O2 Academy, Bournemouth

Nine Years ago this month Bournemouth’s Black Water County formed their band after coming together over a shared love of Celtic-infused Punk and Guinness. The band went from performing in local small venues to major festival stages pretty quickly, after putting in energetic live performances that started to give them a loyal following of fans. They have kept the momentum high with UK tours, major supports slots and two well-received albums. Tonight sees the band fulfil a dream and headline the O2 Academy in their hometown, not wanting to completely hog the limelight they have brought along 3 other top local bands to make the night extra special.

With this Friday night of local “heroes” on the bill with 1000 tickets sold, there was the small issue of who was going to fill the opening slot? Step forward hand-picked accordion Punks Sinful Maggie. This quartet is no stranger to the local scene and have quietly gone about their business post/lockdown, getting themselves back out there on the live music circuit. This was never going to be an easy ask, but the band handle it with plenty of confidence. Playing to punters as they start to slowly fill the venue they blast straight into their brand of Celtic/Folk/Punk with “We Are Wolves”. “Blame The Parents” follows as one song seems to effortlessly meld into the next. “Better Off Dead” and “Land Of Hopeless” suggest maybe a negative slant while “Calamityville” stays in the same ballpark. Set highlight “Shitfaced” sees a welcome return before they depart us two songs later with “Nature Of Man”. They use their 30-minute slot well, blowing off any cobwebs and setting us up nicely for a “bunch of pikey’s from Poole Quay” (Ross Sutcliffe’s words not mine) The Mistakes.

Sinful Maggie
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The Mistakes are a Punk band that is well suited to larger stages and they have already had plenty of experience with bigger audiences, including gigs at the Rebellion and Undercover Festivals along with a set at the Great British Alternative Music Weekend. Tonight though the only chink in their armour is that they are introducing their brand new bass player Angus Simpson, who replaces the outgoing Richie Blandford. The anarchic style is embraced by the Boscombe audience and the band’s energy radiates out and gets the audience moving. Songs like opener “Form Square” and the powerful “Quitters Get Nothing” show that the band are in fine form and Angus looks really comfortable in his role, despite their former bassist watching intently from the front row. Frontman Ross stalks the stage with authoritative vocals, which is a great grounding for their social commentary-based hard-hitting lyrical content. Shane and James provide the melodic backdrop, while Lewis hammers out some impressive hard-hit rhythmic patterning. The band’s own anthem “Never Be Quiet” is clearly their tune of the night and any newcomers will have the track rolling around in their brain as their head hits the pillow tonight. Ending with “Walk Tall” which should be autobiographical, The Mistakes have done a fantastic promotional job for themselves with a memorable set and plenty of new fans gained.

The Mistakes
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Any other stage in the area apart from possibly the Bournemouth International Centre would have struggled to accommodate the next act. Tonight Mischa & His Merry Men (and women) have swelled in number to eleven players, this includes a three-piece brass section, keyboards, violinist, cellist and percussionist; as well as the usual electric/acoustic guitars, bass and drums. This big wonderfully acoustic venue has just been waiting for a Pop orchestra like this. Mischa seems to be buzzing to be upon this stage and you can tell from the opening number that a whole load of effort has gone into preparing for tonight. Those who have seen him perform before, can see and hear plenty of changes to savour. From the opening number “Give it All” the crowd seem to adopt a celebratory atmosphere and there is loads of positive support for this well-liked act. Social conscience is worn on the sleeve during “Peace and Love” and the planet loving tune “Give Green a Chance”. All eleven musicians work tirelessly together to make one great sound and when it comes to the final number “Revolution”, every member of the band gets their time to shine. Harry shows his skills on the trumpet; while understated Steve Russell hidden at the back shows amazing keys work and borrowed for the evening from local band Skinny Knowledge, Andy Smooth keeps a perfectly in time beat. What can I say, I’ve seen Mischa perform on all sorts of different stages with various line-ups and this is going to be a performance that he will find very hard to top.

Mischa And His Merry Men
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The atmosphere has been rising over the course of the evening and you can feel the anticipation in the air as the lights go down and the intro music starts. Two Emo nuns arrive on stage and place candles in an almost ceremonial act, declaring Black Water County’s rite of passage to this venue. Kicking off with “Comedies and Tragedies” our five heroes Tim on Bass/vocals, Brad on guitar, Gav on Banjo/mandolin, Ollie on drums and Shan vocals/tin whistle arrive onstage to a homecoming welcome that I’m sure none of them will ever forget. The crowd are up for a party and moshpits soon startup with anyone from 16-60 dancing to the band’s infectious sound. Shan patrols the entire space afforded the band to further her duties as lead singer, using every inch of the stage and the photo pit to whip up the audience further. With her new appearance of striking orange hair and large amounts of confidence, she shows why the band so deserve this opportunity.

Black Water County
Black Water County 123456789101112

Performing songs from across their two albums the band barely stops to draw breath and you cannot help but think about how well the five of them all work as a unit. They have amazing chemistry, which clearly comes alive when they all get together onstage. There have been a couple of changes to the band over the years and I’m sure there is plenty of gratitude for the help from the two former members (Russ Scargell who played fiddle and Andy Smooth who formerly played the drums). Along with an unpredictable cover of State Radio’s “Knights of Bostonia” the band nail the setlist keeping the high momentum going throughout with a massive blowout at the end for the drinking classic “One More Beer Won’t Hurt”, which further intensified the moshpits out the front.

The band of course are encouraged to return for an encore and the epic “Under Skies Of Black And Blue” is merged together with “Runaway” before the audience are showered in confetti from two cannons on either side of the stage. The Emo nun returns to dance on stage with Shan before the band take their bows, concluding a fantastic night’s work. Tonight will go down in history as just one of those amazing nights where four local bands all came together to put on one brilliant show, which will be long remembered by all who were there. I’d love to see this as a regular feature in Bournemouth, but which local bands can step up to put themselves forward for a challenge like this?

Set Lists
Black Water County
Comedies and Tragedies
No Regrets
Living and Giving
There Will Be a Day
Sir Terry Cool
Darkest Days
Who Am I Now?
Knights of Bostonia (State Radio)
Rise and Fall
Start Something New
Dead End Road
One More Beer Won’t Hurt

Under Skies of Black And Blue

Mischa & His Merry Men
Give It All
Peace and Love
Give Green a Chance
Stop Drop & Roll
Help a Brother Out (Selfish)

The Mistakes
Form Square
Black Widow
That’s What You Get
Quitters Get Nothing
Never be Quiet
Let’s ‘Ave it
Walk Tall

Sinful Maggie
We Are Wolves
Blame the Parents
Better Off Dead
Land of Hopeless Stories
American Catastrophe
Zyklon B
Nature of Man



Words & Media by David Chinery (Chinners) & Ross Ferrone
Pictures by Matthew Rayner.

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