MARCO MENDOZA / THE BRINK / BIG RIVER – The Lounge, London 09.05.19



While across the country music venues are closing down at an alarming rate, you can’t turn around in Camden without bumping into another dark, little bar putting on bands, and while that’s undoubtedly great for a multi-venue event such as the upcoming Camden Rocks festival, you can’t help but think that town needs to stop hogging them all. Come on Camden, didn’t your mother ever teach you to share?


This is all beside the point, and any highfalutin notions of gig venue socialism are gone the minute you enter The Lounge, just a stone’s throw from the tube station. It’s a small room, but tonight it’s hosting rock royalty. Headliner MARCO MENDOZA has played with everyone from Ted Nugent to Thin Lizzy, from Whitesnake to the Dead Daisies; now touring his latest solo album ‘Viva La Rock’ he has drawn a decent sized and enthusiastic crowd.


First up however are local band BIG RIVER, who play a whiskey-soaked brand of bluesy, southern rock with a distinctive London accent, courtesy of waist coated frontman Adam Bartholomew. They have a bass-heavy groove and they undeniably create a cool sound, with soulful, surprisingly tender vocals that seems to be appreciated by the crowd even if they never quite buy into the band fully. A little more stagecraft and better pacing is really all the band need to add because the tunes are certainly there and finishing on a cover of ‘When a Blind Man Cries’ is a little indulgent in a short set and saps the energy a touch. Stick to your own stuff, guys, it’s plenty good enough. 


Big River are:

Adam Batholomew – Vocals

Damo Fawsett – Guitar

Ant Wellman – Bass

Joe Martin – Drums


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Next up and squeezing themselves into the small stage are high octane 5-piece THE BRINK. Due to late running soundchecks earlier, the band have to try and fit theirs in on the fly prior to their set. It’s not ideal but doesn’t seem to hinder them to much as they launch into a couple of huge sounding pure rawk numbers, that stand in contrast to the more grunge look of vocalist, Tom Quick. As the set goes on they diversify their sound but the choice to go with the more classic sounding stuff first up is a good one as it instantly grabs the attention of the crowd. There are wailing solos and a touch of Skid Row about them but just as you think you’ve got a handle on their sound they throw something else into the mix.


We are treated to grungier moments, punkish songs that almost drift into Blink 182 territory, and others that wouldn’t sound out of place on US rock radio. The impassioned ‘Say Goodbye’ adds another strong to the bow, and despite the wide variety of styles on offer, they never lose the crowd or allow their energy to drop. Their debut album ‘Nowhere To Run’ is out on the 17th May and if this set is anything to go by it’s going to be well worth checking out.


The Brink are:

Tom Quick – Vocals

Lexi Laine – Lead Guitar

Izzy Trixx – Rhythm Guitar

Gaz Connor – Bass

Davide Drake Bocci – Drums


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As the final set of the evening starts with the instantly recognisable riff of Cream’s ‘Sunshine of your Love’, main man MARCO MENDOZA is nowhere to be seen. His band mates; GUN’s Tommy Gentry and Kyle Hughes from BUMBLEFOOT don’t seem too worried however and it soon becomes apparent why as Marco appears at the back of the venue and makes his way through the excited crowd his bass held aloft. It is a rock star entrance and MARCO MENDOZA is nothing if not a rock star. Honed by 30 years in the LA scene he is a natural showman and equally a consummate and accomplished musician.


There is absolutely no hint that this is a man going through the motions to promote an album, in fact you can almost feel the passion radiating off him. The stage is clearly his home and he is a cordial and welcoming host. “I can’t imagine a world without live music,” he says, and you absolutely believe him. He lives for this. It is a set of pure rock and roll that intersperses his own solo songs with classics from the bands he’s played with, Nugent’s ‘Hey Baby’, Thin Lizzy’s ‘Jailbreak’ and Dead Daisies ‘Mexico’. What’s truly impressively is how seamlessly he combines them all and it’s a testament to his song writing that his own songs go down as well as the more established numbers. 


The band are tight and well drilled, but the set still feels fluid and organic, with jazzy intersections and impromptu solos it all feels like one big rock party. Mendoza engages the crowd, treats them like old friends, obtains some lipstick from a fan and through it all never skips a beat. He could be playing to 10 people or 10,000 and you feel he’d be doing the exact same thing.


There are a couple of strange moments when he has a backing track supporting the band’s sound, and on songs such as his own ‘Rocketman’ it feels out of place, the song and his band are easily good enough to stand on their own merits and the backing track adds little. Overall it’s a minor thing though and detracts little from the overall vibe of the show and certainly takes nothing from Mendoza’s mesmerising persona.


As he blasts through the title track from his latest album ‘Viva La Rock’ it would be a churlish and hard-hearted reviewer who could resist being sucked into the good feeling that bounces off the walls of the venue. And as the set closes and MARCO MENDOZA steps off the stage to seemingly thank every single member of the crowd personally there is no doubt that no one will be leaving the place disappointed. A good time was had by all has never seemed so apt.

Marco Mendoza’s Band are:

Marco Mendoza – Bass / Vocals

Tommy Gentry – Guitar

Kyle Hughes – Drums


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