On both Captain Beefhearts seminal `Safe as Milk` and Lucinda Williams debut LP the more standard(ish -we are talking Captain Beefheart here) songs were interspersed with odd, skewed blues tracks which helped make the albums more interesting. That said what would the LP`s be like without the garage punk greatness of `Zigzag Wanderer` or the classic country pop of `Passionate Kisses` just leaving the more back to basic, raw blues tracks?
Well that`s what we have with Reverend Peytons Big Damn Blues Bands `The Whole Damn Family` an LP of excellent, root sounds, incorporating traditional instruments like ..emm..the washboard which would be be ace but ..and there is always a but ..as with any solid scene LP be it punk, R&B or whatever, without some form of diversity it is difficult to get through thirteen tracks without getting bored of hearing the same thing over and over again!!
So although there ain`t nothin’ better than mamma`s fried potatoes, sometimes a few nice vegetables or a good steak and perhaps a pudding ...mmmmm pudding ..where was I? .. oh yeah something a little different to break up the album wouldn`t have gone amiss ... now where`s that pudding!!!
Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band / Neck / Mark Alder and the Baudelaires / Smokey Bastard
It’s been a long time since I enjoyed a night as much as this one. There were several points in the evening – and I know this will be difficult to believe – when some of the Water Rats crowd were even dancing. Yes, you heard me. The Water Rats. Dancing. I had previously been under the impression that, should a naked, painted madman burst into the Water Rats blasting the chandeliers with a shot gun and screaming “Armageddon!”, he would still be greeted with the same look of bored unimpressedness. That’s what you get when you routinely fill a venue full of journalists, I suppose.
Not tonight! The first act on were Smokey Bastard, a stonkingly lively seven piece Irish-folk-punk bonanza, bringing a smoking new selection to everyone’s collection of electric guitar and tin whistle tunes. Ah, it’s good to see the homeland so well represented by its up and coming youth! It brings a tear to the eye and a song to the heart to see the Irish young bloods picking up from their father’s generation, bringing the good word to all here in this smoky old city! And which part of Ireland to you come from, me lads? What do you mean, ‘Reading’? Oooh, there’ll be some here who won’t like that. More on that later. In the meantime, they rocked. Punked. Folked. Whatever. How they all fit on the stage still baffles me.
So the next lads up were a considerably quieter three-piece dressed like the ushers at a wedding (at the point when the speeches are over and the free bar has just opened). This would be Mark Alder and the Baudelaires. Turns out Marky is also from Reading, and doesn’t entirely manage to cover up the natural dismay one would feel at having to immediately follow a seven piece band with more instruments than the whole audience could conveniently carry between them. Nevertheless, he launches into the set with a fair amount of confidence and a certain panache. Now, I can see what these lads are trying to do. I really can. There’s an early crooner, Fred Astaire feel to what are essentially rock songs, and a stab at a vaudeville twist. Somehow, somewhere it falls slightly short. The songs only have a middle, and the guitar is bit unimaginative. For this to be carried off, you need something a little bit bonkers or something technically brilliant, and neither quite gets there. However – this guy’s obviously a talented self-promotionist, and I have (rarely) been wrong in the past. We’ll have to wait and see on this one, I think.
Neck are next. In terms of Irish folk punk, these guys have the credentials. For a start, they’re probably Irish. North London Irish, but Irish nevertheless. OK, so they only have a paltry six members, but the frontman, Leeson O’Keeffe, used to be in a band with Shane MacGowan, and lived just down the road from John Lydon. They’re not happy about the ‘imitation’ Irish folk punk band. Oh no. With a friendly smile, O’Keeffe makes a joke about young upstarts from Reading trying to move in on the territory. It’s a universal truth that there’s no accent like the Irish for sounding sinister and genial at the same time. I didn’t see the young lads from Smokey Bastard hanging around after that - coincidence? Anyhow, since these guys don’t know where I live, I’m going to go out on a limb and say I enjoyed the Smokey Bastard set more. This may have had authenticity, as far as that goes, but I found myself more entertained by the byplay. While O’Keeffe was making a grand speech about how Irish music unites all races and colours in harmony (very true, I’m sure), he failed to notice that the banjo player was indicating to the soundman to turn up his banjo using a gesture that looked regrettably similar to one used to indicate a load of wank. Unfortunate: yes. Funny: also yes. Oh yes.
And finally: The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band! How many more can you fit onto the stage than seven, you may say? Three. Drum, washboard and acoustic guitar, and enough personality to fill a dozen stages. By the sweet Lord, these guys are good! The set list doesn’t really read like a set list, more like a series of stories. There’s the song where we’re all told how to make a potato gun out of a PVC pipe and a can of hairspray (and a potato). There’s the one where the good Reverend demonstrates why he doesn’t need a bass player (he has a thumb, don’t he?), then there’s the one about when they saw Breezy Peyton’s cousin on the reality show ‘Cops’ and wrote a song about it (obviously after calling up Breezy’s aunt to make fun of her). And there was the one that sounded like a train. After these and other delights, finally, there was the foot-stomping, audience participation encore, at the end of which the washboard got set on fire. Jimi Hendrix had nothing on this lot, I tell you. Rarely have I enjoyed a set more, but it was short, oh so short. I believe they’re leaving these sunny shores soon, I hope they liked it enough to come back. Hallelujah!