Image by Derek Parnell
The Black Dogs’s album launch was on Saturday 28th March, and they played hard into the night –so hard that the Golden Lion Tap manager hopped onto stage at the end to welcome them back anytime.
Tinted with the trademark red lights of the band, the stage was framed with hanging camouflage and instruments. On the other end of the black-and-purple, “musical cave” room (to quote a friend), was DJ Matt the Hat. Naturally top-hatted, he stood before his usual flag tapestry, leaning over his turntables and blasting out rock n’ roll tracks, including the apt, Analogue Man, by Joe Walsh.
Up first were The Joydanaires, who we recently interviewed. Their mascot, Betty – harmonica strapped over her lipstick-smudged mouth – sat proudly in front of drummer, James Walden. To the right was bassist Giles Isaacs, and on the left, vocalist and guitarist, Benny Joy. It wasn’t long before they had people jiving away in front of the stage. Benny’s warm, vintage-toned guitar (and occasional harmonica and slide) mixed with Giles’s bass and James smashing the drums with apparent ease. Deceptively simple song structures would break into heavy, distorted guitar solos.
Soon, The Black Dogs were on stage. Slinging his bass strap over his shoulder, Matt Roberts stepped to the front. Behind him sat Andy Higgins, drum sticks in each hand. In front of the microphone stood vocalist and guitarist, Gary Saunders. Without hesitation, they slipped into their first song – a cover of Nebula’s Smoking Woman. Hazy desert-rock guitar curled through the room like smoke, bass and drums following in sensual tones. They went on to cover the likes of Hendrix, AC/DC and Stevie Ray Vaughn, the crowd shaking their hips to the trio’s gritty take on beloved classics.
Before long, Matt’s rib-cage pounding bass line signalled the start of Barum City Blues. Joined by Andy’s rolling drums, The Black Dogs pulled the audience into their first original track. More and more pressure rose until Gary’s guitar burst through, his voice a characteristic growl for this blues-rock track.
Momentarily slowing the pace down, The Black Dogs performed The Weeping Sun. Guitar solos stretched next to tinkling cymbals, Gary’s voice a soft whisper until suddenly, the track became heavy – apocalyptic, even – for a few teasing beats. Moonshine, on the other hand, was another nod to The Black Dogs’ taste for fast-paced, spit-and-sweat rock.
Towards the end of the set (when we’d all sprung into spring), Gary motioned for local metal singer, Hawksleigh Sullivan, to leap onto the stage. A sight to behold, Hawksleigh sang two Kyuss songs – much to the cheering joy of Kyuss fans all around.
Much too soon, The Black Dogs descended into their last song of the night, Bloodhound – the favourite of head-bangers alike. Battering his drum-kit, Andy slammed down his sticks, with satisfyingly thick bass and electric-fingered guitar shaking ear drums all round.
Albums were sold, band T-shirts proudly worn and encores yelled for. What do you do if you weren’t there to see it all go down? Find The Black Dogs on Facebook and buy their CD (£5! C’mon!) and then gift your neighbours with your superior music taste.