I have a passion. Some would say an addiction. Downright crazy they may say. Even fucked up. Perhaps I do need help. For as many as understand, there are twice that that just don’t get it. I am a hard rock and heavy metal music fan. Let’s go back to addict. It’s not wrong. It makes me happy. More than that, its necessary to get through the day. Perhaps akin to that junkie with the needle. To Hell with the naysayers. Several studies have circulated social media purporting that music (especially live) leads to happier healthier life. One guy in Sweden even got some kind of medical leave for concerts!
I love many bands. Some of the big names have stalwart inclusions on playlists I make. And the live concert is always a joy. But nothing compares to being front of the stage in a small club to witness a band that you’ve followed and enjoyed since they only had a little EP released. Even more so when it’s in a foreign country. The sheer elation and joy and pride at watching your little band as they take the stage often has my tear ducts welling. I love every minute of it. I will always support my bands and so should you. This means buying their merch. It means buying concert tickets. It means spreading their word.
I recently returned from following, some may say “stalking”, a band. I flew from Toronto Canada to the UK to see a band from Toronto Canada. Yes, you read that right. Seeing the name Diemonds appear in the initial lineup stages of Hull UK’s Hair Metal Heaven Festival made ticket purchase undeniable. My little band from Toronto. I’ve been following this group since before the release of their debut long player The Bad Pack in 2012. I went to shows. I bought t-shirts. And CDs. Their music moved me and was a daily listen. When planning my full sleeve tattoo depicting a guitar case “stickered” with the logos of some fave bands, it did not take much thought to include them. I had never met the band aside from in passing as I bought merch. Inevitably, in time, I did meet a couple of them. In some cases, they had already had word of a guy with their logo tattoo but were unaware just who it was.
DIEMONDS IN THE U.K.
Back to HMH. The festival was to take place over three days in Hull, UK. With this being Diemonds first UK/European show, I felt compelled to be there to see it. Doesn’t hurt that there were some other truly fabulous bands in the roster. But wait, Diemonds are staying abroad after the festival for a tour. Apparently so am I! Looking at the schedule, it was a no-brainer for me that I also would remain in the UK and catch as many dates as I could. And I did. Sometimes you have to make sacrifices for the things that make you happy. You have to work for it. I understand that. Many just think I’m insane. Perhaps even the band does, I’m not sure. I don’t care. Their music makes me happy.
In a time of unmeasurable personal stress at home, Diemonds saved me. I surely would have lost my mind without the chance to clear my head. The chance to bang my head. The stress relief all around. In order to hit all but one (the last) show in the UK, it would mean going directly from the Edinburgh gig to the airport. Flying the Atlantic to land home only to go directly to work for 8hrs. I did it happily, though my coworkers may not concur that night. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
I won’t go song by song here or anything as each show was just a little different. But here’s a few of my highlight memories from each Diemonds gig in the UK.
HAIR METAL HEAVEN
I worked my way to the front, standing just behind some folks in the front row. Conversations have a way of striking up while waiting. Perhaps sparked by my attire, a different Diemonds shirt every day so far. Enough others in my bag for the five UK shows I was catching afterward as well.
While the folks surrounding me were basically just holding their spots for later acts, they peppered me with Diemonds questions. I gladly shout my Diemonds praises from the rooftops. Sometimes, however, I get annoyed with people. After a few minutes of conversation containing the requisite “ooh’s” and “ahh’s” over my trek from Toronto for a Toronto band, one gent close by made a statement. He said “I know why you like them! She’s pretty.” following a quick google search on his mobile.
After a lost baggage scare that included six out of their nine luggage pieces containing merch and pedals etc, it arrived just in time. Not sure I’ve ever seen the band like this. They were on fire all around. Musically they always are. Maybe I’m biased. But this was probably the biggest stage I’d ever seen them on. They were ecstatic to be there and it showed. Smiles and laughter spewed forth from them all, simply beaming. Guitarist Daniel Dekay and bassist Tyrone Buccione jumping high in the air. Crashing down in tune with the song. Visibly challenging each other to jump higher. Turning to guitarist C.C. Diemond who mouthed amidst ear to ear grin what I think was “not gonna happen”. Vocalist Priya Panda strutting the full stage floor holding the audience’s rapt attention. I unsuccessfully fought back tears of pride and joy. At the conclusion of the set, several folks and friends shook my hand. Some said thank-you for turning us on to Diemonds. One even congratulated me, saying “they killed it!”
After a day off for Diemonds, it was on to Birmingham England for the real start of the U.K. tour. The Swede (Anders Mars) had announced during Hair Metal Heaven that he intended to join my crusade through the U.K. He had secured the time away from work, but nothing else. Not a train ticket, not even a place to sleep. Come to think of it, this is how he ended up staying with me in Hull! If not for me, he would have been homeless in the City of Culture. No worries mate, always good to have another music lover to travel with and enjoy the shows! Departing Hull right after the festival, we spent the day off in Birmingham. The band spent their time in Hull and would arrive (by rental car) the day of the gig. Driving on the wrong side of the road was, as I expected, a little hairy for them. They said it’s like all five of them are driving at the same time as they watch the roads. Nevermind those round-about things that we don’t see in North America.
A smallish sized club in Birmingham, The Subside Bar was a comfortable place. I even popped in during the off day for a pint and to check it out. Quite a smaller stage than Hair Metal Heaven! No worries, this is the element I’ve seen Diemonds kill in many times. Two local (I think) opening bands Loading Shattered Hearts and Sister Shotgun supported Diemonds at Subside Bar. All three were female fronted so a good fit all around for this bill. While both openers were good, I really took to Sister Shotgun. I was, however, too stupid to purchase the CD they had for sale. Better contact and see if they ship to Canada!
As I knew, the much smaller stage didn’t slow Diemonds down one bit. In fact, it seemed to ramp them up even more. Ripping through a similar set and gaining new fans in the process. One being an older gentleman in what may be called a fedora hat. The guy danced his heart out at the front of the stage waving his hat, making use of as much floor space as he could find. Check out the quick little video clip below that I shot during one such experience. One of the funniest moments during the crowd sing along part “whoa, whoah, whoah, ohohoho“ of “Never Wanna Die” C.C. called out “left side”, then “right side” encouraging the crowd to join in. And then followed with “guy in the hat”. Not sure why, but I found it hilarious. Unfortunately, after a few songs, he began to get overly sexual with a nearby doorframe. He was asked to vacate.
I also learned not to get a beer during the set as Dekay took the mic and dedicated/shouted me out before a song. It was right before “Living Tonight”. He spoke of living every day to the fullest adding “right Rich?” then followed by “where the hell is he?” after realizing I’d disappeared from the front of the stage. Fantastic show, I was walking on air afterward as I chatted and made new friends. Of course, The Swede and I stared down the empty bottoms of several pints. Great to meet David Corfield, who appraised me afterward of his enjoyment of Diemonds. Hope to see you again sir on my next trip round to Birmingham! Also, a pleasure to meet and talk to Subside manager Ben Mortiboy. Bands looking for gigs in Birmingham should reach out to him as he’s looking to book!
The Swede and I rolled into Glasgow after using the train ride to catch up on sleep. Our hostel was quite large and we spent the afternoon with a beer and some mac & cheese burgers catching up on our internet…well those of us that had a working cell phone at least! Before too long it was time to head out and meet some old friends.
Phil Ashcroft collected us at the train station. A friend through Monsters of Rock Cruises, Sweden Rock Festival, and Firefest, it’s always great to visit with Phil. Unfortunately, his better half Sue was unable to attend. But I saw her at Hair Metal Heaven. During a quick walking tour led by Phil, we stopped in at a couple of vinyl shops. My absolute killer. I had a few pieces in hand at one establishment, but a cooler head prevailed, thinking of budget and carrying around all night. I left my treasures there hoping to return before leaving town in the morning. Our next stop was Solid Rock Bar. My kind of place. They even had a Helix picture disc on the wall…one that apparently Helix vocalist Brian Vollmer doesn’t even have! Shortly, our trio was joined by another good friend and music lover, Mr. Scott Webb.
We parted ways with Mr. Ashcroft and made our way to Bloc Bar or Bloc Plus. The bar’s name has been referred to as both. Tiny and convoluted inside, but a very cool atmosphere the minute your eyes drink it in upon entry. Uh oh, there’s no stage! They were in the process of what I would describe as a “wedding DJ set-up”. Tables were cleared away and amps and PA set up right on the floor. The Swede, Scott and I encountered Ian Sutherland by chance. Probably he saw our Diemonds shirts and my Diemonds backpatch and pegged us for fans. Turns out Ian is the promoter for the Diemonds gig at Bannerman’s Bar in Edinburgh two nights from now.
Tonight’s opening band, Last Alibi, had some familiarity to me. In that, once I checked the attending box on the Facebook event, the guitarist reached out to me. We chatted via messenger a couple of times and he seemed like a nice dude. I promised Andypaws Christie that I would be there in time to catch the Last Alibi set. Well, I’m sure glad that I was! They had a sleazy coolness to them with some tasty riffs. Watch out for this band’s CD coming soon…I’m gonna require one of those!
Noticing a nice looking event poster in a frame on the wall, I headed to the bar. While purchasing another frosty beverage, I asked if it was possible to have it at the completion of the show. The bar folks seemed surprised and maybe even in awe finding out that I came from Toronto to see a Toronto band. “Take it now” they happily instructed. A few minutes before stage time, as I inspected my newly acquired souvenir, Dekay shot me a message. He asked me if there was anything I wanted to hear tonight as they were just writing the set now. Hey, whatever you guys want to play is cool by me, just as long as “Hell Is Full” makes the grade!
The floor setup made things seem quite intimate as we vacated our seats and prepared for show #3, Scott‘s first experience with Diemonds. A truly awesome set. Surprisingly, the sound was fantastic! The “stage” initially scared me, but the sound was better than some actual stages! On fire is probably the best description I can use for this Diemonds show. Priya looked extremely hot…temperature wise. She was sporting a new stage outfit supplied by Signature Latex. Taking another chance, I’m a slow learner, I refilled my pint during the set. This time was beauty as I didn’t miss a shout out from stage…and the bartender even bought it for me! I guess they were really impressed by my Diemonds stalking.
We also met the folks from Signature Latex, who supplied Priya‘s outfit tonight. Great people, who remembered seeing me at Hair Metal Heaven too! They are also photographers (SIG Photography) and in fact took that great shot at the beginning of this article that shows me in full rock mode at the gig tonight.
Apparently, touring bands just don’t go to Perth. So I’m told anyway. This was a driving factor in drawing out new Hair Metal Heaven friend Britny Alpha-Spaghetti into the 3hr drive from further north. Also attending tonight would be good cruise friend Fiona Jobling who actually resides nearby. Naturally, Ian and The Swede were given attendees. Makes for a nice group of friends ready to rock out tonight.
The Green Room was tucked away on a small side street in this sleepy little town. Sorry, I’m told it’s actually a city. Early arrival in town by The Swede and I had us doing a quick walking tour, self-guided. Which led us to a beer, why not The Green Room to check it out? Upon entry, we appeared to be the only customers. In fact, it did not appear they were open for business at all, with painting going on and ladders and construction underway. First thinking that we were the band, all decked out in Diemonds merchandise, we corrected them and bought a beer. The staff was so overly friendly as they did their painting and renos while we drank. We even got a tour of the whole place.
After freshening up and killing time back at the hotel, Anders and I headed back to The Green Room. We joined Fiona and Britny there for a drink or two while deciding on food. The hard part in a group where everyone is so easy going is making a decision! We were sparred into action when Priya joined us, wondering where we were heading for chow. And so, we ventured out for dinner as a group of five, missing only Ian from our merry band and other Diemonds members of course.
Lingering at dinner, we missed most of the three opening bands. Returning, we joined Ian in waiting for our beloved Diemonds to hit the stage. Which seemed to be forever until they came on. Stage front we were all rocking to another fantastic set. I loved seeing Fiona, in her first but not her last Diemonds live experience, bobbing her head focused on the stage. Arms around each other’s shoulders singing tone deafly each other’s ears Ian and I rocked out the whole gig. Nothing like the camaraderie spurned by live music. Unfortunately, the stage lighting at The Green Room left little to be desired. The band was basically playing in total darkness and it was hard to make out the shapes on stage.
It seemed over too fast when they were told two songs remaining. C.C. called out what did I want to hear? So many things I could have said, but like a deer in the headlights, I couldn’t think! Not sure how much of their catalog was rehearsed, I went with a classic Diemonds track “Highway” from the EP. They’d played it at Hair Metal Heaven so I knew they knew it. Completing the song after “Highway”, Priya asked if we wanted one more. Her mic was abruptly cut off and soundman saying that was it.
This is where the friendliness that we’d previously seen earlier in the day dissipated. Before Priya could even get behind the merch table security were circulating demanding loudly and rather rudely that we get out. Seriously, that’s the phrase that was used, “Show’s over, get out!” We lingered as long as possible while Priya sold what she could…mostly to Fiona and Britny who waited until other fans had their shot. The rudeness only escalated and knowing me, I decided I had to go and go now before I got angry and lippy. In a word to The Green Room, perhaps you should be more on top of your opening bands and set change times. That’s your responsibility. Saying that it’s the fault of opening bands who took too long during switchover or played past their time limit is not good enough. You need to ensure that they don’t run over and push the headliner to run past your closing time.
Bannerman’s in Edinburgh was probably my fave gig of the tour. Bittersweet, however, being the last one I would attend. Not even a bed in a hostel tonight. It was straight to the airport at gig conclusion for an excessively early morning flight. That incidentally left me sleeping on the cold, hard tile floor near the check-in counters. And shortly after deplaning it would be the trek directly to work for an 8hr shift. Crazy, some say. Music fan says others. To me, it’s just life and the price you pay for rock and roll, but that’s another story.
I’d been to Edinburgh and Bannerman’s before. On a couple of occasions. I love the place. The smallness and old musty type smell. The way you might envision an old pub steeped in history. The concert area is basically a cave. Maximum capacity is definitely not more than 200. I know the sound here is king. I’ve heard it before. Back in early March, I’d been here for Tragedy, a heavy metal Bee Gees cover band, thanks to Tom Cornell. I wore a Diemonds shirt that night. A gent approached me and said “You must be from Canada”, pointing at the shirt. “Why, yes,” I replied. Following with “They are a wicked band and are coming to U.K. in August.” He then shocked me by saying “I know, they’re playing here”! I now had inside info before the band had even announced…feels super cool in a way. Better keep my mouth shut though. Turns out he was the main booker for Bannerman’s but also the bassist for Jizzy Pearl meaning he couldn’t be on hand for Diemonds.
The promoter presenting Diemonds was Ian Sutherland who I’d met in Glasgow and Perth. A fine gentleman. We rocked out together, banging heads, arms around each other’s shoulders throughout a good portion of the Bannerman’s set. With a decently sized attendance, Ian had done a fantastic job in building a crowd at Bannerman’s for Diemonds. The cave felt reasonably full and the air was electric. It was also great to see Mr. Tom (don’t mention RUSH) Cornell in attendance whom I’d met in February. It was Tom that introduced me to that heavy metal Bee Gees cover band Tragedy as they performed in the cave. Of course, The Swede was with us as well along with nearby resident and good friend Fiona for her second in as many nights Diemonds gig. I saw very little of the opening bands once again. Despite the high recommendations from Ian and Tom on both. I enjoyed some pints and chatted with folks, really savoring this night. So bittersweet this was being my last show. Knowing how emotional I can get at shows that move me, I was determined not to shed a tear tonight.
Again I was included by the band during the show. Perhaps not on purpose tonight. This time C.C. called out to the audience asking what we might want to hear. I presumed many were not super well versed in the catalog but I may have been incorrect. One bloke called for “Living Tonight”. Comical since they already played it with C.C. on lead vocals as he has done every show. Perhaps giving Priya‘s vocal chords a rest with such a long run coming up. She laughed saying “yeah, maybe I’ll sing it this time”. Learning from last night’s “Highway” request, I shouted out something else. Something I’d not heard them do in awhile. After the words “Trick or Treat” were released from my lips, Diemonds conferred with each other on stage. And conferred. And conferred. Uh oh, this is what I’d feared last night. Calling out something unrehearsed. Grabbing the mic Priya said “we’re gonna break up on stage over this” as she threw her head back in laughter. And I knew it was all good. Diemonds did indeed rip through “Trick or Treat” and quite strongly as well I might add.
By the end of the show as the band presided over their merch table I was proud of myself. I didn’t get emotional. Didn’t have to choke back any tears welling up. I rocked arm around my new found friend Ian. Anders (The Swede) and I shouted choruses at each other. I witnessed Fiona smiling, head bobbing in time as she took in the awe that is Diemonds live. From here at close of the bar, I would be off to the airport to kill a couple hours before the flight directly home. Directly back to the shittiness of working. Shittiness of things happening personally right now. The basic stress of my life currently. I laughed. I drank. Then it happened. The tears could be felt pushing on the rear of my eyeballs. Drummer Kyle Lecourt approached after his signing duties and presented both Anders and I each with a set of show played drumsticks, which he promptly autographed. Thanking us for attending as many shows as we had. Thanks, Kyle!
Before it was all over I asked the band for a photo with everyone. Something I rarely do but wanted this commemorative as well. As I stood in the center of the five of them I near shit myself. Before I realized what was happening I was whisked off my feet and hoisted up, legs flailing as the photo was captured. Sorry I’ve gotten so fat lately! That bastard Anders gets to finish the UK leg in London tomorrow night. Stupid working.
What an overall wicked time. Many call me a superfan. Possibly though I just like the music. Many say things like the band should pay for my airfares. Or give me free concerts and merch. And other silliness such as that. Let’s be clear. Diemonds, nor any other band for that matter, owes me anything. Except more great tunes for as long as they enjoy creating them. Tunes that bring me up when I’m down. That give me the stress relief that I need, banging my head. That allow me to connect with many more like-minded folks the world over. There have been many on this adventure. I am a fan. And that’s the only thing any band ever owes any fan! Buy your damn ticket. Buy the merch. Support the bands if their music moves you.
Bye for now Diemonds. I’m not saying you won’t see me in Germany. Have to have a discussion with my credit card. Stern discussion. But I suspect I will lose that battle. Thanks for the memories and the music.