Emptifish at The Old Barn, Milton REVIEW: ‘New songs sit comfortably with the old classics’

Emptifish frontman George Hart, at the Old Barn in Milton on May 5, 2019. Picture by Paul Windsor
Emptifish frontman George Hart, at the Old Barn in Milton on May 5, 2019. Picture by Paul Windsor

Rumour has it the combined age of the bands playing tonight is 800 years – and that doesn't include legendary Portsmouth promoter Chris Abbott who is celebrating his 70th birthday and put tonight together.

Four great bands are playing and its a sell-out on a Sunday night.

What drives these bands to reform after so many years and still provide vital, exciting music goodness knows –  kids flown the nest, an urge to get the guitar out of the loft and see if they see if they still have that magic? It’s like that famous scene out of the Blues Brothers: 'Let’s get the band back together, hell yeah'.

Of course some don't retire at all like Mark Ballard, on sabbatical from The Racketeers – he has discovered his inner 'Johnny Rotten' and is venting his spleen with The Dinz. For those not familiar with the Pompey vernacular , a Din is a simpleton, an idiot. But there is nothing idiotic about this band. Short, sharp, punchy songs with Rob Mathews on guitar in a splendid ‘Dinlo’ baseball cap, surely a sure-fire hit in band merch there.

If memory serves me correctly, Acid Attack were the first band I ever saw in the early 1980s, at Buckland Community centre. They absolutely terrified me. Tonight lead singer Jack is just as ferocious. The music and message is still as blatantly direct and terrifically so. Little wonder they are receiving plaudits from the punk community across the country.

From the opening chords from REMS lead singer and guitarist Steve Lympany it’s easy to see how we have missed the talents of this man. Having retired to bring up his family, he did indeed get that guitar out of the loft, dust it down and plug in. And thank heavens he did.

By his own admission, after 20 years he now has something to say. To his left, bassist Steve Duffield, whose day job is playing with Steve Mason (formerly of The Beta Band) who is about to support Paul Weller at Cardiff Castle, is his rock, as they bash out thunderous garage-rock classics with more than occasional nod to Hendrix. Magnificent.

It’s been nearly a year since Emptifish have graced a Portsmouth stage. Their debut album (after 30 years) has been recorded with the help of punk legend Rat Scabies. More significantly original drummer Damian O'Malley has retired, so all eyes are on his replacement ‘Mingo’ to deliver, including Damian who is in the crowd. No pressure, then. And deliver he does too, with aplomb, adding a new harder edge to the band.

Lead singer, George Hart, still dashingly handsome with his new 'silver fox ' look surveys the crowd to say: “How could you doubt us?” as they launch into old favourite Mantaray.

New songs sit comfortably with the old classics. Recent single Haunted is a particular highlight. Guitarist Ian Parmiter is a true inspiration, ripped T-shirt, ripped muscles – proof to show positivity can overcome any setbacks.

Tonight he is let off the leash and throws down a wall of fuzztone noise with such ferocity, it’s pure garage punk rock. The splendid Surfer Girl, a ‘70s glam stomper that would fill any dancefloor finishes the night along with Surfboard.

It was hot, it was sweaty, it was what all all great gigs should be. Now, when is that album coming out?