Live at Cockpit on Saturday, 24th May 2008
Aces & Eights are one of the only recent bands who have not come directly from MySpace. Rather than relying on the support of their, admittedly, over 1000 "Friends" they've worked their way up through the grimy Leeds pubs to arrive, not quite signed and slightly tainted, at the Cockpit. So I was stood on a sticky, beer-stained floor, being stared at by just-out-of-the-office idiots there for the cheap beer and entertainment, waiting to see if Aces & Eights really have brought rockabilly into the mainstream and brought back old school rock 'n' roll.
But first I had to deal with the support bands. Tonight, Honeycomb Love and The Voltaires are on and I have to say I was surprised. Honeycomb Love dress like they never left the '80's and when I saw them I didn't expect much more than just another tribute band or a band who couldn't escape their era. However I was pleasantly surprised, they are 80's-esque heavy metal, fun and loud and definitely worth a listen. The lead guitarist was particularly good and the band played well throughout all the songs, the drummer doing a great job of keeping them together. I have to say the singers weren't too much to my taste and it was hard to hear anything they sang (although admittedly I think that might more be the fault of the Cockpit than of Honeycomb Love as that problem continued throughout the night). So overall they were good and they were memorable but I probably wouldn't go out of my way to see them again.
The Voltaires were next and I was excited to see them. I've heard amazing things from people and a lot of the audience seemed to be there for them, so I was surprised when I spent the entirety of their set in amazement at how awful they were. The songs were well-written with quirky catchy lyrics, the guitarists kept together and played well and the drummer kept a good beat. But I could not stand the singer, his constant prancing, dancing and preening put my teeth on edge and from the look of the audience, aside from the people who were obviously there for The Voltaires and no-one else, most people agreed with me. After moving, halfway through the set, from the front-right to the middle (the Aces & Eights banner on the ceiling was precariously stuck on with masking tape and prayers and I was scared it was going to fall on me) where I couldn't see the singer anymore I started to enjoy myself. I particularly liked their song "(I Hate) Saturday Nights", it was fun, well-lyricised and the guitar parts were awesome. As I said, the actual music was great and I think if I'd been a fan of the band before it would have been fine, I could have forgiven the singer's idiocy, even seen it as great showmanship. But I wasn't a fan and therefore I can't, in good faith, tell you to go see this band. But you should listen to them.
Finally Aces & Eights come on. By this point the top of The Cockpit is almost full and there is a palpable sense of excitement. The people here now aren't just there for the cheap beer, they're either fans of Aces & Eights or they're ready to be converted, and the Reverend Black is the man to do it. Aces & Eights are an interesting and unique quintet, to say the least. Their drummer is General Robert E. Lee, he looks like a well-muscled version of Iggy Pop, wears an Adam Ant jacket with a skull and crossbones on the back and is an old-hand in the music business, having played with the likes of Johnny Thunder (from the New York Dolls) and The Damned. Their guitarist, X-ray Cat plays the blues guitar with considerable skill, fast and amazing riffs that'll make your fingers tingle just to listen. Their stand-up double bassist (yes that's what I said) is Dexter Midnight and he is to the stand-up double bass what Hendrix was to the guitar. He also treats his massive instrument like a guitar, lifting it up, spinning it round and showcasing his skills in a way any lead guitarist would be proud of. And finally there's the singer, Reverend Black. Allegedly a demon sent by the devil to sing and growl his way through fast-paced, old rock songs and preach damnation to the masses. He also thinks that the best part of being a rockstar is that you get free toasters. But do these Hell-sent demons do what they set out to do, are they actually any good? ... I can tell you with absolute certainty that Aces & Eights deserve everything they've worked for.
They're loud, rude and have enough balls and enough charisma to fill The Cockpit 3 times over. And they have that unique quality which is rarely seen, they sound just as good live as they do recorded. But they manage to be entertaining as well. So many bands are one or the other but Aces & Eights manage to be both and it is this which really enthralls the crowd. The drumming is amazing, fast-paced, complicated and yet perfectly in time, the guitar riffs are loud, fast and well-played, but it is Dexter Midnight and Reverend Black who steal the show. The stand-up double bassist is constantly joking with the crowd and his playing is outstanding. The fast-fingered melodies are clearly tiring and yet he still finds time to wow the crowd with his spinning, lifting and overall enthusiasm. He works well with Reverend Black, who sings and growls his way through the songs, scowling, grinning, and then telling the crowd that if "you can't dance you can't get into heaven".
Aces & Eights open with Black Cloud and then play through their songs, all of which are received well by the excited and enthused audience. However their best songs are "The Creature that Ate Sheboygan" which is loud, aggressive and gets a lot of the crowd on their feet and gives the atmosphere of a real rockshow rather than a small gig by a new band. Also "Babydoll", which seems to be the song which most of their fans know all the words to and therefore is the best for audience participation, and finally, "Gypsy Rose Lee" which is played last and has not only most of the audience joining in with the chorus (as commanded by Reverend Black) but also the enthusiastic band members of Honeycomb Love. And of course an honorable mention has to be given for the cover of Johnny Cash done by the band, particularly well done by the Reverend for replicating Cash's voice well and also adding his own element to it, but what else could be expected of the man who named his male pet snake Sue?
Overall it was an awesome gig and I think Aces & Eights are definitely heading for something big in the near future. So go see Honeycomb Love if you get the chance, listen to The Voltaires and expect to hear something from Aces & Eights soon.
garage punk blues
We are Honeycomb Love. We play Rock n Roll