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English Pub-Rock and The League Bowlers - by Ricki C.

The League Bowlers will open for Bava Choco at Ace of Cups this Friday evening, January 6th.  Doors at 8 pm, League Bowlers at 9 pm, Bava Choco at 10:30 pm.  Admission is FREE, info at Aceofcupsbar.com.    


Pub-rock in England was an early to mid-1970’s phenomenon/trend that never really translated to America.  Spearheaded by bands like Brinsley Schwarz (which featured a pre-Stiff Records Nick Lowe as co-lead vocalist & songwriter) and Ducks Deluxe, pub-rock was a reaction to the prog-rock and glam-rock trends that dominated English music from 1972 on.  Playing tiny bar venues with small Fender amps and a decidedly low-key but ROCKING return-to-three-minute-songs attitude, pub-rock offered an up-close & personal style of rock & roll for music fans sick to death of 17-minute Yes orchestral suites or the glam-rock stylings of David Bowie, Sweet and Slade.*  Lipstick 'n' lace just didn’t cut it with your workaday rocker soccer fan.  

(* All of whom I loved, by the way, but that's an entirely different blog for a whole 'nother day.)

Pub-rock was the immediate precursor to punk-rock in England and, very likely, punk-rock would never have happened without its musical cousin.  One of the nascent Sex Pistols’ first gigs was an opening slot for Joe Strummer’s pub-rock outfit The 101-ers at stalwart pub-rock venue the Nashville Club (see vintage 1976 review below).  That was the night Strummer glimpsed the musical future spread out before him, leading to his defection to The Clash, and likely sounding the death knell for pub-rock as a music movement.  (Pub-rock also spawned Ian Dury – from Kilburn & the High Roads – and Elvis Costello, who used to open shows and occasionally haul amps for Brinsley Schwarz, fostering his later artist/producer relationship with Nick Lowe.)  

Anyway, I often think of The League Bowlers as a 21st-century incarnation of an English pub-rock band: a repertoire consisting of a handful of catchy, feel-good originals (Kids Down South, Half Of Me, Pretty In A Slutty Way) interspersed with a rockin’ dose of their favorite cover tunes (from The Mavericks to Dwight Yoakam to The Georgia Satellites to Elvis Presley, just to name a few).  Formed from the remnants/ashes of several previous bands bearing the name, the current Bowler line-up is comprised of Colin Gawel (on leave from Watershed and The Lonely Bones) and Mike Parks (who traces his rock & roll lineage all the way back to West Side garage bands of the 1960’s, I first saw him play at a Lazarus teen fashion show, through The Godz and The True Soul Rockers) on lead & rhythm guitars;  Dan Cochran – late of Big Back 40 and Feversmile – now the owner of the Four String Brewery on bass; and drummer-extraordinaire Jim Johnson, a mainstay of Willie Phoenix’s` bands for decades.  

It's an old Italian proverb that what you do the first week in January is what you'll do all the rest of the year.  So why not come out on this First Friday Night in January, catch some quality rock & roll from The League Bowlers and Bava Choco and improve your chances for a fun 2017?  See ya at Ace of Cups, 9 pm sharp.  - Ricki C. / January 3rd, 2017 

                                                 Nick Lowe wrote it in 1974, Elvis Costello made it a hit in 1978.......

Ducks Deluxe - in time-honored rock & roll fashion - cop the riff to The Velvet Underground's "Sweet Jane" to power their own truck-drivin' rocker.  It's a long way from the Mean Streets of New York City to the Nashville in Kensington.......

The League Bowlers, 2008.......

from the Ricki C. archives: New Musical Express, April 17th, 1976, live review section (I used to make the trek every week from the West Side to the Little Professor Bookstore in the Lane Avenue shopping center, from 1975 to sometime in early '79, when I lost interest in English post-punk.  Does anybody else miss Little Professor Bookstore as much as I do?) 

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