Words and Pictures: Adrian Hextall (C) MindHex Media
Sonic Gypsy – Live at the O2 Academy 2, February 10th 2022
Before we discuss the powerful performance that reintroduced us to the magic that gave us Scorpio Rising in the 1990s, it’s worth looking at the history of the band we had on stage at the O2 Academy in Islington.
Sonic Gypsy comprises former Scorpio Rising members Mickey Banks (vocals and electric / slide guitar) and Sploote (guitar). They are joined by Dwight Wharton (bass) and George Philips (drums). The four piece will be supplemented by Pig Man (Purcy Flaherty) on harmonica \ trumpet both on studio recordings and with future live dates as well.
It’s been something of a struggle for Mickey to pull this together, with several years between the band’s debut and its double-lp follow up being released. The struggle, mostly down to the thing that shall not be named impacting everyone in the business for the last couple of years, is hopefully over and the Sonic Gypsy gig will hopefully be the first of many to come. The other good news is that the follow up to the debut is due this year! If you’re interested, and we heartily recommend that you should be, the band’s first album, ‘Born A Rolling Stone’ can be downloaded here:
The history behind the band goes deeper than you might imagine and the roots of Sonic Gypsy hark back to the early 1990s when Scorpio Rising, which as noted above, featured both Mickey and Sploote in the line-up, were signed by the legendary Seymour Stein to Sire Elektra. NME took note and likened them to THE new sound of British rock music and things boded well with tours alongside Smashing Pumpkins, PWEI, Neds Atomic Dustbin, Eat, Senseless Things and other contemporary bands of the early 1990s. The peak for the band culminated with appearances at Finsbury Park and Reading Festival in 1992.
Aside from the band’s E.P.s and singles, their only album, ‘Pig Symphony’ came out in 1993 and then as the band recorded their follow up, ‘Brutal Deluxe’, with a sound taking a marked turn to the debut, Sire chose not to release it and that, as they say was that…
To get a sense of what might have been, take a look at this footage from 1992. It truly shows the potential of a band that was never realised.
That debut album can also be found and heard here:
Festival appearances were booked, festivals were cancelled. Live shows were mooted and then venues closed and then, before we knew it, we are heading into 2022 with Sonic Gypsy managing to pull 4 of the 5 together for a showcase event as part of the UK double header tour with Doomsday Outlaw and Gorilla Riot, both of whom are riding high on the back of the current resurgence of British rock music.
Let’s then draw a line under what was and what has been and look at the also resurgent Sonic Gypsy. The opening slot on the London date, boded well when you realise how many people have travelled from far and wide to see the band. There were people in the crowd from the north of England, there were people there from the far south west of the country as well. That’s some effort when you realise that the band were getting 30-odd minutes max on stage at the beginning of the evening.
Opening with the title track from SG’s debut album, ‘Born A Rolling Stone’ seemed very apt and a perfect way to introduce the band to those that only knew Doomsday Outlaw and Gorilla Riot. With a barrel full of grit and fuzz, Sonic Gypsy really hit the ground running and for a band that hasn’t had the opportunity to hone their craft over the last couple of years (this was I think the 4th time that they’d all been in the room together), it should have sounded much much worse. The quality of musicianship shone through however and by the time ‘Shotgun Tel’ started, they’d won over a very receptive crowd.
Mickey, with a grin 5 miles wide, never let us rest for a moment and playing tracks from Scorpio Rising’s debut as well as gems such as ‘Apocalypse Ranch’ from the unreleased follow up ‘Brutal Deluxe’ simply proved why more attention should have been paid to them over 20 years ago.
All too quickly the set came to a climax with ‘Can’t Kill a Good Thing’ and ‘(They Call Me) The Sonic Gypsy’ providing the most fitting of conclusions on what we can only hope is the beginning of the beginning once more for Mickey, Sploote and the rest of the band.
If you’d like to know more, visit:
Upcoming double album will feature:
Mickey Banks: Vocal, Lyrics, Electric Slide, Guitar. Acoustic Guitar
Sploote (David Smart): Lead guitar, Ukelele, Autoharp, Bongos, Acoustic Guitar, Harmonium
Dwight Wharton: Electric bass, Double bass, Backing vocal
Ed Grimshaw / George Philips: Drums, Percussion
Shireen Liane: Backing vocal
Purcy Flaherty: Harmonica
Nick Steed: Piano. organ