Bastard Sons Of The Blues
Inca Babies

Inca Babies/Folk Devils

Neuadd Ogwen, Bethesda - 22nd July 2017
It was a pretty lean year for the Inca Babies in 2016 when the band didn't play any gigs, so it was good news when they agreed to accompany Folk Devils on their two-week UK tour, marking the return to action of the latter for the first time since 1987. The combination of these two bands promised much. Folk Devils' live shows were always exciting, sometimes tense, affairs, their angry, scuzzy blues painting a bleak world vision, whilst the Inca Babies howled at existence from a diferent perspective: deconstructed, broken and unforgiving. Two shades of black.

Though it appears to be in vogue for bands to reform, the Inca Babies are old hands at the game, having reassembled some ten years ago, during which time they have released three terrific albums. Why they have never been more appreciated remains a mystery. Only The Birthday Party matched them for sheer sonic effrontery in their early days, whilst more recent times have seen their sound mellow slightly, but their lyrics sharpen exponentially. The rhythm section of Rob Haynes (drums, also of The Membranes) and Vince Hunt (bass, also of A Witness) offers a rare combination of power and class, while singer-songwriter-guitarist Harry Stafford is such a confident front man it is hard to take your eyes off him. He barely glances at his guitar as he picks out Howardesque patterns or lashes out a storm and his lyrical dexterity is truly a class apart.

They take to the stage first and run through what is very nearly a perfect set list, a mixture of new and old, opening with the blistering 1984 single 'The Judge' and following it with the equally powerful 'My Sick Suburb', released some twenty-eight years later. The band's first two singles 'The Interior' and 'Grunt Cadillac Hotel' are included and there is a rarity when the trio play 'Buster's On Fire', the first incarnation of the band's final record from 1987. Stafford and Hunt make great use of the large stage at Neuadd Ogwen, a sparkly new venue in the Snowdonian town, though the sparsity of the audience disappoints. If bands are to become a regular feature here, the local population will need to show their support and the promoters will need to get busy spreading the word across the region.

The Incas end with a two hundred miles-per-hour rendition of 'Scatter' before the Folk Devils take to the stage. The new line-up of the band includes original members Mark Whiteley (bass) and Kris Jozajtis (guitar) with old mate Dave Hodgson on vocals replacing founder member Ian Lowery who sadly passed away in 2001. Nick Clift (guitar) and John Hamilton (drums) make up the five who show no less intensity on stage than the band in its early 1980s' heyday. With their music built on more classical lines than that of the Inca Babies, Folk Devils add more barbs and more tangents as the set progresses, showing clearly why they were such great opening partners for The Fall, Nick Cave, The Gun Club and Spacemen 3 in the past. Hodgson pleasingly doesn't attempt to imitate Lowery but makes the old songs his own and the classic 'Brian Jones' Bastard Son' still makes the hairs on your neck stand up as it always did.

Hopefully the Devils' tour has been successful enough for them to take on new dates in the future. There's always room for their particular blend of cutting rage and the combination of these two bands couldn't have worked better. A great evening that should have been enjoyed by far more than the forty to fifty who turned up. If either band heads your way, don't miss out.

Inca Babies
Folk Devils
Words by Adam Hammond
Photos by Gavin Brick
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