Words and Photos: David Thrower
Think Tank (noun) – a research institute or organization employed to solve complex problems
… which totally begs the questions – why wasn’t said ‘think tank’ employed to develop a better lighting system than one that could have been improved upon by simply putting Quality Street wrappers over some torches, and why weren’t they approached to double-check the band name/showtime schedule plastered around the room? Not sure who the Killer Birds are but they never made an appearance on the night. However, what the Think Tank? lacks in high-end facilities it more than makes up for by offering ‘up-close’, or, in one case during Bonafide’s set, ‘hands on’, interaction with bands in an environment that puts character above comfort.
First on the bill were the mixed-nationalities of Killer Bee who stepped on stage to a room that was halfway towards being twenty-five percent full which was a crying shame as they delivered a set of solid hard rock that deserved a much bigger audience. Formed in the 90’s by lead singer Brian ‘Bee’ Frank and bassist Anders ‘LA’ Rönnblom they reformed in 2011 and gave everything to highlight their professionalism and experience and frankly deserved both a bigger crowd and a higher place on the bill. Songs such as the wonderful ‘Children of the Evolution’ and closer ‘From Hell and Back’ proved the band were more than a mere warm-up act and concluded a short set bathed in purple, red and more than a touch of class. Let’s hope it’s not too long before they return to these shores.
Next up were they wonderfully named Tequila Mockingbyrd from Australia – three Australian females, far from their homeland yet playing fuss-free rock that sounded substantially ballsier than on record. Long-timers, guitarist Estelle Artois and drummer Josie O’Toole welcomed stand-in bass player Keira Kenworthy as they rattled through songs like single ‘I Smell Rock n Roll’ from the debut album ‘Fight and Flight’ during a high-octane set of Down Under distortion and energy the Australians have in spades. It’s clear why Lzzy Hale rates them so highly. As for pretentious, Estelle left them at the door. At the conclusion of the set, she was happy to pose for photos, even allowing one punter to throw his best rock-star shapes with her guitar strapped around his neck while she smiled, nervously, beside him.
Bonafide are a straight up, rock and roll band – end of story. No gimmicks, no fuss, no shit. Hell, they don’t even change guitars every other song. Touring on the back of new album ‘Flames’ they ran through a setlist, handily written on a paper plate center stage, packed full of riffs. Sure, they may have more than a little AC/DC in their blood but this never detracted from a performance that, on the cramped stage on the Think Tank?, added extra intensity and humor – they even resorted to trading Monty Python quotes at one point during proceedings, albeit in Swedish. Lead guitarist, founder, vocalist (and drummer with Jason and the Scorchers) Pontus Snibb towered over events with a Cheshire Cat-sized grin while he belted out the likes of the excellent older track ‘Dirt Bound’, the catchy singalong ‘One Kiss’ and firm favourite ‘Fill Your Head with Rock’ while glam-bedecked bassist Martin Ekelund, usually a very active performer, did his best to avoid damaging himself and, in turn, anyone else as he wandered the small stage. At one point Pontus felt he needed to stretch his legs and proceeded to wander through the crowd positioning himself behind the merch stand and alongside a glowing neon sign reading ‘What the Fuck Have You Done’. It’s clear that Pontus knows exactly what he’s doing and with Bonafide produces dirty, blues-fueled rock that makes no excuses, delivered with a wink and a smile.
I’ll close with the sage wisdom of Mr. Snibb – “Don’t go to Norwich – it’s hell on Earth”. Now there speaks a man of experience. Skål.
SETLIST (transcribed from paper plate)
Back in Flames
Hold Down the Fort
Peg Legged Pete
Smoke and Fire
No Doubt About It
Can’t Get Through
Rag and Bone Man
Hard Livin’ Man
Fill Your Head with Rock