REAL GONE GOES OUT: Shonen Knife, Ramsgate Music Hall, Ramsgate, Kent 9/4/2018

We live in an age where music feels ever more disposable. Bands no longer have the luxury of multi-album contracts to hone their style and with streaming services all the rage, “the album as an art form” is dying. The very idea that Shonen Knife have endured for decades is fascinating. Since the release of their debut album back in the 80s, countless bands have formed, recorded, toured, disbanded…but the Japanese pop-punk/bubblegum power pop band have genuinely gone the distance. They’ve had line up changes – aside from ZZ Top, who hasn’t? – but they’re still with us and on the basis of tonight’s show in Ramsgate, they’re better than ever.

Perhaps part of the appeal of tonight’s show lies with the venue itself. With a capacity of under 150, the Ramsgate Music Hall is the very definition of intimate and it allows an opportunity to witness bands up close. Really, really up close. When Shonen Knife take the stage, there’s immediately a feeling that tonight will be special.

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REAL GONE GOES OUT: The Wonder Stuff – Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London 31/3/2018

It’s sometime after 10.20pm and the downstairs of the Shepherd’s Bush Empire is completely rammed. There’s barely any room to move. It didn’t seem this busy when Carter USM‘s Jim Bob played his brilliant sold out show here just a week earlier, but that’s probably due to more people being in the balcony.  The majority of people may be downstairs for this second London double headliner between The Wonder Stuff and Ned’s Atomic Dustbin tonight, but that has the effect of adding plenty of atmosphere.  Whatever the crowd logistics, it’s impressive the Stourbridge lads can still pull such a huge crowd on their second night in such a large venue.

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REAL GONE GOES OUT: Skid Row – Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London 11/3/2018

t’s been an uneven experience at Shepherd’s Bush Empire tonight. Both Toseland and Bad Touch have offered enjoyable support slots, even if hampered a little by bad sound. Toseland, in particular, have shown they really know how to fill a half hour effectively, with frontman James Toseland coming across very jovially. He’s so likeable that it doesn’t matter or not whether you’re familiar with the material, you’ll have a good time regardless. The evening’s first credited headliner, Night Ranger, were largely awful: not so much classic Night Ranger of old as the Jack Blades Show with support from Kelly Keagy. Their set was ruined further by the worst sound we’ve encountered at a large venue for a number of years…if not ever.

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REAL GONE GOES OUT: Night Ranger – Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London 11/3/2018

This evening at Shepherds Bush Empire has been billed as a double headline show between Night Ranger and Skid Row. However, it isn’t long after Night Ranger take the stage, it becomes clear that the event is nothing of the sort. Night Ranger’s set design is limited to a few extra Marshall amplifiers which are placed in the middle of the stage, rather than at the back. Kelly Keagy’s drumkit looks awkward, placed on stage left (audience right) and facing towards the middle rather than facing the audience. The band, in turn, are only given about three quarters of the stage to work with. Somewhere behind the amps, Skid Row’s drum kit sits in wait. So much for “double headliner”: Night Ranger have been given a support band’s set up – and that’s before we get to the massive issues with the sound.

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REAL GONE GOES OUT: The Selecter & The Beat (feat. Ranking Roger), Hall By The Sea, Dreamland, Margate, Kent 24/2/2018

If you grew up in the 1970s or 1980s in South East England, you’ll almost certainly have a fond memory of Margate. It probably involves a day trip to the beach, a bag of chips and a visit to the Dreamland Amusement Park. The town fell on hard times in the 90s, but with the opening of the Turner Contemporary art gallery and the arrival of small cafe’s and boutiques in the Old Town, things began to improve. The grand re-opening of Dreamland as a retro theme park was an essential part of the regeneration and has been great for the town. Its recently renovated facade in blue and yellow neon shines out over the sea and the seafront, once again, looks proud of itself. In addition to the theme park, the Dreamland complex includes a retro roller rink, a period restored ballroom and an upstairs area dubbed The Hall By The Sea for hosting live music. It’s almost certainly better than it ever was. Dreamland is brilliant and you shouldn’t let people try and convince you otherwise, especially those who haven’t actually been to Margate since 1996.

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