Review Of The Month: JUNE 2017.

Esquires Bedford.

The first four evenings of June featured a succession of live music on the mainstage. It was kick-started on Thursday 1 in a brash manner by young Yins; Single By Sunday . A lively Scottish quartet who deserved a better atmosphere than they received. This was a free of charge gig but unfortunately was poorly attended. Already, this band have been called the Glaswegian 5 Seconds Of Summer. An accolade they more than matched in Bedford. Their dynamic live show is to say the least breathlessly energetic. They are curious to know why it is so quiet here, but are nonetheless pleased to “Play an intimate show.” Indeed, these lads are already playing to packed arenas. During the show they kindly invite a few of the fans at the front a chance to sample a raucous upcoming show in Scotland. The band members are still sporting some colourful dyed hair. This dates back to last week when they performed at a music therapy charity gig in aid of Nordoff Robbins. Their set is crazy and bouncy and features a song which I feel should be applied and dedicated to the many stay at homes tonight. It’s titled Get Up Get Out!
Single By Sunday certainly deserved a lot better response than they received from the pop punk emo folks of Bedford.

Friday 2 featured a return visit from Neon Waltz . They hail from the very far Northern tip of Scotland and offer up a melodic, indie sound. Their recent single Dreamers is the evenings highlight. It gains from being so inspiring, perhaps because they do come from such a remote part of the UK so doubly hard to succeed. It is beautifully sung by Jordan Shearer. Their keyboards also enhanced my enjoyment of it. The other song of the set which licked my eardrums was Heavy Heartless. This composition had some Radio 1 airplay last week. The majority of the songs performed tonight will form most of the bands debut album Strange Hymns which is due for release in mid August. Creative and captivating lyrics dominated their set. Neon Waltz may not be the sort of band to get you up and dancing but they certainly bring a warm glow to your heart.

Neon Waltz Setlist:
1. Strung Up, 2. Dreamers, 3. Perfect Frame, 4. You And Me, 5. Sundial, 6. I Fall Asleep, 7. Sombre Fayre, 8. Heavy Heartless, 9. Bare Wood Aisles, 10. Bring Me To Light.

After some uplifting bands of the previous couple of evenings Saturday 3 bought this reviewer down to Earth with a loud bump. Dodgy returned once more to Esquires, in the process they constantly and rather irritatingly mocked the town of Bedford in a rather disparaging manner. Once again this nineties Brit pop band spun out a near ninety minute set revolving around their well known hits Good Enough, In A Room and Staying Out For The Summer. Not so much Waiting For The Sun as more a case of waiting for the end! All rather tedious.

Wow! What an evening we had on June 4 it was spent in the company of Barrence Whitfield And The Savages. Esquires represents the fifth and last date of the bands short UK tour, infact, they are boarding their flight back to the USA at 9:30am sharp the following morning. This is Barrence’s first ever time in Bedford but he has enjoyed his visit especially “The Indian food” he studiously views the Sunday night crowd before loudly requesting that they should “Come closer y’all just because I come from America don’t mean I aint friendly” Although he is hampered physically by a recent knee operation (this is only revealed to me post gig) few would know. He constantly spars like a boxer before he unleashes his quite extraordinary set of lungs, wow! Can this man belt out a song or two. Boston’s rocking soul n blues bruisers are in top form tonight. Not for nothing have they been described as The Sonics fronted by Wilson Picket or Howlin Wolf. Although their hey day was back in the eighties, their recent album Under Barrence treats tonight’s set list very carefully, a few random song requests from the audience are refused with a polite put down of “They’re ancient and buried!” For me there are so many highlights Bloody Mary is “An oldie but goodie” I’m Sad About It (taken from the bands 2013 album Dig Thy Savage Soul) reminds many in attendance of when BW &TS performed in on the Later With Jools Holland BBC TV show. The sax fused Bip Bop Bip is a personal favourite from tonight’s gig. From 2001’s Savage Kings we are treated to the bluesy You Told A Lie which we are informed is “Dedicated to Illinois.” This was a Roar Club show of which our American visitors played with polish, panache and above all power, it is warmly received. Their encore is a chance for everyone to “Testify” as Barrence Whitfield And The Savages bow out with Dig Yourself. On meeting and congratulating Barrence at the end of the gig I was struck by how kind, humble and sincere this gentleman was. Certainly one of the nicest musicians I have had the pleasure of meeting at Esquires. Now what was that word? Wow!

Wearing their trademark ‘uniform’ of shiny Dr. Martens boots, blue jeans and braces, the veteran devotees of punk especially the oi variety were dutifully served on Friday 9. Long-time exponents of this genre Vicious Rumours made a very rare UK performance. Originally formed in early 1979 they are still fronted by the co-founder of the band, john Mundy. Fellow long serving bassist John Coupe is also still giving it plenty. At fifty years of age, Mr Mundy commands the stage and puts in one hell of a performance. For the majority of the gig he wears just a pair of baggy shorts, tanned and as fit as a butchers dog. The performance level of Vicious Rumours never drops as they run through a retrospective look back of the bands long and eventful career. It’s good to report that this was a friendly and enjoyable night for all concerned. That’s something that cannot always be said of an oi event especially when the beers are constantly flowing.

On Saturday 10 . Cancer Bats turned up at Esquires. For this reviewer and longtime fan, a most anticipated event, sadly it was not to be, as their alter – ego, Bat Sabbath! In other words a tribute to Black Sabbath. Thankfully, we did get an original song or two from Liam and the lads during the encore. Oh for Hail Destroyer!

A classier find was to be found downstairs in room 2/ Holy Molys. This is where the self proclaimed ‘BB King of Buckinghamshire’ Del Bromham enthralled and enraptured a packed audience of devotees. With a stellar line-up of guest musicians known as The Blues Devils , these included members of Pearl Handled Revolver, also joining Del was Cherry Lee Mewis. The two of them paid a poignant tribute to the recently deceased Greg Allman. With some fifty years in the business, Mr. Bromham tells a delightful anecdote of a Traffic gig in Dunstable during the late 1960’s.

Friday 16 saw Mr. B The gentleman Rhymer realise his longtime “Ambition to play Bedford,” it gave him the chance to educate us Bedfordians to his range of ‘Chav-hop’ in the process, he gave us his wide comprehensive historical version of hip hop, of which we were told was invented by “A man called Clive!” crowd participation is actively encouraged as everyone is asked to shout out “All hail the chap” Mr. B could be loosely described as a younger musical version of Count Arthur Strong. Armed with just a banjo, he is resplendent with a waxed handlebar moustache and rimmed glasses. He raises a laugh by recalling an old school friend called Edward, who in 1988 became “Acid Ted.”
Mr. B varies his chap hop sound to include some thigh slapping Bavarian music plus some “folk songs from up T’North.” He tops this off with a “punk rock song about the natural trust.” Mr. B is very much an acquired taste, but most people attending gave him a loud “Hurrah” as he left the stage.

Much more traditional old skool hip hop arrived on Thursday 22 with an appearance of the legendary Sugarhill Gang , together with Grandmaster Melle Mel and Scorpio. Back in the late seventies these two acts from Harlem and the Bronx, fused New York City black culture, together with DJ’s art and Lyrical rhymes. They created a genre of music which would be commonly known as rap and hip hop. The Sugarhill Gang are imprinted forever as the original purveyors and they continue to enjoy acclaim with the song that kick started it all off. Even here in Esquires, nearly forty years since it was first released, there is a reverence reserved when Rappers Delight starts off. Everyone sings along “To the hip hop, hippedy hop you don’t stop” truly an anthem for a generation. Other songs are performed, but this is the one everybody wants to hear.
Grandmaster Melle Mel and Scorpio satisfy everyone’s taste for rap with White Lines and The Message. Disappointingly all the musicians very quickly left the venue soon after playing. There was no chance for the many old time fans to chat and perhaps have their old vinyl records signed.

Emotions ran high on Friday 30 , when The Whybirds played their final ever gig at Bedford Esquires (although as the band said at the end, never say never) they are calling it a day as drummer/vocalist Luke Tuchscherer is relocating to the USA. His fellow bandmates Dave Banks and Ben Haswell are joined on stage by Nick Mailing, who has kindly been given leave of duty by The Quireboys. This show is a chance for The Whybirds to give us an extensive flick through their back catalogue of material. It was on June 9 2007 when together with ‘Taff’ Thatcher they played their Esquires debut. In those ten years they have released three albums. Within their set list on this night, plenty of memories spring forth from these local blue collar country rock fellas. They admitted that they were surprised by the huge turnout, but they deserved this great send off. The Whybirds are a band I have watched grow and progress. I always enjoyed their live shows and they will be sadly missed on the Bedfordshire music scene.

Review by Martin Stapleton.