JACK’S SAVING GRACE LIVE IN ROYTON – WHAT HAPPENED?
Saturday night has come around again and, after a busy Friday evening togging Deja Vega, DeafDeafDeaf and Kained at Wigan’s Boulevard for Dave Kaaria’s excellent Sounds of the City, and accompanied by trusty photographer, sidekick and partner in crime Editor, Girl, I’m off for my second Saturday on the bounce to the excellently-appointed Taylor’s Shure 5 Studios in Royton.
This time, however, I’m here at the invitation of Ste from Manchester-based M35 who are putting on a lineup including no less than 5 bands/artistes (try to keep the review below 10,000 words this time, Pete – Ed.), so no rest for the wicked tonight! M35 Music have been around for 14 years and describe themselves as, “Providing a platform for upcoming bands, artists and DJs”, Ste and partner Andrea are particularly driven to, “Add curveballs, address social issues and help charities”. These sounds like most worthwhile causes and I’m happy to lend a hand tonight.
Chaddy (or Stephen Chadwick, to give him his full name) has supported The Happy Mondays with his band The Backhanders, and has played with Twisted Wheel and Black Grape too, as well as supporting loads of other bands over the course of a long musical career.
He takes to the stage to open the night’s proceedings in such an unassuming manner that you’re not sure if he’s actually started or if he’s still soundchecking, but the minute he opens his mouth, you pay attention. He hasn’t come armed with a setlist, and he clearly doesn’t need one – his songs sound like he’s either lived them or knows the people who HAVE lived them.
Armed only with an acoustic guitar and a harmonica to shield him against whatever lies ahead, Chaddy delivers set opener, “Rags to Riches” and I stop in my tracks and listen, and hope that doing my togging job tonight won’t prevent me from hearing what he has to offer. As the song draws to a close, Chaddy remarks that a few more people have arrived, but he didn’t see them because he had his eyes shut (which he did), but someone reassuringly shouts from the crowd that he was, “In the moment”, so that’s OK. He asks us how we all are before introducing, “Deaf Ears”.
It would be oh, so easy to make Oasis comparisons, but this gentleman is much more than that, delivering the passion of Billy Bragg, the storytelling ability of Gerry Rafferty and the pathos of Mike Harding (yes, I had a copy of “Captain Paralytic and the Brown Ale Cowboy”, in another life, far, far away).
“Down by the River” is described as, “A bit of an old one”, to which M34’s Ste retorts, “Old but gold!” – you get the sense that a large proportion of the early audience know Mr Chadwick of old and it’s equally clear that he’s pleased to hear them, even if he can’t see them from the wrong side of Taylor’s magnificent lighting setup.
The set continues with, “Old Hands”, and if anyone was talking when he started his set, they’ve well and truly shut up by now, captivated by the spectacle of a lone troubadour singing about all aspects of the human condition. I’m glad I’ve got all my pictures taken, so I can enjoy this minimalist, but nevertheless powerful set of songs. “Don’t let yer Man know” – “What has he got that I ain’t got – I bet he’s much better looking than me, what has he got that I ain’t got, he’s got a roomful of drugs and a PlayStation 3” – awesome. “The Same Old Consequences” sees Chaddy entreat us to join in with the chorus, if we can.
“Look, what you’ve got to say is true, I don’t like me and you don’t like you… so what d’you say, your body’s old, and that I’m like ice, but twice as cold” tells a story as old as time itself. Eventually, as the verses pass, we manage to hit that chorus by the end of the song. “It’s the same old consequences, the same old me and I’m sat on fences, and I just want to pass the time…with you”.
It seems that “Consequences” shouldn’t have formed part of tonight’s set, but we’re rather glad it did. The last song of the night is, “Sheep”, which is about Miles Platting and Ancoats (areas just to the north of the city centre for those of you non-Mancunians who might be reading) “We ain’t ashamed of where we come from, we ain’t got no reason to be”, sings Chaddy, defiantly. “Cos we ain’t got a lot to give you, but what we’ve got, take it for free”. He’s persuaded back to the stage for a cover of, “Stand by me”, which is punctuated by a clever acapella rap which has the crowd whooping in appreciation.
To paraphrase “The Same Old Consequences”, I’m pleased to say that I’ve been more than happy to pass the time in Chaddy’s company, and should you get the opportunity, I think you will too. Until you can catch him live, for a treasure of fine tuneage and poignant lyrics, I’d strongly recommend you head in the direction of Chaddy’s Soundcloud page for a better idea of what he’s about – you’ll find nothing but good stuff there, Dear Reader.
Chaddy played: Rags to Riches, Deaf Ears, Down by the River, Old Hands, Don’t let your Man know, The Same Old Consequences, Sheep and Stand by Me.
We last crossed paths with Spin Klass at 33 Oldham Street back in August when they were supported by Chris Bridgett and Evan Kirwan. They describe themselves as, “A 3-piece alternative synth pop band from Manchester, England, formed in 2021 from a collection of John McClane fanatics, budgie enthusiasts and sub-station controllers who couldn’t get enough Devo, XTC and Talking Heads”. I liked that description then and imagine that I’ll continue to like it tonight too.
Their lineup is Chris Maddon (vocals, guitar), Kieran McIntyre (synths and drum machine) and Josh Stewart (bass). Numbering The Minx, Heavy on the Magic and The Hems amongst their previous incarnations, they’re a well-seasoned bunch who delivered their initial compendium, “Sod It” back in October 2021, followed by the “Ferral Bop” EP a year later, and their current release, “The Other Room”, saw the light of day back in May.
Ste introduces us to, “His new favourite band – all the way from Altrincham” as Chris, Keiran and Josh launch into Fanfare, with its Wurlitzer keyboards and catchy, “Sit yourself down and have a word with yourself” refrain. There’s a level of ill-suppressed craziness going on as Chris trips from one end of the stage to the other, ably backed by Josh stage left and Keiran stage right. “Cancelled”, from the 2021 “Sod It” EP, is the one that reminded me last time of Joy Division’s “She’s Lost Control”, and it does exactly the same tonight, although this song is a lot more upbeat, thankfully.
“How’re we doing?”, asks Chris. “We were meant to be playing in Wigan tonight, but the gig was cancelled”, he continues. Thankfully, Ste stepped in to save the day, but it’s still ten years since they were last in Royton. “At least you didn’t have to go to Wigan!”, quips a wag from the audience, but I can’t say anything, as that’s where I was last night.
“Slow Loris” from “Ferral Bop” is next – Spin Klass don’t take themselves seriously at all and it’s a joy to watch them revelling in their zaniness. The crowd, many of whom weren’t expecting them tonight are clearly enthralled, even if they don’t quite know what to make of them. “This is Love” is a newer song and reminds Your Humble Reviewer of “New Order’s “Thieves Like Us” a bit.
After “Rich, Old and Sober”, Chris informs us that they’re going to be releasing a new single in November and that they’re just waiting for the masters to come back, followed my more songs next year, which is always good news.
Blue Blazer is described as an “Absolutely fcukin mental tune”, and so it proves to be, somewhat reminiscent of a hybrid of New Order’s “True Faith” and “Touched by the Hand of God” – you can almost see the ghost of Bernard Sumner dad dancing at the back of the stage. Chris comments, “We thought, shall we stick a five-minute instrumental in the middle of the set that that nobody has heard us play, ever… yeah, fcuk it, why not”?”.
He also remarks “What a mint venue – we need to protect venues like this at all costs as venues like this mean so much to communities – I wish I had this on my doorstep”, which is met with loud agreement from the crowd. Spin Klass close their set with the melancholy “Other Room” to a solid round of applause, as ironically, we’re pointed in the direction of the OTHER other room by Chris in an attempt to drum up some merch sales. It’s gotta be done, people.
Whilst we wait for new Spin Klass material, you can catch up with them next supporting Deja Vega at Stockport’s Bask on Bonfire Night!
Spin Klass played: Fanfare, Cancelled, Slow Loris, This Is Love, Rich, Old and Sober, Blue Blazer and Other Room,
Mac McCartney, he of the hard-to-find (bordering on the non-existent) social media presence, takes to the stage behind a large keyboard in the same unobtrusive manner as Chaddy adopted, before launching into Beethoven’s “Fur Elise” – Dear Reader, we weren’t expecting this at ALL. Thirty seconds in and it’s evident that Mr McCartney is a surprisingly talented gentleman – he can sing too, as if the keyboard skills weren’t enough.
A certain Gallagher-esque twang may be lurking in there for sure, but Mac’s vocal range is way broader. “All right, everyone, my names Mac McCartney and I’m fcukin’ buzzin’ to be here” he announces via the cheekiest smile I’ve seen on a stage in a good while, as he drifts into set opener and original work, “Amsterdam”
Mac’s next song (“Darker Days?”) opens up with some Madness-like piano and in addition to a slight vocal warble that brings Puressence’s James Mudriczki to mind. This chap REALLY knows how to play, and a beautifully-executed cover of Lewis Capaldi’s, “Forget Me” does little to persuade me otherwise.
Mac’s original songs are fine pieces which allow him to display his powerful voice. “It seems unlikely, but do we have any 1975 fans in the house?”, he asks quizzically, and in response to a single scream, he replies, laconically, “Well, THAT’s fcukin’ great, isn’t it?”, but launches into a cover of their “Somebody Else” regardless, and rather than just that one person enjoying it, we all do.
“It’s been a pleasure to be here tonight – I’ve not done this for a while, sorry – It feels great, so I want to say thanks to everyone for listening – nice one!”, he concludes. Despite a few nerves, probably brought on by the absence from the stage that he’s just mentioned, it’s impossible not to be drawn in by his likeability, enthusiasm and obvious talent.
He admits that, “It’s a bit cliched to do an Oasis song but, yer know, fcuk it”, before leading us in a rousing version of “Don’t Look Back in Anger” I don’t remember the lyric “And so, Sally can wait, she knows it’s too late as we’re walking on – fcukin’ hell!” as the keyboard apparently becomes self-aware and runs away with itself for a few seconds, but nobody seems to care that much by this point.
Whatever your reasons for not performing for a while, the world needs you back doing what you clearly do best, and we’ll surely be there to cheer you on, sir.
Mac McCartney played: Amsterdam, Darker Days (?) Forget Me, Somebody Else and Don’t Look Back in Anger.
Describing themselves as a, “Punk-Infused, Alt-Rock n Roll band from Rochdale/Burnley” (they went to high school in the second and are now based in the first), Sprats comprises Bradley Ellor (vocals), Alex Mcardle (lead guitar) Connor Watson-Reid (Keyboard and synth) and Jak Stansfield (drums).
The long-time friends have only been performing live since 2022, having formed the previous year, but they’ve already managed to secure support slots with the likes of The Bluetones and The Fratellis, in addition to many headline gigs in their own right at the likes of The Academy, The Deaf Institute and Factory. 2022 saw the release of “Why Would I With You” and “Let’s Sail”, followed up with “Mr Big Man” and the slower, more thoughtful “Craze”, both released this year.
The Sprats don’t waste any time getting down to business, launching their set with a haunting keyboard motif from Connor, that almost has me looking over my shoulder for Michael Myers, before Jak’s drums launch us into “Love Me Briefly”, a song that to these auld ears takesa little inspiration from Linkin Park in its composition.
Bradley, meanwhile delivers a powerful vocal performance in a strong opening song that a lot of bands would leave to the end of a set, it’s that good. “Thank you for the warm welcome – we are The Sprats – thank you for having us”, announces Bradley. “Superwaves” calls heavily on Alex’s guitar and he has to work extra hard, as his is the sole guitar of the operation, breaking the standard lead/rhythm/bass fslramework by some degree, but it’s clearly nothing that worries him too much, as, stage left, he blows away any cobwebs that might have remained in tonight’s small but nevertheless appreciative audience.
Next up is April 2023’s “Mr Big Man” with a riff that you’d get it if you cross-bred the “Batman” theme with The Jam’s “Eton Rifles” “Are you mad lad, you can’t be a sad lad, think about yer dad, lad, you’ve got to be a man, lad” is two and a half minutes of joyous punk madness that sees Bradley skipping across the stage, greeting his bandmates individually as he spits out his vocals. I LIKE this.
If you hunt through YouTube, you can find an excellent version of the next song, “Diversion” – it’s more rock/metal in its nature and allows Bradley to demonstrate another string to his bow with a hybrid spokensung delivery. It’s pleasing to see a gang of mates reaping the benefits of a year’s worth of slogging the circuits, as they deliver their set with a confidence just staying on the right side of cocky. There are definite hints of Royal Blood lurking in here too, which is no bad thing.
“Craze” takes things down a notch, showing that The Sprats are more than a two-and-a-half-minute post-punk outfit. There are shades of Prince’s “Purple Rain” and maybe even Elton John’s “Benny and the Jets” running beneath e surface – “Now you don’t even wanna get close, and how can you when your eyes ain’t yours” yells Bradley mournfully as Alex, Jak and Connor add further layers of desperation.
Their thirty minutes are fast running out, which is a shame, but with five artists on the bill, everything has to be squeezed in efficiently, as we drift through ”Apart of me” into debut single, “Why would I with you?” with its simple but haunting keyboard line that has me in mind of John Carpenter again. And with a blast of a yet to be named song to finish off, they’re gone.
The Sprats’ music has been described elsewhere as, “Energetic, chaotic, catchy, punky fun” and on the strength of tonight’s performance, I can find no reason to argue. We came to see The Sprats tonight, but they certainly delivered a fat mackerel of a set and I’ll be tracking them down to see what they can deliver outside of tonight’s time constraints.
The Sprats played: Love Me Briefly, Superwaves, Mr Big Man, Diversion, Craze, Apart of Me, Why Would I With You, Untitled.
Jack’s Saving Grace has four members and they’re all very keen to tell me where they’re based and where they’re from, so it would be rude not to tell you too! Fran Canning (based in Stretford, but originally from Liverpool and formerly with Straw Dogs) is on rhythm guitar and lead vocals, Adam Neeves (based in Eccles but originally from Widnes and having previously been in The Accused) is on lead guitar, Martyn Connelly (Stockport through and through and former member of Level 7) is on bass and Jordan Bamford (an Oldham lad and fireman – yay!) Is behinf the drum kit.
Three of them have been in other bands before with the exception of Jordan, who until playing with JSG hadn’t played on stage since he was in school! They’re another band who took advantage (if there WERE any advantages) of The Great Covid Reset to gather their thoughts and their talents and get together and, via a few changes in personnel, settled last April with the lineup that takes to the stage tonight.
Their first gig was only as recent as last month at Manchester’s Retro bar supporting Sheffield’s Twin Suns with Leeds-based The Dassins and Stoke’s Sarcoline. The fact that it was 90% sold out led the promoters to book then for Freshers’ week at The Academy and tonight will be only their third gig!
Adam tells me that he and Fran are the main song writers, “We’re both indie boys at heart but try and take influences from everywhere. We like to be both serious and funny with our songs so you’ll hear songs about politics and society tas well as songs about dodgy chat up lines and people talking over your songs as your trying to make it as an unsigned artist” –
I’ll happily listen to THAT one! Finally, they’re booked in the studio on the 18th and 19th of November to record their first EP, and you can catch them at The Stig in Widnes on the 27th of December. So now that we know ABOUT them, let’s hear what they SOUND like!
Strangely enough, Jack’s Saving Grace have now ALSO adopted the mantle of Ste’s “Favourite new band”, as he introduces them, and I think I MAY just be detecting a pattern here. Set opener “Georgie Porgy” sits atop an insistent beat from Jordan and some nifty guitarwork from Adam stage right. Over a slightly sinister bassline from Martyn, Fran’s powerful voice takes us into “You really do it for me” that The Kinks’ Ray Davies wouldn’t have turned his nose up at for a second, whilst Adam Ant would probably have had no hesitation in ripping it off for, “Young Parisians” as Adam (Neeve, not Ant)’s wonderful blue Gretsch yowls disconsolately.
“I wasn’t going to bring a towel with me tonight, I thought Fcuk it it’s October, it’s not going to be that warm”, says a rueful Fran, before admitting that he’s “Sweating his (upper anatomical mammary reference removed in the name of public decency)s off already, before apologising to his mum, who appears to be in the audience. “Stuck in a Rut” is swiftly dedicated to said Mum, although the damage may already be done. Is Fran heading home to a thick ear – we may never know.
Adam complains, “It IS really warm in here, I’m going to have to do something about it”, before the four of them don “JSG” branded red sweatbands, which transform them perfectly in time for the VERY tongue in cheek and slightly sleazy, “Sexy Ladies”. “This song is for all the ladies here tonight, so can they all make their way to the dancefloor?” entreats Fran and thankfully, a few of the said ladies in the audience make tentative steps closer to the stage, but upon hearing the lyrics about Snickers and Boosts, they retreat back into the safety of the crowd with equal speed – it’s all in good fun, though.
“We’ve had a top night tonight”, announces Fran “Everyone’s been boss. This song is for all the unsigned artists out there” and in reply to a whoop of approval, he continues, “Support live music – get out and go to gigs”. With Martyn’s sinister bassline underpinning it, “Unsigned” isn’t a million miles from Tom Waits’s dark world as it bemoans the plight of the unsigned artist and people in audiences who seem to find any number of topics to chat about while someone is trying to catch a break on a stage ten feet away. There’s a reason why venues are investing in, “Shut up – nobody paid to listen to you and your mates talking” signs.
Fran announces that new song, “Do what you gotta do”, is “Losing its virginity” tonight, and has a certain “Stray Cat Strut” thang going on, if you mixed it in with a slowed-down version of the B-52s “Rock Lobster” (I REALLY need to start getting out more).
Set closer, “Sleeping next to Fireworks” is preceded by the inevitable prod in the general direction of the merch stand. Jack’s Saving Grace certainly don’t sound like anyone else I’ve heard before and their wry take on modern life is thought-provoking, refreshing and fun. Their website states that, “JSG are an excellent example of what can happen when good musicians find each other” and judging by what we’ve just seen, they’re absolutely right.
As we wind our way out into the night, (Eeh, it’s getting colder by the day – soon be Christmas, too…), in addition to the bands/artists themselves, big thanks to Ste and Andrea from M35 and of course to Chris and Katie from Shure for another excellent evening’s entertainment. Editor Girl and I will be taking a mortgage out on one of Shure’s excellent sofas upstairs on the balcony any day soon. It’s our age, you know.
Jack’s Saving Grace played: Georgie Porgy, You really do it for Me, Stuck in a Rut, Sexy Ladies, Unsigned, Do what you gotta do and Sleeping next to Fireworks
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON JACK’S SAVING GRACE CLICK HERE