Can’t wait for the festival season to start? Fear not, this fifteen track sampler from the Surplus Crew will help blow those winter blues away.
Given that most of the best bands on the underground festival circuit have played at Surplus, an album put together by the crew would inevitably be worth a listen. “Of course it will be good”, we thought to ourselves. But then – “Hold on – who are this lot?” Yes, fair play to the Surplus Crew, they have managed to dig out some bands we had not come across before – and boy is this album a belter. Continue reading VARIOUS ARTISTS: Surplus Fest Sampler Volume 1 (Surplus 2017)→
1. Red flag: BY BILLY BRAGG
2. Ironmasters: BY THE MEN THEY COULDN’T HANG
3. When will be paid: BY THE STAPLE SINGERS
4. Dog scratched ear: BY HENRY’S FUNERAL SHOE
5. Peterloo to Orgreave: BY MATT ABBOT
6. Reactions: BY TRACEY ISLAND
7. Union man: BY THEE FACTION
8. Strike occupy resist (Flappsandwich re-rub): BY COSMO
9. Current affairs: BY THE UPBEAT SNEAKERS
10. UK arms trade: BY MARK THOMAS
11. Know your riots: BY THE CHOMSKY ALL-STARS
12. Modern day burn: BY DOLE AGE
13. Groovy train: BY THE FARM
14. Get up stand up: BY BOB MARLEY AND THE WAILERS
15. Half the world away: BY OASIS.
For twenty five years, from 1985 to 2010, South Wales had a music venue that was quite literally known around the world. Newport’s TJs. Local lad Nathan Jennings is now in the process of putting together a film documenting the history of this slice of rock and roll history.
It is fair to say, TJs was a bit of a toilet. But that was part of its charm. It seemed to mutate almost every time you went there. It expanded and shrunk, the stage kept moving around the venue and the toilets were like an open cesspit. It had started out with the walls covered in some strange wire and concrete concoction to make it look like you were in a cave. As modification were made bits of the cave were removed but they seemed determined to leave bits of it on the wall. On one occasion I recall watching Citizen Fish whilst there was a huge wheelie bin in the middle of the dancefloor to catch the water that was leaking from upstairs. Whether or not it was rain water or a burst pipe I never got to find out.
But despite the venue being a shithole, it did have a few magic ingredients:
1. John Sicolo: the owner. An ex merchant navy cook who was larger than life and made the place open house to anyone who wanted to put on a gig. Whilst he was no musician, without his generosity and faith in the young guns of Newport, the South Wales and even the UK music scene would look very different today.
2. Bands and promoters: Looking back it is hard to believe now, but the likes of Green Day, Oasis, Fugazi, Offspring, Joe Strummer, The Manic Street Preachers and Primal Scream were regularly turning up in this tiny little club in one of the most unfashionable towns in the country. On top of that local bands such as 60 Foot Dolls, Dub War and Novocaine (to name but three) all cut their teeth there. At one point I the 90s the venue was often jammed with record company A&R men looking to sign the next big thing.
Key to all this were the promoters. Whilst Peppermint Iguana put on a few gigs with the likes of New Model Army, Tofu Love Frogs and PAIN, a very special mention has to go to Cheap Sweaty Fun, the boys that turned TJS from a local live venue to an internationally renowned venue that was an essential stop off for any band on their way to the top.
3. The people of Newport: The Port has always been the poor relation to neighbouring Cardiff. But in some ways, that is what has made Newport what it is – staunchly working class, tough, uncompromising and unpretentious. If a Newport crowd took to a band they would be passionate and enthusiastic, making a TJs moshpit a place few cage fighters would dare to step.
If you have any stories from TJs, why not get in touch with the makers of the film and share your experiences of this unique piece of rock and roll history.
To listen to an interview with Simon Phillips, the man behind Rockaway Records and Cheap Sweaty Fun promotions, listen to our cloud cast from the Peppermint Iguana Radio Show
After getting rumbled trying to steal a JCB in Cardiff, two sisters, Clare and Lisa, do a runner in the middle of the night and find themselves lost in the Black Mountains of South Wales. When they run out of petrol they steal a car from two other sisters, ‘The Wilding Sisters’ who are on their way to a poets’ retreat in the mountains. They then take on the identity of the Wilding Sisters at the retreat and pretend to be the much revered poets.
As part of the retreat, the participants go camping in the mountains for inspiration, but the whole trip seems to centre around which of the female poet wannabees will win the affections of Richard, the shy, handsome hunk poet on the retreat. Continue reading BLACK MOUNTAIN POETS→
A THOUSAND SUNS Destroycreate EP (2007) With so many decent ‘rock’ bands around in South Wales at the moment it takes something special to stand out from the crowd. You could be original, well there is nothing spectacularly original about this lot; you could be heavier than anything that has gone before, well they aint gone down that route either; or you can just outshine everybody else with your talent.
Now then…. this is where these boys stand out. Nothing too fancy, nothing pompous, nothing excessive, they have just taken a tried and tested formula of slightly metallic rock, filed off all the rough edges and polished it so you can see your face in it.
It is adventurous enough to be interesting and although we have already said it is not particularly original, it has to be said they do have thier own sound and don’t sound like anyone else. It is slightly understated but then they don’t need to scream and play at a million miles an hour to prove anything.
You get the impression though that if they really wanted to they could be an air guitarists wet dream. Nice chunky rhythms to get you grooving with slick guitar licks over the top, complimented by vocals where you can actually understand what the vocalist is signing. Not normally our sort of thing but we would be more than happy for this to sit on our shelves.