Modstock 3, 17 – 20 April 2014
What a weekender Modstock turned out to be! Even those of us lucky enough to be part of the ‘on site’ team here at Nuts HQ had no idea just how great the event would be.
It all began with Squire, The Apemen and Secret Affair headlining on the opening night on Thursday 17th
229 The Venue looked spectacular after its recent makeover. The sound quality in the main room has improved no end and the stage looks even more imposing than it did before.
As the doors opened to the sizable queue that waited patiently outside, you could sense something special was about to take shape. It wasn’t long before our MC and DJ for the evening, Eddie Piller, arrived on stage to introduce the first band.
For those of the ’79 Mod revival era, Squire were just one of the unsung heroes of that time. Their brand of catchy mod-pop may have gone un-noticed by the mainstream at the time, but it certainly gained a large and loyal following throughout the 80s.
Frontman and songwriter Anthony Meynell, got things underway with ‘It’s A Mod, Mod World’ followed by another classic, ‘Face Of Youth Today’.
The crowd didn’t take long to warm up as Squire ran through a selection of their best material. Needless to say, ‘Walking Down The Kings Road’ was one of the highlights for many, but the set was also a reminder of just how good a songwriter Anthony Meynell is. “September Gurls’, ‘Jesamine’, ‘Does Stephanie Know?’ and ‘B-A-B-Y Baby Love’ mod-pop gems one and all and a great way to get Modstock off to a flyer.
Next up, The Apemen from Germany. By contrast to Squire, The Apemen were full on rockin’, rollin’ R&B. They ripped through their set which included ‘Getting Closer’, ‘Mrs Applegate’ and ‘Desdemona’. At one point the lead singer decided to jump off the stage and join the crowd (which is not uncommon with The Apemen), all of which went down very well.
Then it was time for the headline act. I have seen Secret Affair many a time over the years and like all bands, I’ve seen them have good days and the odd not-so-good. This performance, however, was quite possibly the best I have ever seen from them.
There was Ian Page, all confidence and assured vocal delivery. Beside him, Dave Cairns, the electrifying bundle of controlled aggression on lead guitar. Backing them is a very fine and talented band.
Secret Affair’s set was effectively split in two. The first part included tracks from their most recent LP ‘Soho Dreams’ mixed in with a few covers, the crowd-pleasing ‘Do I Love You? Indeed I Do’ had everyone singing along.
As Page and Cairns left the stage, the band played an instrumental ‘Black Cat’ from the aforementioned LP and it served very neatly as an intermission before Page and Cairns returned to deliver the classics of yester-year. ‘My World’, ‘Time For Action’, ‘Let Your Heart Dance’, ‘Glory Boys’, ‘I’m Not Free (But I’m Cheap)’. It was a fitting end to a fantastic opening night of live music followed by Eddie Piller spinning discs until 2am.
After the show I spoke to Dave Cairns;
“We are very happy with the way it turned out. They were a great crowd and we were really enjoying it out there. I think everyone else did too.”
Friday 18 May was quite extraordinary in so many ways. I’ve seen queues outside 229 The Venue before, but not quite like this.
Neither had I ever met so many people, who had traveled hundreds of miles without a ticket, turning up an hour before opening to make sure they got one of the last remaining tickets for the Tamla Motown Night.
Once the doors opened and the main room filled very quickly, the atmosphere was something special. It was not long before the house band arrived on stage. Most of the band were made up from members of a cracking outfit called Speedometer. Joining them was ex-Style Council member Mick Talbot on keyboards.
The glamourous Brenda Holloway was next to arrive on stage, resplendent in her silver sequined dress and opening with ‘Just Look What You’ve Done’.
If there is one trait American entertainers have always been very good at, it is being able to work a crowd. They know how to establish a rapport very quickly and show a certain amount of class in the way they carry themselves on and off stage. They understand what being ‘a star’ means and what responsibilities come with that status. As Brenda’s set gathered pace with hits like ‘Operator’, ‘Reconsider’, ‘When I’m Gone’ and ‘Every Little Bit Hurts’, it was a joy to see a true professional at her craft enjoying the moment as much as the crowd were. She was in fine form and fine voice and she finished her set with an amazing rendition of a song she wrote with her sister Patrice, Frank Wilson and Berry Gordy; ‘You’ve Made Me So Very Happy’.
It was a huge hit for Blood, Sweat and Tears of course, but hearing Brenda sing it, the tune took on a new dimension. It was wonderful.
With barely a moment to catch our breath, the Velvelettes were on stage and more than matched the standard set by Brenda Holloway.
Polished without being corny. Professional without being kitsch.
Norma, Barbie, Cal and Millie gave the audience exactly what they wanted. ‘Lonely, Lonely Girl Am I’, ‘These Things Will Keep Me Loving You’, ‘Nowhere to Run’, Everybody Needs Love’ and of course, ‘He Was Really Saying Something’.
The Velvelettes again showed their presentation skills with a scintillating intro to the final song of their set. I hope the cameras were rolling because ‘Needle In A Haystack’ has to be heard to be believed.
They left the stage momentarily, but returned with Brenda Holloway to complete the finale with ‘I’ll Keep On Holding On’.
Afterwards I asked Mick Talbot for his views on the show?
“It was fantastic and a real privilege to play for these ladies. You know, they and Motown have been such a massive influence and presence in my life, it has been an honour. You never think for a second that one day you will be sharing a stage with people you have spent a lifetime listening to.”
I also managed to have a quick chat with Brenda Holloway. What did she think of the show?
“Oh it was wonderful! I love coming to the UK and singing for you guys. You never forget and you all seem to have such knowledge and appreciation of the music. It really is a special place and it has amazing fans. I would come back anytime to sing in the UK. It’s been just great.”
Saturday 19 April
229 The Venue was a hive of activity by midday as stall holders were preparing for an afternoon of trading in clothes, memorabilia and records.
The Beat Room was getting ready to host the Nutsmag Showcase session and outside, the Bar Italia Scooter Club was organizing the scooter rideout.
It is always an impressive sight watching well over 200 scooters moving off in unison to tour around London. When they completed their circuit, it was time to move into the Beat Room where yours truly was playing a selection of new sounds that have been reviewed on the Nutsmag website.
The two young bands on show have massive potential and Modstock was very pleased to present them. First was Alex Butler and The Opals. This was a rip-roaring set from the Geordie (plus one Italian) line up.
With songs like ‘Turn’, ‘Stole Her Away’, Come Out Of Your House’ and ‘***k it She Will Do’, it did not take long for the audience to warm to them, but Alex and his band got a well-deserved send off as they closed their set with ‘Bye Bye Love’.
The second band was The Turning. Where Alex Butler is more melodic new wave, The Turning are Beat and Rhythm and Blues, but in common with Alex Butler, there is a youthful energy and excitement about The Turning that has lifted their profile in recent months.
Their set included tracks from their debut EP; ‘Stand Clear Of My Mind’, ‘The Painful Art of Dreaming’ and ‘What You Think Is Right’. By the end of the set, the crowd demanded an encore and were treated to a red-hot rendition of ‘Gloria’.
A few hours break and it was back to the main room for the hotly anticipated ‘British Legends’ Night. Getting proceeding underway were the ‘house’ band Stone Foundation who played a selection of songs from their current album ‘To Find The Spirit’.
It is easy to see why they were chosen as the ‘house’ band. They are a very tight unit musically and with their brass section, they can produce an impressive wall of sound. Their brand of Northern, Jazz and Soul influenced tunes really left their mark and set things up nicely for the first of the legends.
Enter Eddie Philips, frontman of The Creation (with bow in hand) to take us through the classics; ‘Painterman’, ‘How Does It Feel’ and ‘Making Time’ among others. From my privileged vantage point, it was clear he was having the time of his life on stage and very humbled by the rapturous reception he received.
A short intermission was followed by the entrance of the one and only Kenney Jones at the drum kit. The man given the unenviable task of vocal duties was Jim Stapley. Having met him earlier in the day, I rather liked him.
However, his arrival on stage was met with some curious reactions as Jim’s appearance and stage presence was more rock than mod. After the first couple of numbers Jim spotted this dichotomy and made light of it with the audience who warmed to him afterwards.
That said, the set was a ‘greatest hits’ selection of Small Faces numbers and Mr Jones was clearly enjoying the experience. As the band left the stage at the end of the set, an encore was demanded and witnessing the discussions backstage was quite something. A reprise of ‘Tin Soldier’ brought the show to a close and the crowd seemed genuinely pleased. See another review HERE! with more videos.
Sunday 20 April
Another ‘early’ start for some of us! At 1pm I was at the entrance to the Pier on the South Bank to welcome those who had booked for the River Boat Party. The weather could have been better, but it didn’t dampen spirits one jot.
Once we were all aboard and underway, our DJs Lee Miller, Carlo Sesto, and Michael Wink got things going right from the get-go. The atmosphere was fantastic with a packed dancefloor throughout the afternoon and after we disembarked, it was nice to see the likes of Norman Jay MBE joining the fun.
With the Boat Trip concluded it was time to head back to 229 The Venue for the grand finale of the weekend.
That wrapped up the afternoon session, but it was not long before it was time to move to the main room for the Fashion Show curated by A Dandy in Aspic.
The assembled audience were thrilled by the show and gave all concerned a rapturous send off, see the fashion show article for in this edition for a in depth review. HERE!
There was a definite air of anticipation in the main hall as the room filled and I had the pleasure of introducing our first live act, The Mergers from Germany. As with all the bands across the weekend, The Mergers gave it their all playing tracks from their fantastic album ‘Monkey See, Monkey Do’. Their hybrid sound of The Remains, early Beatles and British Beat made quite an impression on the crowd. They loved them.
Following them on stage were the equally marvelous Les Cappuccino from Japan with their Hammond-heavy grooves and unique visual style. They did not disappoint either.
Within minutes the stage was set for the Crossfire Allnighter. The main room was packed solid for ‘The Story Of Northern Soul’ provided by a line up of specialist DJs that has rarely been assembled before. To say the night was immense is an understatement. The Beat and R&B rooms were equally packed out until the early hours. Crossfire really is one of the great events of the year and this night reinforced that reputation.
So that was the end of Modstock 3, 2014. It was memorable for so many reasons and the highlights were too many to mention. I’ve read many other reviews and comments about the weekend. A small handful pointing out a couple of minor grumbles, but the overwhelming majority were very positive and glowing in their praise about the event.
It was a great weekend, a fantastic effort by Rob Bailey and the New Untouchables Team. Stuart and his staff at 229 The Venue and all the bands, DJs and Bar Italia SC who provided the entertainment and rideout and A Dandy In Aspic for the fashion show.
We hope you had a great time too.