Friday 15th March
With five great bands covering the whole spectrum of psychobilly, Friday evening at Bedlam is a cool way for the curious to check things out. Local band GOGO LOCO open proceedings and they're an extremely likeable duo. Guitarist and vocalist Joe is like Chuck Berry with restless leg syndrome, pacing the stage like a student from The Ministry of Silly Walks. Original tunes like 'Maraca GoGo' and 'GoGo Loco Twist' capture the energy of the British R&B boom only cranked up to 11. Their energetic performance is well received and throws down the gauntlet for the whole weekend.
Rising to the challenge are THE X-MEN. They immediately evince a strong garage-rock influence: imagine The Stooges jamming with Them while imbibing hallucinogens. A superb swirling psychedelic sound hypnotises the audience as The X-Men pull out a cover of The Syndicate Of Sound's 'Little Girl' along with their own classic 'She's A Witch'. Closing with a rendition of The 13th Floor Elevators 'You're Gonna Miss Me' only endears them to the crowd further.
The aptly titled FRANTIC VERMIN are a pleasing amalgamation of of styles as rock'n'roll meets ska with a country twang. It's no mean feat to blend different genres but Frantic Vermin pull it off effortlessly by underpinning their sound with a strong song sensibility. A trio who make a big noise they turn in a crowd pleasing set.
The ultimately silky voice from the coolest cat in town COLBERT HAMILTON brings his band to entertain Bedlam. Risqué without being rude, 'Dirty Dog' kicks his set off in fine style with Colbert working the stage like a pro and by the time we reach 'Daddy Rolling Stone' he has the crowd in the palm of his hand. Ably backed by his band the BAD BREED, 'Rock Party' turns the whole venue into a… rock party, and they bring a nice flavour to the evening.
Providing the missing link between rockabilly and psychobilly, RESTLESS hit the stage and immediately set the venue alight. 'After Midnight' is a definite highlight along with a high voltage version of Golden Earring's 'Radar Love', a song they've now made their own. 'Mercury Blues' is performed with great abandon theirs is a nice set that ebbs and flows and ticks all the right boxes and provides a fitting culmination to the opening day.
Saturday 16th March
Opening Saturday are a late replacement on the bill: the GARBAGE BAGS. With a sound guaranteed to blast away any hangovers they remind me a little of The Cramps… only more hyped and amped. Drummer and vocalist swap slots for one song which, along with some neat changes in tempo, keeps things interesting. With a wall of distorted guitar and a hyperactive frontman it's an entertaining start to the day.
ATI EDGE AND THE SHADOWBIRDS arrive from Hungary armed with an adrenaline charged brand of rock'n'roll. With songs about cars, girls and cannibals they can't really go wrong. They plough through a crowdpleasing set of which 'Rockabilly Boogie' is a definite highlight.
Putting the psycho in psychobilly are Japan's GIGANTIX who prove the scene is truly global. They turn in a fun-fuelled set and the crowd soon warms to their surf-tinged sound. A manic cover of The Animals' 'House Of The Rising Sun' raises the level of insanity and they win the first encore of the day: 'Space Song'.
THE ROCKETZ hit the stage like a well- oiled machine and treat the throng to a bawdy 'I Want U Dead' and an atmospheric 'Before The Night'. Spawned from the fertile Los Angeles scene, they are part of the vanguard (along with NY's Screamin' Rebel Angels) who are taking rockabilly to a new audience. 'Killing' is a set highlight and the band should be on your radar.
The SURFIN' WOMBATZ are always guaranteed to raise more than a smile and, like their South London counterparts The Gonads, they keep their tongue firmly in cheek. With a thirty-year history they've built up an impressive discography and they deliver a career spanning, best of set. 'Bald Billy Boogie' really rocks and the band relive their Klub Foot days with tracks from their debut album. They have a sound that incorporates different styles (like the ska-infused 'Peter Cushing') and they've finally written a surf song but in their own inimitable style: 'Surfin' South London'. 'Lack of Beer' initiates a huge sing-a-long before a raucous rendition of Bo Diddley's 'You Can't Judge A Book By The Cover' brings the afternoon to a fitting finale.
Berlin's DAMAGE DONE BY WORMS are out of the trap like a greyhound chasing a hare and by second track 'Beer' they've won over any doubters and pulled the slackers in from the bar. 'Tommyknockers' from their debut album follows; each track is delivered with passion but 'Butcher Of The Night' is a definite highlight. They use catchy guitar lines to snare the listener as evidenced by a fiery 'Gasoline' and their cover of The Buzzcocks 'Ever Fallen In Love?' is a fitting tribute to Pete Shelley.
THE HANGMEN turn in a solid set but fail to really capture the crowd's full attention. Thankfully, a period of recording inactivity has been broken and the new tracks debuted point to a bright future.
Now making their fourth appearance at Bedlam, the MILWAUKEE WILDMEN hit the stage and provide a master class in stagecraft. 'March' stomps like an army and 'Get In The Pit' is suitably raucous. Their sound really swings like a pendulum especially on 'Die Alone' while a rocked up cover of Dead Or Alive's '(You Spin Me) Right Round (Like a Record)' wins the crowd's approval. They close their set with another cover, this time a warlike version of Stan Ridgeway's 'Camouflage' which is segued with Matchbox's 'Midnight Dynamos'. Genius.
THE RICOCHETS are welcomed to the stage like old friends and a cover of 'Brand New Cadillac' only increases their standing as scene legends. 'Paranoia' follows along with the insanely catchy 'I'm a Loser'. With no signs of slowing down, they hit us with an excellent version of Generation X's 'King Rocker' and a fine rendition of 'Woolly Bully'. 'Black Magic Woman' follows as the band turn in a well received set. 'In Hell' is a precursor to two well deserved encores which includes a delirious 'Psycho'.
A tangible tension builds as we await NEKROMANTIX which is finally released when the band hit the stage. By second track 'Night Nurse', the entire venue is under their spell and the band turn in a set that proves why they're undisputed headliners. Bathed in blood red light and with his trademark coffin-shaped double bass, vocalist Kim looks like a demented preacher and delivers a sermon in the shape of 'Alice In Psycholand' and 'Demons Are A Girl's Best Friend'. 'The Blood Cure' raises the temperature and initiates some serious wrecking in the pit and there's a real chemistry in the band and they perform with an obvious joy. In the live environment the band become infinitely heavier and they wouldn't seem out of place at a metal festival. Waves of affection radiate between crowd and audience and Nekromantix are the perfect band at the witching hour. Miss them at your peril.
Sunday 17th March
Suited and booted, there's a touch of The Meteors in THE MIGHTY INTERCEPTORS' performance. Their set is a short, sharp shock and there's no better way to spend a Sunday afternoon. New track 'Danger In Every Curve' points to a bright future.
The SPACE WASTERS deliver a fine slab of garage thrash which shows a definite Stooges influence. Opening shot 'Action' doesn't take prisoners and neither does 'I Don't Like You' and 'Leave Me Alone'. They cap an enjoyable set with a rocket like X-Men cover.
Norfolk's FAT'N'FURIOUS certainly know how to please a crowd which they do by covering 'Baby Blue Eyes' and 'Monkey Man'. However they've got some cool original tunes like the mighty 'King Of The Asylum' which sits easily next to a rendition of The Meteors' 'I'm Insane' (which they fuse with the Pistols' 'Pretty Vacant'). Closing with 'Good Golly Miss Molly' means they won't be forgotten in a hurry.
A late and welcome addition to the bill are Bedford-based HENRY & THE BLEEDERS. With a set largely debuting new material, 'The Beast' in particular stands out with its catchy guitar motif and signposts a majestic new record. Led by the hyperactive and effervescent Henry, the band deliver a turbocharged set and close with perennial favourite '(I Gotta) Rock On (For You)' sees them bow out in style.
Fun with a capital F, the DEATH VALLEY SURFERS are a six-piece with a big sound. Plenty of brass and even some violin add a touch of brevity to their set but underneath the madness they've some great tunes like 'She's Not Home'. A cover of 'Tequila' evinces a real surf influence and their set is a riotous cornucopia of sight and sound. J.B. From the Space Wasters joins them for a frantic set closer 'Johnny B. Goode'.
THE GRISWALDS open Sunday evening in suitably loopy fashion with a set that doesn't waste a second. 'Spasms' really grooves as 'Hooker' and 'Fright Night' follow in quick succession. New track 'Psychobilly Love Affair' is set to the sound of Bad Manners' 'Skinhead Love Affair' while 'Crazy Jim' brings a ska influence. A faithful cover of The Undertones' 'Teenage Kicks' is well received before an encore of The Housemartins 'Happy Hour' brings thing to a conclusion in an appropriately surreal fashion.
With their heavy ska sound PADDLE CELL are something of a revelation. With a sound that's heavily laden with brass they soon get the whole venue skanking. As you'd expect, 'Waiting' and 'Montego Bay' set the venue alight and Paddle Cell are rewarded with the biggest cheer of the evening.
After some tour tribulations and shenanigans, THE SURF RATS perform with a new drummer who only had 24 hours to learn a set – but you'd never guess. 'Vampire Lover' really rocks as does 'Evil Girl' and The Rats put their unique stamp on rock'n'roll. The adrenaline-infused ska of 'Smash it Up' adds some variety to their set and new track 'It's The End' shows some real development. A well-deserved encore follows in the shape of 'Welcome to Killafornia'.
BATMOBILE are worthy headliners and, as the first non-British band to perform at The Klub Foot they have a special relationship with the UK. Hitting the stage the band are like whirling dervishes and it's obvious why they've stayed at the top of the game for 35 years and many would argue that new record 'Brand New Blisters' is a career highlight. Affection radiates between band and audience as they plough through a greatest hits set and with their back catalogue they can't go wrong. Running close to curfew the band still manage to cram in all their well known tunes plus a few fan favourites ensuring nobody leaves disappointed.