What a fantastic turnout on Sunday afternoon for the special matinee tribute show to Don Craine, the Deerstalker wearing R'n'B guitar legend of Downliners Sect who sadly passed away earlier this year. The occasion was also used to pay tribute to former Downliners guitarist Del Dwyer and large posters of the two hung on the backdrop, which was a nice touch. The fundraiser and celebration was really well organised by Rob Green and Ron Symmons of The Fallen Leaves to raise funds for Macmillan Cancer Support and included not only, three top bands but also a charity auction which included some tasty signed records, books and white label test pressings from Spinout Nuggets, Billy Childish, Damaged Goods and Ace Records. There were also signed books by artist Jamie Reid and a superb package from the Eel Pie Island Museum, which is a must visit if you are in Twickenham. Rob Green acted as Auctioneer with a nice line in quips, a drumstick as a gavel and a snare drum to bash once the items had been sold. The good news was that all the items presented were sold and I'm sure that well over £1,000 must have been raised from the auction itself.
It was great to be back at The Half Moon again, scene of most of my Retro Man Blog Nights over the years and I had to remember that it wasn't my gig so I couldn't go backstage and help myself to the rider! The Fallen Leaves opened proceedings with "Begin Again" and slammed through a short and sharp set peppered with some promising sounding new songs such as "Rosalina" and "Worried Well" from their forthcoming new LP. I haven't seen The Leaves since before lockdown and they were even better than ever - former Subway Sect guitarist Rob Symmons unique blistering style leaves people standing there in awe and frontman Rob Green's idiosyncratic performance and impressive croon is always a joy. Drummer Buddy Ascott, who you can often hear as my co-host at Retrosonic Podcast crams all his years of experience from his time in The Chords, The Moment, Speakeasy and many other bands to sublime effect in The Fallen Leaves. His John Maher-style fills and sharp, tight rolls add a dynamism to the Leaves sound. His rhythm section partner Gaz on bass leaps around the stage like Dee Dee Ramone, adding an air of unpredictability and a nice contrast to the two Rob's more studied approach. The band will be playing at the Dublin Castle in Camden on September 10th so if you're free, please go along and you'll see one of the best live acts around.
Next up were The Masonics who never fail to entertain with their raw Medway Delta R'n'B and Beat and they didn't disappoint today with their catchy, danceable numbers. Like The Fallen Leaves, the band were good friends with Don and Downliners Sect and they regularly shared stages together. Of course, drummer Bruce Brand was also once in Thee Headcoats Sect with his Milkshakes and Pop Rivets colleague, Billy Childish along with Don and Keith from Downliners Sect so there's a lot of shared history between them all. The Masonics were joined by Ludella Black for a superb run through of "Why Don't You Smile Now" and they left everyone smiling and thoroughly satisfied.
Downliners Sect closed the afternoon with a rollicking set of good time R'n'B featuring founder member Keith Grant on bass and vocals and you can only wonder why the band never quite achieved the fame of their early contemporaries, after all Rod Stewart and Steve Marriott once wanted to join them! So, a poignant but nevertheless thoroughly entertaining afternoon that will live long in the memory, in fact I wonder if it might become a regular occurrence? Anyway, well done to Rob Symmons and Rob Green and all involved in making it such a special event. You can hear Rob Green and Buddy Ascott of The Fallen Leaves talking to me about the background and preparations for the show in Episode 48 of Retrosonic Podcast which also includes an exclusive Headcoats Sect track and is available for free on Spotify, iTunes, Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts or from Soundcloud below: