the red penguin

Darling Buds, Keeley – The Thunderbolt, Bristol

I think I forgot how far Bristol was when I booked this. (Actually it wasn’t bad. 2 hrs 45 mins going on a Saturday afternoon, 2 hrs 25 mins coming home on a Sunday morning).

That wasn’t quite true too – The Darling Buds are playing in London in November, and I make a point of going to every “local” Darling Buds gig. Except I can’t go to this one, so I decided to go to the only other gig they’ve announced for 2023, which was this one.

I booked it some months ago and looked at hotel prices a couple of weeks ago. Nothing less than £160 a night! I was going to give it a miss, but then I found an Airbnb available for £49, so I decided to go for it after all. The Airbnb was 1 1/2 miles from the venue, so I decided to walk the 30 minutes to the venue. Drizzle turned into proper rain, so I ended up decamping first to the Southside Bar, and a couple of pints of Asahi dried me out.

I got to the Thunderbolt in time to catch Keeley’s set. Keeley had been a visitor to our radio station yesterday and I came along for the session, and here we are 24 hours later, 160 miles away! It was a great set – her songs really jumped to life on stage. Hard to believe it’s only her 5th gig ever.

The Darling Buds are starting to creep more and more new songs into their set, with good reason – I have it on good authority that a new album is getting closer. It will be the first since 1992’s Erotica; with terrible record company timing, an album released at the same time as Madonna’s album of the same name. The Darling Buds’ one is much better though!

    Darling Buds setlist:

  • Oh No You Don’t
  • Honeysuckle
  • Cast A Stone
  • Big Head
  • Evergreen
  • Sure Thing
  • Hey St Jude
  • It Makes No Difference
  • Fall
  • Pretenders
  • Complicated
  • Hit The Ground
  • Jump In
  • Burst
  • Shame On You
  • Do You Have To Break My Heart?

    Keeley setlist:

  • Last Words
  • Where The Monster Lives
  • Shadow On The Hills
  • Scratches On Your Face
  • Railway Stations
  • To a London Sunrise
  • Never Here Always There
  • Boarded Up In Belfast
  • Forever’s Where You Are
  • Echo Everywhere
  • Arrive Alive

Saturday 16 September 2023, 1669 views

Fightmilk, Feeble Strength – Signature Brew, Haggerston

If bands have “home” venues, this is Fightmilk’s. It’s the third time I’ve seen them here since the start of last year and I am sure I have missed a few too.

It’s Signature Brew’s 5th birthday, and there were a lot of people milling about, drinking Signature Brew’s beer (which is NOT FOR ME) and eating what appeared to be free chocolate cake, but I didn’t have any of that in case I wasn’t privileged enough.

I managed to catch the whole set from Feeble Strength, which was great in a rocking power-pop kind of way. Can’t find a lot of material online for them though.

Fightmilk performed a fairly short set of seven songs, four of which will be on the next album. I had a quick chat with Lily (where else but in the world’s longest toilet queue relative to the number of people there) and she told me they are currently recording it, which is good news. New songs are sounding great so I’m looking forward to that!


  • Overbite
  • Summer Bodies
  • Canines
  • My Best Me
  • Hey Annabelle!
  • I’m Starting To Think You Don’t Even Want To Go To Space
  • Eating For Two (Live debut)

Thursday 14 September 2023, 1690 views

Thousand Yard Stare – The Lexington, Islington

I’ve done the “two Thousand Yard Stare gigs in two days” thing before. Last time, they played two completely different sets. This time, it was the same set each night. That didn’t bother me at all. I was more impressed that I was able to stand up at gigs on consecutive nights!

I was with Mrs Penguin tonight and we drove there from Billericay in about the same time it took me to drive to Brighton yesterday. And we managed to park up in our secret (and legal) parking space one minute’s walk from the Lexington, which is always empty!

As I was front and centre last night I was happy to have a bit of a restricted view at the side near the padded seats, although the view there was still pretty good. Sound was quite good although last night was excellent and probably a little better. Roll on 2024, when I am hoping there will be more gigs …


  • Schism Algorithm
  • Version Of Me
  • Heimlich Maneuver
  • Buttermouth
  • Esprit du Corps
  • Keepsake
  • Comeuppance
  • What’s Your Level?
  • Seasonstream
  • Square Peg/Round Hole
  • 0-0 A.E.T.
  • Wideshire
  • A Thousand Yards (A Panglossian Momentum)


  • Wonderment
  • (It Sparks! was on the setlist but wasn’t played).

(Copied and pasted from last night!)

Saturday 9 September 2023, 1966 views

Thousand Yard Stare – Prince Albert, Brighton

I have no idea how I managed to take this photo!

Thousand Yard Stare don’t play many gigs these days but I try to get myself to all of them within sensible driving distance, so that includes the 75 miles each way to Brighton, which took just 75 minutes getting home and only slightly longer going there. It often takes me more than an hour and a quarter getting home from London.

I booked this gig in March – my 14th TYS gig and my 12th since they reformed 8 years ago. As singer Stephen Barnes remarked from the stage, they’ve actually been together twice as long second time round than they were in their major label heyday of 1989 to 1993 – although I imagine they played 100s of gigs in those two years.

I’ve been to this venue once before and it’s pretty good – 100 capacity, convenient car park around the corner (it’s expensive, but everything in Brighton is), air conditioned – which didn’t quite turn the room into a fridge, but as it was the hottest day of the year at 32C (and it’s September!) it was still welcome. And the sound is good too, which is always important.

Thousand Yard Stare are a rare 90s band who reformed and decided that new material would be a big part of what they do – and the two albums they’ve released in the last couple of years are really strong contenders too with no filler. And they are *still* incredibly tight on stage. I can’t recall exactly how tight they were when I saw them in the 90s but it’s clear they’ve put in quite a few thousand hours since then.

Sadly I didn’t get there in time for support John MOuse, but I had 1 hour and 30 minutes of perfect giggery, and it was nice to have a brief chat with some of the band afterwards. I was particularly humbled that Stephen had remembered I was planning to move house when I spoke to him in November, and he asked me how it was going!


  • Schism Algorithm
  • Version Of Me
  • Heimlich Maneuver
  • Buttermouth
  • Esprit du Corps
  • Keepsake
  • Comeuppance
  • What’s Your Level?
  • Seasonstream
  • Square Peg/Round Hole
  • 0-0 A.E.T.
  • Wideshire
  • A Thousand Yards (A Panglossian Momentum)


  • Wonderment
  • (It Sparks! was on the setlist but wasn’t played).

Friday 8 September 2023, 2124 views

Awst – Afallon

Is it easy listening, is it psychedelia? Much in the way that Ynys got under my skin last year with their fantastically mellow debut, I’m loving Afallon from Awst at the moment. It’s out

Awst is Welsh for August, and Afallon is a legendary island that appears in the Arthurian legend, translated into English as Avalon although the Welsh pronunciation will be slightly trickier than that.

Awst is Eryri musician Cynyr Hamer, who I’ve come across before in his other bands Hippies vs Ghosts and Worldcub. The song is about not being able to recapture childhood memories of long hot summers in the 90s, spending time with family in his grandparents home.

The track is taken from his new album Mewn C​ô​f (In Memory) – something I’m going to have to start checking out. It’s one of three albums he’s released under the Awst name this year.

Tuesday 5 September 2023, 2591 views

Be Your Own Pet – Rough Trade East, Whitechapel

If you play two different countries does that count as a World Tour?

Tuesday night and off out to a gig on my own again! I was tempted to go and see Be You Own Pet when they came to the UK a couple of months ago, but I didn’t end up getting tickets. I’d forgotten about tonight and it had sold out, but at 4pm today I was informed that I’d got a ticket from the waiting list (or they released final tickets, who knows) so I decided to snap one up, drive down to Shenfield and get the fast train to Liverpool Street.

I think part of my snap decision was made because I haven’t had a lot of work today so I’ve been writing up my gig diaries, a project I’ve been doing for 18 years! I’d love to be a 1000-gig guy but I think 750 is more of a likely target. Another reason may be because it looks like I’m moving 200 miles from London in the New Year, so I just won’t be able to do this in future – all my gigs will have to be a little bit better planned. And of course another reason is that I like Be Your Own Pet! I’ve only seen them once before, at the 2006 Reading Festival – they split up two years later. But I’ve been enjoying their comeback album Mommy which came out last week, so it wasn’t a difficult decision in the end.

It was also my first time at Rough Trade East, although I had been to 93 Feet East (just around the corner) a couple of times in its mid-2000s heyday. I’m never very keen on record shop gigs, although this is a big record shop and there was a reasonable amount of space close to the front if you got there early enough.

The entry fee to the gig – £16 – came with a CD copy of the new album, which I gratefully received, even though I’ll probably never take it out of the wrapper and just play it on Spotify. It’s comforting to think that CDs are still a thing to collect, even if it’s not really the case any more.

The set was an hour long, the band’s energy was pretty high throughout and the sound was actually pretty good. As the bass player mentioned more than once – I didn’t notice any shortcomings.

The gig finished at about 9.05pm and despite the venue being over a half mile walk from Liverpool Street station, I was sitting back on my settee at home just before 10pm. I’m going to miss gigs like this!

Tuesday 29 August 2023, 2862 views

Brian Butterfield – Bush Hall, Shepherd’s Bush

The gig was a warm up for his debut tour, and not listed on the poster. But it’s definitely worth printing the poster.

Saturday is treat day! Along with some fantastic gigs from Blur and Pulp – and a new Blur album – this summer has been full of surprises. The surprises continue with a live gig ahead of a full tour from everyone’s favourite TV businessman, Brian Butterfield.

I absolutely loved the Peter Serafinowicz Show when it was broadcast in 2007 and never understood why the BBC never kept it going. I still have the DVD somewhere – and all the episodes are still up on YouTube. But I’m surprised that after 16 years he’s decided to take Brian Butterfield out on the road.

This was the first time I’d been to Bush Hall for 9 years – and it hasn’t changed at all in that time. There are some things I hate about it. They don’t ever engage with anyone, they didn’t post any info about this show anywhere, they don’t answer the phone or reply to social media. And if you want a beer, it has to be a craft beer, the Beazer Homes League of beers. And they laid out 300 chairs which look like – and felt like – they’d been sequestered from a primary school. But the venue’s nice inside.

As a result of the “no info” other than a “start time” of 7.30pm, we joined about 250 other people queuing up in the rain, as we’d all got there after about 7pm expecting to get in. They opened the doors at around 7.45pm. As I once ran a bar, this is inexplicable. Why don’t the staff just turn up early and sell a few drinks to people?

Anyway enough complaining – Bush Hall is in Shepherd’s Bush, which has 500 restaurants per square yard, so we managed to get something to eat from the excellent Tiger’s Diner. This was the best burger I’ve had in years. I’m not really a burger and chips guy and I hate the brioche efforts they sell for 20 quid in pubs now. This was much much better, and much cheaper too.

So onto the gig. His whole act is “funny incompetence”, exemplified by little attentions to detail that you’d miss if you weren’t paying attention. For example, he doesn’t mention his email address on his mailing list, but it’s

All the same, I had no idea what to expect – and I didn’t think he’d have an hour and 45 minutes of material either, as all of the clips on the TV show only added up to about 12 minutes. But it was great to see him back – and the beauty of playing a character like this is that he looks exactly the same which just adds to the nostalgia.

The show took the form of a very badly run business seminar. Some of it was laugh-out-loud hilarious and some of it seemed to drag, but overall most of it worked well, and considering it was his first live show I thought it was pretty good. The audience were very receptive to him too.

There was a bit of audience participation in the show which I managed to avoid, although the people who got up on stage seemed to be just a little bit too confident in that situation, and I wonder if they were plants. (Might be a bit unfair – but I would have gone to pieces up there).

I didn’t hang around to get a Butterfield University certificate or buy a packet of bonbonbonbons (yes, really). Shepherd’s Bush is so far away from Essex it might as well be in Wales. Headed back home at around 10.45, to endure all the cancelled trains at Liverpool Street.

I won’t post up too many spoilers, but my favourite line had me laughing more than I should have. “I should point out this that isn’t an encore. I simply forgot to do this part of the show.” Now that’s how you come back for more.

Sunday 6 August 2023, 5076 views

Pulp – Apollo, Hammersmith

I don’t like much about e-tickets, but I like the fact that this e-ticket actually looks like a ticket

This was something I was looking forward to ever since getting the tickets, which admittedly wasn’t that long ago. My first headline Pulp gig since December 1995. And it’s at a small venue! The comeback gig was at the awful Finsbury Park, but I was away and couldn’t get tickets for that. And we had seats! And we’re in the second row of the balcony! And the people in front of us aren’t seven feet tall!

We’d driven over to Northfields, about 4 stops west of Hammersmith along the Piccadilly line, and booked a hotel as we had a very early start at Heathrow the next day (picking up our kids sadly, not going on holiday). As a result we missed the support, Lisa O’Neill, as we were stuffing our faces with beer and pizza, something I seem to do less and less as I get older.

What can I say about Pulp? Jarvis Cocker (age 59 3/4) runs around the stage like he’s half his age, and he has such amazing stage presence you can’t take your eyes off him at any time. The stage was set out almost like those old Morecambe and Wise/Des O’Connor TV specials, with different performers on different levels, and a staircase in the middle. The sound was good, the lighting great, the setlist almost perfect.

Let’s hope this isn’t a final curtain call – they’re too good live to make this a last hurrah.


  • I Spy
  • Disco 2000
  • Mis-Shapes
  • Something Changed
  • Pink Glove
  • Weeds
  • Weeds II (The Origin of the Species)
  • F.E.E.L.I.N.G.C.A.L.L.E.D.L.O.V.E.
  • Sorted for E’s & Wizz
  • This Is Hardcore
  • Do You Remember the First Time?
  • Babies
  • Sunrise


  • Like a Friend
  • Underwear
  • Common People

    Encore 2:

  • After You
  • Razzmatazz
  • Glory Days
  • Hymn of the North

Friday 28 July 2023, 4660 views

Blur, Self Esteem – Wembley Stadium, Wembley

My 11th Blur gig, and my biggest one ever.

There had been rumours this was coming – but there have been before. The gig was announced in November, so I’ve been looking forward to this for over 6 months.

I expected this to sell out quickly – and it did. Being 39,633th in queue at one point meant I wasn’t going to get a great view, but we got there in the end.

I was a little bit peeved about being 2/3 of the way back until the Newcastle warm up gig was announced – and I got tickets for that. So much more relaxed about being here, with supports I wasn’t so keen on.

What I didn’t expect was a second Wembley gig which didn’t sell out so quickly and had better support acts – oh well!

Sleaford Mods replaced Slowthai on the bill. I missed them as we were a bit short of time (we weren’t, but I was having a rare evening of beer and pizza). The ‘Mods didn’t go down too well with the crowd according to The Idiots On Social Media, but I’ve seen them before and really enjoyed them.

We caught just a bit of Self Esteem’s act. Everyone raves about her but I just don’t get it. Nothing that everyone hasn’t heard before. Sorry!

Obviously this was my second Blur gig and a much different affair to Newcastle. It was a shame I was so far away from the stage that even my 100x zoom on my camera couldn’t fix it. It was nice to have your own space though, to see everything and not have someone take your half a square yard every time you shifted from one foot to another.

And for a stadium gig, it seemed incredibly intimate. The sound was good and it genuinely felt like it was a smaller venue at times. Two hours and ten minutes which just flew by. Worth every penny.

Setlist not quite as good as Newcastle’s but still excellent – they have never been anything less than that. And every single Blur gig is a bonus!


  • The Debt Collector (played from tape)
  • St Charles Square
  • There’s No Other Way
  • Popscene
  • Tracy Jacks
  • Beetlebum
  • Trimm Trabb
  • Villa Rosie
  • Stereotypes
  • Out Of Time
  • Coffee & TV
  • Under The Westway (First time live since 2014)
  • End Of A Century (Preceded by applause for Freddie Mercury)
  • Country House (Preceded by Damon going into a tent on stage to find out who was in it)
  • Parklife (with Phil Daniels)
  • To The End
  • Oily Water
  • Advert
  • Song 2 (With false start)
  • This Is A Low


  • Lot 105 (First time live since 1994; with “Wembley” intro and chant throughout)
  • Girls & Boys
  • For Tomorrow
  • Tender (with London Community Gospel Choir)
  • The Narcissist
  • The Universal

My crappy Ticketmaster mobile ticket

And here are some pics that were clearly not taken by me, using my phone, in the next postcode down:

Saturday 8 July 2023, 4556 views

Swearing in Welsh

I play a lot of Welsh language music because it’s great – and there’s a vibrant Welsh music scene at the moment (Adwaith, Sybs, Ynys etc).

I was vaguely aware of Ffa Coffi Pawb, a Welsh band active on the influential Anskt label between 1986 and 1992. The band included a very young Gruff Rhys and Dafydd Ieuan, who both went on to form Super Furry Animals, and Dewi Emlyn, who would later be part of Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci.

To mark the 30th anniversary of the band’s final show, they’ve just released Hei Vidal!, their 3rd album, as a clear 12” vinyl, red 12” vinyl (limited to 1000 copies) and CD, with a new video for Ffarout.

And I love the choice of band name, which translates into English as “everybody’s coffee beans”. A bit of an odd decision you’d think, until you discover that “ffa coffi pawb” and “ffoc off i pawb” sound the same in Welsh, and the latter means “fuck off, everyone”. Like I did today.

The band has an active website at

Friday 9 June 2023, 9035 views