice in fact.
But for all the plaudits, Gomez were never destined to be a commercial juggernaut. The band retreated into ever darker, minimalist territory and slipped away from the limelight.
Thankfully, the legacy of the band’s early days lives on through guitarist and vocalist Ben Ottewell, whose rasping baritone came to characterise the band’s sound.
Bearded and bespectacled, Ottewell tears straight into Rattlebag – the title track from his latest 2014 album, from which he draws heavily throughout his hour-long set at The Boileroom on Tuesday (April 7).
“This is my first gig in Guildford,” muses Ottewell after a brooding airing of Patience And Rosaries, also from Rattlebag. “And not the last – hopefully,” he teases.
From the outset, the atmosphere inside The Boileroom crackles with anticipation and reverie; every song is breathtakingly observed without so much as a cough or murmur to break Ottewell’s spellbinding hold over his audience.
Even a quick retune after Free To Run (“the first song I ever wrote”) is met with hush.
“This is what happens if you leave your guitar hanging around in a house full of children,” he jests before So Slow, a “cack-handed effort”, says Ottewell, at a traditional blues song.
Gomez favourite Love Is Better Than A Warm Trombone sparks the first truly rowdy response from the audience, stripped back to just Ottewell’s acoustic guitar and harrowing vocal.
Shapes and Shadows, the title track from Ottewell’s first solo album, and Gomez number Hamoa Beach are equally well-received, but it is the run-in starting with Get Miles, the opening track from Bring It On, and Red Dress from Rattlebag that sees Ottewell exercise his chops.
Get Miles is a real sprawling treat, given a uptempo, bluesy makeover as Ottewell bellows out verse after acerbic verse before the song’s poignant refrain of “get miles away” reverberates serenely around The Boileroom in his distinctive burr.
And after a touching rendition of bittersweet love note Red Dress, time is almost up. “Turn the reverb up please,” he asks of the sound desk before gently strumming the first melodic strains of Tijuana Lady.
It’s a mesmerising finale, and a timely reminder the captivating qualities Ottewell and his cohorts harnessed long ago are still very much alive today.
Muse, Brighton Dome, 23/03/15. Support from Marmozets.
I don’t usually write a lot about all the gigs I go to if I’m not actually reviewing them, but I’ll make an exception in this case.
This was my tenth Muse gig. Yes, I know. I first saw them back in 2004, a couple of years after I got into them in a big way. I’ve seen them at the Royal Albert Hall, at the Eden Project, at Wembley Stadium, at Reading Festival, in Teignmouth, and so on, but never in such a small venue as I did on Monday night. And it was magnificent in every respect.
Long have Muse had their heads in the clouds (or up their arses, each to their own) so when they announced their stripped back seventh album Drones and incendiary lead release Psycho, it seemed only right for them to go back to the roots and revisit a few of the dinkier venues where they made their name as the best live band around. Last night felt very much like a celebration of that journey.