Johnny2Bad Returned to Devizes for UB40 Extravaganza

Crime detecting asset or invasion of privacy opinions aside, The CCTV fundraiser at The Exchange nightclub in the basement of Devizes Corn Exchange went off with a reggae boom last night, when UB40 tribute Johnny2Bad paid a visit, and you know me, on the rare occasion reggae comes to town I want in on it!

We covered the reason for the campaign in a preview post, concentration should focus on the visiting band today, who were fantastic. Aside witticisms of “the Bin” too, for though it’s been a while since I descended those stairs, (and the first time sober!) the décor is updated and comfy, the crowd and staff hospitable, the drinks affordable for a nightclub, but most importantly, it retains its aged amphitheatre setup, functional, with seating boxing in a dancefloor and the bar rearward across the back wall; it works.

Though with a wide-range of disco classics, resident DJ Flash (no, not the NYC grandmaster one!) appeased the wide-spanning demographic of the audience, many regulars while others reggae devotes here for the particular show, anticipation was focussed on the Birmingham band Johnny2Bad, who bounced on stage close to ten o’clock and didn’t pause for breath.

The tribute act scene is vast and blossoming into a mass market, some pub venues pledge allegiance and rarely book original acts. Yet you take the rough with the smooth, I find when they’re bad, they’re excruciatingly bad, but when they’re good you’re in for a blinding night of retrospection, and they drive punters to the bar. Research paramount for event coordinators, picking badly will tarnish all tribute acts with the same brush, for the individual.

There was a couple down the Bin last night who travelled up from Portsmouth, and while I don’t doubt, they liked UB40, he wasn’t wearing a UB40 T-shirt, he was wearing a Johnny2Bad one. Keen to cast an exceptional appraisal of the band to me prior to their performance, any engagement mentioning the band they’re attributing didn’t get such a positive response; he was here to see Johnny2Bad, rather than a UB40 tribute act, and the relevance of this point is evident in said performance.

For Johnny2Bad waiver in and out of a tribute to UB40 and staging a show within their own right, yet it blends so utterly perfectly. At times, such as the sublime mimicking of “If it Happens Again,” and Holt’s “Homely Girl,” the first real glimpses of a UB40 tribute, it shone in acknowledgement to the reggae virtuosos, whereas in other moments you were not mistaken this was also a band within their own right.

And what a band; the refined entertainment value was exceptional, as this blending left you guessing what was next. I put it to frontman Mitch Thomson, rather than simply drone out a setlist of UB40 hits, they added elements, such as visual banter or reprises of other songs, such as Marley’s Small Axe at the beginning, and Mungo Jerry’s in the Summertime, to make it exciting. He agreed, suggesting they liked to make a show of it.

And Mitch is indeed a showman, rather than resembling Ali Campbell visually, though at times his voice captured that forced Brummie-patois fusion perfectly, he was his own man, lively and confident, amusing and alluring to the fairer sex! The proficiency of the band complimented this, tight-knit and adroitly professional they blessed the Exchange with the soulful sound of roots reggae which inspired UB40, occasionally subtle drifts into a more contemporary dancehall style, but majorly readapting the known classics.

I also wanted to gage Mitch about differences they experience when playing in their hometown, being UB40 is pride of Birmingham and respected above all things there. Are they driven to cover rarer, album tracks, for example when playing to a crowd of serious UB40 aficionados? Mitch was keen to express he liked UB40’s older, and often slower repertoire, but while it made little difference if they were in their mutual hometown as UB40, or not, they aimed to play to the crowd. And in this case, as I’m sure many others too, the crowd would demand the hits, which, post Red, Red Wine, are, it has to be said, mostly covers of reggae classic themselves.

Though Johnny2Bad slipped in some I’d consider lesser hits, such as One in Ten, with every tune they did it was of such exceptional quality, you know what, none of these technicalities really matter in the scheme of things. Mitch expressed shows as far away as Holland and Germany were incredibly well received, suggesting they “showed us up,” assuming he meant either Brits in general, or Brummies.

If I had reservations about the band name, taken from the Slickers’ 1970 Jamaican hit “Johnny Too Bad,” a personification of a Kingston rude boy gangster referenced in The Harder They Come, movie, although UB40 did cover it, many others did too, and UB40’s version was never a hit. Perhaps that’s the point in picking a rarer cover as namesake, because while Johnny2Bad are in essence a tribute act, there’s something of their own merit inclusive, and that part is equal to the overall excellence of their act; either that or I’m overthinking it, and they just liked the name!

Importantly, they bought the show with them, and torn down the house; a remarkable achievement from an accomplished act, tribute or not. Fourth wall breaking moments, such as the singer dropping offstage to sing among the crowd cliché, perhaps, but for the brass section to do likewise was something else. How often are you on the Exchange’s dancefloor, or any dancefloor come to think of it, with a trombonist playing next to you?! For me, as a reggae-ska lover who knows brass is class, that was the icing on the cake of a thrilling and professionally entertaining show.

As I’ve discovered through Legend, the Bob Marley tribute, and more recently, the Blondie tribute Dirty Harry, and now these guys, their excellence will turn any preconceptions of tribute acts on their heads; Johnny2Bad is an unmissable show; if it happens again you need to be there!


Yes, Johnny2Bad feature on our compilation album in collaboration with Big Ship Alliance, and all funds go to Julia’s House Children’s Hospices; click here to buy it!

Trending……

Song of the Week: Sienna Wileman

Okay, I admit it, our Song of the Day feature was too optimistic, and failing every day to post a tune meant it fell by…

On The Wayside with Viduals

Akin to Ghostbuster’s nemesis Slimer when he appears over the hotdog stand, I was squatting a spacious windowsill at Wiltshire Music Centre with an Evie’s…

Old Wharf Café to Become Meeting Room

The Kennet & Avon Trust today revealed plans to convert the old café on Devizes Wharf, Couch Lane, into a meeting facility; how exciting! It…

Delicate, Like A Psychedelicat

What is a psychedelicat, a tin of magic mushroom flavoured Felix?! His picture on the tin certainly displays some suspiciously dilated pupils, but this exaggeration…

Return of Comic Cons

With the recent announcement of two Comic Conventions both hopeful for a date in September 2022, I’m wondering how the comic industry has been affected by the pandemic and what the future of these crucial events for the industry might look like.

Pre-lockdown comic cons became quite the trend, with elements of cosplay aside workshops and talks, it’s both fun and an essential business enterprise for all involved in the industry, from big publishers to those self-publishing “small pressers.” Yet as the tendency boomed out of its niche market, lots of smaller localised events popped up, many without equal knowledge of the subject as they’d let on, often organised by town councils and local libraries. The other side of the coin saw big event businesses cashing in, creating huge events which concentrated on the best method to collect as much money as possible, which is bringing TV and movie franchises with little relation to comics.

Of course, these attract a wider audience, but swamp the attention of real comics, and naturally, those movies and TV shows which relate to comic counterparts. Of the two recently announced events, as a wandering fruitcake once on the verge of the industry, I know the organisers of both are thoroughly and wholly dedicated to the subject, and will create the kind of large-scale events to bless comics with the attention they deserve.

Hopeful the conventions will re-breathe excitement into actual comics as a medium and not just movie spin-offs, wondering if the pandemic and lockdown have created the opportunity of returning to the basics with a clean sheet, perhaps to start again creating comic cons in the true spirit of the industry.

Firstly, ICE, the International Comic Expo, held annually in Birmingham since 2014 is an independently run comic convention which fast became the UK’s flagship convention, our own San Diego. After the fathomable year off, ICE announced its return for September 10th 2022, at a new venue, Edgbaston Stadium. 

Event Director, Shane Chebsey, who previously helped to organise events like BICS and Comics Launchpad has been a lifelong enthusiast and devoted comic fan keen on promoting and marketing the small press in particular. Shane said, “we believe in exposing our visitors to a wide variety of comics from the most exciting new superheroes to the coolest indy and small press books. Our guest list reflects this too with guests from both the big publishing companies and the smallest publishers. When you visit our events, you can also expect to see a wide variety of exhibitors, from those selling collectables to creators selling their own work.”

“You can expect to meet some of your favourite creators at special signings and maybe even walk away with a unique sketch from your favourite artist.” Not forgoing the astonishing program of panels, talks and interviews running through the day featuring many guests, this expo is the true comic fanboy’s calling, yet equally the kind of eye-opener to the wealth and quality of the comic market every hopeful artist, writer or simply just follower of comics has to see for themselves.

And, for me, that’s the nutshell, creating an environment to appease those with a mere fleeting interest in comics as well as devotees of the niche, inspiring budding creative types and in general, causing attendees to appreciate what the French call “the ninth art,” is far from the excessive polarized stereotype of superheroes alone, and as diverse a media as film and books.

“From what I can tell,” Shane enlightened me to the situation of larger comic cons, “most of the big media shows are resuming business as usual now that they are out of hibernation. I have not really seen any change in their approach towards comics related guests and events at their shows.

“Of course, some of the medium sized media events seems to have disappeared altogether, unable to survive the lock downs. I personally know a couple of organisers who had to go and get a day job to feed their families and had to wind up their events businesses. But for every one of those we lost, their are new organisers starting up now who think they can give it a shot. So I suspect we will soon return tot he saturation point we were at before lockdown.”

“But right now we have the big shows who could weather the storm and the small shows who could just stop without a problem as they don’t organise events as their main business. So I foresee a slow start followed by a huge rise in events in Spring text year.”

“However, just before lock down there were certainly rumblings among fans and guests that convention fatigue was starting to set in, which multiple shows happening pretty much every week of the year in 2019 attendance was really starting to diminish at many events and I think fans are starting to look for unique conventions and festivals that offer something a bit different. Whether that’s more online content, more overseas guests or more carefully produced panels and workshops etc.”

“I think the days of just hiring a venue and getting a few cosplayers in, a few movie props, z-list soap actors and a load of Funko sellers isn’t going to cut it any more.

“Comics fans want to see actual comics for sale at comic conventions and they want to meet artists and writers who they’ve never met before. They want that memorable sense of occasion that we used to get conventions before this huge increase in events. So it’s up to me and my contemporaries to deliver what they want in 2022.”

I feel my team and I are up to the task and we’ll be pulling out all of the stops to bring the fans the best event experience they can possibly have within our budget.

ICE happens under one roof in the vibrant city centre of Birmingham and costs just £10.00 when you book in advance. But for one closer to us, the trade magazine Tripwire announced they’ll be hosting a comic convention in Bristol, the weekend before ICE, on the 3rd to 4th September 2022.

Bristol always had a great convention throughout the nineties and noughties, which fell into disrepair, so it’s great to hear Joel Meadows of Tripwire will celebrate the magazine’s thirty-year anniversary by bringing a whole new convention to the city. Again, Joel’s experience and dedication to comics will ensure nothing but greatness for this event.

Guests are yet to be announced, when the website goes live, but it will feature the best in UK, US and European talent as well as editors from major US comic companies and film and TV artists as well. “We are very excited about this event,” Tripwire says, “and can’t wait to tell everyone more when we can.”

As restrictions lift, plentiful comic conventions are popping up again, this month sees MCM Comic Cons in London and Birmingham, November has the London Film and Comic Con and Liverpool Comic Con, and many more. While they’re all great fun, the connoisseur of all thing’s comics will tell you the place to head for is Kendal, for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival which is happening from 15th to the 17th of October. Though for the local of passing interest it’s a trek to Cumbria, these two in Birmingham and Bristol I’ve mentioned will be the crème-de-la-crème, take it from me, yeah kapow!

For information about ICE: https://internationlcomicexpo.wordpress.com/

And Tripwire’s announcement about Bristol: https://tripwiremagazine.co.uk/headlines/tripwire-presents-bristol-comic-con-is-coming/


Trending…..

The Bradford Roots Music Festival Returns

I know, it’s hardly festival weather, but this one is all inside! Inside the glorious Wiltshire Music Centre in Bradford-on-Avon that is, on Saturday 21st…

Full-Tone Festival Announce 2023 Line-up

The Full-Tone Orchestra have released details of the 2023 line-up for their annual extravaganza, The Full-Tone Festival on Devizes Green, August bank holiday. It’s all…

The Hawks: Stephen “Tintin” Duffy, as You’ve Never Heard Him Before….

Never did understand his 1985 hit Kiss Me, when it went “kiss me with your mouth,” because, figures; there’s no other cavity more apt or commonly used for kissing. Of course, being twelve when it charted, as much titillation as the magic upturned calculator number 5318008, was to be had replacing the word “mouth” with other anatomical parts.

Bit sad, in reflection, but think Stephen “Tintin” Duffy and you’ll be excused for thinking of jazz nouveaux fused art pop, the wick of commercialised electronica, of love better than wine, but as I recently discovered, that is far from the icing on the cake…(see what I did there?)

Just as homeowners strip back kitsch lacquered chipboard to discover an art deco fireplace hidden by seventies post-modernists, Seventeen Records have unearthed archived demos from Birmingham’s seventies post-punk wannabes, Obviously Five Believers, later changed to Subterranean Hawks and regretfully shortened to The Hawks. And it’s Stephen “Tintin” Duffy, as you’ve never heard before.

Often veiled fact is Duffy had been a founder of Duran Duran, just one school band of Birmingham Polytechnic, but when he left education, he also jumped ship in ’79, a year before they were signed by EMI. Through the maze of side projects and band amalgamating, the Obviously Five Believers formed from an original Duran Duran line-up, Duffy and Simon Colley, and another Stooges-inspired garage punk collective, TV Eye, Daves Twist, Kusworth and Paul Adams. “If we’d stuck to Obviously Five Believers, we may have stood a chance,” says Duffy, “it’s how I still think of us. I think we only changed it because Bob Lamb couldn’t fit the name on the cassette boxes.”

As was the rapidly changing scene, the band were short-lived, lasting from ’79 until Christmas ’81, despite being adored by those who managed to see them. With one highly collectable single, ‘Words of Hope’ released, the hope lessened. “When we didn’t get signed by Rough Trade,” Duffy recalls, “we didn’t really have any other ideas… or a Svengali.”

Proto slackers in a city that never developed the support networks, the label entrepreneurs, of a Glasgow, Liverpool or Sheffield, The Hawks undoubtedly had most of the signifiers already in place for the ‘Scene In Between’ that would emerge just a few years later.

Forward wind to 2019, Duffy and Kusworth were reunited, agreeing to release a retrospective album from Duffy’s cassette archive. Sadly, David Kusworth passed away later that year, so, as good as his word, and with the assistance of Grammy-winning engineer John Paterno, Duffy has set the tracks free, in honour of his friend. Obviously 5 Believers is released on Friday 27th August 2021.

“We didn’t make demo’s, blue prints for future single or albums, we played live and I sang over the top, just to see what we sounded like,” Stephen reminisces. “These are like field recordings from a much simpler time. Simple in that we had no lust for fame and fortune, we had no manifestos beyond our fringes. We wanted to sign to a small label and play some shows but somehow we couldn’t fulfil even those modest ambitions.”

For those content to accept eighties pop, to dress in cliché leg warmers, diddy-boppers and dance around their handbags, this is not for you. Those intrigued as to how and why the sound was watered and marketed, and to rediscover its roots as post punk garage bands, this is a must-have. For while the melancholic track ‘Aztec Moon,’ hints to recognisable Stephen “Tintin” Duffy, it’s not    absolute, rather ploddingly psychedelic rock, and it’s away from the norm of tracks on show here.    If ‘Big Store’ reflects rather what you’d expect from a Talking Heads and Smiths fusion, ‘Bullfighter’ defines new wave in a method not unlike the Jam and other mod revival bands of the era.

All the Sad Young Men alsoreminded me of that mode, yet, in composition and theme, you could pick out and predecessor of synth-pop, of inspiration for Visage and, dare I suggest it, The Pet Shop Boys. Yet, though this stimulating and provocative recording is as one might expect, raw and rudimentary, the route to the archetypal polished electronica can barely be heard. Likewise, the album caused me to seek out some demos from the original Duran Duran line-up on YouTube and it’s captivating to the unaccustomed ear to hear just how underdone it was in comparison with later chart hits. And in so much, how the music industry moulded these acts to suit the technological changes.

I ponder time and time again, how ardent cohorts of post-punk could be sucked into tacky eighties hit factories, such as all-girl trio Bananarama, who found fame collaborating with Fun Boy Three, and rather than stick with Terry Hall, by 1986 thought signing to Stock Aitken Waterman was a good idea, it was, but only for their bank accounts. Que Sera, Sera, perhaps you had to be there at the time, but fair to suggest, it was always about a wage. Though Duffy himself succumbed to the pop machine, he moved progressively, was cutting-edge in recording early chill-out house with Roger Freeman of Pigbag in a project called Dr. Calculus Mdma.

All in all, what you have here is a hidden piece of music history, and through its retrospection, it is an interesting, beguiling and enjoyable unearthed archive… of which, obviously I’m far to young to recall any of it… (not sure why I needed to add that bit!)


Trending…..

Ten Top Tips for Driving in Devizes

Having trouble driving in Devizes? We’re not surprised, it’s got the infrastructure designed by a six-year-old given some Lego road plates. There are rules, on…

Devizine Review of 2022!

Featured Image by Simon Folkard Photography Happy New Year from Wiltshire’s wackiest what’s-on website. It’s that time again when I waffle on endlessly in hope…

Cult Figures; Deritend, Yes Mate!

It’s not just me, is it? Eighteen seconds into the Cult’s She Sells Sanctuary, you know, when it breaks, and you’re like, that’s it, right there. It matters not what youth culture you were into, at the time, or even now, it doesn’t give a hoot about your favoured genres, haircut, colour of anorak, age, gender or race, it just does it, and you, you’re like, as I said, that’s it, right there.

Something similar happens with this Cult Figures album Deritend, out last week; heck, if they haven’t even got a comparable name. Perhaps not so nostalgia-filled, as these are all originals, though the sound harks back to an era or yore, when cookies were in a biscuit barrel rather than your web browser, Tories were governed a demoness made from iron rather than a clown made of teddy bear stuffing, and a wet wipe was when your mum spat into a handkerchief and wiped it over your Space-Dust covered chops.

Mind, as happens when I’m sent files not numbered, it lists them alphabetically rather than in the running order, so the opening track is actually the penultimate Camping in the Rain, but it makes the perfect intro into the world of these London-based masters of retrospection. From its off, it’s, well, off, leaving me to reminisce about those classic post-punk new wave bands of the eighties. At times though, as it’s a mesh of this and reflective of the scooterist mod culture of same period, I’m thinking of the likes of the Jam and Merton Parkas too. Contemplate the musical differences are subtle, though worlds apart at the time, and this sits comfortably somewhere in-between.

To add to their perfection of authenticity, one must note this is the second album from Cult Figures, and is comprised of tracks written in their earlier incarnation between 1977 and 1980, just recorded more recently.

The real opening tune, Chicken Bones, has the same impact, something beguiling and anthemic, setting the way it’s going to go down. Donut Life, which follows, sounds like carefree pop, the Chords, for a comparison. In fact, as it progresses the guitar riffs of next tune, Lights Out, is sounding more pre-gothic, Joy Division, yet with a catchy whistle more akin to The Piranhas. Things get really poignant with Exile, almost dub Visage meets the Clash, and Omen extenuates the seriousness of a running theme.  

“Deritend draws a line under the past,” they explain, “all eleven tracks composed and recorded since our 2016 comeback, simultaneously reflecting a maturity gained in 40 years of life experience, whilst still embracing the accessible three Ps of the early days; punk, pop and psychedelia.” The album’s title owes to a historic industrial area outside Birmingham’s centre, “a few miles from where Gary and I grew up.”

The mysterious iconic name was a bus route terminus and has a strong emotional connection to the band, “evoking the nervous excitement of those long rides into town on our way to Barbarellas. But it conveys so much more: Deritend is an album that reflects on the past, speculates on the future, but for the most part is fairly and squarely a comment on the lives we are living now.” They convey this well, for through its retrospection, subject matter, growing up with the dilapidation of a working-class industrial chip, could equally apply to then, or now.

A timeless piece of art within a captivating musical style which embraces the traditions of generation X, just curled up at an edge like an old poster on the congregated iron fence of a closed factory. I mean Silver Blades and White Noise crave you dive back into punk; there’s a definite Clash feel to the latter. As girl’s names for titles generally do, Julie-Anne is archetypical upbeat but themed of desire, and the sound of it is particularly challenging to pin down, there’s Weller there, but a drum roll you’d expect Annabella Lwin to surface from (of Bow Wow Wow if you need to, Google it, youngster!)

Most bizarre and experimental is the brilliantly executed talky sound of Concrete and Glass. Cast your mind back to 86, if poss, remember Jim’s tune, yeah? Driving Away From Home by It’s Immaterial, and you’re not far from the mark.

The aforementioned Camping in the Rain which could’ve been the opening track, is next, and it’s the epithet of all we’ve mentioned. This combination is not juxtaposed cumbersomely like a tribute act, rather the genuine article lost in time, and it, well, in a nutshell, absolutely rocks. The finale, Privilege is plentiful to summarise; Clash-styled punk rock, themed on the expectations of irritated propertyless youth, akin to Jimmy Cliff’s You Can Get It If You Really Want.

But, unless all you want is a zig-a-zig-ah and to spice up your life with commercialised bubble-gum pop, nothing here is oven-ready for criticism, just relish yourself in a bygone era, and rock.


The Lost Trades Live Stream their new album on Friday; tickets here

Trending……

Swan Dies on the Crammer, Devizes

Saddened to hear of the death of a swan on the Crammer today, via Devizes Police who were called to its attention last night….The Crammer…

Devizine Christmas Podcast!

I’ve only gone and done another podcast, and I apologise. But it is in keeping with the season….. Please note: this podcast contains adult themes…

Carmela To Help in Local Care Home

Over three years since my most memorable “Spider-Milk-Man” run in aid of Carmela’s Stand Up to Muscular Dystrophy, it’s always nice to catch up with…

Sustainable Devizes Christmas Toy & Book Swap

Grab some free Christmas gifts, clear some space at home, and reduce waste… “try swapping not shopping this Christmas,” says Sustainable Devizes, as they host…

Song of the Day 22: Kiano Taylee

Can you go twice on our Song of the Day feature? No, certainly not, one shot is all, get over it!

Wha? Cabin fever, me? Getting tetchy, perpetual rain the only visible sign of spring, going to need Google maps to locate my local pub if it ever gets back to normal, whatever normal is, been so long, forgotten, might need retraining in how to order a pint… ah, okay, point taken. I’m calm….

Here we go with the brilliant Big Ship Alliance reggae band, who may’ve had a Song of Day before but hey, when you hear this you’ll realise why I’m making the exception to my steadfast iron ruling.

My Life, it’s called, featuring Mitchell Joseph Thompson, and the Alliance introduces us to the incredible Kiano Taylee. At 13, it’s an emotive and sentimental debut single, capturing teenage anguish, bullying and family issues which bear heavy on modern youth. Moving stuff.

Available for download here.

For the record, I was young once too, you know. But, don’t let me get started on my memoirs, it’s a longwinded tale of nothingness but reading the Beano and eating spaghetti hoops. But, that’s my song for the day. Very good. Carry on…..


Song of the Day 2: The Big Ship Alliance and Johnny2Bad, featuring Robbie Levi and Stones

Newly-formed just a year ago, this Birmingham-based seven piece reggae band, Big Ship Alliance started out as possibly the only tribute act to reggae legend Freddie McGregor, but on track to record their own material they’ve teamed up with the outstanding UB40 tribute act, Johnny2Bad for this gorgeous topical debut single.

Featuring Robbie Levi and Stones, aside from my love of all things reggae, the song’s positive message of togetherness and unification during this era of the pandemic makes it more than apt for my second “song of the day” post. Though I did say I wasn’t intending to write anything like a review on this feature, just let you enjoy the tunes, and this is kinda heading a little bit “reviewy.” Probably cos it’s such a nice tune.

I also promised not to waffle; but I’m here now. Something about having your cake and eating it goes in rather appropriately at this point!

More so than being my song of the day, I believe this should be, as the Big Ship Alliance say themselves, “the anthem for 2021!”

Determined to make this feature a goer, as of yesterday’s pledge to add a song each day, ingeniously titled “song of the day.” I know, right, it scares me at times, I’ll be honest!

So, enjoy this fantastic tune, let the good vibes roll and have a great rest of the day. Same time tomorrow then?

Very good. Carry on….

%d bloggers like this: