Tuesday, 30 September 2014

"I Know The Promoter ..."

is a line I have never been able to use in many years (with a strangely unexplainable break of about 10 years (?) from about 1998).
Until now.
Last Friday I attended the Half Moon in Putney for the latest Retro Man Blog event featuring The Past Tense, Les Kitchenettes and The Len Price 3.
I say that "I Know The Promoter" but this does not mean a Guest List jolly at someone elses expense.  It did however ensure me that a reserved ticket was held at the door and a pint of beer presented to me as I entered.

The Half Moon is one of those infamous venues that just about every important band has played at.  Originally hosting Folk and Blues nights in the early 60s, the venue attracted performances from Ammerican performers such as Champion Jack Dupree and Arthur Crudup. British Folk performers including Bert Jansch, John Martyn, Roy Harper and Ralph McTell all graced the stage.
Along with venues such as Eel Pie Island and The Crawdaddy, The Half Moon hosted bands such as John Mayalls Bluesbreakers, Alexis Korner and The Yardbirds.
The stage has also been graced by The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, Dr Feelgood and Elvis Costello, and also hosted the fist public performance by Kate Bush.

First things first: travelling from Reading to Putney (and back again) is not the easiest of tasks.  Fortunately, there is one 'straight-through-no-changes' train from Reading at around 5:30.  No such luck on the return journey, meaning I would have to leg it up Putney High Street at 10:30 to ensure I caught the train to Staines, and then change to get back to Reading before dawn rises (it's not actually that bad, but you get the idea ...)

The phrases "energetic", "powerful" and "tuneful" may be used with monotonous regularity throughout - those words amply describe all 3 bands performances, but somehow don't quite do full justice to the performances seen.  So to save time, I'll say them once and ask the reader to sprinkle them through the text as they see fit.

The Past Tense opened the night with a solid set, full of commitment and honesty.
I'd heard of the band, but never actually heard them - now I find myself asking myself "How have you missed that?"
As is my way, it is usual to fall back on comparisons to describe a band, here goes: Nine Below Zero spring to mind, as do many other bands from the Mod Revival, all bound up with a sound similar to the Jam's debut 'In The City'.  (Lazy reviewing, but effective I hope you will agree)
Their website states they are advocates of live performance, and on tonights showing there is no way they disappointed.
They may now be my new favourite band (if it wasn't for the existence of the other two bands this evening).

Les Kitchenettes descended upon London from France for their first UK appearance.  On this showing, I'm sure they will be welcomed back for many more (in fact, their second UK appearance was the following night at The Fiddlers Elbow in Camden).
Without wishing to sound xenophobic, the concept of a French band playing Mod/Garage/Psych (call it what you will?) was not straightforward for my brain to assimilate.  But hang on, who says this music is the preserve of the UK and the US?  Apart from the fact I understood very few (if not all) the lyrics, then the sound they made was a positive joy.
The definite highlight for me was a truly full on version of "Route 66" at least, I think it was - the riff was very familiar, and the words "soixante-six" were definitely heard.

Len Price 3
The band arrived on stage looking immaculate, hit the first chord and the place exploded.  The noise level and temperature rises, the sweat starts yet still they look immaculate (perhaps just a little damper), and show no signs of slowing down or taking a breather.
No airs, graces or studio trickery - this is full-on, in your face, adrenaline fuelled powerpop.  It is testament to their performance that on stage they sound even better than on record (and bear in mind that their 4 albums to date are truly magnificent pieces of work).
Of the bands performance, I only caught 5 songs (all from the latest album), but have no doubt that they were just warming up at this stage and the spectacle would only have got better.

So - apologies to the band, but I promise to stay for a full show next time.

And if I may be so bold, here is the whole show (found on YouTube), just so I can see what I missed:

(If you can't spare the time for the whole hour, do check out the final song of the initial set "London Institute" at 46:15, and then you may as well hang around for the encore)

In summary, The Half Moon is a fine, fine venue (if a bugger to get to from Reading), and the bands on stage offering some of the best live music performances I've seen in a long time.