I’ve found the cure for insomnia.

After two nights of almost zero sleep, I dragged myself through a day at work fuelled by over priced coffee. A lot of it. It literally cost me a small fortune to get me and my overactive brain through 8½ hours of work. 

I did have a little motivation to keep me going.  That evening, a tribute band was playing at a local live music venue. Now, to cut a long story short,a few months ago, my friend L and I set up a Facebook group to advertise local and live music. Mainly inspired by the fact I can’t drive but I love live music, so I can only really get to local venues that my overworked feet can carry me to. Let’s be fair, apart from Olly Murs and Bryan Adams visiting our humble city this summer, Worcester doesn’t get to see the big names. So, we have to settle for the next best thing. Tribute acts. Now I’m well aware these are like Marmite. Love them or hate them. No in between. Personally, I admire them. I’m definitely team “love”.

So, from running our little group, I kept seeing the event for Saturday 7th October being promoted. I’d clicked “interested”, but deep down I wanted to go. Nope , needed to go. Because you see, scratch through the indie/pop exterior, right through the visible layers of my musical tastes, and you’ll find a secret rocker. The lure of seeing “Guns or Roses” at a venue less than 20 minutes walk from my home was overpowering. My body was screaming “girl, you are shattered! There’s no way you can go”, yet my mind was taking me to the pre order ticket page and clicking confirm. I bloody love Guns n Roses. I could not miss a whole gig of their music because I was “tired”. Christ, I’m 40, not 70.

My friend L had already confirmed her ticket order when I messaged her to say I was going. We got to the venue about an hour before the band hit the stage. The seats had all already been taken so the pair of us, already dead on our feet, had to stand. The dancefloor area seemed pretty empty though and I remember thinking it was such a shame. My concerns were short lived however, as, as soon as the opening strains of the first song began,and the screen started to rise to reveal the band, the space in front of us filled up out of nowhere. I instantly knew, this band must be good. L and I had already spoken to a few people who had never been to the venue before. They were either local huge Guns n Roses fans who love the music and had only come here for the first time to see them, or they were fans of these guys, Guns or Roses, and would travel to see them. A tribute band who has their own following has gained that for a reason. 

The music instantly woke me, and when “Axl” started to sing, oh my! It really is hard to imagine that anyone other than Axl himself could reach the notes this guy was hitting. To me, a secret fan, he sounded like the real deal. He looked like the young Axl too. Mannerisms, “costume” , everything. Several songs in, singing along loudly and out of tune and not caring as L whizzed around with her camera capturing the action, I vowed to find out more about the band themselves. Some people end up in tribute bands purely because they sound a bit like someone, or maybe even look a little like someone. The accuracy of these guys told me there was more to it than that. As “Welcome to the Jungle” created a buzz and a frenzy on the dancefloor, I could tell the crowd was loving it. 

So, who are Guns or Roses? I’ve since asked them.

Guns Or Roses are Martin Colley on lead vocals, John Sumbler on lead guitar, Dermo Rose Sheen on bass guitar, Padraig Tansey on drums, Marcus Huyton on rhythm guitar and for certain gigs, Shawn Charvette on keyboards.  Formed back in 2009 by John, the band has been through a few line-up changes, but are now stronger and more successful than ever.  John and Padraig have both been in the band from day one, joined soon afterwards by Martin and then Dermo, with Marcus and Shawn being the newest members.  All the guys are experienced players, love the music of Guns N’ Roses and are huge music fans in general.  John formed Guns Or Roses after becoming inspired by watching other Guns N’ Roses tribute bands, and of course being influenced by Slash’s guitar playing and the awesome live shows of Guns N’ Roses.  Almost nine years on, and the band have gone from playing bars and pubs to performing in front of thousands of people throughout Europe.”

I shamelessly knew every song, and each member of the band had chance to shine as the epic Guns N Roses songs showcase the individual musicians talents. There’s no room for error. I noticed “Slash” taking a very “Slash style” stance front and centre in guitar solo sections. “Axl” did a recognisable side to side head and shoulder sway during the slower songs. Visually, I was convinced too, the white leather jacket, the kilt, it was all there. So, what lengths do they go to to perfect the authenticity of the act?

MARTIN: I emulate Axl the best I can by wearing costumes as near to the originals as possible, especially the t-shirts and wearing bandanas and aviator shades, not forgetting the kilt and the lycra shorts. My hair is real and I straighten it before every gig so as to look as genuine as possible, nothing worse than dodgy looking wigs!

JOHN: We try and source fairly authentic costumes but some of it has to be custom made like my top hat or the Pepe le Pew t-shirt. I’ve also managed over the years to put together the same basic guitar rig as Slash uses/has used live. I’ve got a 2008 signature Les Paul, his signature wah pedal and most recently I invested in the Slash Marshall AFD100 amp. I do rely on one of those dodgy looking wigs though haha.”

As the set went on, the tunes got bigger, the crowd got livelier but the energy onstage never dropped. It was full on from start to finish. There was no lull. Not one song where I felt the need to get a drink to keep me going. L was in her eliment taking photos in what she described as the best lighting conditions she’d seen at the venue for a while. I was getting pushed, and knocked over, and my foot was pierced by a stiletto more than once but, did I care? Hell no! For a small venue, it was certainly a big atmosphere. The people here loved the music of Guns N Roses, and that is why I admire tribute bands so much. The pressure must be immense. You know you’re going on stage to perform songs that the waiting crowd already know and love. People are passionate about their favourite songs and are quick to slate bad “covers”, so to advertise yourself as a tribute band,the crowd expect more than just a cover. They expect an accuarte rendition. How does the band feel about this, especially when bringing the show to a new venue?

“There’s always pressure whether it’s a new venue or a regular one. We try and recreate the sound, look and feel of GnR the best we can but we always have fun doing it and hopefully that transfers to the audience and gives them a better experience.”

Well, I was certainly enjoying the experience. Sweet Child O’ Mine is definitely one of my favourites and I had no shame singing along loudly with the rest of the Guns Or Roses family that had crowded around me. I could feel that the band themselves loved performing these songs, I wondered if they each had personal favourites?

“PADRAIG: Rocket Queen, it’s got a great groove that I love to get into.

JOHN: I’ve got a lot of favourites for different reasons. But if I had to pick one, I guess it’d probably be Nightrain, it’s just really easy to rock out hard to that one.

MARTIN: My favourite song is probably Coma but it’s a killer to sing, I’d probably say Welcome to the Jungle is my favourite to perform.”

Since setting up our Facebook group, L and I often wonder how much advertising goes into a gig, and who does it, the venue or the artist?

We try and do what we can via Facebook etc and we provide posters to the venues and promoters. The venues usually do lots of their own promotion.”

I’d seen the gig advertised on the venues Facebook page,and we shared it several times on our group. We’re determined to get people out supporting their local venues before they close down. I for one, am glad I dragged my tired backside out that evening. A night of live music, especially music you love with a passion, is invigorating. I had so much fun. Seriously, these guys rocked! Pun intended. It crossed my mind that rehearsals must be a blast with this lot, they genuinely looked like they had fun onstage…..

“What’s a rehearsal? Haha. We rehearsed for about 6 months before we started but now we play pretty much every weekend so we don’t really need to. We can usually refresh songs we haven’t done for a while in soundchecks”

I was genuinely pleased to hear they seem to have the success and popularity they deserve. 

The finale encore was inevitable. Paradise City. As I raised my arm to capture a snippet of video on my camera, the crowd surged forward, I had to grip onto it to capture some shaky footage. I got the feeling as the song went on, the excitement would rise and I wasn’t wrong. And I loved it! I kept catching L’s eye as she clutched her camera for dear life and snapped shot after shot of the visually exciting show in front of us. We marveled at the two past middle aged head bangers, one bold, and one with a rockers long mane of hair, having a head banging battle, which the bold one surprisingly won. It was a brilliant evening that fuelled my existing obsession with Guns N Roses. Are they coming back to Worcester…..are they, are they?

We always love playing Worcester and we always get a great audience! We’re back at the Marrs Bar on Saturday 14th April”

*Cue very happy dance 😉

So, my cure for insomnia? Don’t even bother going to sleep. Instead, go to a gig where you sing yourself hoarse, and the music is so loud your ears are buzzing and go home so happy that sleep is no longer even on your radar! Trust me, it works!

Photographs courtesy of the amazing Lissywitch:-


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