Saturday 12 May. Hanwell Hootie 2018 already! This is the music festival in West London where a lot of the local pubs open their doors to a variety of bands, some local, some quite young, others much-travelled and well-established. It seems to get bigger and better every year; it was helped last year by the establishment of two outdoor venues at Sandy Park and the Viaduct Meadows. And the weather was dry. This year it bucketed down until about 9 o’clock, which meant there weren’t so many people outdoors, and all the pubs were rammed again.
The programme of bands looked really interesting – there were so many I fancied seeing; and, of course, it meant choices had to be made. I went with Jon G and a few his friends: Chris, Richard and Andy. Kath decided the weather didn’t justify subjecting herself to a variety of mostly punky sounds, which is what Jon and I were favouring.
We started at the Viaduct meadow at 4.15, to see Rews make a triumphant return after playing an excellent set last year in one of the pubs. The tent was full. Jon and his mates stood at the back; I went round the side and got pretty much to the front, but right by the speakers! My ear was ringing for a while afterwards. Rews are Shauna Tohill on vocals and guitar and Collette Williams on drums and backing vocals. They make a great rock’n’roll noise, with plenty of catchy riffs and choruses. And they play like they are absolutely loving it. They got an afternoon crowd going, and did it with smiles on their faces. Highlights, as always, included “Shake Shake” and “Miss You in the Dark”, but the whole set was a lot of fun. Catch them if you can.
Next up was an all-woman local punk band called The Tuts. They were playing in a pub called the Prince of Wales. It was packed by the time we got there, half an hour before the show. It was hot. We stood up the end of the pub where it was a bit more airy and watched the Middlesborough/Villa Championship play off semi. When the band started we moved closer, but couldn’t see them at all. So we moved back and listened while watching the football. Chris decided to push to the front. He came out at the end waxing lyrical. From where we were they sounded pretty good – very much in the 70s punk mould, with a pop sensibility. I could have sworn that I heard the riff to T.Rex’s “Solid Gold Easy Action” at one point! Chris said that the singer was a bit like Poly Styrene, which is a pretty good recommendation. Will have to find out more.
Then it was over to the Grosvenor, which is an excellent pub at any time. Good range of beers. It is a bit more spacious than the Prince of Wales, and wasn’t so stifling. We got there in good time for a young band called My First Moustache. They are all old school friends of Jon’s son, Louis. There were quite a few of them – three guitars, bass and drums, keyboards. Very clearly led, though, by singer and guitarist Ffion Murphy, in retro Arsenal shirt. They started with some speedy choppy riffing and Ffion’s echoey vocals (a bit low in the mix) and I thought Duds must be an inspiration. But then they went into a long ambling passage of music, with some interesting soloing from Ffion, and I thought, hey, this lot have really got something going here. And so it went on throughout the show. One minute high speed punk; the next, something that could have been off Roxy Music’s first two albums, when Eno was manipulating the synthesisers. Intriguing and really engaging sounds. I thought they were seriously good. If they can team up with a decent producer, they could make some pretty amazing music. And I don’t just say that because they were Louis’ mates. They were seriously good. Excitingly different. They got a fantastic reception (admittedly from quite a few friends and relatives!) and came back for an encore when they played a weird Spanish punk thing, which was like nothing else they’d done and a lot of fun. Great stuff.
We had a real buzz about us after that, even as we trudged through the rain to the Kings Arms, on Hanwell Broadway, to see Hollowstar. This was a choice of Chris’s, and veered from our template for the evening. They had a more traditional rock sound – in fact it was straight from the early 70s. Think Free, Deep Purple, Budgie even. Now this was the music I loved before punk blew most things away in 1976-77, and I still have a soft spot for it, especially Free and Bad Company. But I found the sound a bit too formulaic on the night, even though the band were very good and got a rousing reception from a capacity crowd. I withdrew to the bar to avoid the jostling and just enjoyed it, in a rather non-commital way. There was no surprise when they did a cover of Free’s “Wishing Well” – and they did that great song justice. So, if you still love a good bit of 70s blues-rock, check out Hollowstar. They won’t let you down.
The tempo was upped for the next band, Fizzy Blood, from Leeds, in the Viaduct Meadow. It had stopped raining, but was pretty damp. We got there in time to catch the end of the previous set, by Desert Mountain Tribe, described in the Hootie blurb as alternative rock, a heavy trance sound, psychedelic. Well, the last track sounded pretty good, and soared as the guitars got going. Think I might have enjoyed them, so more exploring to do. As for Fizzy Blood, well they just rocked hard. In your face, hard core riffing, shouty punk, aggressive and incredibly energetic. It was brilliant! A comparable band, who are doing well at the moment, is Idles – certainly in terms of the sound. This is music made for moshing, and there was a bit of that. We all tried to avoid this rather mad-looking hulk as he started bouncing around, but it was all good natured. An energising show. I checked a bit of Fizzy Blood on Spotify today. Inevitably it’s not quite as raucous as when played live. But I’d happily go to see them again.
At 10.30 and quite a few beers through the evening, that was enough for me. Jon and Chris went back to the Price of Wales to see a punk band called Blackwaters, whose photo looked like they could be like another up-and-coming band, Shame. Put I was all punked out after Fizzy Blood, and got home just in time to see the voting for the Eurovision song contest. What a contrast!
Give me the Hanwell Hootie any day. A great event, and a huge credit to all the organisers, venues, sponsors and bands. It has become an essential part of the London music scene, and is a celebration of an area which, squeezed in between Ealing and Southall, is normally in the shadow of both. But it has always been a home of good music, and is the base of Marshall amps. That is pedigree.
My highlight was undoubtedly My First Moustache, but Rews and Fizzy Blood were also, in their different ways, both uplifting expressions of the spirit of rock’n’roll.
Rock on, Hootie!