The Godfathers: the best gig of 2017, and it’s only February
Godfathers + Johnny Seven + Thee Strawberry Mynde. Westgarth Social Club. 09.02.17
(Words and pictures by Steve White originally posted in Buzzcocksfan)
Thee Strawberry Mynde have been around for the best part of 20 years. Back in 1998 they released a 4 track cassette, ‘She Sets The Scene’. The line-up hasn’t changed with Paul Garner (guitar, vocals), Mark Barrett (bass) and Ian Lowes (drums).
They’re not on for long and I like them. Garage, mod songs that are clearly influenced by the best parts of the 60’s with a beat that keeps your attention. Heavy, repetitive bass and overlying guitar riffs that run into a thrashy rhythm to support some strong vocals.
As they work through their set the crowd swells in numbers and the front begins to fill up with people who appreciate what this band do.
There’s a great atmosphere building in The Westgarth and Thee Strawberry Mynde are working hard to keep it that way. It can’t always be easy being the opening band but this lot do a great job of setting the tone for the night.
Johnny Seven step on the stage and for the next 40 minutes or so we’re treated to some great punk rock ‘n’ roll. Launching into ‘Shot Down’ it’s punk from today that would have been perfect back then. Johnny Seven play tunes. Rock ‘n’ roll you can dance to. Proper foot tapping stuff. With the crowd fully on their side there’s quite rightly a core of people singing along to ‘Can’t Escape Rock n Roll’. Pretty soon I’m singing along too.
Tonight they have a new guitarist. Mike Temple is standing in for Jonny Baines who is off enjoying himself somewhere snowboarding. Temple is clearly an accomplished player and he nails these songs. He clearly enjoys the gig as do all the band. There’s no sign of the fact they’ve been around for 39 years. No tiredness. There’s energy. Lots of it. Singer Dominic Green bounces around his small area of the stage, Peter Wilson pulls some great noise out of his guitar while Paul Ford knocks hell out of the drums keeping the beat together with bassist Paddy Muldowney the only one not breaking into a sweat.
Johnny Seven play some cracking songs tonight and the noise/energy/beat doesn’t let up throughout ‘LSD’, ‘Pumping The Pomp’, ‘Detroit’ and ‘Burning Love’. There’s little talk between songs. They come thick and fast with just a quick introduction. Just how it should be. Arguably their most catchy number comes near the end. Listen to ‘Skinheads’ and it’s a guarantee that for days afterwards you’ll be humming “Where did all the skinheads go? Where did all the skinheads, all those naughty skinheads go?” It’s catchy, it’s punk, it’s ska, it’s got a bit of reggae. It’s no wonder it gets in your head.
“Lose your mind, lose your soul” – ‘Hang Loose’ ends Johnny Seven’s set with Ford standing up to play the drums part way through, Temple and Wilson getting some decent feedback out of their amps and Green waving his arms all over while providing some great facial expressions for my camera lens.
We don’t wait too long for the Godfathers to start their set. I knew this was going to be good but I wasn’t prepared for just how good. Opening with ‘Cause I Said So’, a cracking high energy song that grabbed the audience and set the tone for the rest of the night.
The Godfathers didn’t let go.
Nineteen songs covering most of their back catalogue. And that’s before the encores. At least six songs from ‘A Big Bad Beautiful Noise’, the new album which is surely set to become an absolute classic.
It really is a beautiful noise. ‘Defibrillator’, ‘One Good Reason’, ‘Till My Heart Stops Beating’ and single ‘You Don’t Love Me’ all feature in the first half. Most are loud, fast, unrelentless rock ‘n’ roll tunes. ‘One Good Reason’ slows things a little. ‘You Don’t Love Me’ deserves radio play and lots of it. With the right backing could/should be a massive hit. B side ‘Some Reaction’ is played and sounds fantastic live. Title track ‘A Big Bad Beautiful Noise’ comes later as does ‘Feedbacking’. Try listening to these and not moving your feet / head or tapping your hands. Infectious beats.
‘’I Want You’, ‘I Want Everything’, ‘I’m Unsatisfied’ take us right back to the beginnings of the Godfathers. Hard to believe it’s over 30 years since these were released. They still sound fantastic.
‘Birth, School, Work, Death’, again an album of top tunes from ’88 is represented by ‘Cause I Said So’, ‘If I Only Had Time’, ‘When Am I Coming Down’, ‘Love Is Dead’. Its title track rounds off the encore by which time practically the whole audience is joining in with the songs.
‘She Gives Me Love’, ‘How Low Is Low’ and ‘Walking Talking Johnny Cash Blues’ – dedicated to Steve Harland who has promoted this gig (and works damned hard to bring other bands to Middlesbrough) from 1989’s ‘More Songs About Love And Hate’ together with ‘Unreal World’ from the album of the same name complete the set.
The current Godfathers line up could possibly be the best one yet. Twin guitar sounds from Steve Crittall and Mauro Venegas, neither of whom stand still for more than a few seconds, incredibly tight rhythm provided by Tim James on drums and Darren Birch on bass. Together with Peter Coyne’s vocals and great way with lyrics this is band to be reckoned with.
It’s hard to believe this is the first date of six in the UK. Godfathers tonight played like it was the last gig they’d ever do.
They eventually leave the stage. Walking through the crowd to the merch stand the look on everyone’s faces just says, “Wow. I think I’ve witnessed a special gig tonight.”
I go to a lot of gigs. If I see one hundred bands in 2017 – assuming that’s 50 gigs – I’m convinced tonight will be in the top five.
Later that evening I have a quick Facebook conversation with Steve Harland. He asks me “How do I beat that?”
The only reply I can think of is, “Get them back”.