Wednesday 13 May 2015

THE JACKETS, Speedball JR & The Shook-Ups! at Weirdsville

THE JACKETS at Weirdsville - Photo copyright Retro Man Blog
Going to so many gigs over the years, especially since starting up Retro Man Blog, I have been lucky enough to have seen some excellent bands play live. However, it’s pretty rare to see a band that blows your mind and kicks your ass so hard that you end up spiralling back in time, reducing you to a gibbering teenage fan-boy with stars in your eyes. Tonight I saw such a band and that band was THE JACKETS. The Switzerland and USA based band were over here to headline Weirdsville as a special treat for the club organizer, promoter and all-round good guy, Mr A, who was celebrating his birthday. Mr A had raved about the band to me during our recent chat for the Retrosonic Podcast “Hipsville” special promoting the upcoming Weirdsville spin-off weekender at Bisley Pavilion. I had heard a few songs and was pretty impressed but I was not really expecting the stunning, visceral impact of seeing the band play live. I was right at the front of the stage at the Fiddler’s Elbow, which was packed out with a capacity crowd of Weirdsville regulars, birthday well-wishers and gig-goers, and was well placed to get both barrels of THE JACKETS right in the chest. 

THE JACKETS at Weirdsville - Photo copyright Retro Man Blog
The band, all kitted out in black with a nifty removable white collar and tie ensemble, took the stage and blasted straight into a powerful grungey new song “Tricky” which reminded me a bit of Nirvana or The Muffs. Vocalist and guitarist Jackie, eyes hidden behind black and white checked shades, hair pulled back into a kind of Samurai top-knot, is one of the most charismatic performers I have seen in quite some time. One of my favourite tracks is up next, the catchy "Get Back With You" from their debut album "Stuck Inside", with bassist Samuel and drummer Chris adding those memorable backing vocals to the chorus. It’s really difficult to take your eyes off Jackie as she careers around the stage, high-kicking, leaping about and rolling on the floor, never missing a riff on her guitar. Eyes are quite the theme with THE JACKETS as Jackie removes her shades at the beginning of third song "Make You Mine" and reveals large painted-on Clockwork Orange style eye-lashes and a false eye painted on each of her lids, so when she blinks it really freaks you out. 

THE JACKETS at Weirdsville - Photo copyright Retro Man Blog
"Sometimes Maybe", another new track is next and it's based around a cool bass riff, apparently they will be releasing their as yet untitled third album on Voodoo Rhythm Records later in the year and if all the songs are as good as those played tonight, then it will really be something special. During a raucous "Wasting My Time" from the latest album "Way Out" Jackie entices a girl from the crowd to get on stage and dance “it’s all in those hips…” she says, indeed they are a band that are made for dancing and jumping around to. Not to be outdone, Samuel and Chris are also all-action performers, both competing with Jackie for the crowd’s attention. The start of “Freak Out” sparks off a wild mosh-pit at the front and people and drinks go flying all over the place, someone is on the floor, then someone else is spread across the monitors, its chaotic and great fun at the same time. Suddenly, half way through a brilliant "Hang Up" Jackie leaps out into the crowd and is lifted up and carried across people’s heads, right to the back of the venue and back to the stage again, still strumming away furiously. Of course the band are called back for a well deserved encore and they power through "Escape" before ending with a manic "What We Gonna Do" and that's it, it's all over bar the shouting for more from a very happy crowd. The video archivist Steven Tagg-Randall, who was there to film the show, declares it “one of the best gigs ever!” and as he must average a good 3 or 4 gigs every week then who am I to argue…?!

THE JACKETS at Weirdsville - Photo copyright Retro Man Blog
The night kicked off with a cracking set by The Shook-Ups! who were certainly a great choice to get the party started. This was the first time I’d seen them and I was intrigued as just before they came on, a friend told me, “be warned, the singer wears a wig!” I didn't know what to make of that, I have their excellent album "Bad Reception" but it didn’t really prime me for what was to come. The Shook-Ups! are a strange band, they take the stage dressed all in black with matching roll neck sweaters and vocalist Dan Coyote wears a badly fitting Beatle wig, a large silver medallion and one black glove – a kind of tribute act to The Music Machine’s Sean Bonniwell I suppose. 

The Shook-Ups! at Weirdsville - Photo copyright Retro Man Blog
Dan's between-song antics are basically a comedy routine of exaggerated dancing, larking about and bantering with the audience, but that’s not to say that The Shook-Ups! are a mere parody. I don't want it to sound like they are the Barron Knights of the Garage Rock scene, for those that have the album will already know that they do have some bloody great songs, in particular "Second To None" and "Reason To Complain", both played in a quick-fire hit. But watching tonight, if I’m honest, it’s sometimes a bit disconcerting as the songs are played totally straight. At one point I’m left wondering, what if they ditched the act? Maybe they could be one of the best Garage bands around, but then again, there are a lot of those generic Garage bands around and only one Shook-Ups! When they play a rousing cover of the Bobby Fuller Four/Melba Moore classic “The Magic Touch” and everyone is dancing and singing along, the pontificating soon went out the window. Indeed, better just to stop analyzing it all and hop on board for the ride, join in the fun and get all Shook Up! During the last track, a version of "What'cha Gonna Do About It", the band ambush Mr A and he is presented with a birthday cake decorated with the "You Got Good Taste" logo.

Mr A gets his cake, and eats it...! Photo copyright Retro Man Blog
Following The Shook-Ups! must be tough for any band, more so if you are an instrumental Surf band, which is exactly what Speedball JR are. So, although the gears did shift down a bit, at my age I was thankful for a bit of a breather. It was excellent to finally see the band and they played a great set of their fuzzed-up cinematic Rock ‘n’ Roll Surf songs that kept the dancing going, albeit in a slightly more civilized manner. Tonight the line-up comprised Scorchin' Sascha on guitar, the super-cool Alexandra Beat Girl on bass, Frantic Frank on drums and a saxophonist Johan temporarily replacing their usual organist, and if you like your Dick Dale, Link Wray, trashy B-Movie themes and Sixties Spy movie scores then Speedball JR are certainly a band worth watching out for.

Speedball JR at Weirdsville - Photo copyright Retro Man Blog
Speedball JR at Weirdsville - Photo by Retro Man Blog
Weirdsville is held at the Fiddler’s Elbow in Camden on the last Saturday of every month. Hipsville Weekender is at the Bisley Pavilion on Friday 15th, Saturday 16th and Sunday 17th of May and you can get more details on all the bands, DJ’s, Go-Go Dancers and other assorted fun and games at the Hipsville site here. To get you in the mood for the weekend don’t forget our Retrosonic Podcast “Hipsville Special” where I chat to Mr A about the story behind Weirdsville, Hipsville and his You Got Good Taste Podcast and we play tracks from a selection of bands appearing over the weekend including Kinoco Hotel, Giuda, Thee Jezebels, Oh! Gunquit and many more. You can listen and download the episode for free at our Soundcloud site or subscribe for free at the iTunes store.

THE JACKETS at Weirdsville - Photo copyright Retro Man Blog
For more photos of the night please head on over to the Retro Man Blog Facebook page and then hit "Like" if you're not already following, for access to the exclusive photo album.

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