WORDS JANET HARDING / IMAGES WARREN MILLAR
I discovered Zen Baseballbat thanks to All Music Magazine UK’s photographer, Warren Millar…and instantly loved them. My first ‘Zen’ gig was at the 02 Ritz in Manchester alongside New Model Army, and honestly I was wowed. This band have such a feel good sound and energy, it’s just infectious. I’m really looking forward to seeing them tonight, headlining in their home town of Widnes at their local rugby super league team’s (The Widnes Vikings’) stadium. Tonight is the start of a new, live music venue within the Halton Stadium, starting in epic style with local legends, Zen Baseballbat, but with equally brilliant special guests. We have, also from Widnes, Syfta (one of my fav bands) and from nearby Runcorn The Seminals bring the wilds, and I don’t say this lightly…the Seminals ROCK! And Ewan Kirwan, who I’ve been told is excellent, so I’m really happy to be finally catching a set of his.
Tonight’s venue is within Halton Stadium and it has a feel very similar to a smaller 02 Academy venue, or Club Academy type feel – an ample stage area with no barrier so I look forward to the up close band experience. It’s mainly standing but chairs have been laid out at the back and access is very easy, a ramp leads to the performance area and bar. Staff are incredibly helpful and go above and beyond to help; ample staff behind the bar so no waiting or missing sets; and prices are reasonable. Parking is outside the stadium and trains and buses are both nearby.
First up tonight is a solo acoustic set from Evan Kirwan… Instantly watchable, he looks very at home and comfortable up on this sizable stage, strumming his acoustic guitar with confidence. Tonight’s set is a mixture of covers, which are truly made his own, and original tracks. It’s an energetic performance throughout, and real indie feels. I’m personally reminded of John Powers in the vocal, but there’s a Jamie T feel to the songs. It works well, the fast, spoken type singing along with that Mersey type guitar sound, and more so with the strong Liverpool accent coming through. The vocal is very, very strong – loud, clear, far reaching, high notes easily reached but a gravel tone that’s really exaggerated and used to perfection. At times a goose bump inducing performance, full of quirky lyrics and toe tapping tracks, with the most descriptive and varied vocal. Very entertaining set and a stunning vocal with genuine interaction between songs. I look forward very much to seeing Evan again.
Focus on you
Lost the Focus
Losing My Head
Bobby Muscart – vocals
Owen Egan – lead guitar
Charlie Fogg – bass
Arron Flynn – drums
Now for Runcorn’s finest! I love the Seminals, that’s no secret. This band just deliver a fearless, fast, raucous and proper rock n roll performance each and every time. A stage of this size tonight is just crying out for this brand of ‘mad for it’ attitude and punk inspired wildness. From the off the Seminals bombard us with complex beats and a bass line reminiscent of The Stone Roses; guitars are jagged, then soaring, vocal is breezy and light then grating and graveled, then come screams cries and roars. Band members bounce all over this stage; front man, Bobby, is often on his knees and it’s a fascinating set to watch. A Seminals’ performance just draws us in as a crowd inside the depths of this edgy and energetic performance, engulfing us in retro sounds of the 90s era interwoven with a punk aspect, but all managing to be bang up to date and original. Musically they draw us in, shake us up then throw us back out.
The Seminals have created something all of their own and it’s a must to go see and experience…Another scorcher of a set.
State of mind
Some seeds don’t grow
King of nothing
Harry Whiston – singer/guitar
Jack Gregory – lead guitar
Oliver Turtle – bass
Alex Highcock – drums
Syfta hail from Widnes – another must see band, and on home turf. I know this is gonna go off tonight – they’re another band who suit this stage and venue perfectly. Careering into this set, it begins in all guns blazing style, which doesn’t cease, and this band continue to take no prisoners throughout this performance. Crashing guitar driven anthems, fast paced skippy beats fired out with real power and prowess; bass lines crunch and throughout this sound is a melodic catchiness – and we’re hooked! Energies are off the scale, the feels are epic…a very well established sound and genuinely worthy of an outdoor, full stadium sized gig. The tunes are pelted out, right from the eye of the musical storm that’s been whipped up by these indie rock sound makers. Think Kasabian meets The K’s sound wise.
An action packed set with our front man, Harry, darting about stage, swinging his guitar and jumping around on one leg. A nonstop, frenzied, sizzling performance here tonight. I’ve seen these guys so many times now, and I’ll never tire of them, Syfta are the musical gift that just keeps on giving!
Leave on time
Zen Baseballbat – Headline
Gary Gleavey – lead vocal/guitar
Carl Gleavey – vocal/bass
Mike Wilkinson – drums
Jordan Donaldson – vocal/keys
Jonathan Parker (Jogga) – vocal/guitar
Another complete change in direction here now, genre wise, as Widnes legends Zen Baseballbat open their headline set. There is immediately a surge of energy and enthusiasm, which is really felt. Up-tempo, bounce making, dance inducing, electro ska magic radiates from on stage. Band members twirl, hop and dance around on one leg throughout tonight’s set, often crossing the entire stage whilst dancing in time and playing with sheer exuberance and passion. It’s such feel good, high vibrational stuff, it’s good for the soul. Reggae style beats pound from the drum kit, whilst joyful guitar lines filter out, bass lines smooth and melodic and the electro/keys put a real retro 80s stamp onto this sound. The vocal is very characterful, at times verging on spoken word, a slight John Cooper Clarke feel; the sung parts are descriptive, a smooth tone, then a gravel or lower tone that adds real depth to these tracks. The crowd bounce along and chant the lyrics back in time with real gusto! It’s impossible not to feel the joy created during this set, all the bopping on stage, plus these real happy making tunes with witty lyrics are a real tonic!
A full and bursting with content set, performed exceptionally. What a bloody fantastic band! I defy anyone not to smile during a Zen gig! Totally captivating visually…you can’t not watch all that bopping about…and an addictive, joyous sound. Bloody roof-raising set!
Place like this
You won’t get paid
Signed Off R Mutt
Year of the Dog
Whipping the Lash
Living on the Ceiling
Love it too much
So tonight really has been a gift. We’ve had it all – mesmerising acoustic, wilds, rock n roll and uplifting ska. What a varied and inclusive line up! A perfect start to this new venue here at Halton Stadium, and huge thanks must go to Softlad Promotions for organising tonight’s event. I shall definitely be returning, and highly recommend it here. Also be sure to check out these wonderful artists: Evan Kirwan, The Seminals, Syfta and Zen Baseballbat.
FOLLOW ZEN BASEBALLBAT
FOLLOW THE SEMINALS
FOLLOW EVAN KIRWAN
My life is a soundtrack, i track my life through music, photography is my passion, my escape, my expression. Without both i have pieces missing, thankfully i’m blessed and get to combine both.
Born in Manchester, lived in Australia for 22 years where i was heavily involved in the Australian Music Industry, firstly in bands (Singer) and then managing bands (all original), I moved back to the UK, Wales specifically 10 years ago and married my childhood sweetheart and life is good.