BABY SHAKES & PROTEX - Menagerie, Belfast 05.08.18

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BABY SHAKES & PROTEX - Menagerie, Belfast 05.08.18

Post by MULLY »


The Menagerie 5th August 2018

A couple of months ago I received an e-mail with an attached YouTube clip – nothing unusual there – except, it was a link to a young, female fronted band performing RUDI’s ‘Big Time’. Three denim jacketed, mini-skirted young ladies - sporting Fenders and Rickenbackers, ably backed by a male drummer - were performing the best cover version of a RUDI song I had ever heard and they followed this with one of their own tunes (which piqued my interest further). This was my introduction to Baby Shakes. After re-watching the clip (and eventually managing to lift my jaw from the floor) I was instantly enamoured and interested to see what else this band had to offer. Anyway, it was soon after this that I heard they were going to be playing in Belfast and the date was duly highlighted on my calendar – the 5th August at The Menagerie. Be there or be cuboid.

And so the day arrived – Baby Shakes and old Good Vibration stalwarts Protex were in town to entertain the troops. It was a Sunday night and with most of the usual movers’n’shakers from the Belfast ‘scene’ still over at Rebellion Punk festival – I was unsure what size and type of crowd would turn up. Undeterred, I headed into town on the unreliable Sunday bus service, aiming to arrive shortly after doors opened at 20:00. Turning into the venue’s pot-hole stricken car-park, I saw this evening’s promoter Ryan standing at the door – a handshake and catch up chat heralded my entrance down into the refurbished Menagerie for a pre-concert libation. Only bottled beer this evening – no biggie, as long as it’s alcoholic I’m on board – and so I re-emerged from the darkness back outside for a smoke. It was hard not to eavesdrop on a neighbouring conversation about holidaying in Donegal but I was soon dragged away from that as Barry arrived, and with more liquid refreshment purchased, we caught up on Stranglers, Iron Maiden and the upcoming Good Vibrations play in the Lyric Theatre. As we chatted we were joined by Aidan, the guitarist/vocalist with Protex and John, the erstwhile baby boomer bassist – the conversation continued and general hilarity ensued.

Aidan and John were due onstage soon, so we all re-entered the venue (managing to navigate down the perilous stairwell into the main room) and took up our position at the corner of the bar. The place had filled up quite well – allaying any fears that no-one would be coming down tonight – and bodies were still filing in. Many familiar faces were present – Terri Hooley and side-kick Stuart Bailie were holding court, The Maxwell Brothers, Glenn Patterson, Benny, Stephen with partner and Brian and Liz Young had all arrived. The Baby Shakes girls were also milling around the stage and merch stall, so I took this opportunity to present them each with a CD of a Radio Ulster broadcast about N.I. Punk. They seemed genuinely thrilled and in turn gave me a copy of their latest CD ‘Turn It Up’. Cool. I knew they were friends with another Brooklyn band – Daddy Long Legs – who had played Belfast a while ago and when chatting with their lead singer discovered the Good Vibrations label and the Ulster punk bands were highly regarded in the underground scene. So I knew Mary, Judy and Claudia (and Ryan) would be interested in the documentary. It’s not only ‘Big Time’ they play live – but they also cover The ‘Tones ‘Teenage Kicks’ and The Starjets ‘Any Danger Love’. That, and the fact Judy is married to Tre (owner/founder of Sing Sing Records NY – who co-incidently re-issued two of RUDI’s old singles) meant they were into their punk rock history. We talked about their recent previous two gigs in Londonderry and Dublin and I also took this opportunity to introduce Barry to the band – after all he was once (an Idiot) on the Good Vibrations repertoire – and he didn’t even have to name his song, Claudia knew it.

Protex were ready to take the stage and were tuning up. The girls moved centre stage to watch as the band kicked off with ‘Jeepster’ – during which Aidan broke a guitar string – as he ably struggled on Baby Shakes gave him one of their guitars for the next song, as they smuggled the offending instrument offside to perform life saving string replacement surgery. As luck would have it, halfway through song number two, the strap on Aidan’s guitar decided it had had enough and parted company with the guitar!! By the third song, normal service was resumed – a newly strung and strapped guitar was ready – the band played on. The original Protex line-up split back in the ‘80s but had reformed a few years back – with Aidan the sole survivor – but the recent configuration have released an new album and tonight’s performance celebrated the old and the new. Classic songs like ‘I Can’t Cope’, ‘Place In My Heart’ and the superb ‘Strange Obsessions’ sit well with the new material ‘Tightrope’ and ‘Shining Star’. I have to admit tonight was one of the best ‘new’ Protex performances I have seen and/or heard. They closed their set with their Good Vibes debut 7” ‘Don’t Ring Me Up’.

Outside for a smoke before the main event and back in in time to take advantage of a thinning queue for the bar, we repositioned ourselves with bottle(s) in hand for the headlining act. The girls looked great on stage, beckoning the crowd closer to the stage and kicked off with my favourite song ‘Do What You Want’ (was I the only one to join in on the ‘HEY!!? :oops:). Having genned up on their back catalogue, there were only a few tracks I hadn’t heard before – but every one sounded fantastic. ‘Stuck On Blue’, ‘Summer Sun’ and ‘Turn It Up’ were all played to perfection and had the crowd bouncing. The girls play a garage, power-pop style of music – but there is definitely hints to the Good Vibes influence – the songs are fast but with that quintessential punky-pop melody. It’s The Supremes meet The Barracudas. A couple of covers made it into tonight’s performance – Nick Lowe’s ‘Heart of the City’ (which although good, was in my opinion the let down song of the performance) and two others featured as encore tracks. They closed the set with a kick-ass version of Johnny Thunders’ ‘I Wanna Be Loved’ all tribal drums and thrashing guitars. But penultimately, they called up Brian as a special guest to sing ‘Big Time’ with them. The girls were visibly nervous (perhaps understandably) but they nailed it – Brian looking somewhat awkward onstage without his customary Gretsch slung over his shoulder and admitted afterward he’d have preferred to play and let the girls sing it.

And that was it. A general mill around chatting at the bar, catching up with various reprobates I had missed earlier. Even though they had already kindly given me their CD, I did notice the merch stand had some vinyl offerings and they were calling out to me like The Sirens on the rocks called Jason (and look how that turned out!!). On purchase I was further inundated with various stickers (even managing to wangle a set-list) before returning to the fray. Photo opportunities were weird – punters were trying to get selfies with the band who in turn were trying to get selfies with Brian!! Eventually the crowd thinned and I was offered a lift home – which of course I gladly accepted. And that was it. Back home, I skinned up, poured myself a beer and cranked up ‘Do What You Want’ on the CD player. “HEY!!”

This could be the band to follow whenever The Stranglers call it a day – and you won’t get a bigger or better compliment than that.
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Re: BABY SHAKES & PROTEX - Menagerie, Belfast 05.08.18

Post by zamaguire »

Nothing else will be worth following after the stranglers.

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Re: BABY SHAKES & PROTEX - Menagerie, Belfast 05.08.18

Post by laurie »

I will call it a day when The Stranglers do
do you wanna

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Re: BABY SHAKES & PROTEX - Menagerie, Belfast 05.08.18

Post by MiB81 »

Sounds like a cool night, cheers for that Mully :wink:
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