Saturday, 4 July 2009

sandwiched in the jamm

The ballroom light was slowly twinkle turning under air-pressure from the darkened room when we arrived at Jamm. Ten 'o clock, we'd woven past security, the outside drinkers and the chill-out bar and drifted into the early acts of the evening.

Busy room and the Hazeltones on stage. R&B - they looked like a family, with the youngest peering out from a precisely played drumkit. A soulful lead singer come bassist and a slightly swirly keyboard player. Afterwards we headed outdoors and heard relatives of the band chatting. London locals had brought a following to Brixton this evening.

We compared other gigs of the week, having between us attended Spinal Pap (signed sign to prove it - John handed a deliberately wrongly spelled sign to a roadie, and it came back signed - we'll never know who did it, but always suspect). Then Tindersticks the next evening with deckchairs in the park and cited as an exceptional gig. And not forgetting Blur, which was -ahem- atmospheric rather than visible.

During our chatter, we spotted The Spirit arrive and mingle and then a few moments later Rock Freebase wearing his trademark cap. And a few patted down heavily tat and hatted folk carrying small items into the bar, who looked as if they'd be on stage later.

Back inside, we'd somehow missed the CC Smugglers completely, fresh back from their busking tour of Canada. Most people were spread between the outside area we'd just come from and the bar we'd just entered.

"Hello!" smiles and beams from across the way. I turn and its a Fabulous Work Colleague. "Fwasgrh", I reply "Navxtryvqw", and similar utterances until I get over my surprise and start introducing everyone. You'll detect a certain improbability about this particular co-incidence and I'll have to exchange DETAILED reasons for our co-presence when FWC and I manage to speak next week. There will be a further story I'm sure.

We regained our separate groups in time for some hard edged angry poetry accompanied by a man sitting on a wooden box. The billing said Zenyth, but when I googled a few seconds ago, that seemed to be a guitar band, so I'm guessing this was someone else. Or maybe we missed two complete sessions?

Somehow during the last number, the man with the box seemed to be adding bass and trumpet improv, and we realised that the next band were quietly jamming along in the corner. A Tom Waits moment.

By now we had drifted a little too close to the front for this type of gig. You can usually spot the danger in a crowd like this and there was one spot which moved around saying "don't go here".

We didn't.

And on they came. The Congo Faith Healers. A four piece trumpet, double bass, drums and steel guitar, with around a third of the front audience already fans. Fast sweet gravel voiced guitarist, who could play anything, spikey and soulful horn, grooooved drummer and fluid bass. They were having a blast. And so were we. Instant party as they swept through rock edged, Mexican influenced numbers, with an intensity and humour to get everyone moving. An express train was running through the room. In a good way.

Two am. Nearly time for the headliners. They wandered out to plug in microphones, test the guitar, water bottles on stage. Then they appeared. Another incarnation of the Alabama 3. They ain't Three and they ain't from Alabama. I think they'd regard Brixton (or Coldharbour Lane) as a sort of spiritual home. Now the room was rammed. The bulldog trouble was over to the far side. Several bodies away. We could relax into the set. I still had half a Sol. They threw a few waters out for those needing hydration.

no Jamm pix - so Alabama 3 subset unplugged with Kate Nash

Into "Woke Up this Morning" as they started their set - we knew it would be unplugged so the guitar of Rock and the harmonica of Harpo Strangelove made the main music, with the rest of this particular formation cracking the vocals. A game of two halves and a mystery interlude. Plenty of the good stuff played well and with full participation, plus a middle stretch which dived off into that aceeedhousestuff with freestyling turntable clicks and enough bass to start an earthquake. We were momentarily confused mid set when the house lights came up and we were asked to chant things for the new CD, apparently to be Pro-Tooled into the album mix.

Then back to business, with more from their surprisingly large catalogue of good tunes. I'll describe the gig as unhinged as indeed were most of us by this point.

Three Thirty. Out into the arc light of Brixton. People still trying to get into the Jamm. We decided to kick-out.

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