Myke Gray + Kim Jennett,
The Howling Tides
Sunday 23rd February 2020
The Undeworld, Camden
Sunday used to be a day of worship. Shops were shut, and it was a day of rest, a day of religious observance and abstinence from work spent at home in the company of loved ones. A day to observe the Sabbath - still my favourite Rock band. But not these days, which is why yours truly braved the potential hell and damnation of my irreverence by travelling to my favourite underground rocking den of iniquity, the Underworld in Camden Town, London NW1. Although no thanks to the striking tube drivers who clearly take their aversion to work on a Sunday more seriously than I do. It may have been the country’s devotion to religious niceties, or the feeling of solidarity with the oppressed workers on the Bakerloo Line, but the small club was somewhat sparse of patrons for the night’s proceedings. Which is a shame because they missed a cracker. Opening the evening were The Howling Tides, a Hard Rock band hailing from the Midlands. Taking influence from legends of Rock, Metal, Blues and beyond, the young quartet have already had some experience, sharing line-ups with the likes of The Dead Daisies, Crazy Town, RavenEye, Bad Touch, and many more.
Frontman Rob Baynes looks like a baby Chris Hemsworth (stop swooning ladies) with long blond straggly curls and trim beard to match. Sporting a battered Strat, pumping some rocking vibes through an Orange amp, his strong voice suggests a knowledge of Rock, Blues, Soul and even Gospel. Howling by name and howling by nature. But with the combination of Hayden Kirk’s Melody Maker, replete with P90’s through a Marshal Plexi, the sound is raunchier. Almost thoughtful Punk. And the band are full of attitude as they bounce around the stage lapping up the occasion. Although Rock by nature, tracks like 'Cheap Painkiller', with Luke Lawleys sludgy bass, are Heavy Rock but with a hint of Rap. Younger bands today are clearly influenced by the music of their generation. And the music is fresher and more vibrant for it. With new material due out shortly, we were treated to a new untitled track known simply as '12/8', so named after the time signature. This has a lovely chuggy rhythm from Kirk’s MM, ably measured by Steven ‘Herbie’ Herbert on drums while Baynes takes lead duties with the aid of a wah pedal. Next up, another new track called 'Fortune Never Favours' is an altogether different song as the tempo is slowed and Kirk’s snarling P90’s are almost completely tamed. With soulful vocals, unusual chords and key changes and a change in tempo, it’s in stark contrast to the rest of the set. Kirk’s solo is excellent with some nice feedback tastefully applied. 'Talia' brings us back to chugging aggressive goodness again followed by 'White Crow', which apparently is about Kirk’s father who is ‘a total wreck head'. Sounds painful to me unlike the solo which wasn’t your usual pentatonic perambulation which made a nice change. Closing with the fuzz laden 'He Told Me', with singalong shout out "Your days are numbered" the band showed that their days are indeed clearly numbered. But it looks like that is a very large number. I hope so.
Myke Gray - the founder and songwriter of Skin, Jagged Edge and Red White & Blues - and Kim Jennett are one of those unusual matches that just seems to work. Myke discovered Kim through Facebook, from a humble video of her singing some Blues to an acoustic guitar in a Uni house kitchen. They met up and jammed together and Myke now writes and produces Kim’s solo work. Kim made her name as the whirling dervish that was 'The Voodoo Woman' fronting the sadly defunct Voodoo Blood. So now putting the effervescent songstress in front of the Rock and riff ensemble fronted by Myke, and you get a powerful Rock ensemble. Gray's ensemble sport a subdued black attire whilst the man himself adorns himself in black and white, like a monochrome harlequin. Black and white waistcoat complements odd black and white shoes with contrasting black and white laces. And of course a black and white Les Paul into a pair of Marshal JVM's. But if his appearance is two tone, his sound isn’t. His playing is tasteful, with no gratuitous shredding, yet runs the gamut of Hard Rock to Soul to ballads with equal assurance. Kim, by contrast, is a brilliant dash of colour, with her long black hair, black leather jacket and boots offset by bright red leopard skin trousers - a trademark pattern for the Manchester born lass. And complementing this is strong red eye makeup giving her a demonic look - perhaps a nod to her personal demons which she successfully channels into the powerful force that is her stage persona. Entering the stage to the strains of Queen's 'We Will Rock You', which the small crowd take up in joyous expectation, the stage erupts with the first of many tracks from Myke's repertoire, 'Stand Up For Rock And Roll'. There are no seats at the Underworld so we duly did. Glenn Quinn on rhythm guitar and Colin Parkinson on bass provide a strong rhythm section, and backing harmonies for a G'n'R style Rock track. Throughout the set the influences are clear. Kim’s leather jacket is discarded as her cavorting performance heats up both her and the audience, helped in no small part by the skimpy black top underneath, intricate tattoos down her right arm, and hugely warming charm.
'Let Me Be The One' again has Kim dancing like a whirling dervisher screaming lyrics whilst we get a battering from Myke's guitar. Kim works the crowd well who are happy to respond. Especially one individual at the front - there's always one - who clearly wants to join the band. But he is no match for the mighty Mancunian. Only short in stature, and with a childlike quality to her voice, this girl is a Spitfire. Mess with her and you are going down in flames like an ME-109. Although on 'Love Like Suicide', the first of many Skin tracks, the tempo slows and her childlike vocal qualities are more evident. Although she displays a childlike vulnerability, the strong woman is never far away.
Back to the rocking again for 'Psycho', although monitor issues cause Myke to vent his spleen at the hapless soundman - front of house the sound was fine. 'House Of Love', a slightly more Pop Skin track sees the issue fixed, so whilst Neil Ogden batters the gold drum kit, Kim wiggles around the stage as a sultry red eyed seductress. Although a demonic one. Rhythm guitarist Quinn swaps his Les Paul, also plugged into matching Marshall JVM's, for a Strat with a hotrails in the bridge, for some Country twang at the intro to 'Stronger'. But it soon turns into a good time old school Rock and Roll number before Myke switches to a Tele (white with a black scratch-plate obviously…) for 'Counts For Nothing', one of his Red White & Blues numbers. Starting with an arpeggio, accompanied solely by Parkinson's bass, the song builds into a Zeppelin like chugging Blues monster which gives Myke the chance to show his wah playing solo skills whilst the demure Kim crouches down to sing provocatively at eye level with the enraptured crowd. The song's growing crescendo ends abruptly to leave Kim to finish off the last few bars with her clear plaintiff voice. The white Tele is swapped for a similarly coloured Flying V for 'Colourblind' with a staccato guitar intro which leads into some choppy Pop Rock whereas 'Take Me Down' is a headbanging chugging Rock riff monster overlaid with Myke's intricate fingerpicking and full band backing on vocals. Kim forays out on to a small balcony to balance precariously above the crowd, posing for photos to a powerful Rock backing. Okay, it’s only 3 feet off the ground but that’s a long way up for some people. And it didn’t stop her jumping into the crowd to Rock along amongst them. Which is slightly ironic when she takes the time to ‘get serious a minute’ before the opening of 'Look But Don’t Touch', a song that highlights her concern about inappropriate unwanted behaviour suffered by younger female fans. The title says it all. Girl Power and #MeToo are finally starting to make a difference but there is still a long way to go. The song itself has a funky ‘Addicted To Love’ style groove. 'Tower Of Strength' sees Myke back on the Tele again for a slower, heavy bass power ballad with Kim alternating between the precarious balcony and the full on Rock with your foot on the monitor pose we all love. Closer 'Shine Your Light' sees the Flying V appear again, with all its Heavy Rock goodness. But the track weaves its way between and Aerosmith 'Sweet Emotion' drone, into quasi-Gospel into full God forsaken Rock. Kim jumps back into crowd for a mosh before ending with unaccompanied vocals. Top stuff.
After a very brief sojourn, the band are back for a blistering 4 track encore. 'Tripping' sees a waft of dry ice herald Myke’s Tele create the slow ballad with vocal Harmonies. Subdued and understated almost, his wah solo feels almost sad. 'You Don't Love Me' on the other hand is a squealing guitar 80's vibe rocker. The 80's style solo on the Flying V says it all. Myke takes the time to speak to thank all his band, management, soundmen ("sorry about my behaviour earlier..") and the fans of course, many of whom he picks out form the audience by name. 'I Get Up" sees Myke back on his Black Les Paul, and Quinn on a similar Tokai, giving that twin Rock guitar sound with Myke on vocals. It’s 12 bar Rock and Roll with attitude, a rolling drumbeat and Kim doing a very good Kill Bill Uma Thurman impression. They end with 'Take Me Home', all foot stomping Rock and Roll, with Kim the pouting seductress, the crowd chanting "Rock and Roll" and a no shred solo. Kim dives back into crowd to use the last of her considerably energy to mosh with the fans to the final licks of Myke’s shred finish. High fives all round for a job well done.
Back out into the night to face the uncertainties of a journey home, I ponder, as always, the night’s entertainment. It’s been another night of great entertainment, with two great acts. It’s at this time that I realise that my Sunday analogy has another poignant link. Be it churches or gig venues, they are closing at an alarming rate and tonight’s congregation are too small to maintain these venues. Thankfully, whilst our religious attendances are on the decline, the music audiences continue to grow. So please continue to worship your musical gods at your local shrine, and support the divine inspiration our rocking deities give us. I’m heading for a quiet word with my lords on my headphones but hopefully I will see you at a pulpit of power sometime soon. Rock on.
Stand Up for Rock 'n' Roll (Red White & Blues song)
Let Me Be The One
Love Like Suicide (Skin song)
House of Love (Skin song)
Counts For Nothing (Red White & Blues song)
Colourblind (Skin song)
Take Me Down to the River (Skin song)
Look But Don't Touch (Skin song)
Tower of Strength (Skin song)
Shine Your Light (Skin song)
Tripping (Skin song)
You Don't Love Me
I Get Up
Take me Home