27 November 2010

uninhibited hedonistic drunkenness is alas no more

ZeDHEads - Red Lion, Badlesmere, Kent.

A very cold and frosty November night beckoned. Luckily we were going to be indoors tonight. Louis and Josephine, in their massive people carrier, took us and our new chum Xav, deep into the Kent countryside. Louis was late and needed to be there before the band started so that he could record the set and was, consequently, driving like a lunatic in a Richard Curtis film as if his character had to reach the airport before the plane took off so he could tell the woman he really did love her. “I’ll be doing some granny driving on the way back”, Josephine reassures us. It doesn’t matter really because we are out and the thought of skidding off the road and hitting a tree added a frisson of terror to the car journey.

We were out supporting our 7th favourite Brummy and his band of merry Brigadoon’s and pranksters the ZedHeads playing at The Red Lion in Badlesmere. Just joking. He’s really our favourite Brummy.

A once mighty pub of untouchable local repute and respect - ah, back in the day - the Red Lion of today appears a beaten shadow of its former self. Blighted by neighbours abating the noise, the lock ins, the drugs, the weekend outdoor music fests, the uninhibited hedonistic drunkenness are alas no more; the packed standing room only times now reserved only for ex X-Factor finalist Ben Mills's ‘secret’ gigs. Ben’s days of hoping for a half decent pub full of locals with BenzEgo long behind him.

As frost forms on the car and clouds of breath hit the freezing air we hurriedly seek the welcoming and inviting warmth of the Lions two big, open fireplaces which we anticipate will be piled high with logs and roaring away. Not so. It is bastard freezing inside. The coats, gloves, scarves, hats, alas, shall remain on all night. The fires stubbornly unlit.

What got me thinking was Brummy John asking me to take down that little film off YouTube I’d shot of the ZedHeads first gig. They hadn’t even thought of their name yet; had just come out of a bit of a band reshuffle. The guitarist, singer, founder, of the then called Seren Deputies, decided to leave and the rest of the guys seemed rudderless. Time for a rethink. To carry on as the Seren Deputies? To change the name? To change direction? But who and what and when and would it work and could they recover from the turmoil?

All this in the air that night at Graveney Village Hall for Pete and Mary’s party and the subsequent gig at Deco 5; all captured on film. All them early gigs, the first two or three filmed. The tentative, fledgling ZedHeads reminded me of a new born lamb or deer unsure on their new legs, blinking in the headlights as they took their first tentative steps onto the musical ice rink. So unsure, nervous; in shock even.

Contrast that with their performance tonight at the Lion and you will see a different band; increasingly confident, definitely more self assured, musically tight, enjoying themselves, trying new ideas out, adapting and yes indeed; surviving. Lead singer Jackie on top stand up form as usual, humorous banter between songs, but mainly her beautiful voice holding it all together, floating, dancing, rapping, harmonies, dancehall, reggae, jazz, soul, mainly plenty of soul. The new drummer tentatively tapping out with his fingers. Good to have a real drummer in there now. Even confident enough to stop a song mid through; Jackie bellowed, “John’s told us to stop and start the song again coz apparently we’re shit”. They want things to be just right.

Guitarist Pete, understated, just the right amount of guitar to compliment everyone else, lovely, perfect. It’s like witnessing a band suddenly mature. They’ve had a great year or so developing at their own speed and now the eggshell has cracked. BJ himself providing solid backup, rolling basslines sooth and throb. At one point, with Tim their keyboard player, during a dubby reggae number the keys were so spot on I was transformed back to Augustus Pablo’s classic melodica from East of The River Nile. Beautiful. Pete, on sax, complementing, reminding us what a fantastic, sonorous instrument it is with and without amplification.

In typical gig down the pub fashion we did take our coats off to dance to the bands last two tracks. Body heat alone heating the air.

That proved it; the new songs standing out above the old. The band seemed so much more inspired by them; bringing an excitement and energy out in their performance; so fresh, they genuinely seemed more stimulated by the new ones. The old, too well polished tunes from the Seren Deputies days, from the earlier days, from a band whose radical transformation seem to have outgrown and left those old tunes far behind may well see a few of them destined for the history books.

If fact their new rig pissed on their earlier efforts from a year or so ago. They soo needed that fuller PA sound, a deeper bass and crisper top end, a wider range, that the music deserved. We could now hear it properly. Can’t wait to see a full blown gig out of the pub context to hear their sound rip open. They seem to have gelled so well as a band musically that the crowd forgave - indeed embraced -  the raw edginess of the new tunes and it was a joy to see them take more risks.

Was great to see such an enthusiastic turnout from the Whitstable shellbacks as well. A cold wintery night in November not the easiest of commitments. Those that did make the effort witnessed a band of supreme funkiness. Assured in their delivery; chilled yet danceable; unafraid to spread their musical wings across all their influences or soul, funk, reggae, deep house, rap. Indeed, a truly modern, eclectic funkronica band fit for our times. Funktronica is the wrong word. A made up word. Perhaps deep as fuck might sound better?

Chilled out sunny Sunday afternoon slots await them on the European festival circuit.

Louis pushed out from behind the table to join his bride to be on the dance floor for the last few numbers ending with a dance flourish and a 'ta-da' saying “I still got it baby”. You certainly have mate.

Was well frosty when we came out but luckily we had Granny to drive us home. Being tucked up in bed by 1.30am on a Friday night after a hard week at work and a good skinful of alcohol was such a surprise.

I think we pitched it just about right. Just like the ZeDHEads did.