Babylon + Sparrowhawk + The Last Dregs + Serena Joy At Zombie Shack: Live Review
We’re at Zombie Shack – a Hawaiian themed live music venue situated above The Thirsty Scholar in Manchester city centre and there’s not a zombie in sight, not one, unless you count the headless skeleton suspended in a net from the ceiling, amongst all other manner of washed-up debris and tropical paraphernalia. The first of four bands to grace the small, Palm tree-lined stage tonight is Serena Joy, a young Indie-Pop-Rock quartet from Lincoln.
The Smiths and Blossoms-inspired band, who are making their Manchester debut this evening, play a seven-song set, which includes their current single, Hypnotised. The upbeat tune is well received by the crowd and sparks some lively dancing in front of the stage. Joe Brundell on vocals, Scott Lakin on guitar, Adam Laver on bass and Josh King on drums round off a tight, proficient performance with their upcoming single, Living The Dream, which was recorded and produced by Guy Elderfield and is due out for release on 7th September.
When the next act come on, I realize that a couple of the high-spirited revellers I’d spotted on the dancefloor during Serena Joy’s set were members of The Last Dregs, a young Punk Rock band from Manchester. The six band members range in age from 18-20 but one of the guitarists’ Dads is standing in for their bass player who unfortunately couldn’t make it tonight. The band’s instantly likeable long-haired frontman/ringleader Evan McDermott certainly isn’t shy and shouts “Well Zombie Shack, how are you tonight? We are the shittiest band in Manchester and this is a song called Daytime Drinking!”, immediately endearing himself to everyone present.
Starting with a loud “1 2 3 4!”, the raw, heavily Ramones-influenced vibe draws me in like a moth to a flame and makes me rush to the front of the stage with an enormous grin on my face. The fun-filled set is dripping with carefree, anarchistic Punk Rock attitude (without the dangerous edge) and as a huge Ramones fan, I’m thrilled that their legacy lives on in a new generation of young musicians. Most of The Last Dregs’ songs start the same way or with a “Hey-ho, let’s go!” and they even put their own spin on (an almost unrecognizable) Blitzkreig Bop! Whilst they don’t quite compare to The Ramones musicianship-wise, I really like the energy of this band and they have a brilliant Punk Rock name to boot!
They clearly don’t take themselves too seriously and are having a blast, singing raucous, lighthearted songs about random things and playing the kind of music that they love. McDermott is a confident, charismatic frontman and isn’t afraid to come right out into the audience or push his fellow bandmates around on stage (they don’t seem to mind, I guess they’re used to it). Something about him makes me think of a teenage Axl Rose – not vocally, but with exactly the same colour hair and similar mannerisms and moves - I’m just waiting for McDermott to do the ‘Serpentine’… maybe that will come later.
The set continues with the songs The Last Dregs, SuperSized Sally, You Know You Like Me, and then McDermott asks “Does anyone like Wham!?”, before launching into a completely unexpected Punk-encrusted cover of Careless Whisper. After ending on Perpetually Pissed, McDermott says “We’re The Last Dregs and we’ve been f**king shit. Goodnight to you all!”, which receives cheers and applause from the crowd. The Last Dregs really don’t give themselves enough credit. They may not be the best band around but they did something special tonight – they made me feel the same sense of elation and ‘joie de vivre’ I felt when I used to go and see underground Punk bands in seedy clubs around Camden back in the day. And for this I’m grateful.
Local four-piece Alt-Rock outfit, Sparrowhawk have attracted the biggest crowd of the night. The band, which has only been together just over a year, are playing their first gig since April and open with their latest, catchy single, Don’t Sing. Their second song, Infinity, which has never been played live before, goes down well and the set also includes the tracks I Want You, Hiding, Run, Break The Mold and Home. Sparrowhawk, consisting of Michael Murphy on vocals and bass, Jordan Beardall on guitar and vocals, Adam Keogh on guitar and Derek Woolley on drums, treat us to an unrefined ‘feathery fusion’ of dirty Blues and classic Rock, showing a lot of potential and coming across as thoroughly nice fellas.
Local Indie-Rock four-piece Babylon, who take their influence from bands such as Milburn, Oasis and Arctic Monkeys, play an acoustic set with just three of their members tonight; Dom Ingleby, James Germaine and Will Bickerdike. The eight-song set includes Keys & Baggie, Time And Waster, Midnight Shift, Fabricator, Could Be Worse, latest single Forever Temporary, Cynic and Blind Nights. The band, who only formed last year, play well together, although most of the previous acts’ fans have already left, leaving Zombie Shack quite empty by the time Babylon come on, which is a real shame. It’s been an evening brimming with mixed genres and styles, performed by promising young musicians who truly deserve to have their music heard by a wider audience.
Special thanks to Danny Daemon at Grand Central for saving the day by kindly donating some much needed equipment and ensuring that the show could go on – Cheers!