Taking a break from the Easter chocolate overdose, punters made their way to The Rock Den on Saturday for a night of Punk, Southern Rock and Blues. Not to mention a prophets’ second coming!

Yes, after a brief sojourn with The Liabilities, Marty Farrer-Williams (Vocals/Guitars) has once again joined forces with Jayke Reverand Turl and Alex Williams and @The Smokin’ Prophets are back. And back in style. While formerly a four-piece, the current Southampton based threesome still offer the same ‘swaggering punk n roll, high octane blend of Hanoi Rocks style sleaze rock and the glam chops of NY Dolls’ as they ripped into familiar hits from their excellent 2015 debut album Deceived Diseased, You Better Run, Pumped Up, Liability, Do You Believe and The Innocent. The unrelenting energy of Marty Williams is ably backed by the super-charged Turl on bass and backing vocals and Ali’s adrenaline-fueled drum thumping. I say, adrenaline-fueled, as it was probably the only thing preventing him collapsing in a pool of sweat and being stretched off to a dark room for a lie down. The killer riffs, snarling vocals, and thunderous rhythm continue into their latest tracks, Shot in the Dark, Don’t Fix Me, Stich Me Up, Cascading, Human Rights, I Wanna Be Loved and Don’t Hold Back, which will appear on their new album due for release in the Autumn. With label interest and a new drummer also in the pipeline, who knows what the future holds for the Prophets? One thing is for sure, they will, as they did here, offer up a full on, in your face set that will leave you smouldering in their ashes.

So on to some good old Southern Rock in the guise of Medicine Hat. Inspired by Rock and Country music, the band was formed in London during the 90s by Mark Jackson (Vocals, guitar) @John Brown (Bass, vocals) and Stephen Loveday (Guitars/vocals) – who later rose to fame as sound engineer at The Rock Den – and has toured worldwide, released five albums, a live DVD and numerous singles and videos. The current line up sees original members Jackson and Brown joined by the superb Chris Borsberry and Steve ‘Van’ Gogh on guitars and Cambridge based session drummer Philip Bryant. ARfm’s Paul Chamberlain noted that ‘Medicine Hat are proof that you don’t have to travel thousands of miles to the American South to experience good time, Bourbon steeped Southern Rock.’ How right he was. From the first note to the last it was a humdinger of a set featuring tracks, Cold Hearted Woman, I Still Bleed, Western Wind and the excellent C’mon Here (Bone Dry, 2001), Sweet Mama (From Nowhere To Here, 2005) and from the latest album Firebird (2017), Licence to Farm, Huntin’ For Fun, Long Way Back Again all interspersed with a cover of AC/DC’s Shot Down in Flames and a stunning tribute to the late Maurice ‘Mo’ McComb of the Melbourn Rock Club, with a cover of the classic Steve Earle track, Copperhead Road. Nice one guys. Do yourself a favour and get down to one of their gigs and get a taste of Southern Rock played live and loud and performed at its best. They’re a little bit Country, they’re a little bit Rock n’ Roll. But most of all they’re whole lotta fun.

Making their third appearance at the Den, and deservedly headlining, was blues-rock band Southbound. Hailing from London and formed in 2012/13, while still in their mid-teens, they just continue to get better and better. I guess mesmerising is an apt way to describe their performance. The ‘ease’ that Tom Ford (Vocals), Elliot Stout (1st lead guitar and backing vocals), Jordan Carter (2nd lead guitar), Dan Collins Collins (Bass) and Aaron Virciglio on drums perform the set is stunning and undoubtedly comes from sheer passion and hard work. Then there is the quality of tracks such as Come Judgement Day and The Desert (Southbound EP, 2015), Papercut, Rocking Horse, Got a Hold on Me, First Time Love, Hurricane, Lonely Blues and Deceiver from the upcoming album to be released in the summer. I’m sure Elliot Stout’s guitar must smile when he picks it up. He has a ‘magic’ in his fingers and it just sings in his capable hands. I’m sure if he took a stroll down to the Crossroads, the Devil would sell his soul to him! Quite breath taking. The whole band though, bring their individual influences from blues, rock, jazz, funk and soul to the table and in doing so, lay a feast of musical excellence out before you. A quality end to an excellent evening of live music. Take a bow guys, not easy to follow Punk and Southern Rock sets with blues. Nice one.

So, who needs Heinz when you can get variety like this on a Saturday night?
We owe this pleasure to the likes of the late Mo McComb and other reputable promoters and venues up and down the country. And to the team of people who keep things ticking over in the background. Their hard work and passion, combined with that of the bands, afford us memories and friendships that last a life time where we share both the good and bad and the tears and the smiles. Not bad for the price of a couple of beers. So, here’s to the future where the legacy of those gone before us continues and their efforts praised and exaggerated for all time. Long may it continue. \m/

Review by Steve Ellis

Pics by Steve Ritchie and Martyn Turner

Sound by Paul Cusack

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