Nick Morgan and crew
Review by Nick Morgan
|TONY MCPHEE AND THE THE GROUNDHOGS/
STRAY DOUBLE BILL
The 100 Club, London, January 9th 2009
from London, Serge, where the credit-crunched populace
are staggering like dazed things caught in a pinball
machine between sales offering huge discounts on
items no-one ever needs to buy, gloomy meetings
with bank managers, mortgage lenders and the 4x4
repo man, and the pharmacy, where people like me
are queuing to buy every possible patent medicine
in sight to try and ward off (in my case sadly to
little avail) seasonal illness disorder (or El Cid,
as we like to call the Big One here). But whatever
our difficulties, they pale into insignificance
compared with many around the world - think of poor
old Kate Winslet for example, and her baffling Golden
Globes award-winning speech, or ‘troubled’
Amy Winehouse, whose beloved Blake has rewarded
her for cavorting in the Caribbean with British
actor Josh Bowman by filing for a divorce. Yes,
whatever our difficulties, things could always be
they will be as of the end of this week, when the
beloved Pickle Factory, aka the
Astoria, closes its Charing Cross Road doors
the very last time before falling to the wrecking-ball
of the Crossrail
developers. Over-crowded, intrinsically unsafe (or
so it often seemed to me), mostly populated by lager-laced
loungers, layabouts and louts, with sound that could
veer from poor to the absolutely shocking, and with
floor-dripping urinals that you could smell before
you got into the building (how did that guy manage
to spend all night in there selling shots of cologne
and chewing gum?), yes, we’re going to miss
the dear old place immensely. Music in London just
won’t be the same without it. But I suppose
one (or two) venues less might not be a bad thing
at the moment. Gigs are thin on the ground to say
the least. Venues that are normally booking to late
spring and early summer have scanty performance
lists, and unless you continental Europeans with
your cheap Euros decide to come and rescue us in
the summer, our Festival organisers are going to
be feeling even more uncomfortable than they did
last year. In fact with so little cash around, I
suspect many promised events may never materialise.
And I don’t imagine the wonderful old Pickle
Factory will be the last venue to close its doors
this year, despite all the big corporate money that’s
been going into the capital’s venues over
the recent past.
for all that, Jim Driver’s Rhythm
Nights at the 100 Club stagger on, for the moment.
So our first gig of the year was cherry-red Blues
McPhee and his Groundhogs, partnered
on a special double bill with Stray,
featuring original guitarist Del Bromham. Now it
has to be a strange coincidence that our first planned
gig of 2008 was also the Groundhogs at the 100 Club.
On that occasion, what is known, quite aptly as
it turns out, as ‘winter projectile vomiting
disease’ (or the Norwalk virus) prevented
your reviewer and the Photographer from attending.
year, your reviewer fell victim to some equally
ghastly ailment, which to be frank I wouldn’t
wish on anyone, let alone Jim Driver and his chums,
so an advanced sense of social responsibility and
the promise of an early warm bed kept me away.
to follow … I hope.
in the meantime if you’re in bed feeling sorry
for yourself, with no vinyl in sight, then why not
download some of the Groundhogs’ classic British
Blues stuff from you-know-where for you-know-what.
Or even better, try and find the recordings McPhee
made with the late Jo Ann Kelly, now reissued as
Tony McPhee and Friends. It’s healing stuff.
- Nick Morgan
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