The Madcaps + Against the Wheel @ The Sunflower Lounge – 16th April 2008


When I arrived at the Sunflower Lounge I went downstairs to the wee gig venue for my first time since visiting the bar. If you’ve not been there it’s small! Smaller than the Academy 2, perhaps half the size of the Glee Club. Certainly not the place you’d expect to house some fast paced rock music. Perhaps this was promoter Lee’s intention. Unfortunately there were some ticketing issues so the venue was also emptier than usual with some people coming and going with their acts of choice. This was definitely a pity when you consider that if all fans had stuck together the venue might have looked a little more busy.

The first act I saw, Against the Wheel are a band who at first, confused me. Not only because I thought they were called Cobra (because of the drum cover) and also because the music was so loud it stunned me into watching. I sound like an old fogey here but I think the general master needed turning down- on the sound board that is! Also the vocals needed turning up and the amps/ PA’s down. A lot of the bands were too late to soundcheck so this may have been part of the problem. Soundman Dave did try and rectify the issue and sorted lead singer Gav’s mic-ing later in the band’s set.
Anyway to the band themselves. AtW played high octane riffs with a lot of attitude (reminding me of myself as I bob and generally rock out to Guitar Hero 3 which pleased me as I realised…I wasn’t alone.)

AtW are not original. To be honest I don’t think they claim to be. There are certain songs that they played that reminded me of other bands such as one song (which unfortunately I did not catch the name of) that, on managing to catch a snippet of Gav’s vocals seemed heavily tinged with the influence of Lostprophets.

Kudos however, had to go to the rhythm guitarist who has a seriously fast moving hand. It is a genuine talent. If Billy Whizz is the fastest runner to ever grace the pages of the Beano, Dan Ratcliff has the fastest right hand in the West (Midlands.) Paired with the genuine ‘rock faces’ he made it was an enigmatic solo performance. In fact all of the band were easy to watch because they genuinely produced a tightly together performance. Song ‘Breathe’ also deserves commendation for blowing my right ear out (in a hardcore way.)

4 lads from Tamworth, The Madcaps were next. The band transport their fans in a minibus (alongside their equipment) to their gigs showing true dedication to their followers. The Madcaps arrived a little too late for their personal soundcheck but simply went onstage after AtW and literally ‘got on with it’ after a quick live check. Lead singer Peter curiously put some Next-style sunglasses on to perform the first few songs. Despite this, Pete seems the natural rock singer. He sang roughly with a ‘from the guts’ type feel. Think Offspring in ‘Pretty Fly for a White Guy’ with a less annoying quality. The rest of the band clearly have their own onstage personas. Bassist (Dan) Mulvey regularly shook his carefully arranged poker-straight hairstlye with his riffs, Martin Reynolds on the drums grooved and Dan Craik did the guitar hero style thing. Particular songs that stood out were ‘National Anthem’ and ‘We Are The Fucks’ which despite the crude name packed a lot of punch.


At one point in the Madcaps set some kind of tragic incident seemed to happen. Without any indication of what was going on, soundman Dave instigated a Spinal Tap moment, running onstage with a small Cube amp and pushing back the drumkit with it. All this occured whilst the band was playing, including the moment when Dave decided that not only was the amp not enough; but the breeze block he teamed it with was also ineffective! Despite his drumkit escaping him (it was literally bouncing away from him as he hit it) Martin kept on, the consummate musician. In front of this an odd occurance happened with Pete, feeling closed in by the cheeky drums and Dave, took Mulvey’s mic and tried to continue the song. Mulvey, seeing his one chance to show off his Vince-Noir style hair do took centre stage…if only until the end of the song. How the band carried on note perfect throughout this is beyond me but it made for an entertaining spectacle!

The Madcaps’ music is definitely worth checking out if you are a fan of old style punk and general ‘rock’. It was a shame that they didn’t really have the audience for it. With edgier music styles such as theirs, an avid audience is essential to keep the energy. I am not saying the band did not, but it was a shame that the minimal crowd was not more perceptive and did not stand as far away as possible from the stage. Perhaps had the PA system not been so deafening they would have. Hopefully the band will begin to play larger venues such as the Barfly soon like fellow band The Indigos. I think it is venues like the Barfly, that will see The Madcaps come into their own, because so far in Birmingham, there isn’t another band like them.

Review –Frankie Ward
Photos – Elaine Ridler

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