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Cardiff, Wales, United Kingdom | SELF

Cardiff, Wales, United Kingdom | SELF
Band Rock Classic Rock




"Hangfire - Ebbw Vale, The Steelhouse - 22nd July 2011"

I entered The Steelhouse with my head hanging in shame. Why? Well, for two reasons; the first was that this was my first time in one of the newest and coolest venues in my locality, somehow managing to avoid every gig that has taken place there in the past seven months. The second was that I had never seen my brutha from a different mutha, former Tigertailz/In Pursuit drummer Matt Blakout, with his band Hangfire. So, yeah, I entered the venue a little shame-faced...until I realised that I was alongside a member of one of the finest bands to ever come out of the UK, Mott The Hoople, and everything seemed a little brighter.....

There was another reason for attending on this clammy July night, for it offered the paying patrons of this Valleys vestibule of ass-kickery the first chance to see the reformed Rag Dolls, the glam rock outfit (who once featured former Tigertailz/Rachel Stamp drummer Robin Guy) who last graced stages and boutiques at the beginning of the troubled (musically, at least) Nineties.

With three original members, albeit with slightly less hair, Rag Dolls billed this first support slot as a teaser to a full-on reunion show at The Globe in Cardiff next month yet, happily, there was a wealth of material thrown out of the PA into the warm Ebbw Vale air. The retro glam anthem (glamthem?) 'Mad, Bad And Dangerous To Know' makes a welcome, early appearance in the set and is quickly followed by 'Dollhouse' and a cover of The Move's 'California Man', once a staple of the Dolls' live set. Brand new song 'Do You Remember' fits seamlessly into the set and shows that the band members are taking this reunion seriously rather than the dad-at-a-disco antics of many reunited musical combos. Guitarist Mike Dolls looks cool and nails every tune while frontman JJ Cruise (it does feel a little weird calling him this still) quickly gets back into his stride, confidence growing with each song. Closing with 'White Knuckle Ride' the Dolls are quickly called upon to return for an encore of 'Day Tripper' by some band from Liverpool. A promising, and fun, reunion beckons - catch these guys in the big city next month.

The obvious angle by which to review Hangfire would be to take a trip down Blakout Boulevard but, while the monolithic stixxman (happy to throw sticks into the air even though the suspended ceiling is around two feet above his head - lethal ricocheting drumsticks abound) turns in his customary professional bout of visual timekeeping, there is a bigger story revolving around another member of the band, although you probably wouldn't notice. Guitarist Lizzie is totally blind but, unless you had been aware in advance, you would be forgiven for being gobsmacked when you did discover the fact as he ploughs through the band's Southern rock-fuelled set with not a note dropped or hard rockin' riff fumbled.

Completed by vocalist Max Rhead, a towering, hairy figure out front, and Barry-born bassist Bobby Goo, described by Rhead as a cross between Nikki Sixx and Uncle Bryn in a fashion that I would find difficult to beat, Hangfire churn out quality tunes with ease and are a perfect fit for crowds and venues like tonight's.

'Bodies' takes a riff from The Almighty and changes it ever so slightly - well, if Ricky Warwick doesn't want these anymore someone should benefit! - while 'Drop The Bomb' motors along nicely. There are a couple of choice covers, including a tasty version of Rick Derringer's 'Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo', and everything is going well, not even an errant guitar strap can derail this well-oiled machine. Then something bizarre happens. Actually, not bizarre, stupid. Someone throws a knife at the stage. Not a Crocodile Dundee "this is a knife" knife, more like something you'd eat your dinner with. Even so, slinging it through a crowd of innocent punters having a good time towards a band with a blind guitarist isn't clever. In fact, the more you think about it, the angrier it makes you. It may have been drunken hi-jinks rather than malicious but, still, it was a cowardly thing to do. Rhead appears ready to kill and it's fair to say that his appetite for the gig drained away in seconds. The band play one more song and leave the stage. Happily, a refusal to let the fuckers win means that the band return, their spirit also, and we get a couple more tunes including 'Dead Man Walking', the poignant ode to fallen friends.

Refusing myself to let a silly incident sour my first trip to the Steelhouse, my memories of the night will forever be of fine music, great atmosphere and good friends. This will not be my last visit to the venue....although I might wear a helmet next time, what with all the cutlery and drum sticks flying around like ninja throwing stars. Until then I ask that you good people support the Steelhouse crew and attend their festival later this month, featuring the likes of Black Spiders, The Quireboys and Tigertailz, now reunited with original drummer Ace Finchum.

Jesus, how many mentions of Tigertailz drummers can I squeeze into a review?!

- Uber Rock




Tracks receiving current airplay are
'For Crying Out Loud'
'Drop The Bomb'



Guitarist Lee ‘Lizzy’ Evans is a blind musical virtueoso with unfathomable touch and feel that gives the band it's southern bluesy edge. An incredibly talented composer, he gives the cultured feel of 'Bonamassa' blended with the awesome 80’s riffs of 'Jake E Lee'.

Frontman Max Rhead could be the bastard love child of 'Coverdale' and 'Grohl' providing the swaggering aggression and passion that every classic rock band craves! Always delivered with a wink and a smile, that compels an audience to come along for the ride!

Former Tigertailz drummer Matt Blakout gives the band it's gigantic powerful foundation with a 'Bonam'esk' sound and feel, and an 80’s American rock sense of drama and showmanship.

Bassist Bobby Goo draws on such diverse influences as 'The Bad Seeds' and 'Black Sabbath' to generate a sleezy, smouldering groove like the unholy union of 'Nikki Sixx' and 'The Chilli Pepper’s Flea'.

The roller-coaster ride of their first album 'Confessions' was brought to a premature halt by the sad loss of their brother and drummer Aaron. There followed a period of intense writting and 'soul searching' during which time long time friends Matt Blakout and Bobby Goo joined the line up – culminating in the explosive release of the second album ‘Shoot the Crow’