America’s Best Kept Secret Came to Bristol and Brought Some Friends

You might remember, roughly a year and a half ago, while in the States, I uncovered America’s best kept secret in the form of Hannah Wicklund and the Steppin’ Stones. At the time, I gushed about what a great singer and guitarist Hannah was and would love the chance to see her live. Well, I got that chance last night when she and her band came to Bristol, England, along with two other bands.

The gig took place at a pub called The Exchange near the centre of Bristol. It doesn’t look like much from the outside and inside looks a bit hippy like. Plus, the actual room where the concert took place was rather tiny but none of that mattered.

I managed to persuade my step-daughter Lorretta to come see the show with me. We left early because the tickets said the show started at 6:30. The tickets also gave the impression that there were going to be four bands on the night because it looked like a band called Roadstar was headlining after Hannah. It turns out, Roadstar was simply the name of the show. Anyway, on account of this, we got there just after six and found the show wasn’t to start until half seven. No problem, we just had a pint each and waited for things to begin.


The Exchange


Lorretta and me

First up on the night was UK band Piston and when they hit the stage, people noticed. They brought their own version of hard rock and it went down a storm. Their opening song grabbed my attention right away and the second song they played had me hooked. Then, they played their single, “One More Day,” which hooked me even more. Even their power ballad and their cover of the AC/DC classic “Gone Shootin'” only made their set that much better. Then sometime in the middle of the set, guitarist Jack Edwards just started wailing away, creating some beautiful licks. The man can wail! Furthermore, singer Rob Angelico proves himself a very capable singer and very good at getting the crowd involved and I’m not taking anything away from the rest of the band, they were all brilliant. While I won’t get dragged into which band was best debates, I will say that Piston had the most fun during the 45 minutes they were on stage.


Piston take the stage


Jamming away!


Rob leading the way


Jack laying down the jams

Just when the patrons in The Exchange had recovered from the onslaught of Piston, the second act on the night, Gorilla Riot, took the stage. Gorilla Riot have been described as a dirty blues rock band from Manchester. I can say right now that the description is dead accurate. For me, they are the love child of ZZTop and Kenny Wayne Shepherd and in addition, Gorilla Riot are the first band I’ve seen since Lynyrd Skynyrd and Molly Hatchet to use the three guitar attack. And they use it very effectively! All three guitarist took it in turns to lay down some cool solos, while Arjun Bhishima also undertook the vocal duties and did so very well. He also brought a sense of humour to the mike but I’m sure he really was joking when he asked the audience if they had enjoyed Piston before saying they were a bunch of wankers. Anyway, it was a case of another band adding to my enjoyment of the evening with some good, hard blues rock. One song which really stood out for me was “Bad Son,” which I’m sure I’ve heard before.


Gorilla Riot take the stage


I’m not sure if this is Liam Henry or Charly T, but he laid down a cool solo


Meanwhile the other two guitarists support the attack


Arjun plays a blinder of a solo

The half hour wait between Gorilla Riot and Hannah Wicklund and the Steppin’ Stones went by fast. Before anyone realized it, they were on stage with Hannah simply wailing away on her guitar. In fact, she spent the first five or so minutes doing so with her rhythm section dutifully following in support. Having her self-titled album, I wasn’t the least bit surprised when she went straight into the album’s opener, “Bomb Through the Breeze.” It’s a great song to open both an album and a live performance. However, when she played the second song from the album, “Ghost,” I became convinced that she was simply going to play her album through in order; not a bad thing really. At least, I wouldn’t wait for her to play my favourite, “Looking Glass,” as that came right after. I was prepared to shout for it if it hadn’t been played by the time the concert was near the end.

After being wowed by my favourite song, Hannah changed things up with a very hard blues rock cover of the Neil Young classic, “Ohio.” I think I now prefer her version to Neil’s now but it did show her magnificent voice. After playing a few more songs, I definitely remember “Mama Said,” the rhythm section left the stage for Hannah to play solo for a couple of songs. Her playing of “Shadow Boxes and Porcelain Faces,” which she said is her favourite song to play live, was just totally out of this world!

The rhythm section returned after that and played with Hannah to the glorious finish. There was more guitar jamming and two songs I remember from the album, “Crushin'” and now my memory is a bit ify here but I’m sure she finished on “Strawberry Moon.” It was a great song to end the night. Before this night, I was a Hannah Wicklund fan but now I think I’m a disciple. She totally blew me and I hope, the rest of the Exchange away. Afterwards, Lorretta said that she was impressed. But you want to know the most amazing thing? Hannah is the same age as my daughter, so there should be many years of some great music.


Hannah starting the show. I was glad I was able to position myself  in front of where she was on stage. 


The two Steppin’ Stones


Jamming on “Looking Glass”


Her voice is as magnificent as her guitar playing


Ending the night in style

Unfortunately, WordPress won’t let me upload the video I took of Hannah so you’ll have to see her official video for “Shadowboxes and Porcelain Faces.” Trust me though, all three bands came together to make a great night in Bristol.

Next post: How I Would Have Done Rock and Roll Children Different

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