It’s a long time since we have been to a gig with four bands worth catching on the bill in one night. Yes, we know, it’s lazy, we should always make the effort to check out support bands – that is the best way to discover new music – but hey, they were still sound checking when we arrived for tonight’s Bellrays gig.
First up were local crew, the D Teez. They have been doing the rounds for some time now and have rounded off any rough edges they may have had in the early days. Twenty first century punk – all the attitude of twentieth century punk, but ditching the postcard image and going back to punk’s garage rock and roll roots. Mean, dirty, and grungy rock and roll with slicked back hair and a snarl. Nice way to start the night.
Next came Johnny Cage and the Voodoo Groove. Cardiff does not have any bordellos, honest guv, but if it did, these guys would make the perfect Saturday night house band. Snarling, raw, dirty rock and roll, blues and a hint of jazz all pimped up to create a sonic hotrod that will take any dragster on any street corner. The Moon was starting to fill up now and the Groove got the house rocking – no one was holding anything back for what was to come.
The Graveyard Johnnys have taken 80s psychobilly, dusted it off, shaken off the unnecessary ironic haircuts, hardened up the edges and brought rock and roll kicking and screaming into the twenty first century.
Fronted by a double bass playing vocalist, they squeezed even more sweat out of the crowd, with members of local legends Demented Are Go at the centre of the jive pit.
Having put in a reasonable shift they then launched into a finale that was worth the admission price all on its own, a crazed cover of Golden Earring’s classic Radar love.
It was hard to believe that there was another band to come in this action packed night, but that was just one of many unbelievable things happening.
The Bellrays have been around since 1990 and have fourteen alums under their belt. They are one of the best things to come out of America in the last twenty years – but here they are, playing Cardiff’s smallest venue. Go figure.
We totally get why some of our favourite bands here at Iguana HQ are not big, they just don’t have a mainstream appeal, but why California’s Bellrays are not massive is totally beyond us. But hey, it does mean we get an up close and personal experience that beats the stadium experience hands down every time, so we aint complaining.
As soon as they hit the stage you can tell they know their stuff. A slick, tight, well oiled machine, they casually lay down their high octane sound with a nonchalance that makes this shit look easy. Bluesy rhythms, laid down with a metal energy and a punk attitude with a soul singer adding a class that sets these guys apart from any band we have seen for a very long time.
And they know their stage craft. Bob Vennum knows when to step up front and throw in a guitar solo with his foot on the monitor leaning into the crowd; Justin Andres knows when to let his hair down and let rip with a bass riff; Stefan Litrownik knows when to let the drums thunder, while singer Lisa Kekaula knows when to stand at the back with her tambourine and when to walk into the crowd to tell them they ‘got the power’. It is like a master class for up and coming musicians.
The appreciative crowd laps it up knowing that this is a gig that is going to be talked about for years to come.
Whilst AC/DC sell out stadiums to do a karaoke set with Axl Rose on vocals, it is gigs like this that are really what rock and roll is all about.