Ooooh, you can literally smell the anticipation in the air at tonight’s Franklin Rock ‘n’ Roll Club. It’s busy and hot; with bearded men in Bonnevilles t-shirts and pretty high-heeled ladies in attendance. What does anticipation smell like, I hear you ask? Tonight it’s definitely Hai Karate mixed with cheap booze.
Which conveniently leads us nicely onto the first act: Grrrrrrrrrrrrr... It’s The Brutes! And, never has a name been more apt for a band of this ilk. The last time I saw them play was at this very same venue supporting Les Grys Grys back in September (read about that epic show here). They have it all. As I previously stated, it’s the stuff Pebbles comps are made of. Fast, fun, cheeky and just tight enough to produce that nonchalant garage-punk sound. Breezing through tracks like ‘Good Times’, ‘Knock Me Out’, favourite ‘Whaddya Want?’ and cool covers like The Electric Prunes’ ‘Never Had It Better’ and garage grrr-owler ‘Hang Up’ by The Wailers - top screaming from Beauregarde. Shout out to Heinrich Mitt-Schticks on thumping, as he pounds his way through the whole set without breaking into a metaphorical sweat.
Whilst we catch our breath, and make a quick dash to the bar, time for step-in Jim to don his DJ hat and spin a few disks. Then on with the show...
‘We’re Geek Maggot Bingo - Good Evening!!!’. Taking their name from the early '80s no-budget cult horror flick by Nick Zedd, this should give you an indication of what’s in store; and as they launch into their first number with an invitation that is hard to refuse, come ‘Join The Freaks’ with its twisted side-show style hooks. One of the things that I really like about this band is their ability to tell a story and set the scene. Engrossed. I feel like I’m right there with the tattooed lady, the pinheads and the wolf boy (some may say we really are). Acid Maggot’s dulcet tones were once likened to "a corpse being dragged across gravel", which is a fair compliment; but there is much more; reminiscent at times of Lux Interior, The Legendary Stardust Cowboy, Hasil Adkins, M. Valdemar (go Google it), and even the deep hypnotic broodiness of Rev. Horton Heat. With one foot firmly wedged in '50s riffs, the other in '60s garage, and a wicked eye quietly observing the crowd. Other notable numbers are fuzzed-out ‘I Saw What You Did’; the instant paranoia of ‘Laughing At You’, and we are duly warned about strange noises we may hear on the way home in ‘Ghoul In The Graveyard’. An extra helping of fuzz with ‘High Time’ which is proper Watusi-able. Wrapping up the set with the excellent 'Swingtown'. Time for an encore? Wait, they aren't the headlining band. Next time, next time.
The Brutes and Geek Maggot Bingo are in many ways like two bookends, and share a lot of common ground. However, they each have their very own unique way of expressing it. I’m sure I’m not alone in hoping to see both bands on the bill at Franklin Fest 2016, and certainly headlining their own shows soon.
Speaking of headliners ... enter Garage Punk Blues™ magoos - The Bonnevilles. The two lads from Northern Ireland kick off with ‘Good Suits And Fightin’ Boots’ - popular with the crowd and possibly one of their best known. It's only seconds before you realise that, for a duo, they have more presence than most bands with double or triple the amount of people and equipment. It's an intimate affair between the crowd and band, as singer/guitarist Andy McGibbon beckons us all to come closer. Phew, it's getting hotter. (I'm now starting to regret my decision to wear a crimplene dress). McGibbon goes through not two, but three guitar changes during the long set - I wish I knew about the technicalities of guitars to list them all, but I don’t. All credit to them; they don't bat an eyelid when fallen upon by a drunken punter. They throw in a corking rendition of R.L. Burnside's 'Poor Boy' then slow the pace (for 5 mins anyway) with twiddle-y number 'I've Come Too Far For Love To Die'. McGibbon asks "has anyone ever had a broken heart?", cue a Mexican wave of nodding heads. McGibbon has, that’s for sure. He's reliving every moment right here, and in every bead of sweat. Both he and drummer Chris McMullen certainly put their all into their performance. McGibbon comments later on about the lack of dancing, which is instantly rectified. Towards the end I can't actually see the band at all, save for the curly-wurly head of McMullen bouncing up and down - he's that tall, even when sitting down! He plays the drums like he's on a buckaroo. It's been well over an hour and they show no signs of wrapping up the set, but when they finally do it's probably the longest encore ever, and then some. They are certainly giving the fans their money's worth. During one of the encores, they debut a couple of new songs, one of which 'The Whisky Lingers’ sees McGibbon proclaim "I don't want to be skinny anyway", above lots of feedback. Before they take their leave they express their thanks to the other bands and the organisers for a top evening.
At the risk of repeating myself, it’s been another fabulous night, at the cricket shack of delight that is The Franklin.
If you want to hear more about The Bonnevilles, I caught up with Andy McGibbon before they headed out on tour, click here for that.
And, If you're not totally worn out by all of that excitement, the next Franklin Rock 'n' Roll Club takes place on Friday 18thDecember - hosting old favourites The Wildebeests, and the anticipated return of The No-Things, click here for more info.