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King Pleasure & The Biscuit Boys, at The Artrix 03/01/15

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For many of you out there, there is no need for me to introduce this remarkable band. They have been delivering their signature swing to audiences all over the UK, and Europe for nearly 30 years. They are, dare I suggest, ‘an institution’, forged in and around Birmingham, when ‘Made In Birmingham’ still meant something. King Pleasure himself, along with ‘Big John’, are the powerhouse horn blowers of the outfit, John Battrum, the uncrowned king, on his sax. KP adds to the ‘hot’ air, but his ‘lounge lizard’ crooning, energy, and enthusiasm are the driving forces behind their unique style. Add to that, Bullmoose ‘K’ Shirley on his lovely country style Gibson, Matt Foundling on the ivories, Gary Barber, tucked behind, on ‘skins’, and the unmissable clown prince of Bass, Shark Van Schtoop, producing swing with touches of jazz, some blues and rock & roll, for good measure. So, ‘This Is It’, all adding up to abandoned seats, there is the undeniable urge to get up and move, we just ‘Can’t Get Enough Of Your Stuff’. The Artrix has the ability to ‘flatten’ half the floor, for times like this. ‘Shake Rattle & Roll, KP is down in the audience, weaving through the movers and groovers, the band ‘jams’ on, Matt strikes up some serious boogie woogie on the keys. The King is back up, ‘I Got A Gal That Lives Upon The Hill’, he reverts quickly to an old favourite ‘Barracuda’, vocalised in his own lounge style. Jackie Wilson is shaken out, a bit more rock & roll. ‘I Ain’t Mad At You, Don’t You Be Mad At Me’, because its blues time with BB Kings, ‘You Upsets Me baby’. Slip in a bit of Ray Charles, why not? before getting back to full on swing.

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The Shark is hiding behind his double bass, fingers still bending those heavy strings, deep in the shadows, Gary may not be seen too well, but he is certainly heard, the two push along that rhythm, ‘Well Alright, OK You Win’, what can I do? another boogie solo off Matt, keeps the momentum going. KP has disappeared for a breather, as the band play an extended ‘Tequila’, all take a turn to lead, the audience is provoked into responding to the calls, its Tequila all round, doubles probably, with ice, as the King returns to close it off.

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‘Bona Serra’, gives hint to nearing the close, a relaxed swing, the pendulum easing down, but the fans are having none of that, and demand more.

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A short breath, Dean Martin would be hard pressed to ‘Sway’, better than this, ‘Party Time’ is over, but not before a boastful ‘I’m the King Of The Swingers’, and who are we to argue. King Pleasure And The Biscuit Boys have royally entertained us, at what is becoming an annual date at The Artrix, roll on next year.

Wods & Photos Graham Munn

 

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Official Receivers at The Artrix 06/09

 

I was looking forward to a night of soulful music from one of the premier bands in the country, who not only play the part, but look the business as well. Not so fast, first we have to give consideration to an excellent support band, whom I would not have minded seeing in their own right. Not soul this time, but plenty of rock and blues, coming from Slowburner.

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They have a 27 year pedigree, and have supported some influential blues and rock bands over that time. Slowburner is fronted by the charismatic vocalist Paul Bridgewater, Mike Bannister, looking serious on a mean guitar, Rob Newell, thumping out those base notes and just for the night, a drumfest performance from Dave Small stand in Denny Connolly. It must be said, Paul has an outstanding voice, purpose built for this style of electric blues, and certainly looks the part, bringing to mind Paul Rogers and Free. From ‘King Bee’ to ‘Bullfrog Blues’, via JJ Cale, Free, and Muddy Waters, this band play a smorgasbord of blues looking back across the last 50 years. That’s not to dismiss many of their own songs squeezed in to the roller-coaster rock show. Thoroughly enjoyable, those soul boys would have to work hard to better this.

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Whilst not at capacity, there was a good crowd awaiting the Receivers, the cheer went up as they entered the arena. Slickly turned out and loaded with brass, the band strike up, front man Lenny enters,the open floor of the Artrix, tense with expectation, breaks into a writhing mass of born again teenagers, as ‘Soul Finger’, melds into ’25 Miles From Home’. Edwin Starr, Sam & Dave, Otis Redding and Booker T, are pitched at the auditorium. Whether your a Soul Man or not, you can’t help moving to these classics, helpless against the tide of songs washing over us, ‘How sweet It Is’, to be within the magnetic field of this dynamic, highly charged, band. They are a brass driven 8-piece, towering over the tuneful tubes is Chris on Tenor Sax, with Paul on trumpet, and a second Tenor, sitting squarely on Phil. Tucked behind are the building blocks of funk, Dave on bass, and Tony on drums. Only stalling for Lenny to mop his brow, the soul train rides on, ‘Geno’ almost enticed me to risk my well worn back, but I’m a pro, I had a job to do, sod it! ‘Mustang Sally’ caught me unawares, another week on Tramadol! Venturing up into the galleries, I found a similar picture, abandoned seats, floor space at a premium, you cannot sit still to this stuff. Rick gets carried away on a guitar solo, hinting at some serious rock demons, Simon throws in some nifty keyboard moves, Lenny needs an oxygen mask, time to Show A Bit of Tenderness. The evening is winding up, far too many wild eyed, middle-aged teenagers were about to be released into the Bromsgrove night, looking for more action. It had been a fabulous evening, intoxicating stuff, a superb Slowburner put light to the fuse, and the controlled explosion as the Official Receivers, drew us all in and released the force.

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Do you like good music, yeah, yeah, oh yeah

Words & photos Graham Munn

 

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Blues at The Jinney Ring, Hanbury 02/08/14

 

The 6th year of this blues and beer festival held at the picturesque craft centre, The Jinney Ring, near Bromsgrove. Visitors could camp or park up overnight in their VW ‘splittie’ and ex WD tents. Well not quite that any more, but there were plenty of pitches in use, as the day travellers rolled in, and 400+ gathered around the grounds. Plenty of good food, 21 beers and ciders, and 6 bands to entertain all over from early afternoon till late evening.

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Jack Blackman, opened the stage, with his acoustic Mississippi Delta style blues, he is building a strong following for his accomplished finger picking and slide work along with vocals that show a real feel for those blues. Performing country blues, like the frothy ‘Patch Up That Hole’, the lament that is ‘Charley Walton Blues’, through to fast fingering songs like his ‘Police Dog Blues’, 19 year old Jack’s talents were there for all to hear.

Closing with a railroading, fast moving, demo of Delta slide for ‘Hognose Gin’, excellent.

Jack gave way for the light hearted, rootsy Mumbo Jumbo, with Oliver, Chris and, on piano, Fred Skidmore, who added some nice touches of boogie woogie to the set. ‘Three Cool Cats’ seems to sum up this comfortable, laid back, entertaining session. Bass gave way to uke in the hands of Chris, Oliver trumpeting his green credentials on washboard and cajon, with Fred providing the jam filling that glued it all together. A wooden kazoo is produced for ‘Regret It’, ‘Nice Work’, if you can get it!

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Retrovibe, were up next, though mainly guitar based covers, this band performed well, with a personable and powerful vocalist in Rea Lewis. ‘Pride & joy’, ‘Bright Lights’, and a nice side step as Rea sipped the beautiful jazz tinged, ‘Black Coffee’. Some nice harp off Jake Thomas for ‘I’m Ready’, before Rae upped the tempo, for the dancing fans, with, Jailhouse Rock, and ‘Johnny Be Goode’. Rae and Retrovibe had certainly stirred up the action.

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To follow we were treated to the funk and blues of guitar gurning band Brothers Groove. This Birmingham band, has not put a foot wrong since forming, rapidly moving from a support roll to headlining. Their strong following now producing national radio airplay and award nominations.

Guitarist Shaun Hill, is not only a joy to hear, but also to watch, he wears his musical emotion firmly on his expressional face. With Nige Mellor and Deano Bass, the guitar combination is pure class. ‘What’s The Deal’ and ‘Play the Game’ came straight off their album of the same name released last year. The band finished to all round applause and a blues guitar take on Stevie Wonders ‘Superstition’, an exceptional faultless set, for us all to join in that groove. Following swiftly on, we moved from the award nominated Brothers, to a European Blues award winning artist in Franck Ash. Franck has supported such legends as Robert Cray and Taj Mahal and now he had brought his band to Jinney Ring for another faultless guitar led performance. That is not to diminish his vocal presence, he is a full on live performer, with plenty of that funk and soul guaranteed to please this gathering of blues fans. ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’ and ‘Well Alright’ was certainly alright here.

So how do we follow up this guitar genus that has cut its groove over the evening, well it was time for everyone to get up and move to the world of The fabulous Boogie Boys and Sarah Warren. Sarah returns from last year, we all know what to expect from this powerful singer, but she likes her fun too and this is a fun session from those red coated Boogie Boys. Front man Chris Dawe, poses and struts alongside Sarah, they ‘Shake Rattle and Roll’, throughout the set. Everything is thrown in from ‘Aint Nobody Here But Us Chickens’, (plenty of ducks though) through to ‘See You Later Alligator’, this is what the the Fabulous Boogie Boys are made for, giving all a great evening and send off to this established little festival, in the beautiful setting of The Jinney Ring.

Words & Photos By Graham Munn

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Gloucester Blues Bytes 2014

 

Sampling what is on offer during the last week of July and into August, finds me at Café Rene for a Mike Sanchez solo. Waiting is his battered gig weary keyboard, more gaffer tape than body, but it seems to work for him. Mike is a travelling jukebox box of Rhythm & Blues, Do Wap, Boogie, Blues, Ballads and Rock & roll, taken from the world of wine women and song. A non stop whirling dervish of a show, someone had loaded a fiver in a 5p slot Wurlitzer, and Mike is the stylus. Café Rene was full, and song titles were tossed in the air to be caught and played, set list? never heard of them! Mike remonstrated his inability to play Louis Jordan’s, ‘Ain’t Nobody here But Us Chickens’, and then proceeded to sing it ‘a capella’ style. A fun evening to end Mike’s current UK visit, and the launch of his biography.

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I returned to Gloucester for a Friday night double, Steve Ajao & The BluesGiants, with King Pleasure & The Biscuit Boys, following them on to the open stage in Eastgate. A damp evening, with fine rain making for a reluctant gathering, venturing out from the covered areas. Though eventually, with no doubt a little fortification from the bar, KP managed to entice movement onto the green around the stage.

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Steve Ajao, had opened with some good solid blues, as you would expect from this top notch Birmingham band, ‘Pride and Joy’, ‘Boogie Chillun’, and, ‘Travelling Man’, slip out easily, with bits of Hendrix, Whittaker and Clarence Carter, thrown in. Sadly the vocal mike did not seem well set to relate anything Steve talked about between these classic songs, a shame, as he does have a nice dry humour to bring to his gigs. KP and the lads, drew in the reluctant, sheltering crowd with plenty of rhythm and blues, swing, and even a bit of BB King for the occasion. ‘Everyday I Have the Blues’, crooned out to the revellers, in a full on blues style, reverting to lounge swing for such songs as ‘Oh Marie’. KP, with ‘Big John’, at his side, surrounded by one of the best R&B/swing bands around, can’t go wrong, a good way to unwind into the weekend.

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Sunday, and some nice delta blues from Damon T, based in Gloucester, he is undoubtedly broadening his base with various festival spots throughout the summer. He ended on a Blind Willie Johnson song ‘Soul Of A Man’, played with soul by Damon T. A timing mix up meant a delayed start for Steve Morrison, so why not a bit more Damon to fill in, no one complained. The small hooded stage was reset for another, perhaps grittier blues man, Matt Woosey and his band. Matt , All the way from the Heights of Malvern is a well established acoustic blues artist, either solo or with his band. He grabbed attention with the lovely ‘Hook Line & Sinker’, the title track from his last album, but he could not get away from his claimed nemesis ‘Cruel Disposition’ a hard hitting Woosey favourite, fully fired up and certain to leave an impression.

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Steve Morrison had found his way and was ready to go, a softer, approach after Matt, but an excellent performance that was much appreciated by the now crowded green. His well worn Fender teased us with superb finger picking and slide from the opening ‘After Midnight’ in the style of EC through to ‘Alberta’.

The Keith Thompson Band introduced a bit more rock as they played their Chicago and Mid America style blues, with the odd curved balls served up, like ‘Money’, the only cover on their Catch The Fire album. A nice bit of Hendrix in ‘Little Wing’ followed fast on the heels of Pink Floyd, the band gave a distinct change of style from the afternoon sessions.

Spikedrivers were to follow, they had won over many new fans at Upton a week before, with their roots style of Americana and blues, played out on scullery instruments by Constance and Maurice alongside the age worn acoustic guitars of Ben. Unfortunately, I was not able to see Connie Lush, much I would have loved to have, she is an iconic blues singer, with great presence and a killer voice. Overall, the week had been full of wonderful music in a variety of venues around Gloucester City centre, culminating in the weekend extravaganza behind Café Rene, the nucleus of the festival. It has established a firm hold on the week following Upton Blues just 15 miles up the road, often attracting many of the artists that have featured there. There is room for improvement, the stage is small and limited, the sound, probably not the best, but its certainly worth the visit, you will get to see some great bands, and be able to sample all that the Café Rene has on offer.

Words And photos Graham Munn

 

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This year saw the tenth anniversary for, perhaps one of the most family friendly music festivals on the calender, as ever the organisers of Wychwood delivered an incredible weekends entertainment covering everything from comedy, children’s workshops and book reading to relaxing massages and spa’s and of course a diverse, intriguing musical program that brought together festival favourites to brand new buzz bands across a handful of stages and tents.

Like any festival it’s impossible to cover every performer and mention every event over the course of three days but I’ll try to break it down and give you a feel of the festival.

Day One. Friday

The rain had fallen and left the site with a boggy squelch underfoot, but despite the conditions the early entrants were ably warmed up by the likes of A Way With Words on the mainstage but our first port of call was over in the BBC Introducing Tent for a blistering set of guitar histrionics from Bromsgrove based blues rock heroes, Virgil And The Accelerators, creating an early storm with a dazzling flurry of riffs, solos and bombarding drums. A quick dash across to the mainstage to catch a bit of Newquay Times before heading into the Big Top for the first time for early highlight, skiffle blues band Railroad Bill who welded acoustic guitars, washboard, tea chest double bass and infectious tongue in check vocal harmonies to create a riotous take on the genre complete with a rock n roll attitude, gurning, hook-laden sing-a-longs and more foot tapping rhythms than most bands can muster in a life time. From there on in it was dash after dash across the site to catch further up and comers in the Big Tent and Worcestershire’s finest over in the BBC Tent, with the occasional pause at the mainstage. BBC Hereford And Worcester did a stunning job of showcasing the regions finest as many mainstays from the Introducing program graced the stage and gave their all, the likes of The Misers with their rootsy take on rock n roll, the ever dependable and uniquely contagious alternative pop rockers, Jasper In The Company Of Others and stage headliners, The Stiff Joints drew huge crowds in the cramped tent, whilst the brassy Collective 43 drummed up support outside drawing in further revellers to the sounds of Hereford And Worcester. Smashing Blouse were providing a party of their own over in the Big Top as they hosted a number of stunning, evocative sets from a host of newcomers. Whitechapel based trio Glitches made an immediate impression with a blend of dark electro-indie topped with a stunning almost falsetto vocal, cutting through the melancholic synth/guitar based backing to create a fragile, yet compelling sound. Lloyd Yates, provided a folkier, more organic sound incorporating acoustic and electric guitars alongside a deep baritone lead vocal, instantly bewitching the audience. back to the electronics (and a debate over whether using synths and computers makes the performers any lesser musicians, personally I love a bit of live electronica!!!) for the likes of the hip-hop/sax flavours of Benin City and the rather more moody but no less interesting No Ceremony. Inbetween bouts of electronic goodness, ventures into the sunshine provided wafts of the likes of Graham Gouldman and pals delivering acoustic renditions of Dreadlock Holiday and unwanted blasts (my personal opinion, though the masses love them!!) of The Real Thing. As the first day drew to a close we were treated to one of the sets of the festival. in the shape of Bipolar Sunrise, a chilled out soulful collective that effortlessly blended R&B, electronics and pop to create a stunning set that was rounded off brilliantly with aptly entitled mantra, Love More Worry Less. As we left the site on Day One The Stranglers were inciting mass sing-a-longs for the likes of the always punchy Peaches and No More Heroes, whilst Golden Brown had pretty much the whole site swaying along.

Day Two. Saturday

So I admit it, I’m a wimp, but I just don’t do camping, sure I’m up at the crack of dawn but I’ve still had a good nights kip ready for another packed day of festivities.  As we hit Wychwood, Justin Fletcher was leading all the children on a merry song and dance on the mainstage, with the kids obviously lapping up the Mr Tumble/Gigglebiz performer we decided to hit the Big Top for first, a dance to Cuban big band Ran Kan Kan and then an introduction to something called Chap-Hop by the rather delightful Mr B The Gentleman Rhythmer, who took hip-hop, shook out all the posturing and profanity, added a banjolele and a heap of humour to create a gentleman’s take on the genre. Mr B’s history lesson of hip-hop took in snippets from the likes of Run DMC and The Beastie Boys along with Northern indie legends Primal Scream, Stone Roses along with Kraftwerk and the alike as he delivered a mirth filled set that left people proclaiming his genius (myself included!!), as his own song proclaims “All Hail The Chap”. Being an avid reader of R2 I already had great expectations for Wigan based folk rockers Merry Hell as they took to the mainstage and their set of high octane rockers and soulful laments captured the imagination from the outset. Their set had it all, male/female harmonies, biting social commentary (Love The Skin Your In), touching love songs (Lean On Me Love) and even a clanging slice of hammer and spade percussion (Bury me Naked) as Merry Hell showcased just why they’re so highly regarded in folk circles and beyond. By now the temperature down the front was rising and the multi cultural collective La Chiva Gantiva added to the sweaty humidity with a dazzling combination of Latin rhythms, Afrobeat percussion and funk-driven rock, driving the audience into all new frenzy as their undeniable groove took hold and their infatuating frontman revved up the intensity further. Bad Manners were welcomed to the stage as conquering heroes, Buster Bloodvessel and his energetic horn section delivered all the ska party favourites from My Girl Lollipop to Feel Like Jumping all the way to Special Brew And Lip Up Fatty inciting outbreaks of skanking and mass sing-a-longs along the way. Newton Faulkner took to the stage for an early evening slice of acoustic pop and after a couple of technical hiccups, seduced the audience with his deft finger picking and gentle croon delivering stunning takes on Teardrops by Massive Attack and his own effervescent Dream Catch Me along the way. With every festival you get the obligatory stage clashes, for me day two presented a couple to ponder upon do I see Reef or venture to the Big Top for Kyla la Grange? I originally went with the former, but after Place Your Hands and Come Back Brighter, my interest quickly began to wane and my feet to wander, in contrast Kyla was simply mesmeric, the blend of pop infused electronic/indie compels, whilst her vocals transcend you to another world completely, that voice is a bewitching thing of beauty that captivates anyone stood in earshot, whilst the songs themselves wrap their talons round both your head and heart….wow!!! Day two was completed with foppish indie dandy King Charles elegantly sashaying across the stage whilst The Levellers brought out a greatest hits set over on the mainstage featuring the likes of Hope Street and One Way Of Life among their supercharged setlist.

Day Three. Sunday

The final day of Wychwood’s birthday celebrations, the sun reveals it’s full potential, folk begin to look a little weary after two days of singing and dancing, yet still seem to be in high spirits as the first of the days band’s take to the stage. KSH & The Going Goods open the mainstage with a fine line of acoustic hip-hop (acoustic guitar. human beatbox, etc), the likes of Happiness with it’s hook-laden chorus and The Day After Friday soon entice the first sing-a-longs of the day as they end set to a great deal of acclaim. Polly And The Billets Doux continued to rouse a weary audience with an incredible, early afternoon set of harmony infused blues, soul and folk, complete with clever guitar work, throbbing double bass, harmonica blasts and powerful, passionate vocals that yank at the heartstrings, originals such as Money Tree and Black Crow instantly cast a spell over the audience, whilst their rendition of House Of The Rising Sun was not only a completely original take but also jaw dropping for the instrument swapping mid song. Baracka brought a delicious Caribbean stew to the proceedings with a combination of world grooves, reggae, soca and calypso vibes as the sun proceeded to shine brightly on, a now carnival like atmosphere. Whilst baracka were busy creating a sunshine state, Craig Charles dropped the funk bomb with a hot and sweaty DJ set to a jam packed tent for the second year in a row. Gabby Young And The Other Animals took to the stage and instantly demanded attention with a flash of red hair, circus swing, spaghetti western and off the wall rock n roll, the band’s flamboyant singer, Gabby proved to be a captivating focal point, not only did she had a rather unique style but also one of the most impressive set of vocal pipes over the festival, whilst the other animals ably backed her on the likes of I’ve Improved and the Morricone inspired Horatio (did I spot a Calexico influence?). Whilst Sadie And The Hotheads and the regular workshop showcase took up the main arena we retreated to the Big Top for a stunning set of glacial Sigur Ros meets Radiohead (with added trumpet) soundscapes from epic indie rockers Racing Glaciers, whilst over in the introducing tent up and comers Pretty Rascals delivered a Beatles/Oasis/Artic Monkeys inspired set topped off with a fantastic run through Come Together. Due The Champs have been picked for bigger and better things with their brand of acoustic harmonised indie folk and their set of Turin Brakes like originals did have a couple of stand out moments such as My Spirit Is Broken, but for me I would of like a little more variation, perhaps ones to look out for in the future. Back over on the main stage a one-two punch of ska with The Gentlemans Dub Club and Lee Thompson’s Ska Orchestra, with the former proving to be highlights with their dub fuelled rhythms and infectious ringleader commanding the audiences participation on the likes of If The Truth Be Told and the frantic Fire. All good things must come to an end and so be it with Wychwood’s birthday party but before we go there’s time for one more band, a legend perhaps….the crowd pushed forward for the arrival of Sir Bob Geldof and The Boomtown Rats, from the off, Bob strutted, pouted and gesticulated wildly, with the crowd lapping up every swing of the fake snakeskin clad hips, whilst his band pounded out the hits and what better way to finish off a perfect weekend of entertainment than a holler along to She’s So Modern and the obligatory I Don’t Like Mondays.

I could go on and on about this year’s Wychwood, but I should sum up, if you weren’t there you missed out on perhaps the festival of the Summer, if you were there, you don’t need me to tell you how damn impressive this year’s shindig was, bring on the eleventh birthday!!!

 

Words Will Munn

Photos Graham Munn

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