Exactly like us, except slightly younger
Exactly like us, except slightly younger
Hereford Blues Club have been putting on great nights at The Booth Hall since the beginning of the year and with the much revered Groundhogs they definitely hit the jackpot. We arrive at the venue just as openers As Mamas are approaching the end of their set and although the glimpse we saw of the band was all too brief, they made us want to investigate their music further and catch them in full when they next play.
Up next were Raptor, fresh from supporting Deborah Bonham at the Left Bank at the end of April, they enthralled the crowd with their bluesy rock, ripping through a series of numbers that had heads nodding and hands clapping. The band's mix of energetic rock mixed with blues grit is a tried and tested formula but it is one that never fails to impress when done correctly as Raptor definitely do. The passion and playing is infectious throughout with the band having as much fun onstage as the audience and as they wind up there is not one person in the room who is not enthused with what they have just witnessed. After finishing their set, the band thankfully come back for one last song and it was with great delight that it was a cover of Black Sabbath's 'Fairies Wear Boots' that saw the crowds heads banging one last time and saw frontman Kurt Fletcher channel both his inner Ozzy Osbourne and Tony Iommi at the same time and that is no mean feat! A great performance from a band that never fails to deliver the goods and makes for a great run up to the headliners.
With a storied history, that would make the majority of bands green with envy and this is one that includes backing up Blues royalty John Lee Hooker, supporting the Rolling Stones, and playing the Isle Of Wight festival in 1970, Groundhogs are rightly looked upon in a legendary light. As they strike the first chord in their set, it is easy to see why, when the band's trademark tight psych tinged blues jams explode they are a joy to behold and the band have the audience transfixed from the get go. This continues for the next (almost) two hours and I'm sure they could have easily played that amount of time again such was their passion for playing. With a set that took in songs from the band's entire career, drawing heavily from 'Thank Christ For The Bomb' in particular, they certainly wowed the Hereford crowd and for a band that formed over 50 years ago they certainly let their experience shine through.
This was a masterclass in musicianship, from sprawling jams to tight rockers, Groundhogs gave us everything and the band's set flew by in a maelstrom of blues rock goodness and was so tight that it would shame bands half their age. Songs like 'Ship On The Ocean', 'Soldier' and 'Garden' are played with a fervour that borders on infectious and the assembled throng are enraptured by the band and rightly so. Their focussed jams are so inspiring with the band performing as a tight musical unit and as with their support band they are are having as much fun onstage as the audience and when these jams morph into frenzied blues and back again, it's like manna from heaven for the assembled blues fans. As Groundhogs ignite 'Eccentric Man', there is some enthusiastic dancing down the front that continues until the gig's end and it gets even more lively as their riff heavy up-tempo blues belts out from the stage and just gets more infectious as they go on.
The band reach the end of their set with 'Groundhog Blues', a fitting song that sees drummer Ken Pustelnik "playing harmonica for the first time since 1969" before concluding with 'Grey Maze' and leaving the stage to well deserved rapturous applause having well and truly blown the roof off! With a series of upcoming live dates approaching (including a show at Temples Festival in Bristol, where they may seem out of place initially amongst all the metal and hardcore bands but will definitely go down a storm as their tight playing and sprawling jams will be loved by the assembled throng), Groundhogs should not be missed at any cost. It was a privilege to see them in such close proximity and a great night was had at a well run and fun night.
Review by Gavin Brown, Herefordshire Live
Photos by Nick Vidal-Hall
Currently, we don't have a review for this gig. Undoubtedly this will change in the near future, but in the meantime why don't you take a look at some of the reviews of other past gigs below.
Arriving in good time at The Railway, the first thing that the band noticed was just how intimate the place is, or rather, was. This was someone's home posing as a pub - and not just any old pub. The Railway has put on scores of bands over the years, and Groundhogs are proud to have been one of the last.
Despite there being no support band for this gig, a VDJ kept those in attendance company with the likes Blue Cheer and Robin Trower videos to name but a brace. The lengthy set was complimented perfectly by the in-house soundman who did a sterling job, as did the entire staff.
The Railway is being converted into a 'gastro-pub' or some such as of April 2016 - but at least the band can say that they visited briefly before it faded into the memories of those who frequented, and played there.
On a cold evening at the dawn of 2016 in the unspectacular sounding Hartlepool FC Supporters Club, the locals were treated to a rare jaunt northwards by Groundhogs. The venue was inviting, warm and welcoming, and the beer was equally excellent.
Following the fine support from local Lee Maddison, a 90-minute set bellowed around the club to the delight of its members who sat at tables, politely applauding at each opportunity. All the usual tracks were on display (Mistreated, Cherry Red), but with the addition of a wonderfully played cover of Hawkwinds' "Silver Machine", which served as a fitting tribute to recently deceased Lemmy.
And the journey home wasn't without incident either. The van being used by the band broke down on the motorway with many miles still to go. Fortunately it was covered by breakdown service, but this meant that after being towed home to Bristol, the band had been awake for well over 36 hours. Despite this minor detail, the event was a huge success and there may well be a return visit - albeit, in a different vehicle.