September 8, 2019

The quality of tonight’s three-band lineup can be judged by the fact that popular up-and-coming metal rockers Gorilla Riot, with their penchant for complex, driving, backing riffs, were bottom of the bill.

The Red Lion in my home town has been a hard rock venue for as long as I can remember, but as the industrial estate it sits on has been demolished over the years, and the pub now sits in a desert of concrete and shingle overlooking the Thames estuary, kudos to the proprietors for upping their game and booking some storming bands. They have even had an annual blues festival for the last seven years. The quality of tonight’s three-band lineup can be judged by the fact that popular up-and-coming metal rockers Gorilla Riot, with their penchant for complex, driving, backing riffs, were bottom of the bill. Frontman Arjun Bhishma’s gravelly voice, genial persona and effortless cool garnered more new fans with every song.

Collateral – photo by Graeme Stroud

Ramsgate rockers Collateral took the middle spot with a completely different approach, promoting their excellent debut EP with a spirited performance approaching glam rock. Guitarist Todd Winger is an ace shredder and Cap’n Jack Sparrow lookalike frontman Angelo Tristan stalks the boards with gusto, tasselled and eyelinered. Big Shot Now is a flamboyant opener, with lead single singalong Midnight Queen taking the set in a 1980s direction a la Journey or Huey Lewis. Expect plenty of Springsteen and Steve Earle vibes along the way, Tristan bolstering the sound with an acoustic guitar.

Bad Touch – photo by Graeme Stroud

Norfolk headliners Bad Touch really stole the show though – as usual, their combination of southern boogie rock’n’roll, unaffected good humour and outrageous quantities of hair really hit the spot. Despite some woes early on with the foldback speakers, the guys looked to be having a great deal of fun, while also suffering in the late-night heat with a smile. As usual, their highlights were Outlaw near the end of the set, and encore closer 99%, with its singalong chorus. If you haven’t seen this outfit yet, it’s about time you did.

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