the red penguin

Fonda 500, Bugeye, Hurtling, Colossus – Amersham Arms, New Cross

With my possible move away from Essex looming I won’t be able to make any last minute decisions to go and see gigs like this any more, unless they’re playing an hour or so from my new place (spoiler: they won’t), so it was indeed very much a last minute decision to drive down the A2 for my first gig in New Cross since 1996. It’s an easy drive from Basildon too – just 45 minutes going there, longer coming home. I can’t remember seeing quite so many diversionless road closures for “roadworks” in one evening but that’s another story …

I was really going on the strength of Hurtling and Bugeye, two bands I’ve seen before – weirdly, at the same venue in Bishop’s Stortford on different days, a venue I’d only been to on those two occasions. But I made sure to get there in time for the first act as I’d heard Colossus were good, and they were indeed – a very charismatic and slightly crazy frontman who had a “two microphone” thing going on which I didn’t understand, but it was a great set all the same.

Hurtling were up next, nowhere near as crazy but sounding massive thanks to Jen Macro’s awesome guitarwork.

Bugeye were the standout in a very good evening for me. I don’t understand why this band aren’t bigger – great stage presence and big infectious tunes. I spoke to a couple of the band afterwards and told them they need to play more gigs!

Headliners Fonda 500 are just about to call it a day, having been around since the 90s. This was their last London gig and I’m a bit disappointed I’ve only just discovered them – been enjoying playing their albums on Spotify since this show. Really hard to categorise too – a mix of The Fall, Stereolab, Saint Etienne, Art Brut and lots more.

I’ve put up a ton more photos here:

Thursday 26 October 2023, 4301 views

Snow Coats, Toodles and the Hectic Pity – Signature Brew, Haggerston

The second date I caught on the current tour – got there nice and early this time. I’d interviewed lead singer Anouk earlier in the day for the radio, so got a chance to say hello to her before the show. The set was slightly longer than Monday’s, and I got to see Toodles and the Hectic Pity in support too. Looking forward to more new music from them whenever that’s coming!

Wednesday 27 September 2023, 4196 views

Snow Coats – Tunbridge Wells Forum

The “before” and “after” gig posters:

The first of two Snow Coats gigs this week. They’re a band from Arnhem in the Netherlands and I have assumed they aren’t going to be playing too many random gigs in the UK. I’m still absolutely loving their album “If it wasn’t me, I would’ve called it funny” which came out in September last year, so I wasn’t going to pass up the chance of catching them live.

Except I almost did tonight. I found out just before leaving home that this gig, planned for the Sussex Arms, and the one in the Forum “hadn’t sold too well” so the venues decided to merge the two shows. Instead of headlining, Snow Coats were first on at the Forum instead, so if I hadn’t been trying to find out stage times I would have missed them, something I wouldn’t have called funny. As it was, I headed down just in time and caught a fantastic set from them. Looking forward to Wednesday now!


  • Punching Bag
  • Chevy
  • OK ok (Sue)
  • Anyway
  • Amber
  • Dreaming In The Car
  • Dinosaur
  • Marie

Monday 25 September 2023, 4129 views

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, 8576 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, 8451 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, 8649 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, 8784 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, 9310 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, 9402 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, 11580 views