This witness protection programme isn’t all it’s cracked up to be; we managed to find our arch-miserablist in a pub in Basildon this week just in time to get his opinions on the perfect storm of the end of a decade and a general election. We blew the whole years’ hospitality budget on Stella and rum and black, but we think it was worth it. Just a word of warning, there’s some fairly fruity adult language here. And it’s an opinion (or set of opinions) from one end of the political spectrum. If anyone wants to reply to this with opposing viewpoints, we’ll happily publish it. Let’s light the blue/red touchpaper and go.

Really; it’s been ten years of Tory misrule. Time flies when you’re having fun, doesn’t it? And it looks like the narrative is ‘Everything’s screwed; vote for us to unscrew it’. But didn’t you just screw it up in the first place? ‘Get Brexit Done’ – because about 39% of the eligible electorate voted for Brexit. That’s not anything close to a majority. And how many of those were conned by the £350m a week back into the NHS – I’m calling BS here. Forget about the fact that benefits come back into the UK economy from the EU. The aim of the Tories always is and always has been to systematically unpick the welfare state in general and the NHS in particular. You were conned and now the extremists have been given the upper hand. What do I think of that?

And what about the head knob, the unelected Prime Minister who suspends Parliament when it suits his agenda, can’t remember how many kids he has, buys water cannons that are illegal in this country that have to be scrapped at a huge loss and approves grants for British businesses to his American ‘friend’. You’ve all been conned by a toff who takes nothing seriously and only ever does anything if it benefits Bojo the Clown. He doesn’t care about you, or your friends, or your family. All he wants is your vote. As John Cooper-Clarke said ‘They can’t find a good word for you. I can; twat.’
And the skulking coward refuses to do interviews with journalists who might give him a bad time. He even hides in a fridge to avoid an interview with the arch-Tory sympathiser, Piers Morgan. Just the kind of person that you want to have as Prime Minister, yeah?
Over to you, Brian, Freddie, John and Roger:

The Tory cabinet; yeah, we can all feel that we’re represented there, can’t we? What a bunch of Matt Gossers. I mean, it’s difficult to pick out a lead Jeremy Hunt here, but the front runner has to be the bad Dickens caricature, Jacob Rees-Mogg. Yeah, the one who has a little nap on the front bench during a crucial debate. You think he cares about someone on Universal Credit in Hartlepool? No, if you’ve read this far, you obviously don’t. Have you noticed that he’s been seriously inconspicuous during this election campaign. Why do you think that is? J R-M, this one’s for you:

Spin, fake news, alternative facts. It’s strange how these are mostly coming from the blue side of the electoral divide (88% apparently). Who’s funding it, who’s really spreading it? We’ll probably never know, but there was a bit of official reaction from Dominic Raab (resigner, not remoaner) when the Tories changed their Twitter account to make it look like an independent fact-checking site. He said “no one gives a toss about social media cut and thrust”. FYI Dom, I do give a toss; I think most of my friends do too. Graham Parker did as well, when he wrote this very prophetic song about four years ago:

What do all of these privileged muppets have in common? They have absolutely no understanding of the life that we all lead every day – zero, nada, zilch, sweet FA (and that’s not the Football Association or Fanny Adams). This is all a game where they make decisions and don’t have to live with the consequences. Real life isn’t about making a point with a soundbite in a debate and looking smug about it. Most of us don’t spend our lives in the Oxford Union and the decisions that are made by this privileged bunch affect all of us. Here’s their theme song:

Merry Christmas and it’s your round. Stella and rum and black’s fine, thinks.

So how about five great gigs this year? Well, I’ve had plenty to choose from and I can’t say that I’ve seen a bad one, so it hasn’t been an easy choice to whittle it down to the top five (and no cheating this time either). These are all gigs that I walked away from feeling elated, feeling that I’d seen something special that I wanted to tell the world about. So I did, and here’s a reminder of how good these gigs were.

01) High Fives John FairhurstJohn Fairhurst @Rich Mix

On a freezing February Friday night in Shoreditch, Rich Mix was a welcome respite from bars full of bankers and ‘exclusive’ lap-dancing joints. The venue is a social enterprise where the motivation isn’t purely profit and programming of events is always interesting. On this particular night, John Fairhurst, along with Pete Episcopo (bass) and Toby Murray (drums) played a raw and raucous set of blues focussing on the 2014 album “Saltwater”. Some of the album versions of the songs were fairly big production numbers but the live performance was strictly a power trio affair with John’s blistering guitar topping off the mixture. The journey back through Shoreditch didn’t seem quite so bad after a night of proper blues with electric guitars playing way up loud. You can see some photos from the gig here.

Mollie and Izzy

Mollie and Izzy

Mollie Marriott @The Half Moon

This one was firmly in the eagerly-anticipated category. Mollie’s been working quietly for some time putting together a great band for live and studio work featuring her Jim Stapley bandmates Izzy Chase-Phillmore, Sam Tanner and Johnson-Jay Medwik-Daley. After an interesting acoustic support set from her nephew, Mo Evans, Mollie’s full band made their first live appearance in a Half Moon packed with fans and a few well-known faces as well. It was obvious from the start that this isn’t just a bunch of hired hands; this is a bunch of really good mates as well. None of their playing is showy or attention-seeking; everything serves the songs and underpins Mollie’s phenomenal voice, and it all works perfectly. The audience were onside anyway, but Mollie and the band gave a great performance of material from the upcoming debut album and a couple of covers as well. Here are some photos of this one.

14) MichaelMad Dog Mcrea and Sound of the Sirens @The Half Moon

This was a very special gig. I’d been invited along to see Mad Dog Mcrea and I had no idea about the support on the night, Sound of the Sirens. It’s such a great feeling when you see an artist for the first time and you know instantly that they’re something special. And it’s not just me; apparently Chris Evans was quite impressed with them as well. Anyway, they played a storming set completely winning over the audience with their powerful songs, dynamics, and harmonies. If the night had stopped at that point, I would have been perfectly happy, but we still had Mad Dog Mcrea to come, with an energetic run through material from their album “Almost Home” plus a few old favourites and crowd pleasers. Two great bands with enough in common to appeal to the whole audience but with enough differences to create a very varied night. And there are some photos here.

10) Chris DiffordSqueeze and Dr John Cooper Clarke @Indigo2

Another interesting double bill, this time with two very different artists, linked by the era which saw the start of their careers. John Cooper Clarke (now making the most of his honorary doctorate) has been doing poetry and comedy events for a few years but the tour with Squeeze put him back in front of big audiences filled with people who remembered him from the first time round. He throws more one-liners and gags into his routine now but a lot of the old favourite poems are still there, although some of them, particularly “Twat”, have evolved over time. On this night he was a barnstorming crowd-pleaser, building up the audience nicely for the headline act.

This year Squeeze had a new album to promote so the setlist was varied, to say the least, with material covering almost forty years from “Take Me I’m Yours” to new songs like “Cradle to the grave” with the usual smattering of different interpretations of Squeeze classics. What made this performance so special was the group of musicians (mainly Glenn Tilbrook’s Fluffers) now making up the rest of Squeeze who add upright bass, melodica and other esoteric instruments to the mix as well as adding rich vocal harmonies. Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook have never sounded better and what an incredible set of songs. Guess what, some photos here.

Union Chapel 050515

Union Chapel 050515

Graham Parker and Brinsley Schwarz & The Union Chapel

And finally. One of the greatest talents never to break through in the seventies and eighties, Graham Parker, who toured twice this year; once with The Rumour and once with Brinsley Schwarz. With a songbook which again covers almost forty years and a new album to promote as well, Graham Parker mixed up some established classics, some surprises and some new songs to delight an audience which might have been a little biased anyway. His voice is still remarkable and the songs are all strong enough to work in stripped-back arrangements. This wasn’t just a nostalgia thing; there were new songs to promote and they all sounded as good as anything he’s done before. He’s a remarkable man and it was a real pleasure to hear these songs in such a beautiful venue. How about a look at GP in the seventies and now?