With The Dead Daisies playing a sold out show just up the road, the initial concern about tonight was that many people would have opted for some Daisies instead of some Wagons, but fear ye not, for tonight when Massive Wagons pulled up outside for the last night of their “We Love All Of Ya Faces” tour, they were met by a decent crowd. This is Wagons territory after all. After the crowd were warmed up by local support Stoneface (whose set included some belters like ‘Spitting Blood’ as well as a marriage proposal) it was up to the lovingly named Henry’s Funeral Shoe to preheat the oven for the headliners.
Henry’s Funeral Shoe, what an incredible name for a band by the way, are a duo that make the kind of noise that you would expect from a band with twice the band members. A duo, eh? Take off the Royal Blood tinted glasses for a moment, and you’ll discover duos like The Picturebooks for instance, a sweaty, blues based pair from Germany that should be way bigger than they are. Henry’s Funeral Shoe have more in common with The Picturebooks than Royal Blood, the only thing in common with the Brighton duo being the number of members in the band. This pair are Welsh, and brothers; guitarist/vocalist Aled Clifford and his younger brother Brennig on drums and percussion.
If you don’t like bottleneck guitar (and if not, why not?), these guys are probably not for you, as they feature a copious amount of bodacious bottleneck action. Holy shit! Does the elder Clifford know how to wring every emotion out of his instrument, or what? As for the younger Clifford, rarely will you see such an animated drummer, especially one so young. Did you ever see Si Atkinson when Black Spiders were still going? Then you will know what I’m talking ‘bout, Willis. A flurry of stick action, facial expressions and all round wizardry behind the kit, he is truly incredible to watch.
Heavy, blues based rock n’ roll is very much the order of the day. Not traditional plodding blues, but blues played with pace…and fury. Aled Clifford is all over the stage like Chuck Berry after a few lines of Billy Whizz, left leg stamping up and down so hard it’s almost like he is trying to shake off a randy pitbull. Maybe it’s the subconscious notion that a duo has to work harder to make an impression, but this pair put a shift in to make sure that people remember them. Not just musically, but with song titles like ‘Dog Scratched Ear’, ‘Empty Church’, and ‘Janice The Stripper’, they are hard to forget. Get Henry’s Funeral Shoe on your radar. They will not let you down.
When Massive Wagons were recently signed by Earache Records, a collective “Huzzah!” could be heard from rooftops, the length and breadth of this sceptered isle. If you had witnessed the band doing what they do in a live setting, you knew there was something special about them, and finally now it seems that others have realised that. Easily one of the most electrifying live bands on the UK live circuit, Massive Wagons (or plain old Wagons.. like Sabbath, Purple, Zeppelin, Skynyrd.. you get the picture) have also released a few belting albums, chock full of anthems to raise your glass to. Put them on that stage though, and I would not like to be the act that has to follow them.
Thankfully, tonight no-one has that problem as Massive Wagons are bringing their current headlining tour to a climax. What better way to kick off the set than their tribute to Rick Parfitt – ‘Back To The Stack’? Quo, Slade, Mott The Hoople; three classic British bands that knew a good tune when they heard one, and the Wagons are continuing that legacy. With Baz Mills (Carnforth’s answer to the Tazmanian Devil) up front, they have someone it’s impossible to take your eyes off. After the band have taken their positions, Mills literally flies onto the stage. Looking like a cross between John Bonham and Alex from ‘A Clockwork Orange’, he is everywhere. Attach a Fitbit to him, and I reckon he’s already lapped Glasgow by the end of the first song. His band mates must have a sixth sense when it comes to avoiding his twirling microphone stand or his frantic windmilling… although there are times when his head almost connects with the headstock of rhythm guitarist Stevie Holl during some synchronised headbanging. Wagons are also one of the most visual bands around, without actually having any production behind them. Lead guitarist Adam Thistlethwaite favours the most visual of all guitars – the Flying V – and it makes quite a sight when he gets in line with Holl to get down and get with it. He can play it as well, it’s not just for show, some lovely riffage from the big fella. Brother Alex is battering his drums so hard that they are falling over, and the poor roadie is certainly earning his crust tonight. Bringing the rumbling low end is the big man on the bass Bowz Bouskill. Five different entities, but put together they make a formidable team.
The set is full of bangers from the Massive Wagons catalogue. ‘The Day We Fell’ has everyone hoisting their mainsails, ‘Ratio’ has everyone bouncing, and ‘Shit Sweat Death’ has everyone headbanging, as Alex Thistlethwaite unleashes his inner Philthy Animal Taylor on a beauty of a song with a sublime tempo change. ‘Fight The System’ is the one to get everyone clapping along during the stomping intro, and the chorus is ready made for shouting at the top of your lungs. Mills is loving it. He’s spitting each word out as he stamps furiously on the monitors at the front.
New album, their first for Earache, ‘Full Nelson’ is due in August and the crowd are treated to a few new ones. ‘Under No Illusion’ is the current single, and judging by the reaction, a fair few have downloaded it already. ‘China Plates’ is another new one which ticks all the Massive Wagons boxes and leaves you counting down the months until August. The run in has three of the best examples of British rock from a “new” band that you are as likely to hear… period. ‘Red Dress’ followed by ‘Tokyo’ and ‘Fee Fi Fo Fum’; three moments that are as contagious as eating in a Salisbury pizzeria (I waited over a month to use that one, UN regulations dictate that a month wait is fine and dandy). There are towering choruses and hooks a plenty, so much so that I was still singing ‘Fee Fi Fo Fum’ when I stopped at the corner shop for some Wagon Wheels the following day.
Massive Wagons are greatly respected, not just from fans, but also from their peers. Talk to any other band from the “New Wave Of British Classic Rock” and they will all name check Wagons as a band that they want to succeed. Like I said earlier, when they got signed to Earache a loud cheer went up. Get on board with Massive Wagons, pre-order the new album, and let’s get the bugger charted, yeah!
Massive Wagons are back on the road for selected dates from May onward, including Bon Fest, Wildfire Festival (headlining no less!) and The Rock & Blues Custom Festival. More information here.
Review: Dave S
Images: Dave J