Don’t Panic :: London – International Women’s Day House Show

"I don't know why we did this" - © Anthony Barlow 2012

“I was tired, depressed and running on nothing but guts and liquor…”

It had been two days since I’d come back from London, and for two days I’d had the feeling of death pulling me in like quicksand and filling my lungs with the wet cement of anxiety and exhaustion, but I couldn’t sleep. For two days I hadn’t slept (it’ll have been four days by the time this is up and I can only hope that in the extra 48 hours between writing and publishing I will have been given some relief and sobriety, fat chance!), because two days before the two days I’d been back, I was on my way to London for an “International Women’s Day” house show at Astbury Castle.

As the hot water ran down my body, I thought about how much I wanted to stay in the shower. I washed ever inch of my body until there were no inches left, then washed them again. I considered a third time, but decided I couldn’t justify it so I got out and dressed in preparation of facing the day. I was heading to London once again (and I really didn’t want to) but the travel was paid for, and the music was good so it was worth the uncomfortable situation I was entering.

I’d had very little sleep the previous night so was running on empty, my fuel tank was a echoing barrel without a fish. I tried to sleep on the coach down but this kind of re-energizing did very little except kill time. I knew of another effective time killer, which may of helped me sleep in this giant sardine tin, and with half a litre of scotch and a hip flask full of rum, alcohol was a viable option. As it was only 11:09 I decided to stave off my need for booze and, as the anxiety kicked in, I took to the bathroom and locked myself in. I took a shit and scrawled in my notebook, which was difficult on a moving vehicle, and tried to feel better about entering a panicked man’s worse nightmare with minimal sleep. The toilet paper dispenser was broke, in as much as it wasn’t dispensing, so I battled with the plastic casing until it gave way and released its white quilted bounty. The coach jerked and I was flung to the other side of the cubicle, utilizing cat like reflexes to prevent me going under first into the mirror.I left the cubicle and a small old lady with the face of a cow told me we were stopping at a service station.

This is what hell must feel like, I thought. A multitude of coffee stands and news agents, each charging excessive prices for the most menial of items. I couldn’t justify three pounds for a small coffee or two pound for a 500ml bottle of water so, instead, I sat back on the coach and waited until we departed again, listening to the reggae music being played bu the Jamaican man sat behind me and trying to relax.

As soon as we arrived in London, we met Emma Hallows and I left her with Barlow to go see the city. I hadn’t spent six hours on a coach to sit in a house and wait for the show.
I checked out Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament and a few other hot spots, until it dawned on me how little I cared about the “sights.” Instead I walked around a park and played catch with a crow using part of the sandwich I had in my bag.

The center got too much so I left to the outskirts trying to find a cafe where I could buy a coffee to mix my rum with. For a city I thought was famed for office workers fueled on caffeine, I didn’t see many. The ones I did were Starbucks.

I ended at a place called Pimlico and entered the first pub. It was called “The Pimlico Beer Gardens” and they were out of beer. I tried “The Surprise” across the road, which surprised me by actually having booze. A pretty girl with a nose piercing served me a pint of Stella for £3.50 and called me darling, but I hadn’t come all this way to sit in a pub. I did that enough at home, so I sat outside, scrawled some words and watched the traffic go by.

I left the pub and headed back into the center. On the way a woman gave me a promotional can of coke-zero which I took two swigs from and filled it with rum. I took a shot straight to for good measure and it was then everything went wrong.

Maybe it was the rum, maybe it was the influx of people causing mass anxiety, the sleep deprivation, or all three, but the world began to fall apart. I pushed through the crowds, cutting down an alleyway that read “short cut to Victoria” and I was sure I was walking through someones living room. The combination of booze, anxiety and insomnia had created a situation of surreality.

I headed into a Sainsburys to buy more booze, I figured it was the only way to dissipate the anxiety. Chilled beers were double the price of warm ones so I took four warm, opened a chiller, and smothered them with frozen peas. I checked the aisles for some food, part of a peanut butter sandwich was no real sustenance to drink on. Nothing looked appealing, so I took the beers, which by this point much have dropped only a single degree only a single degree in temperature, paid and left.

I noticed a homeless man sat outside and went to talk to him. I felt bad for the guy so offered him a beer, he inspected the can for some time then declined. I left him there and proceeded to catch the next train to Peckham. I drank a can with some rum on the train and watched the sun go down. No one on the train looked as if they were having a good time. I was tired, depressed and running on nothing but guts and liquor, yet I still felt I was in a better situation then any of these suits. Perhaps not financially, but they were running 9-5’s and team building exercises where I,as previously said, was going on nothing but my instincts and booze.

"Sisters Of Shame" - © Anthony Barlow 2012

I arrived at the house and was let in by a girl who lived in the building opposite. To clear space for the show all the couches, chairs, even a lamp, had been placed on the concrete outside so I dropped my stuff inside, opened another beer and sat in the cold, waiting for the show to start.

The show started soon after, and a girl with black hair, thick rimmed glasses and a great voice played. I don’t remember her name but recall talking to her later and complimenting her vocal talent.

Barlow wanted a bottle of whiskey and I wasn’t going to refuse. With still nothing in terms of a stomach liner, this probably wasn’t a good idea, but I’d felt like this whole trip was a bad idea, so I couldn’t see it getting much worse. On the way to the Tesco (we went in between acts) there was a homeless man with a missing leg sat outside a take away. I decided to try my earlier good deed a second time so, along with the whiskey, we bought the largest bottle of beer we could find and the one legged man accepted it thankfully, popping the cap with his lighter.

Back at the house we started on the whiskey. I don’t think it lasted very long but I blacked out part way through the night and lost all concept of time. I vaguely remember singing with Emma Hallows before passing out in the bathroom.

I awoke around 6am in the boiler room, uncertain of how or when I made the two meter distance between the rooms. I was wrapped in a towel and my entire body ached. I felt around myself and found tender areas and cuts on my head, arms, legs and torso. What the hell had occurred the previous night, and why could I not remember a single thing?

I entered the kitchen and found a handful of people still awake and drinking wine. They offered me the bottle and I took a huge gulp, taking away some of the previous nights worries. I felt a scar just above my right buttock and, after inspection, decided someone had tried to steal one of my kidneys while I was comatose. I queried the conscious guests but they just laughed, giving me more wine. I calmed down after more drink but I still didn’t trust the strangers at the table.

But they were all I had so I drank with them. They even let me drink a bottle of 12 year Jameson so perhaps they weren’t all bad. Parts of the night began to trickle back and I hazily recollected a conversation (or perhaps conversations) to clear the air between myself, a girl I had been interested in, and the friend of mine she was now fucking. But I’d been drunk, drunker than I’d been in some time, and drunken bridge building leads to shoddy workmanship. The elephant in the room hadn’t left, merely shut up, so it seemed a great idea to challenge him to a drinking competition.

The drinking went on for some time (though I still had no concept of time) until Seb (a.k.a. James’ Choice) came into the kitchen and, after finding a guitar, sang Alkaline Trio songs with me for what have been an hour, until I got so drunk I couldn’t stay in tune so I went upstairs and slept fully clothed in one of the many beds.

Barlow woke me and suggested a Great Cynics show in a couple of hours, it seemed as good an excuse to keep drinking so I got up and hit the booze again. It dawned on me that the people around the kitchen table hadn’t slept or moved, a feat that could have only be achieved by hard substance abuse but these were the people who’d kept me fueled so who the fuck was I to judge?

We headed to the gig and I presume someone paid me in though I recall just walking in and straight to the bar (waking the next day without a stamped hand clarified my hazy reminiscences).

The homeless man with a missing leg entered the bar and was promptly stamped with no exchange of money, Peckham was a place with good moral people, it seemed. He recognized me and shook my hand. i got the two of us a beer and we chatted at a table. Barlow wanted a picture for the article but the guy wasn’t up for having his picture taken, and apologized heavily. I told him it was fine and we went back to drinking.

Before Great Cynics played I’d been practically falling asleep into my beer so we threw in the towel and left, riding back to Victoria and getting the coach an hour earlier, sleeping little and getting back to Manchester around 06:30.

"The Morning After The Night Before" - © Anthony Barlow 2012

So the article was done and to celebrate, as well as wash away the grim feelings of the previous weekend, I took a hot bath. As the heated water eased the muscles, releasing some of the negativity, my phone began to vibrate like a maniac with a multitude of messages from Barlow, hints and reminders of the occurrences of the past few days travel. A piggy back fight during El Morgan’s set, soaking take-away chips in Jack Daniels and who knows that the hell else. The booze had been drunk in copious amounts, the songs had been sung, the elephant had died from liver failure and now finally the anxiety was fading. But it was short lived, soon it’d be time to do the whole thing again. The location and artists would change, but as long as there was music to travel towards, and booze to be drunk there’d be me, hiding in the corner, shaking in panic and scrawling notes with the intensity of a maniac, living on nothing but guts and liquor.

Album Of The Year 2011 :: Emma Hallows’ Top 5

The idea that there’s a one true ‘album of the year’ is a pretty misguided one. With that in mind, we’ve tried to offer up a series of recommendations from both the Moon & Back Music staff, and from a few notable names from the world of music.

Today it’s the turn of Emma Hallows: Friend of the site and singer/songwriter from Manchester (stranded in Huddersfield for the foreseeable future).

Barlow asked me to do my top 5 records of 2011, so here they are:

5. The Lonely Isand – Turtleneck And Chain
Throwing a spanner in the works. I laughed so hard.

4. Chuck Ragan – Covering Ground
I think my all time favourie Chuck song might be on this record.

3. Dave Hause – Resoloutions
Beacuse Dave is an all around top bloke.

2. The Horrible Crowes – Elsie
Me and my thoughts about Brian Fallon are like an aging marriage: He doesn’t half piss me off, but i don’t like the idea of dying alone.

1. Great Cynics – Don’t Need Much
I love Giles, Iona and Bob.

I would also like to give an honorable mention to Helen Chambers, Sam Russo, Jimmy Islip and Chuck Ragan, who did the best Split/EP of the year, it totally rocks.

Podcast :: Under The Bridge #30: Church Street In Ruins

“No Comment!” – Sam Russo

We decided to change the show up a little bit this time around. I know, I know, we do that a lot. We just like to keep things fresh, is all. Anyway, for the foreseeable future we’ll actually be playing full songs on the show. That means none of that ’30-ish second clip bullshit’ any more! We also recorded this one in the pub with a lot of guests. We’d like to do that again, but who knows if it’ll happen.

Anyway, the reason for the change in formatting is down to one thing. We have a theme tune! Ryan from Mixtapes – a wonderful band from Ohio – set up a ‘song shop’ service (I guess), so we took him up on this and he recorded us a theme tune. We think it’s pretty good and you’ll like it too. With that in mind we thought that one full song and then a bunch of clips was a bit rubbish, so we’ve consulted our ‘legal representative’ Matt Baldwin (of Matt & Mondo fame) and this episode features songs from Bangers, Emma Hallows, The Gaslight Anthem and Sam Russo.

This week we are joined by Emma Hallows, Kieran Kelly, Sam Russo and Matt Swaby to discuss what happens when you piss off a bunch of hardcore Gaslight Anthem fans, how Helen Chambers may or may not be a dolphin and how it’s probably good to shut up when you’re on the internet. We were also joined by a burlesque compere called Barry who’s absolutely hilarious. Shame we’ll never see him again.

Go on, have a listen:

Under The Bridge #30: Church Street In Ruins

Moon & Back Session :: Sam Russo

Ladies and gentlemen… Sam Russo!

I have it on good authority that Sam Russo is actually the fucking man! Not only is he a fantastic singer/songwriter, but he’s also one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. Sam was in town to play an impromptu show in Manchester, so we decided to get him in front of our cameras to play a few songs. Not only did we get, the excellent, ‘Tinned Peaches & Diamond Rings’ (taken from his split with Helen Chambers, Jimmy Islip and Chuck Ragan), but we were also treated to a bit of an exclusive – a brand new song by the name of ‘Black Coffee & Bingo’.

Remember, we’ll be back next Friday with another Moon & Back Session. Who do we have in store? We’ll be announcing that in the coming days over on our Facebook and Twitter pages, and if there’s anyone you’d like to see in session leave us a comment below. Enjoy!

‘Black Coffee & Bingo’

‘Tinned Peaches & Diamond Rings’

Podcast :: UTB #29: “No Helen, You’re Not Shit”

“It’s like the lesbian concept…” – Ian Critchley

We decided, in our infinite wisdom, to dedicate this episode of Under The Bridge to our friend Helen Chambers. Helen’s an awesome singer/songwriter from York (check her session out!) and, seeing as she made a few cameos o The Revival Tour this year, we thought we’d give her a ring so she could talk about her experiences on the tour – which included singing songs with Chuck Ragan and Dan Andriano. We were also joined by Jenny Gorton, who judged us way too harshly as we talked about The Borrowers, this year’s Warped Tour and why Dave Hause might think we’re stalking him, amongst other things.

Music this week was provided by Helen Chambers. We hope you enjoy the show. If you do, please rate, review and subscribe on iTunes, ‘Like’ us on Facebook and maybe even follow us on Twitter. If you want to listen to past episodes, you can go to the Under The Bridge website. Please do, that would be awesome!

Go on, have a listen:

Under The Bridge #29: “No Helen, You’re Not Shit”

Moon & Back Session :: Helen Chambers

Ladies and gentlemen…Helen Chambers!

If you’ve ever listened to Under The Bridge, you’ll know that we love Helen Chambers. The singer/songwriter from York recently released a split 12″ with Sam Russo, Jimmy Islip and, the one and only, Chuck Ragan. Not only that, but she became a surprise inclusion on more than one Revival Tour date this summer – singing alongside Chuck and, Alkaline Trio singer/bassist, Dan Andriano.

We’ve been trying to get this session done for a while now with little success, but we’re glad to finally have it up on the site for your listening/viewing pleasure. Helen performs ‘Little Demons’ a track from her debut EP and, brand new song, ‘Not Breaking Down’. We hope you enjoy them. We’ll be back next week with another Moon & Back Session!

‘Not Breaking Down’

‘Little Demons’

Interview :: Chuck Ragan

“…Sometimes it feels like I’m about to fall over.”

It’s fair to say that, for us, Chuck Ragan is somewhat of an inspiration, so we’re always honored to sit and chat with him about…pretty much anything. After six years of trying, he finally managed to bring his, highly successful, Revival Tour across the pond and was loving it, taking everything in his stride. When you consider that the man has released a two new records, worked on new material with Hot Water Music and toured the world extensively in 2011, it’s hard to see how he can cope. That’s what we were there to find out.

Podcast :: Under The Bridge #26: “What The Fuck Is A Drinky-Poo?”

“Life begins at 7” – Ian Critchley

After a slight leave of absence due to Barlow being in Germany and our inability to record a podcast whilst Crazy Arm do a soundcheck, the Under The Bridge podcast is back. This week we’re joined by Lewis Bolland – someone you may remember from such episodes as: Episode #24 – and we’ve decided to change up the format a bit. After realising that doing a ‘news’ segment can really get boring, and that the show goes off the rails anyway, we’ve cut it in favor of one ‘main topic’ which, again, goes off the rails. Either way, it’s still your bi-weekly dose of obscenity and hilarity.

This week we’re talking about Leeds Festival…for about five minutes, until the topics of transexuals, Lewis’ listening habits and Barlow’s constant namedropping take over the entire podcast. The music this week comes from the, newly available, Chuck Ragan/Sam Russo/Jimmy Islip/Helen Chambers Split LP. You should totally head over to Specialist Subject Records and get one of those. In fact, buy two. That way you’ve got both variants. Also: Lewis and Ian perform a song at the end of the show, as is the case when Lewis is about. Enjoy!

Go on, have a listen: Under The Bridge #26: “What The Fuck Is A Drinky-Poo?” (stream/download or subscribe on iTunes)

Album Review :: Chuck Ragan/Sam Russo/Jimmy Islip/Helen Chambers – Split LP

“…when Chuck Ragan recommends you something to listen to, you listen to it.”

Not only is Chuck Ragan a member of one of the best punk rock bands of the last twenty years, but he’s also established himself in the,ever popular, acoustic scene too. Having toured around the UK as a solo artist many times, he’s crossed paths with a number of fantastic singer/songwriters. In Sam Russo, Jimmy Islip and Helen Chambers, he’s found some of the UK’s finest, and they don’t disappoint.

Chuck kicks off the record and, rather than use original songs or tracks from his forthcoming solo release, he’s decided to cover some of his favorite artists. Lending his voice to the words of Helen Chambers, Darren Gibson and Leatherface, he pulls each track off expertly and makes each song his own. Did you expect anything less?. The addition of backing vocals from, fellow Hot Water Music member, Chris Wollard are a nice touch and work well in contrast with Chuck’s main vocal. The strongest of the three is definitely ‘Not Superstitious’ (Leatherface), but I have a soft spot for ‘Stephen Patrick’ because I love the original and I can’t resist a Morrissey reference.

Taking on the arduous task of following Chuck is Sam Russo. Russo’s released a few records before this, but it’s nice to hear him on a more polished recording. Not only are they more polished than previous recordings, but there’s definitely more to them. Electric guitars and subtle percussion accompany his acoustic, making his tracks the most full sounding of the bunch. I’d go as far as saying, Russo is my favorite songwriter around right now, mainly because it’s hard not to relate to what he’s saying. His words are as simple and poignant as ever, and I don’t think there’s anyone out there who can’t relate to a song like ‘Tinned Peaches And Diamond Rings’ – “I pawned everything that I own/It wasn’t much but I should’ve known/that she’d say no” gets me every time.

Whilst Chuck and Sam went for the softer more heartfelt route with their tracks, Jimmy Islip’s additions bring in a nice change of pace. They’re the least folky, most upbeat and the most stripped down tracks on the record (aside from a few vocal effects). They feel more like punk songs played on an acoustic guitar. That’s no bad thing, and isn’t a surprise given that he plays in so many punk bands. With that said, the tracks aren’t overly aggressive, but they’re definitely tracks to throw your fists in the air and sing along to. ‘1990’,  in particular, is one bound to leave throats sore by the nights end.

After Jimmy’s selection of punk tunes, Helen Chambers’ trio of softer, heartfelt country songs provide the closer to this fantastic split record. Her distinctive vocal style sets her apart from any other singer I’ve heard in recent years, and she knows how to use her voice to her advantage. Her vocal range is incredible. ‘Speak Your Name’, a purely A Capella song, demonstrates this perfectly. Some might see it as brave for an artist to do something like this but, when you’ve a voice like Helen’s, why not? Not only that, but she brings two fantastic country/folk songs to the table too, the subtle extra instrumentation on those songs working really well with Helen’s acoustic guitar. Is there anything she can’t do?!

What I hope I’ve made clear here is that when Chuck Ragan recommends you something to listen to, you listen to it. Those coming to this for three new Chuck Ragan songs will be happy, as they’ll also have three new artists to listen to as well. These twelve songs are poignant, rabble-rousing and beautiful and, I like to think, prove that the art of good songwriting isn’t confined to a select few. In short, go and buy this. You’ll love it.

To buy this, extremely limited, split 12″ record, head over to Specialist Subject Records. Whilst you’re there, check out some of their other releases. You won’t be disappointed.

Interview :: Sam Russo

© 2011 Kieran Kelly

“You must travel twenty legues and farthing” – Sam Russo

Sam Russo is one of the finest singer/songwriters in the UK today. Having had trouble with touring in the past, the man now known as The White Wizard, embarked on a tour of the UK with, Plymouth punks, Crazy Arm. The Blind Faith Tour stopped in Manchester last Sunday, so we caught up with Russo to talk about his latest release, touring the UK and got him to shed some light on the Cory Branan situation.