California Rocker

Award-Winning Online Music Magazine

British Punk’s Prolific Colin Newman: The Band Wire is Not Just Some Heritage Group from The 1970s

The Drill Fest by Wire Packs the Echo

By JOHN NORRIS and DONNA BALANCIA 

Wire held its Drill Fest at The Echo and Echoplex, and it was a rare opportunity to see some of punk’s originators tell it like it is.

Judging by the attendance at the fest, which ran over three days and included performers like Mikal Cronin, Bob Mould and of course headliner Wire, it’s easy to see punk is very much alive today. Or it’s making a “curated” comeback at the very least.

The Pink Flag Guitar Ensemble – a roaring finale – Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

Drill Fest is not just Wire playing on tour, founder Colin Newman told CaliforniaRocker.com.

“Drill is curated by the bands,” Colin said. “It’s just another aspect of what the band do.

Colin Newman: 'Being influential is a double-edged sword' - Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

Colin Newman: ‘Being influential is a double-edged sword’ – Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

Wire: Not Re-Living The Past

“The importance is it’s partly to us,” Colin said. “One of the things about Wire is we’re not doing the heritage circuit. We’re not trying to relive our past. It’s about us making connections to other artists, not necessarily younger artists, but artists of different genres, with different ways of working and in a way it’s putting ourselves in a situation and saying this is what we are, we’re not just some band from the ’70s living off our past.”

Great musicians curated at Drill - Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

Great musicians curated at Drill – Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

Newman On Being ‘Influential’

Wire has been so influential to so many bands, but that’s an interesting conundrum, Colin said in typical fashion.

“It’s a double-edged sword, really,” Colin said.

Why?

“Because you don’t like everything that you’ve influenced,” he said. “But everything influences everything else in music. Music is a dialog.”

Musicians and friends - Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

Musicians and friends – Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

That dialog connected this weekend as the crowds at the Echo and Echoplex appreciated the music of many favorites.

Among those who hit the stages were:  Malka Spigel (Minimal Compact), Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips (Luna), Jason Falkner (The Grays, Three O’Clock, Jellyfish), Jessica Lipstate (Noveller), and Jess Labrador, and Shannon Sky Madden (Chasms).

Not just 'Part-Time Punks' The Drill is the real deal - Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

Not just ‘Part-Time Punks’ The Drill is the real deal – Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

Other friends and players on hand included Rafe Mandel, Caroline Borolla, Geoffrey Halliday, James Hamblin, Stefan Nelson and Sandy Yang. Wire is Robert Grey, Matthew Simms, Graham Lewis and Colin Newman.

 

 

Modern English: All These Years Later, Legendary New Wave Band Does More Than ‘Melt With You’

Robbie Grey of Modern English - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Robbie Grey of Modern English – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Robbie Grey: ‘I’ll Melt With You’ is ‘The Song That Pays The Bills’

By DONNA BALANCIA – Modern English may look a little different than back in 1981, but the music is better than ever.

The British band known for superhit “I’ll Melt With You” is tight and gave a stellar performance at The Echoplex Sunday night.

The iconic band performed its 1981 LP Mesh and Lace in its entirety to celebrate the 11th-Year Anniversary of the excellent Part Time Punks program. Underpass, Soft Kill and Sextile brought diversity of alt rock sounds prior to the headliner.

Mick Conroy on bass, Gary McDowell on guitar and Robbie Grey on vocals set the pace as Colchester, UK’s first punk band, The Lepers, back in 1979.  When keyboardist Stephen Walker and drummer came on board, they became Modern English and took on a more new wave-style sound.

Gary McDowell of Modern English - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Gary McDowell of Modern English – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Still Together

It’s fantastic the band is together again after some ups and downs, unlike many of their colleagues from the era like Joy Division, Depeche Mode and Gang of Four.  Hugh Jones, who also produced Echo and the Bunnymen produced Mesh and Lace and had a good deal to do with the band’s post-punk sound. The UK produced most of the well-known punk/new wave bands in the late 1970s-early 1980s.

And while they may look a little older, a little more heavily tattooed, Modern English band members have a young appearance and a lot of stories to tell.

The members of the band who have broken up, gotten back together, tried to go separate ways and tried different music projects realized they’re cherished by not only the generation they’re from, but also by today’s younger fans.

Bassist Mick Conroy gets the handoff from Robbie Grey during Modern English performance at the Echoplex - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Bassist Mick Conroy gets the handoff from Robbie Grey during Modern English performance at the Echoplex – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Advertising Income

That could in part be because of the popularity of the group’s 1982 superhit “I’ll Melt With You,” which has had enormous commercial success and has been played in everything from U.S. TV commercials pitching cheeseburgers, chocolate and tacos, to feature films.

But the band says the new wave song is really about a couple making love as a nuclear bomb is dropped. No matter, the song closed out for the evening as Robbie called it “The Song That Pays The Bills.”

Favorites of the night taken directly from the Mesh and Lace album are the classic upbeat songs “Smiles and Laughter,” “Gathering Dust” and “Swans on Glass.”  The songs were badass in the day and still hold up today.

With Modern English you get what you expect. It’s refreshing in that they call themselves what they are.  With the exception of drummer Roy Martin, who handled the kit with amazing agility and blend, the band is comprised of all the original members.

Gary McDowell of Modern English - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Gary McDowell of Modern English – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The Long Run

In the never-ending quest for to make a living, there are many bands out there with only one remaining member who call themselves the name they used to go by when they were four.

But it should be determined at what point would it be considered false advertising to call a band with departed anchor members by its original name.

Joy Division evolved into New Order, then split into two bands, New Order, and Peter Hook and the Light. Let’s hope Modern English will never have to endure a similar fate.

But it’s clear that Modern English has their colleagues on the brain — with Robbie sporting a Joy Division T-shirt and changing into a David Bowie T-shirt to honor the departed musician.  And he performed happily — even when a gal came on stage and started hugging him. But Robbie is a good reflection of the band — seems Modern English will withstand the test of time and simply shrug and carry on.

[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”53″ gal_title=”Modern English – Sextile – Part Time Punks”]

 

%d bloggers like this: