Time continues its rapid flight through the 21st Century as another year draws to a close. It’s been a transitional 12 months for us Bombs, trading quantity for quality in approach. We played a hundred-plus gigs in the three years prior to this one, which isn’t a lot for the full-time pros, but for the working band it’s pretty impressive. Hitting the road every weekend became the norm, occasionally sacrificing the special buzz and beginning the feel of a second-job. Overplaying can have a negative effect on attendance as well as morale, if you’re available all the time people are less inclined to come and see you. If you do something too regularly, the novelty and enjoyment wears off. In 2017 we picked carefully and it paid off. Time to reflect on another highly enjoyable year, here’s the SB end of year awards…
There were several strong candidates for this one. I personally loved the October 14th gig at the Waterloo in Blackpool, a packed house which included my wife, parents and many dear friends for an all-round storming show. However, there is one gig that really kick-started our year in terms of enthusiasm and regaining that essential hunger. A familiar haunt, temperature up high, with so many quality bands in one place on one weekend. The NLC RACPA Festival has become one of our favourites, and in this, our third appearance, it was a blistering affair. We hit the stage following the food break on the Sunday; our usual spot, opening the final evening acts. With 30 minutes, the set was on an incline. It just built and built until a ‘nothing quite like this’ climax. The response was phenomenal, and just in case the beers had swayed our opinion, someone had filmed the whole thing for posterity, verifying this was indeed top drawer of a very tall cabinet. Spending the rest of the night with friends watching excellent bands sealed it as a truly exceptional outing. Delighted to add we’re back in 2018 on 6th May for more Maze mayhem.
Winner: THE MAZE, NOTTINGHAM (30.04.17)
Our usual star-ratings are at the end of this review and as you may notice there are a few two-stars based on either the fact the venue sucked, the crowd was sparse or we couldn’t hear a damn thing we were playing. Nevertheless, there is but a single one-star gig from this year and it recalls a rainy night in a rainy city. I think the reason we are so low on this one is that it was a strange night all-round, heart-to-hearts on the journey recounting personal strife. With dark clouds circling figuratively and literally, this one was never going to be special. Personal life doesn’t often overlap into the surreal Senton escape of Bombsville, but we’re such close friends that when it does the counsel is of the best variety and a good emotional clear out cleanses the soul better than any confessional box, no penance, no judgement. Whilst the venue was decent, there was only a handful in the crowd and the stage sound was about the worst all year, more mud than an Amazonian swamp. The weather matched the mood and whilst we performed well to the applause of the good folk who stuck it out late, it sticks out like a sore thumb as the only ‘downer’ of the 2017 gig calendar.
Loser: GULLIVERS, MANCHESTER (22.07.17)
This isn’t bias or some attempt at promotion. The honest truth is the best venue of 2017 for the SB has been the Waterloo in Blackpool. A few years back I never thought I would be saying that. Bear in mind we played the Arena Stage in the Winter Gardens at this year’s Rebellion Festival and sampled many other fine venues too. We’re a band who has been together since we were teenagers, in our early days, car-less and confined to the Fylde, we played Blackpool into a cold and crippling death. We’ve played just about everywhere you can imagine, North Pier, Tower Lounge, Stanley Park, even the Library… even Nellie Deans goddamit. In the last several years, with trailer in tow, we’ve ventured further afield, even overseas. This has been of great success to us improving as a band, gaining experience and growing our fan base. There’s not been a lot to entice us to rock regularly on the North West coast. After the Blue Room closed, the woeful shell of the ‘new’ Tache and the occasionally great Bootleg seem the only viable options. Then came Ian Fletcher and the Waterloo Rock Music Bar. Proper stage, proper lights, proper sound guy… proper good venue. Ian looks after the bands, beers, pizzas (something many places overlook, but really does garner immediate respect from acts… being fed and watered) but most of all, presents us with an opportunity to do our thing in the warm and friendly atmosphere of a grand old building. From telling my friends across the country to leave Blackpool off their touring schedules I’m quickly inviting all and sundry. Bigger acts are rolling in regularly and it’s a pleasure to see Blackpool back on the map for the quality, hard-working bands. Yeah, the stars show up in the centre occasionally and Rebellion is a class festival, but we needed something else, we needed the Waterloo. Now let’s all get about supporting it.
Winner: THE WATERLOO ROCK MUSIC BAR, BLACKPOOL
BEST BAND WE PLAYED WITH
Last year the Tygers of Pan Tang stole this one. A pro band that showed us what the rock game looks like a few levels up. Again, we’ve had the pleasure of sharing stages with some fine bands, but this year, there’s one band that clearly rises above all others. We shared a couple of festivals with them (Breaking Bands and Rockwich), where they topped the bill and delivered, but it was when we played support to them at our hometown in Blackpool it became apparent what a force this band has become. Massive Wagons are renowned as a bunch of good blokes who make some cracking original heavy rock music, but they now exhibit the confidence and ability of that aforementioned ‘level up’. A few days after an amazing night in Blackpool, they announced their signing with ‘Earache’ Records, joining the likes of Blackberry Smoke, Temperance Movement, Rivals Sons and many more top notch bands. They’re a class act and undoubtedly the best band we played with in 2017.
Winners: MASSIVE WAGONS
MOST MEMORABLE JOURNEY
Where to start… the never-ending journey to Norwich was a lot of fun, ripping on Damo for claiming he knew the place inside out due to his new traveling snake oil salesman job, generally just quality banter and laughter. Returning from the aforementioned NLC Festival in Nottingham was also nice, all on a high from the weekend and excited about the prospects for the rest of the year. I think the most memorable journey has to be the round-trip for Breaking Bands Festival. Heading down a night early to catch ‘Wagons’ and be fresh (yeah right) for the next day’s gig, we engaged in some fine dialogue and were all ready to party (bar Gibbons, who was ready to sleep). The return was after a long day of drinking in the sun, and poor old Kage slipped into the land of nod a couple of hours from home. The Daminati was born, an all-seeing cock appearing on his forehead, rendered from the sidereal realms inhabited by his Daminus occult cohorts. Home in no time, the aftermath was Damo cursing us all out, going incommunicado and blaming us for the all-seeing cock on his head. We laughed, we cried, Damo re-joined our Facebook chat, it was all good in the SB hood.
Winner: RETURN FROM BREAKING BANDS FESTIVAL
BIGGEST FUCK UP
It’s been a good year for Fucking up, the days of the ‘Train Wrecks’ we sing so fondly about are fading into the rear-view. On-stage it’s been pretty consistent, Scotty's stick-tricks coupled with his sweaty meat-hooks mean sticks still ping round the stage like pointed-pinballs. Damo managed to bust his bottom-E in the opening song at Dementia Fest and proceeded to play three songs before acknowledging he really needed that string. Off-stage Damo was also stealing the show leaving his luggage in Birmingham hotels and turning up for band practice sans guitar, “I thought we were having a meeting!”. The winner, and I know he’ll absolutely loathe this, is probably Mason. In Norwich we opted for a cold night of camping (well Damo, Scott and Kal did). Scott drove down a hill and parked as the lads put up their tents. When we were attempting to set off to the gig, no matter how hard he revved, the car was just skidding all over the hill. It became very apparent he’d made a mistake, and the mound of mud was here to punish. The Mason Road rage (Hill Rage?) emerged and he took everyone’s name in vain as he blamed the world for the formation of this tor and us for being in his presence. We were all ejected from the car, trailer unhooked and pushed, but the Mighty Mase-Mobile still floundered, slipping and sliding, leaving the once beautiful lush green hill-side carved up like the late Colin McRae had conducted a Twisted Metal tournament. Fifteen minutes of agony (comedy?) and he made it, stressed to the heavens and back round the hot way. We didn’t help, well we tried, we pushed and shoved, but most of all, the grinning and laughing did not help, can’t think why. Biggest Fuck up, “Shouldn’t have parked down that hill mate”, as I helpfully commented on the day…
Winner: MASON VERSUS THE HILL
Finally making the Rebellion line-up was a nice tick off the list this year, albeit on the same day as Bad Religion, one of our all-time favourites, who tore the Empress Ballroom apart with a phenomenal set. There is one achievement this year which may not seem like much to some, but it’s a big hurdle for us untrained musicians who wing it with distortion and cleverly constructed songs, accentuating positives and hiding negatives all the while. The mighty leap we made this year was… playing an acoustic set. Not one, but two… and three if you count the impromptu rehearsal at 2am, Roxx’s tent. We hit the acoustic stage at Breaking Bands Festival on a beautiful sunny Sunday, a day of playing football and drinking in excellent company. Damo admitted he was nervous, Johnny and Mason unusually quiet; personally I was in my element. Almost all the songs are written on my acoustic, it was refreshing not to fight for my vocal to be heard, to sit down, in a row and re-imagine some of electric ventures in the traditional format. The set went down way better than could be expected, the tent filled and filled and some of the feedback was the kind you live and play to hear. Safe to say, we loved it. So much so, we ended up playing a private party at T’Holy Diver in Bolton, acoustic Bombs striking again (more on that night shortly). We’ll be doing it again and one day, I’d love to do an acoustic recording, no strain in my voice and the stripped back rock and roll we enjoy playing exposed for all to hear.
Winner: FIRST ACOUSTIC PERFORMANCE
Kalum! Oh Kalum. Kally Ka$h as he now goes by, and the lad does rake it in our behalf so it’s an accurate, if not cheesy slice of nomenclature (says Joey Class). This award is usually reserved for our Damien, and I’d bet a few are surprised at him being usurped in 2017. Don’t be disappointed, Damo had a good bash, didn’t try and kill us or owt, but got his usual blast a facial artwork (not a euphemism) and melted softly as a tetrahedron appeared to protrude from the inside of his slanted brow. On a night where Damo was unable to join us due to young Isaac Kage’s birthday, the Ka$h Man stepped up to the plate, hey batter-batter-batter, swing batter. T’Holy Diver, private party for our amigos the Biggars, birthday and anniversary celebration combined, SB3 acoustic rocking the rainy stage to a raucous crowd of drunkenness. Alcohol everywhere, loads of lovely food too, they really did look after us… and Kal really did look after himself. No merch on sale and no roadie duties, he took his night off to the limit. First off scoring with some girl whose boyfriend was in attendance, I even saw Kal pestering him for a next-on after the fact (next on a cig in case you’re pondering that line). Then cutting promos to the lot of us on how he is the ‘reflection of perfection’ (his mirror is surely defective). He followed up with talk of knocking people out and how he doesn’t care what anyone thinks because he’s the almighty Kal. We had a cracking gig and a fun night, then into the car only to hear more tales from Lord Wasted. Eventually, the three of us pulled him up, after explaining how he’d threatened the wrong person on his new (stolen) ladies behalf, he’d refused to apologise to the poor lad. We told him that was out of order. Then silence… then a few snifters in the back… then the tears of remorse. We thought he’d topped himself at the services when he didn’t come out of the bogs for half an hour but he was probably just locating his pecker he was that hammered. Anyway, we’ve all been there, we’ve all felt the pangs of regret in the morning and we’ve all been publically shamed in our time. You live, learn (sometimes) and crack on. A spectacular tribute to his beloved Damien, this year’s SB Most Drunk award…
Winner: KALLY KA$H
Lots of highlights, very few low. We achieved our objective of being more selective and it’s paid dividends as we’ve all got on so much better, not reeling from long journeys with questionable pay offs. As ever, our prolific song writing has continued, with my bandmate-imposed writing embargo lifted mid-year, we’re currently back in the studio cutting album five. Ever the optimist, I think it’s our best yet, a blend of everything before it, true variety and the album that ties it all together like the Dude’s rug (cheers for that Deadbeat Dave). Inevitably, you’ll judge for yourself, but I’m confident you’ll enjoy our next offering. Meanwhile, the current bookings are looking tasty for 2018, with obvious standouts being not one but two Hard Rock Hell outings, All Out Rock with the likes of Skid Row and Night Ranger, as well as Sleaze with Backyard Babies and LA Guns. Plenty to get excited about in the new year.
Finally, I’d like to thank all of you for your continued support. The feedback is so rewarding and the fact anyone takes an interest in our collective output means a lot. Every year we make a lot of new fans, but those fans quickly become friends, so every time we head out to a gig it’s like a reunion. A party amongst people we enjoy spending time with, the music becomes the added bonus, a backdrop to a glorious break from the pressures of ‘real’ life. There’s something to be said for that. In a crazy world where it’s easy to get lost in the chaos of mind and matter, the simple scenario of sharing music in good company is a blessing, long may it continue. I never know how long this ride is going to last, but we’ll be on it until the power shuts down, cheers for riding with us!
GIG STAR RATING
Station, Ashton-Under-Lyne ☆☆
Snooty Fox, Wakefield (Bad Ass Bash) ☆☆☆
Alma, Bolton (B-Festival) ☆☆
B2, Norwich ☆☆
Roadhouse, Birmingham (Dementia Aware Festival) ☆☆
Maze, Nottingham (NLC Festival) ☆☆☆☆☆
Bromsgrove, (Breaking Bands Festival) ☆☆☆☆
Waterloo, Blackpool ☆☆☆☆☆
Gullivers, Manchester ☆
T’Holy Diver, Bolton ☆☆☆
Winter Gardens, Blackpool (Rebellion Festival) ☆☆☆
Northwich, (Rockwich Festival) ☆☆☆☆
Maverick Rock Bar, Burnley ☆☆
Waterloo, Blackpool ☆☆☆☆☆
Napier, Blackburn ☆☆☆
Waterloo, Blackpool ☆☆☆