Year Review 2016

Another year flies by and the SB rides on. It’s been the usual flow of gigs, punctuated by some big milestones in our personal lives. Damien welcomed his daughter Olivia Catherine into the world in March, and a couple of months later the heir to the Class throne arrived in the form of Casey Joseph. Against the backdrop of sleepless nights and working weeks filled with tiresome travel up and down the country, we continued to gig… up and down the country following the global release of our fourth album ‘Mass Vendetta’. German label 7Hard had us sitting on it from completion in July ’15 to release in April ’16, all the while racking up an impressive pile of reviews and national radio play. It’s safe to say it was well received, providing us with so many positive quotes you’d think we were contiguous to sliced bread. The glass ceiling did not smash despite the plethora of critical acclaim. We're quite content being forever the underdogs, barking loud under the radar, but more importantly the band's name and following grew… as did the amount of fun we had. 

Time to reflect on 2016. A strange year filled with high profile celebrity deaths and political upsets. On a much smaller scale we were traipsing the miles of concrete around England, stopping only to make organised noise and drink beer. It’s time for the SB 2016 Awards… 

There were some crackers this year. Some big stages with awesome crowds, supplemented by rewarding feedback post-performance. Our usual star ratings can be found at the foot of this blog and you may notice there was only one 5-star gig. It wasn’t through our performance, which suffered slightly due to being on a band-break as miss Olivia Kage had arrived earlier than expected. Even tired-father-zombie Damo enjoyed it. It was our dear friends, TBFM DJs Katie and Stevi Roxx’s 10 year anniversary. The line-up was filled with their faves, and some of ours too. The atmosphere was electric and the party that ran through the whole thing was just special. So many friends, smiling, laughing, drinking and rocking out. On the way home, in high spirits, I declared that I would be surprised if this one could be topped… no surprises, it wasn’t. Legendary. 

This one is easy, there were only a few candidates. The awful Wigan Live Festival, a dreary night in a grim venue with terrible sound. The first trip to the excellent Rock & Blues Bar in Barnsley playing to ten people, only rectified by the super cool Marcus Ward who paid extra and invited us back for a big support slot. The worst gig of the year was definitely the abysmal ‘Great British Campout’ in Peterborough. Was it the fact that we had to sleep on gravel outside the campsite having arrived too late the night prior? Was it the outdoor stage about to collapse under the slightest movement? Was it the compere/DJs being the most irritating human beings on the planet? Was it the crowd were eagerly awaiting the announcements for ‘Best VW camper’, indifferent to our snarling rock? Was it the black bugs eating us alive on stage? Probably a combination of all of it. Still, we had a brilliant day in the sun, just a woeful gig.

Some real contenders here, The Brickyard (Carlisle) and the Jolly Brewer (Lincoln) for the Rockmantic festivals were both excellent. The Maze (Nottingham) is always great, as is the Rock & Blues Bar (Barnsley). The re-vamped Lincoln Imp (Scunthorpe) was a surprise contender, so different from our first appearance there 8 years ago. This one had to go to a vote… drum roll please (Queue Mason breaking eight sticks)… The 360 Club in Leeds! A special place which has a real pro feel to it, superb stage and set-up. Quality.
WINNER: 360 CLUB, LEEDS (28.10.16)

We’re a very lucky band in that we get to share the stage with some real quality acts. In the past, I admit to being guilty of ducking out for a smoke and a chat during other bands. I know some people frown on that. when I was playing and promoting from 2005 to 2007 I booked and watched every minute of every band, I used to feel the frustration as people waltzed in and out as bands played their hearts out. Somewhere along the line, between tinnitus and frustration with my own band, I too became ignorant. Not always, but enough to make me feel remorse and throw down these excuses here. Safe to say, with the smoke long in the rear-view mirror, I thoroughly enjoy sitting back and watching the bands we’re on with. Bouncing along, tapping feet, analysing cool song structures and riffs, my passion for it has all flooded back in the last couple of years. The shortlist for best band is somewhat long, although this years best performance has to go to an ancient heavyweight. When I found out we were supporting Tygers I had no idea who they were. Damo, Johnny and Kalum got excited but I was none-the-wiser, maybe it was that lack of expectation which enabled me to get blown away when we watched them. Whatever the case, these guys showed me that difference in professionalism and experience, from the people, like myself, who do this as much as they can, to the people who do this because it’s how they make a living. Impressive. 

Rolling across the country you see all sorts. The beauty to the beasts and a whole lot of road in between. Some of the places we’ve been have surpassed expectation and impressed on arrival, like Norwich for instance, which we had down as a Shithole for some reason, well believe me, it’s really not. Less London journey’s have been a reprieve from the countless we’ve made in the last two years, though we do miss our friends in Kingston. Some journey’s have been memorable for the wrong reasons with Damien attempting to exit the vehicle at 70mph for piss whilst still asleep (yeah, you read that right). The terror and danger of those moments is imprinted on all of our memories. One big improvement has been the actual journey’s which don’t tend to rely on my DJ skills until the way home when people are tired, sleeping or all out of convo. The way down is now a constant flow of discussion on everything you can imagine – music, TV, philosophy, religion, politics, science, conspiracies, wrestling, motorsports… it’s literally non-stop. The best journey was probably the ride home from our worst gig. So pleased to escape it became filled with emotional conversations and deep discussion, it was like a therapy session which resulted in us arriving in Bispham, grabbing a Frisbee and some beer and then hitting the promenade in the fading summer sun. Times.
I broke two bass-strings on stage this year, interrupting two high profile gigs. Thankfully it wasn’t the hindrance it could have been. Scotty started the wrong song in Blackpool, which never, ever happens… but did, just this once. In a year where we released and sang about ‘Train Wrecks’ we’ve not even come close to ending up in one. So, biggest Fuck-up has to go to… Damo! For not once, but twice trying to inadvertently kill us by exiting a moving vehicle at 70mph on the motorway to drain his pecker. 

For no particular reason we’d always wanted to get played on Planet Rock and that happened this year, we also made Kerrang Radio on several occasions too. Not that they are massive achievements but they are things that, when you’re younger, you might set your sight on as some sort of goal. Well, it’s one of those youthful aspirations which took the biscuit this year when globally renowned critic and author Mark Beamont reviewed our album for Classic Rock Magazine. It might have been one of our lower scoring reviews with only a ‘6’, but the write-up was fantastic. After making the cover CD in 2015 with Lights Over Phoenix, getting an album review in there is our personal achievement of the year. Small fry I know, but for part-timers that is a big scoop. 

Go on, have a guess? If you had to pick one of us, including the Lightweight Warrior that is Kalum, who would you choose? 
Ok, I know I have my moments and I had a few this year, but none even come close to the Dim Reaper, Slim-boy Slim, King Famished, The Sparrow-Heart, Slender Man himself… 'El Diablo' Damien Kage. Scotty and myself returned to the NLC festival in Nottingham after grabbing some food to find Damo centre crowd being propped up by his partner in lame, Kalbo Bellend. He was asleep on his feet with various friends, peers and fans photographing him and encouraging his weak constitution. Seeing my best friend of 29 years the joke of the room always irks me, so I escorted him to the car for his own good. En route he said “you really care don’t you, thank you, thank youuuuuu…” in that wookie-esque gargle of his. I told him "I did" as I deposited him in the backseat, content he could do little damage and would sleep it off. I head back to catch the rest of the Idol Dead’s set, performing with their own drunken mess in KC Duggan, only to feel a shaky hand on my shoulder and see Damo, another pint in hand saying “They’re good these lot aren’t they?”. People were now staring at the pair of us laughing at my unimpressed reaction. Upon departure as a crowd of people chanted his name, he raced back to the bar and splatted himself upon it like a dead frogger. Kally summoned me to scrape him off and carry him out to further support for his ‘rock star’ (Knobhead) antics. On the way back his face got the usual tribal art treatment, this was also his first attempt at Band-icide as he flung the door wide striking fear into our hearts. Last year may have been a tie between Kal-Merch Destroyer in Blackpool “what country am I in?” and my 'pile of drunk' carried out of the bar Netherlands disaster. This year, there is only one winner. 

So, on we go into our 13th year, which is already shaping up to be a special one. Festival slots at Rebellion, Breaking Bands, RockWich, NLC, Dementia-Fest and Bad Ass Bash already confirmed and more in the pipeline. 2017 threatens to be the year of bigger stages and even bigger crowds. We’ve tasted it many times in the last several years and it’s the meal we crave the most. There's several other big gigs edging closer to confirmation and whilst we may be finding ourselves on the road less, when Scotty does key the ignition we know it's going to be a worthwhile journey. Gone are the 'chancer' gigs of years gone by. We're also working on some new material (like we ever stopped), whether it will result in some studio time in 2017 I can't really say. One thing we will be doing is releasing a compilation of all our faster punk songs in time for Rebellion Festival, they can figure out we're a hard rock band in disguise at a later date. So, plenty to do, see and hear in the new year. For now I'd just like to say a sincere and enduring THANK YOU to all the people who have supported us this year. Whether you came to a single gig or almost every gig, bought a record, listened to us online, or simply enjoyed The Senton Bombs for a split second... cheers for being a part of what we consider to be the greatest fuckin' hobby in the world. From the five of us - See you in '17!
Gig star rating: 

Brickyard, Carlisle (Rockmantic Festival)   ✩✩✩
Scruffy Murphys, Birmingham   ✩✩✩
Snooty Fox, Wakefield (Bad Ass Bash)   ✩✩✩✩
Brooks Club, Accrington (Roxx Anniversary)   ✩✩✩✩✩
The Maze, Nottingham (NLC Festival)   ✩✩✩✩
Mad Ferret, Preston   ✩✩✩
Lincoln Imp, Scunthorpe   ✩✩✩
Grand Central, Manchester   ✩✩✩
Rock & Blues Bar, Barnsley   ✩
Great British Campout Festival, Peterborough   ✩
Witchwood, Ashton Under Lyne (Jason’s 50th)   ✩✩✩
Jolly Brewer, Lincoln (Rockmantic Summerdaze Festival)   ✩✩✩✩
Wigan Live Festival, Wigan   ✩
Gringos Tequila Bar, Norwich   ✩✩
Ye Olde Salutation, Nottingham (Degeneration festival)   ✩✩
Bootleg Social, Blackpool   ✩✩✩
The Good Ship, Kilburn, London   ✩✩
2 Pigs, Cheltenham   ✩✩
Rock & Blues Bar, Barnsley   ✩✩✩✩
360 Club, Leeds   ✩✩✩✩
Charles Napier, Blackburn (Mollies 18th)   ✩✩✩✩
Waterloo, Blackpool   ✩✩✩✩