Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Les BOF! and Oh!Gunquit at Weirdsville Saturday October 25th

Tina Bopper of Oh!Gunquit - Photo Copyright Retro Man Blog 2014
In all my years of gig-going I’ve come to realize that being “down the front” can often be fraught with danger. Over the years, I’ve been regularly elbowed in the head by chicken-dancing Psychobillies at Cramps gigs and been knocked unconscious in front of Discharge at the 100 Club. I’ve been crushed underneath Swedish man mountain Ebbot Lundberg of The Soundtrack of Our Lives, been covered in Black Flag singer Henry Rollins’ blood and been half deafened by the Ramones. I’ve had a Goth fall on me from the top of a human pyramid at a Sisters of Mercy gig and nearly been decapitated by the swinging bass of Steve Huggins of The Len Price 3. I’ve been intoxicated by the fumes of spliff smoke at a Brian Jonestown Massacre gig and been hit on the head by a large bottle of water (or at least I think it was water…) at the Reading Festival. I’ve had bruised ribs, cigarette burns and trodden-on toes. I’ve been spat at and had beer thrown on me one minute, then shaving foam and water squirted in my eyes the next; actually come to think of it, those last four were just by bands! I’ve lost count of all the black eyes, bloody noses and bruised knuckles but I can categorically state that I have never been assaulted by a large fluorescent hula-hoop before. Yes, standing at the front of an Oh!Gunquit show brings its own very special kind of danger. Actually, I have to admit it’s not exactly an unpleasant kind of danger, for wielding the hula-hoop is the rather wonderful Tina Bopper – who manages to sing whilst keeping the hoop spinning throughout the duration of the wired Bo Diddley Rockabilly shuffle of "Mentalist Twist".

Simon and Alex of Oh!Gunquit by Dan Criscuolo copyright 2014
To say Oh!Gunquit are unique is a bit of an understatement, this was the first time I had managed to catch them play live but in every promo photo or video I’ve seen they seem to have a different line-up and different instruments. Tonight the band take the stage as a three piece with lead vocalist Tina, an energetic shock of peroxide blonde hair who only stands still when playing the trumpet or swirling her hula-hoop, which she sometimes does at the same time, it’s an impressive talent! Then to her right there’s the pencil-moustached Simon Wild on guitar, vocals and Kung-Fu moves and then there’s the impressive drumming of Alex. A quick fire hat-trick of superb tracks from the new E.P. "Cindy's Got a Tiger" closely followed by "Bad Bad Milk" and "Lights Out" are as good a sequence of songs as you are likely to hear all year. Half way through the set the band’s glamorous bassist Veronica suddenly gets on stage, plugs in and tunes up as the band rumble along. 

Oh!Gunquit by Dan Criscuolo copyright 2014
Oh!Gunquit by Dan Criscuolo copyright 2014
But there’s still something missing. I like a bit of Sax every now and then and indeed some of Oh!Gunquit’s recorded songs remind me of the great Boston band Morphine who, before the untimely death of front-man Mark Sandman in 1999, played stripped-back swampy Blues with their unorthodox line-up of Sax, slide Bass and Drums. So I was a bit disappointed that there was no Saxophone tonight but I suppose it was hardly surprising given my recent experiences of Sax players going AWOL at my own Retro Man Blog gigs. None of the Saxophonists from King Salami & The Cumberland 3, Les Kitschenette’s or The SuperMinx ’70 could make their respective shows for varying reasons, so I am beginning to believe that there must be some kind of weird Voodoo jinx going on between me and Saxophones! Actually, Oh!Gunquit do evoke a kind of swampy Voodoo sound that conjures up The Cramps and The Gun Club and Simon swings his guitar and shreds our ears with loud twanging Surf riffs. The songs are packed full of hooks and tuneful little twists, and there are echoes of early B-52’s at their most humorous and danceable best. Paul from Dirty Water Records is there in the crowd, they’ve just signed up Oh!Gunquit and I’m sure there must have been a queue of suitors with pens and contracts in hand trailing the band. Anyway, hopefully Dirty Water will put out a debut album very soon; it’ll be one hell of a record that’s for sure.

Les BOF! - Photo Copyright Retro Man Blog 2014
I’d generally feel a bit sorry for any band who had to follow that storming set from Oh!Gunquit but luckily it’s Les BOF! and in Laurent Mombel they have a live-wire front man who is even more of a blur of energy than Tina. As the band strike up the chords to the first song "Port St. Louis" the elegantly attired Laurent suddenly appears amongst us in the audience before jumping on a speaker stack and then to a nearby table, encouraging us to clap along and move closer to the stage. Checking that there are no flying hula-hoops nearby I do indeed venture back to the front and all we have to deal with is Laurent jumping into the crowd at regular intervals, bringing microphone stands crashing down on us, ah that’s more like it! At first listen you might think Les BOF! are a French band, from their name to the song titles and the fact that Laurent sings all the songs in French, however the band are based in Edinburgh and only Laurent is from France. 

Laurent Mombel of Les BOF! by Dan Criscuolo copyright 2014
Laurent even chats to us and introduces the songs is in French so it’s rather amusing at one point to hear the band talk and joke amongst themselves in broad Scottish accents when Angus messes up the intro to a song. Whereas Les Kitschenette’s don’t write their own material but scour the vaults of 1960’s French Freak-beat and Ye-Ye obscurities and make them their own, Les BOF! write songs that sound so authentic it’s as though they could be from the era that Les Kitschenette’s plunder. Les BOF! have that vintage sound down to a tee and infuse their Gallic tinged nuggets with a large helping of bouncing Brit & Mersey Beat. Les BOF! have the songs and the look and the moves. Ex-Thanes guitarist Angus assaults us with some vicious fuzzed up riffs and crunching chords and the great rhythm section of drummer Ross and bassist Colin kick up a beat that gets the dancing going from the very start. Laurent hardly stands still for a second, he is in the crowd again then he’s on his knees playing a mean bluesy harmonica and then he’s bashing away on a large tambourine. 

Les BOF! by Dan Criscuolo copyright 2014
He’s a full on mash-up of James Brown knee drops and spins and the high kicking showmanship of Howlin’ Pelle from The Hives. The band play most of their fabulous debut album “Nous Sommes Les BOF!” with my personal highlights being “Mon Heure”, “P-Club” and "Ils Vont Tuer Le R'n'R". A few choice cover versions are thrown in such as “Jezebel”, Jacques Dutronc’s “Cactus” and a storming version of Plastic Bertrand’s “Ca Plane Pour Moi” which incites an energetic stage invasion. I chatted to Laurent after the show and unfortunately there are no immediate plans for a follow up album any time soon but let’s hope they don’t keep us waiting for too long. Weirsdville is open for business on the last Saturday of every month at the Fiddler’s Elbow in Camden/Chalk Farm. They are in the process of announcing the line-up to Hipsville 2015 and so far they have confirmed Oh!Gunquit and the fantastic Italian Bovver-Boot Glam Punk of Giuda. It’s going to be a great event.

Les BOF! Photo Copyright Retro Man Blog 2014
Oh!Gunquit feature in our latest episode of Retrosonic Podcast and we pick a great track from Les BOF! in Episode 8. Thanks to Dan Criscuolo from The Fuzillis for contributing the excellent photos.

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