Wednesday 12 April 2023

The Courettes, Oh! Gunquit and The Paul Groovy Pop Art Experience at the Wedgewood Rooms Portsmouth, April 6th 2023

The Courettes, living up to their reputation as the hardest working Garage Rock 'n' Roll band in showbiz, were back in the U.K. again for a short headline tour. These gigs were sandwiched between their first ever visit to America and their appearance at the Roskilde Festival which then leads onto a full Danish tour. There really is no rest for the wicked as yet more tour dates have been pencilled into Martin and Flavia's diary so it won't be long before you get the chance to see the band play again, no matter where in the world you are. They were so busy that I didn't even have chance to arrange an interview with the duo at their stunning Portsmouth show. I wanted to discuss their acclaimed mini-tour of Japan in the Autumn of last year but hopefully, we can speak to them soon about their experiences for a future Retrosonic Podcast. We decided to go down to Portsmouth to see the band, mainly as they have often claimed that they get the best crowd reaction there and also, another of Retro Man Blog's favourite bands Oh! Gunquit were supporting. 

Opening up proceedings on the night were local band Paul Groovy & The Pop Art Experience, who we have played on Retrosonic Podcast before but never managed to see play live. I'm glad we did in the end though as they proved to be the perfect appetiser on a tasty looking bill promoted by the enthusiastic Chris Abbott and his team at Pompey Punk N' Roll. The Groovies, led by the charismatic and energetic frontman Mr Groovy himself, treated us to some impressive original songs and a selection of cover versions of a few Nuggets classics that went down well with the crowd and really set the tone nicely. Their "He's a Liar" single is a big favourite here, more so as it was released by our good friends at Spinout Nuggets, I'm looking forward to some more records soon.

Of course, Oh! Gunquit never let you down with their nice 'n' sleazy Bop, Rock & Soul, guaranteed to put a smile on your face and a bounce in your step. Their voodoo infused swampy gumbo sound blends a mix of influences into their very own unique style. Vocalist Tina is wearing a rather risqué outfit that might need a bit of photo-shopping to pass the social media censors and is her usual live-wire self. Juggling the trumpet, hula-hoop, maracas and for "Whiplash" a scary looking cat o' nine tails that she brandishes at bandmates and audience alike, she is a constant blur of high-kicking knee-dropping energy. Tina spends a lot of time down among the crowd and if she's not literally whipping them into shape, then she is crawling between their legs or encouraging them to "Dance Like F*ck". Someone really should make a Monkees style cartoon series about Oh! Gunquit as all the band members are charismatic characters in their own right. There's the sultry Veronica on bass, Erg powering away behind the drums, Luciano straddling the barrier between stage and audience as he adds some soulful sax to the mix and of course there's Simon Wild, who must be one of the most innovative guitarists on the scene right now. Their distinct and individual personalities really do add to the colourful eye-popping explosion of an Oh! Gunquit live show. The band have been in the studio working on new material, so that's certainly something to look forward to.

Then, it's the turn of The Courettes and they are probably one of the very few bands who could follow on from Oh! Gunquit - surely a daunting task. But, follow on they do and considering there is just the two of them, husband and wife Martin Couri on drums and Flavia on guitar and lead vocals - they do indeed raise the ante and treat the packed out Wedgewood Rooms to a visceral wall of sound and vision. Despite the recent critically acclaimed album "Back In Mono" concentrating more on the Phil Spector/Beach Boys harmonies and layered production - live, on stage, The Courettes have lost none of their original energy and fuzzed-up Garage Rock  assault on the senses. It's great to see a band on the up, from the first time I saw them at a Weirdsville Club Night at the Fiddlers Elbow in Camden, to the Louisiana in Bristol, a matinee at The Prince Albert in Brighton - then their biggest London show at the Lexington but now they are packing out the 400 capacity Wedgewood Rooms - it'll be interesting to see where they will play next time they are over here.

The set is packed full of great tunes, Martin is a phenomenal drummer - a non-stop blur of energy, managing to provide impressive backing vocals even if the non-stop touring is messing with his timing, although luckily not the drumming kind - "It's Friday night, let's go crazy Pompey!" he keeps shouting, until the crowd and Flavia remind him politely that it's actually Thursday night. Flavia hops, skips and jumps about the stage in between singing and peeling off some blistering guitar. ""R.I.N.G.O.", "Edge of My Nerves" and "Night Time" are stand-out tracks and they only slow the pace for "Daydream", which Flavia sings in faultless Japanese. Yes, Damaged Goods Records released the Japanese version on 7" vinyl especially for the band's Japan tour dates and we were honoured to get a dedication on the night for our help with the cover art, translation and hooking the band up with friends in Tokyo, not forgetting recommending Poor Cow, run by Fifi of Teengenerate and easily the best Punk Rock 'n' Roll bar ever. During the last song "All About You", Flavia leaps over the barrier to crowd-surf while impressively still managing to play guitar, it's a great moment. Then finally for the encore The Courettes are joined onstage by all the bands, promoter Chris Abbott and the irrepressible driver, roadie and cheerleader Patrice, for a great run through of "Hop The Twig".  It was a thoroughly entertaining time - great venue, great crowd and of course great bands - all in all just what a perfect night of live music should be all about.

All photos copyright Retro Man Blog 2023. You can check out more videos from the night by subscribing to our Retromanblog65 YouTube channel. Don't forget our Retrosonic Podcast interview special with The Courettes is still available in our archives at Spotify, iTunes, Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts or direct from Soundcloud below.

Please check out the following links for further information. 

The Courettes

Damaged Goods Records

Oh! Gunquit

Paul Groovy & The Pop Art Experience

Paul Groovy Radio Show

Spinout Nuggets Records

Pompey Punk N' Roll Promotions

Wedgewood Rooms Portsmouth 

Retro Man Blog YouTube channel

Retrosonic Podcast

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