LITTLE CAESAR / MARCO MENDOZA /     BIG RIVER / NITROVILLE - The Underworld, Camden 21.02.18


I find myself back at The Camden Underworld for the 3rd time in a week, this time for what can only be described as one hell of a packed bill! If truth be told it’s a slightly odd bill as far as running order goes - but we’ll get to that later.


Kicking off the night are Mighty Music stalwarts NITROVILLE. Good Lord, do they pack a punch! With a slightly southern-edged modern hard rock sound and the wrecking ball voice of singer Tola Lamont they hit all the right notes. ‘Cheating The Hangman’ gallops along on a big riff from the twin guitar combo of Kurt Michael and Grizzy Rose Lee - it’s a fearsome sonic combination and their riffs and solos cut through the distortion with ease. Nitroville end their brilliant but all too short set 30 minutes later.


Nitroville are:

Tola Lamont - Vocals

Kurt Michael - Lead Guitar

Grizzy Rose Lee - Guitar

Paolo Succo - Bass

Gaulter Couto - Drums


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After a short break, the next band is up and we move from southern-tinged hard rock into Blues guitar from Kent. While it might be viewed as an odd bit of billing and a slight step down from Nitroville, BIG RIVER certainly have their own undeniable charm. Led by Guitarist Damo Fawsett, the band roll off some easy numbers of blues infused rock with some superb slide guitar. Playing their upcoming single ‘Blues Blood Baby’ they get a rocking groove going while the crowd seem very receptive.


‘When A Blind Man Cries’ is my highlight of their set; a slow and bluesy song with a truly scorching guitar solo, it’s a brilliant moment in surroundings that are used to far heavier and less melodic sounds.


Big River are:

Damo Fawsett - Guitar

Adam Bartholomew - Vocals
Luke Calvert - Drums
Ant Wellman - Bass


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MARCO MENDOZA’s set opens with the title track of his new album, ‘Viva La Rock’, blowing the figurative roof off and the energy doesn’t drop in the entire set. “This song’s about how there's a light at the end of the tunnel. No matter how bad the shit gets, let the sunshine in.”


With an astonishing groove and a funky riff, the Ted Nugent number ‘Hey Baby’ is just another level of awesome; from Michael McCrystal’s extended solos to Marco’s outrageously funky bass and Kyle Hughes’ drumming, this 3-piece band has some of the most astounding musical chemistry I’ve seen in ages. Marco then gets the entire Underworld clicking their fingers to the beat and makes it feel like a private club show.


Not only is Marco Mendoza’s musicianship amazing, but his gratitude towards the fans is truly humbling - repeatedly telling the assembled crowd how happy he is to be here. “That's the bottom line,” Marco declares, “when you guys stop showing up, that's it!” A massively important point that couldn’t be expressed any better.


“You guys up for some blues?” Marco asks,  “I wrote this with Neal Schon from a little band called Journey.” ‘Hole in my pocket’ has a groove so huge it might just start a small earthquake. Pouring sweat, the band end their set with the one two punch of Stevie Wonder’s ‘Higher Ground’ and Thin Lizzy’s ‘China Town’. Taking one last bow Marco leaves with a parting message to “be kind to one another,” and an amp that rings into the night. His name might not be at the top of the bill, but it feels like this was Marco Mendoza’s gig tonight.


Marco Mendoza - Vocals and Bass

Michael McCrystal - Guitar

Kyle Hughes - Drums


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You might think it would be impossible to follow that performance and, to be to brutally honest, you would be right. However, Little Caesar still prove a real pleasure to hear.


LITTLE CAESAR are one of those bands that arguably should have been far more successful and famous than they are. Having formed in the late 80s, they’ve been touring and releasing albums almost without break since then. This year they’ve returned to London with a new album, ‘Eight’.


Frontman Ron Young is still a great presence on stage with a voice that’s gritty and soulful. The band still pound through the soulful rocker ‘Chain Of Fools’ with attitude and they are answered with some cheers from the crowd.


Songs like ‘Nobody Said It Was Easy’ are simply such laid-back, feel good rock and roll songs it’s impossible not to smile and tap your feet.


While their set doesn’t hold many surprises, Little Caesar do give The Underworld one very special guest for their encore. Rising guitar hero Jared James Nichols strolls out, Les Paul in hand and kicks off a fantastic rocking shuffle with the band! Jared is one of those young talents I can see going very far - his playing, even when toning down to fit into a band, is nothing short of jaw-dropping. It’s the highlight of their set for me. Little Caesar take a very well deserved bow and the happy crowd filters out into the night knowing that they most certainly got their money’s worth tonight.


Little Caesar are:

Ron Young - Vocals

Tom Morris - Drums

Loren Molinare - Guitar

Mark Tremalgia - Guitar

Pharoah Barrett - Bass


With Special Guest: Jared James Nichols


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