IT’S TIME TO TELL THE WORLD (the brakes are off Twisted Wheel)

Elgin Festival review by Robert Benson

It’s a brilliant bright blue September Saturday and the Twisted Wheel locomotive has driven  395 miles north of Oldham to the sublime heady heights of Elgin, Moray in Scotland. It will be the first of many gigs for the reinvented Wheel, with new bassist, Stephen Evans and not –quite-so-new drummer, Eoghan Clifford. Bands from the width and breadth of Scotland (including Dundee’s ‘Law City Soul’, Fife’s ‘Root System’, Glasgow’s ‘Figure 5’and Edinburgh’s ‘104s’) are scattered across the converted farm buildings, replacing pigs, sheep, cows, hens, horses, butter tubs, milking machines and tomato plants with more refined melodies if no better smells. Up on the hill,  wooden wigwams house bands and festival-goers and a constant autumn barbecue. Twisted Wheel played Elgin last year – but in town – and it was their love of the crazy passion of the audience which brought them all the way back again this year.

10pm.  Figure 5 with their Mexican-inflected fuselage and the 104s have been on and off. Eoghan has discovered his snare snapped in transit so is running around frantically with pieces of string. But by 11.55pm, they are cool, calm and collected. Somewhere. Although no one can find them.

Meanwhile, there’s a mini mayhem out front despite the late hour. The Loft crowd is a riotous knowledgeable, passionate mix of old and young, as many females as males and every one of them eager to see the new line up and hear the old songs. At last, a minute after midnight, the band enter stage.
The sixteen song strong set opens with ‘She’s a Weapon’ which has everyone up and at it but it’s the ravaging rage of new song ‘Do It Again’ which has them pogoing and yelping. This despite the fact that Stephen has discovered his bass is not working – as in wires-guitar relationship breakdown.
‘This is our new bassist, Stephen. It’s his first show and his bass isn’t working,’ announces Jonny. Stephen exits with dud bass while Jonny does an acoustic ‘Bang of The Beat’. The audience are mesmerised, no moans at bass situation. A kind supporting band member offers his bass, making his day and our night as Stephen returns, all plugged in and ready to go.  Now the band have the pedal to the floor and roar through ‘Lucy The Castle’, One Night On The Streets’ (which gets a lot of cheers),  ‘Let Them Have it All’, ‘Bad Candy’, ‘Racket’, ‘Strife’. ‘We Are Us’ and the irrepressible ‘You Stole The Sun’.

‘Tell The World’ is fresh to the giglist but welcomed as a stirring anthem with hands in the air and everyone seemingly knowing the chorus.  Still, it’s new song ‘Poppy Love’ which is my favourite: a rabid romantic riot in the capsule of 50s rockabilly punk and a staccato chorus over which Brown’s vocals rip with unrelenting fierce vulnerability. Eoghan whips up the drums like unbridled monsters and the new dynamic bassist pulls out all the stops. Previously, the Wheel’s songs hinted at a crazy cosmos and imminent punk revolution but there was always a sense that someone was trying to drive at 90mph with the brakes on. Now the brakes are off, the cylinders full of  fire and nothing’s clogging the throttle.  At last, everything is working  on the same energy and all-out  craziness. Pure passion and the power of punk propel this intense threepiece and their uncompromising songs straight into the audience. If it’s pain, then they seem to like it. Girls and guys alike sing back the songs…despite the techno disco that’s opened upstairs.

By 1am, the even organiser is livid as police hover around the doors.
‘Curfew! You’ve got five minutes!’
There’s no time for ‘UK Blues’ tonight – just ‘Oh What Have You Done?’
And the bouncing bodies proclaim the answer: drive Twisted Wheel straight into the hearts of these distant bonny lands.