Chasing the London Blues – Part 1

Posted: February 4, 2016 in Uncategorized

04/02/2016

I had chance to check out how the London Blues scene has changed since I lived there…a lifetime ago…literally. (We got back to Scotland 4 days before Emily was born, which, at the time of writing equates to 11 years 10 months and 30 days ago

I managed to get into the city twice this week and on Monday I headed over to “Ain’t Nothin But”, close to Oxford Circus. This is one of the most popular jam night gigs in town and although it is small it has a great atmosphere. Dark, dingy, sweaty, cramped and full of Blues fans. What else does one need of an evening?  And it is free!

Ain’t Nothin But (Kingly Road, Soho)

http://www.aintnothinbut.co.uk

The house band were slick and knew how to hold down a groove. Nothing too fancy but really nice. The crowd were with them all the way and looking around the place I could see the guitar cases gradually appearing. One of the things I liked about this place was that there were some really nice touches all round. For example, it was a small stage so they had guitar hooks on the wall that the house band hung their guitars on. No space on stage so hang them on the wall. Genius. Never seen that before.

The bar staff were quick and knew how to work a busy pub so no hanging about at the bar. Security at the door. After 8pm it was so busy that it was one out one in at the door which kept the atmosphere buzzing but not crushing.

To play on stage, you put your name on the list and you take your turn. Great standard of players and a really friendly vibe.

If you are looking for a decent jam session close to the underground this is a good choice but get there early and get your name on the list asap.

Nothing much in the way of food that I noticed. Bar snacks are available but if you’re hungry go somewhere else first.

Personal opinion: Too cramped, too busy.

Would I go back as a punter? Yes, if I was already in the vicinity.

Would I go back for a jam? Definitely.

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Ain’t Nothin But, London

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Blues Kitchen (Camden High Street)

www.theblueskitchen.com

©glasgowbluesplayers.com

The Blues Kitchen is another kettle of fish. This, for me, has it all. The location, the venue, the facilities, the stage, the clientele, the food, the drink, the atmosphere and the quality of players…I could stay here all night, every night. I hung on so late I caught the last train back just as the doors were closing. If you are in London…Go To This Joint!!

One word of warning..if want to eat here book well in advance. It was booked out completely when I arrived. Lesson learnt.

The venue is a great size. Not too big, not too small and you can see Camden Town Underground Station from the front door. The vibe is perfect outside and in. It’s authentic, but realistically and naturally so. Some places put a picture of Muddy Waters on the wall and think they have a Blues Club. Not this place, it’s very tastefully put together and its so dark up by the stage area that you can shake your wild thang to its full capacity…nobody will see you.

Every Wednesday there is a band called The Reputations on stage. (www.thereputations.co.uk.)

Members:

Keys : Joe Mac

Bass : Will Hughes

Drums : Adam Gammage

Sax : Peter Back

Vocals : Angéline

Keys player Joe Mac was taking the lead vocal on the night so they were stripped back to a 4 piece but what a show they put on. Phenomenal players, each one. Joe Mac had a style not dissimilar to Jon Cleary. Great chops and individual phrasing and style.  Really strong player.

Peter Back soared above everything and reminded me frequently of Dick Parry in his style. Extremely accomplished improviser with a frighteningly good mix of passion and control. I had a couple of words with Peter at the break and he was refreshingly humble and a really nice guy.

Will and Adam were rock solid and obviously loved every moment of it. Again, outstanding players playing together, filling the gaps but leaving space…if you know what I mean.

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The Reputations @ The Blues Kitchen, Camden

Here is a small sample of the set   note-25704_960_720

Guest vocalist Izzy Warner was invited onto stage about 5 numbers in and that was it…the roof was blown off. What a presence! What a voice!  As you can from the photos, Izzy had a fantastic stage craft but you can also pick up the honesty and desire to involve the audience.  I introduced myself at the end and another contact was made. http://www.londonbluesplayers.com may yet be a reality!

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Izzy Warner @ The Blues Kitchen, Camden

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Izzy Warner @ The Blues Kitchen, Camden

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Izzy Warner @ The Blues Kitchen, Camden

I dragged myself away grudgingly but what a fantastic night.

Personal opinion: Pretty damn near perfect!

Would I go back? In a heartbeat…every night.

 

 

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