Nicely timed to happen just a day after the 23rd birthday of the venue, a great achievement in itself, Round 2 of Blam! vs Stinger took place at The Forum in Tunbridge Wells, on Saturday 16th January.
The idea behind this developing series of gigs is for myself, as Editor of The Stinger, to select Hastings based acts to ‘do battle’ with a similar number from Tunbridge Wells, as selected by Carolyn Gray, Editor of Blam! the fanzine for The Forum.
The first of these gigs took place during Unfest, in May of 2015, at the Sussex Arms pub, once again in Tunbridge Wells. As that event was considered a success, we decided to do it all again.
Both The Stinger and those behind The Forum feel that this is a great way of introducing the good people of Tunbridge Wells to acts from Hastings that they may otherwise never come across. It also allows bands to play to new audiences and potential new fans in a different location.
We are already planning a Blam! vs Stinger gig in Hastings to allow local gig goers to see what the, nearly, local competition is like. There is another Tunbridge Wells based gig in the pipeline too.
One thing that can’t be denied about this second gig is that the music on offer was certainly diverse, with a few musical genres ticked off during the evenings proceedings.
First up for this well attended second gig were Hastings based Baby Goliath, possibly the youngest act of the evening? The five piece showed off the songwriting abilities of lead man Alan Mitchell very well and got a great response from the audience too, who sounded as though they enjoyed the subtleties of their set as much as I did.
It’s always good to see a young band like Baby Goliath use keyboards, not something that happens very often these days. It helps add a little something to the mix and naturally fills out the sound.
When that keyboard player uses a secondary, minimised, drum kit as well, often almost duelling with the ‘real’ drummer, you can probably imagine the big sound produced.
A great start to the evening, even if I am a little biased.
The first home based act were The Alley Devils, a three piece outfit including an electric double bass, playing old fashioned rock and roll/rockabilly.
I’d not seen either of the nights Tunbridge Wells based acts before, one of the reasons for the gig in the first place after all, so I didn’t know what to expect.
While these guys can certainly produce a pretty authentic sound, the guitar especially sounded right, I felt they lacked the swagger of previous exponents of this genre, such as Stray Cats. The kids seemed to enjoy them though, dancing along quite happily, but I couldn’t help feeling that they were slightly out of place. Maybe it’s just me?
Next up and changing musical genre’s once again, Star Angled Spanner, the second offering from Hastings.
As I mentioned when introducing them, these guys are no strangers to The Forum, albeit in different bands. The three members had last played the venue individually in 2012, 2001 and 1997, very nearly spanning the 23 years of The Forums existence.
They seemed to relish being back as they played a storming set, once again getting a big reaction from those present, and rightly so.
A bit of an old fashioned guitar/bass/drums power Rock trio, but with grungey overtones, Star Angled Spanner played a virtually brand new set from the last time I’d seen them, consisting of tracks from their newly recorded debut album.
Three classy musicians blending together perfectly to produce a sound that appeals to all age groups, who can all relate to aspects of the bands music. Add to that a well thought out set, with very few pauses, and you are almost guaranteed a good time.
Last, but by no means least, Tunbridge Wells offered us Raised By Raptors. I had a feeling they were going to be loud and noisy, and I wasn’t wrong!
I must admit I’m not a huge fan of shouty/screamo music, but these guys did it with feeling and were entertaining and engaging in equal measure throughout. Competent musicians all, they make a big ‘noise’, but one that is well arranged and not totally in your face at all times.
From the very first note a mosh pit suddenly materialised at the front of the venue, engulfing the many loyal fans the band had attracted to the gig.
I saw one ‘casuality’ retire to have an ice pack applied to his injured ankle, although that didn’t stop him returning to the fray later on.
One other fan rode off of the stage on a couple of occasions on his skateboard! That’s a first for me, but it fitted perfectly with the spirit of the whole performance.
Some members of the band spent as much time playing within the audience as they did on the stage, an indication of the interaction between them and the crowd.
I enjoyed them and Raised By Raptors were a perfect way to end a diverse and entertaining evening.
If nothing else these Blam! vs Stinger gigs show that the music scenes in both Hastings and Tunbridge Wells are doing well and producing some great bands, under often trying circumstances. Well done to all the musicians involved and keep on keeping on.
Here’s to Round 3.