Ricky Warwick/Smithgrind - Pontypool, The Hog And Hosper - 25th April 2010 Print E-mail
Written by Gaz E   
Tuesday, 04 May 2010 05:00



Pontypool; a name that Über Röckers worldwide might be familiar with due to the cool Canadian horror flick of the same name that was made a couple of years ago but, for me, a place that harbours strong memories.....


....over two decades ago I did as little learning as possible at Pontypool College, but important things happened to me while I was there; I found out that my precious Mötley Crüe concert ticket was worthless due to some dubious snow on the roof, bought that great Faster Pussycat debut in local record emporium RPM Records, had a valentine card from a girl known as Keri Birdshit-Hair and, last but by1alive2 no means least, got slung out of college for throwing a sickie to go and see Judas Priest. Anyone doubting my sacrifices to metal please close the door on the way out.


It wasn't long after my unceremonious departure from the homophobic halls of the establishment - there had to be a connection with Rob Halford, surely?! - that I discovered an awesome band called The Almighty. It was at Cardiff Bogiez that I first saw them, playing with Horse London. It took all of about twelve seconds for them to become by new favourite band. A band that I would stick by through genre and line-up shifts and whose singer I would continue to follow as he reinvented himself as a singer songwriter in the Mike Ness mould. And it is he who is the reason that I find myself in a cool pub full of good people on a warm April night.


I've seen local support act Smithgrind before and, as then, enjoyed what they had to offer. A little more crowd-friendly on this night compared to when I last saw them competing with some real bruising bands - covers of 'Whisky In The Jar' and 'For Whom The Bell Tolls' for instance - but as a warm up they don't disappoint. Their cheeky encore of 'Wild & Wonderful' is the first song that I have even seen performed live where every single person in the audience turns away from the band, in this case looking for the reaction of the song's writer who is sitting smiling at the merch stand.


With zero fanfare that same songwriter appears before us all and, armed with an acoustic guitar and a distinctive voice, tears straight into a performance that is pretty much universally adored by those in attendance. No setlist, just song after song and story after story of the choicest cuts1alive1 of Warwick's solo career mixed with some classic tunes from The Almighty back catalogue and a spattering of crowd-pleasing cover versions. 'Running Free' is the first song to get everyone in the building yelling at the top of their voices, but 'Ace Of Spades' - "Lemmy Kilmister for Prime Minister" - isn't too far behind. The influences are apparent in broad, brash strokes - 'Ring Of Fire', 'I Fought The Law', 'Dancing In The Dark' - but it is the "song by the Smithgrind boys" that sets the place alight. 'Wild & Wonderful' gets the old school fans singing, as does 'Free 'N' Easy' and 'Jesus Loves You...But I Don't', curiously though, not all of these people seem familiar with the truly great version of 'Jonestown Mind' from 'Crank' - did the beer taste like grape?


A brand new song called 'Goliath', written about the shipbuilding cranes at Queen's Island, Belfast, gets an airing alongside 'Mysterioso', the opening track of that impressive solo debut 'Tattoos & Alibis', 'The Church Of Paranoia' and 'The Arms Of Belfast Town', taken from last year's truly great 'Belfast Confetti' album, that comes complete with possibly the friendliest stage invasion ever. And that's the overall feeling of the place come the end of the set, everyone is grinning, sweaty and a little hoarse but secure in the knowledge that they have probably witnessed the greatest ever gig in Pontypool.


Any locals upset by this claim, remember one thing - I risked my future by watching a gay man ride a motorbike onto the stage of Newport Centre....I know my shit.