There is something fitting about Massive Wagons performing in a venue that features a decent-sized truck cab bursting through the wall above the entrance to the venue. Wagons frontman Baz Mills thinks so, and visitors to the Wagons Facebook page on the day of the gig were treated to the site of an early-rising Baz standing underneath the tyres of the truck…maybe on his way to the ice-cream parlour next door for a 99? Well, he did have cause to celebrate considering that it was the last night of the tour, a tour two years in the making…
It’s Sunday at The Garage, and it’s a three-band bill so that means an early start. Hitting the stage five minutes after doors opening are The Hot Damn! and for ex-Amorettes vocalist/guitarist Gill Montgomery, it’s a homecoming gig. With only thirty minutes or so to make their mark, the quartet made up of Montgomery, ex-Cult Classics guitarist Laurie Buchanan, ex-Tequila Mockingbyrd drummer Josie O’Toole, and New Device bassist Lzi Hayes set out to make sure that the night got off to a flying start. Debut single ‘Dance Around’ has been getting its fair share of column inches and rightly so as it’s a bit special; live, it is glorious. Chockful of gorgeous vocal harmonies and twin-guitar melodies, it’s probably the best track this year that you might not have heard, yet. Good chance that you will have heard The Amorettes ‘Everything I Learned I Learned From Rock N’ Roll’ though and the call-to-arms is dusted off for a riotous version that brings this short-but-sweet set to an end. The Hot Damn! have several more gigs lined up for the remainder of the year, most notably opening for The Dust Coda…dancing shoes at the ready.
If you can truly judge someone by the company that they keep then Leeds-based purveyor of power-pop Chris Catalyst is a top bloke. Friend/accomplice of both Ginger Wildheart and producer-extraordinaire Dave Draper (and now Massive Wagons), Catalyst has plenty of experience behind him as a touring/session musician and is now starting to tread the boards as a solo act. Rocket-fuelled power-pop is very much the order of the day and if you can witness ‘King Of Everything’ and ‘Wake Me Up On Monday’ without having a bit of a bounce, then mate, you are dead from the waist down. ‘The Ride’ is full of sharp, stuttering guitars that bring a bit of an edge to the party (as do the down-tuned chords towards the end), and then the rather spiffing vocal harmonies kick in and you might just pick up a hint of a Super Furry Animals or Feeder influence. Delve deeper by checking out Chris’s most recent album ‘Kaliedescopes’ – because you’re worth it.
So two weeks after witnessing Massive Wagons laying waste to Don Valley Bowl Sheffield with their largest production to date, it’s back to the more familiar sight of Baz and Co knocking seven bells out of a darkened venue packed to the rafters with punters desperate to let off some steam at a rock n’ roll show.
The most recent Wagons studio album ‘House Of Noise’ came kicking and screaming into the world in July 2020 and provided some much-needed relief as the world around us went to shit, and as you would expect; Wagons have been itching to air these songs live, and it shows. Once the familiar intro tape fades out, the band are on stage and slamming into the album-opening track ‘In It Together’, and it’s almost as if the last eighteen months or so are a bad nightmare. Baz is as animated as ever and covering every inch of the stage, making use of the raised boxes at the front of the stage, twirling his mic stand…he has sorely missed this. When you have a frontman as enjoyable-to-watch as Baz, it’s easy to ignore the other four band members, but early on it’s pretty hard not to be hypnotised by the stellar guitar work from Adam Thistlethwaite (who has grown into an impressive lead guitarist), the metronome precision drumming from his brother Alex, and the combined backing vocals from t’other guitarist Stevie Holl, and bassist Bowzer. This is a bunch of guys coming together with only one goal – to send the crowd home smiling…and hoarse.
After a stop-off at the ‘Full Nelson’ album for ‘China Plates’ it’s back to ‘House Of Noise’ for the AC/DC vibes of ‘Banging n Your Stereo’ which after a short blast of drums segues perfectly into a covers medley that features ‘I Fought The Law’, ‘She Does It Right’ (with Baz killing it as Dr. Feelgood legend Lee Brilleaux) and ‘Surrender’ – Baz hasn’t stopped bouncing yet, and Stevie Holl hasn’t stopped smiling. Those who have been with Wagons from the pre-Earache days are rewarded with the total banger ‘The Day We Fell’ finding its way back into the set – the reception tells me that this was a wise decision – the unforgettable ‘Ratio’ which has everyone howling at the moon, while ‘Nails’ gives the neck muscles a right good seeing to, and how about the most feelgood of feelgood choons – ‘Fee Fi Fo Fum’…perfection. ‘House Of Noise’ is well represented with ‘Hero’, ‘Sad Sad Song’, ‘Hallescrewya’, the title track, and of course ‘The Curry Soing’ all slotting in around the older material.
With the dreaded curfew drawing closer by the minute, there is only time for one more, and rather fittingly on the day that it was announced that Status Quo’s Alan Lancaster had died, Wagons pay homage to both Lancaster and fellow Quo legend Rick Parfitt on the boogie-tastic ‘Back To The Stack’ with the line “Why don’t you raise your glass for Rick, Cos I’m raising mine!” being changed to namecheck Alan Lancaster instead – a classy move that raises the roof.
After a well-deserved rest, Massive Wagons are back in the tour bus for a short jaunt around Germany, a crucial market for any rock n’ roll band to crack, and all the signs are that Lancaster’s finest are beginning to make inroads. Album number six is in the writing stage and the studio is booked. Whisper it just in case, but the future is looking rosy for the new “people’s band”.
Images – Dave Jamieson