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Concert Review by Nick Morgan
 
TONY MCPHEE AND THE THE GROUNDHOGS/
STRAY DOUBLE BILL

The 100 Club, London, January 9th 2009
Greetings 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 worse. Winslet
And they will be as of the end of this week, when the beloved Pickle Factory, aka the Astoria, closes its Charing Cross Road doors for 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.
But 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 veteran Tony 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.
This 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.     Medicine
More to follow … I hope.
And 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
Listen: Tony McPhee's MySpace page (excellent stuff!)
Go, London! - S.



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