Local music enthusiast and drummer Baz Brehaut went to The Vault to review The Rock & Roll Disaster.
Until last week's performance at The Vault, it was some months since I had seen The Rock & Roll Disaster play. They were at The Dog House on that night in June.
It was an energetic performance. The band determinedly held together. But, like a Jenga puzzle balanced on a tightrope, the performance could have gone either way.
The two pillars of the band that night, Mark Le Gallez and Mark Guppy, have known each other for so long that they can rely on telepathy more than stage monitors. Though, if needed, the occasional hard stare or smile would get them back on track.
Le Gallez is a force of nature; a storm; he can’t be managed or reined in. It’s hard to accurately capture a typical Le Gallez performance. He plays with all the energy and intent of a young offender trying to escape a secure facility. Yet his lyrics can have the appeal of a stray dog looking for a new home.
Pictured: The Rock & Roll Disaster (l to r): Mark Guppy, lead guitar / lead vocals; Mark Gillson, rhythm guitar & backing vocals; Tania Smith, vocals; Sean Bennett, drums; Adrian Miller, bass; Garrick Jones, keyboard, saxophone and backing vocals.
Le Gallez has now moved on to horizons new, leaving Mark Guppy with custody of the band and some of the songs.
Guppy has been on the local music scene for decades. Not quite the Mod-father, but certainly an elder statesman of the stage. He’s a songwriter who likes to tell a story.
Fans will be familiar with Guppy's playing style and his tendency for quirky lyrics. His keen sense of humour is evident in songs such as the The Mannez Quarry Train and Happy Blues Song. He takes the ordinary and makes it engaging, ensuring the overlooked gets looked over.
Many influences can be heard in the band's music. There are traces of The Kinks, The Small Faces and even The Members.
The band is fronted by both Guppy and Tania Smith, who has an excellent voice, a big voice. Her presence on stage and reliability are anchors for the band. I was particularly impressed by her ability to move between more folky-type songs and full-on vocals on tracks such as Don’t Do This For Money, a real belter of a tune.
The band look and sound like they are in transition at the moment. Their set is varied and there are a number of different and competing influences.
I suppose they are The Rock & Roll Disaster Mark Two. They will find their own sound in good time. Songwriting is a collective effort; a writers' cooperative. Tracks can be credited to Le Gallez, Guppy and Mark Gillson, who has been playing guitar only for a year or two.
Garrick Jones on keyboard and saxophone gives the band more depth and the ability to perform songs such as Ghost, which was the track that stood out for me on the night at The Vault. It freed Guppy to deliver a Dave Stewart-like guitar solo and Smith delivered the vocal with ease. Adrian Miller on bass, Mark Gillson on rhythm guitar and Sean Bennett on drums complete the sound and the line-up.
Having six musicians on stage does introduce a few complexities - or bus stop challenges. That’s to say, it’s easier to jump on a bus, to start a tune than to jump off the bus at the same time, which requires a certain discipline. But the odd ragged ending is not the end of the world - nor a rock and roll disaster for that matter.
The band have a feelgood vibe about them, an energy and drive. On another night, without the spectre of covid, The Vault would have been jammed to the rafters and dancing revellers would have added to the ambiance.
Calling a band The Rock & Roll Disaster is, I suppose, a type of disclaimer or an insurance policy. But they need not be quite so self-conscious and should build on what they already have.
Their existing back catalogue is worth listening to. You can hear their Mod-like, edgy, punctuated, sharp lyrics with a detectable trace of Northern Soul together with the more lyrical, reflective, gentler sounds of the newer material.
They are a band worth watching and you might be moved to dance too.
The Rock & Roll Disaster were supported on the night by Stuart Leach and Callum Aitken. The two shared duties on acoustic guitar and cajon. Their acoustic Christmas covers went down well with the audience. They also sang The Risk’s classic Good Times. I’m sure Le Gallez, now making music and good times somewhere else in the world, would have approved.