Rubbish, piffle, tommyrot, drivel and utter bilge

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Feelin' Lucky, Punk?

I am going to do something I have yet to do in this blog. Don't worry, it's nothing dangerous or controversial.

I am going to write a gig review. Last time I wrote a gig review was in 1993 after seeing Depeche Mode at the Seattle Center Arena, and that was a helluva show. The support band was The The, which was a total surprise, and a very pleasant one at that. But I am not here to talk about The Mode or The The. I am here to talk about The Lucky Ones.
Haven't heard of The Lucky Ones yet? Where have you been?

The Lucky Ones are a self-described 'power trio', who take classic tunes from a variety of eras and genres and strip them down and rework them for unlikely instruments including melodica, ukulele, kazoo, guitar and 1950s-style cocktail drums. I first encountered them last year while perusing the musician pages on Myspace. After listening to some of the tracks on their page and taking in their eclectic styles of dress (Brad in plus-fours and golfers' flat cap as a country gent, or in 1940s B-movie suit and fedora, Adam in 1920s pinstripe with Homburg hat, Jayne with her array of 1950s polka dot cocktail dresses with the foofy underskirts) I decided I must see them.

Luckily for me, they're a local band, and I noticed they were due to be playing at The Woolpack in Tenterden and so on the appointed date, I dragged Laura along to see them. What a great gig. I discovered that not only were they as good if not better live than they were on record, but that drummer and vocalist Brad was that rare thing, a genuinely funny American, from Connecticut no less, whose off-the-wall comments between songs had me in stitches. At one point he was reading the pub's menu aloud and complaining about the way British people say 'Basil'.

At that gig we befriended The Lucky Ones and decided we must see them again as soon as humanly possible. To tide us over in the meantime we purchased their CD, 'Fruitcake', which was chock full of their brilliant musical eclecticism.

One cold day early in the year we cajoled my sister to take us down to Hastings, the band's birthplace, to see them at The Hastings Arms. It was cold and it was breezy but the band were on top form and had the tiny pub rocking. She was an instant fan.

We then saw them in March at The Swan in Wittersham which I have to say was an odd venue. The central bar has one side with pool table and jukebox, one might say the 'yoof' side, and the other side in which the band were to play was more of an older persons' side where there were restaurant tables. The people at the bar seemed almost oblivious to the band and Brad was struggling to get the attention he usually commands. The pub also did not turn off the jukebox while they were playing which I thought was a bit strange, not to say rude. A bizarre gig but enjoyable nonetheless. They are a well rehearsed combo and were as tight and in control as ever.

Time passed by and many opportunities to see TLO came and went. We just had too many other things going on and were unable to see them. Finally we saw that the Luckies were playing another local tavern, The Crown in St. Michaels, an afternoon show on the 9th (today). So it was that we showed up just after they'd started, and they were excited to see us. After they'd finished the song we'd walked in on, Brad mentioned our arrival over the PA and alluded to the fact that I am on the computer a lot (am I?).

Their set was bursting with old faves and newer ones... "Billie Jean", "Don't Get Me Wrong", "The Old Bazaar In Cairo", and one of my particular favourites, their mashup of "Funky Cold Medina/Honky Tonk Women". At the interval they came and talked with us (Brad and Jayne particularly, Adam's a bit quieter) and Brad even bought us a refill on our drinks (but keep mum about that one or he'll have every Tom, Dick and Harry angling for a pint), and he told us that they were playing an afternoon gig here and then zooming off to St. Leonards for another gig tonight. They're probably playing right now as I write this.

The reason The Lucky Ones are so entertaining is not just because of the brash Yankee drummer who is always ready with an off-the-cuff quip, able to make new lyrics up on the spot to suit the moment, location or mood, nor is it only due to his remarkable syncopative skills behind the kit. It is not just due to the superb guitar-and-ukulele picking and strumming techniques displayed by Adam, nor is it the singing, dancing and melodica-playing powerhouse Jayne. It is not due to their highly educated and educating choices of songs, betraying their vast archival musical knowledge (who'd have thought you could hear Althia and Donna's 'Up Town Top Ranking', Johnny Cash's 'A Boy Named Sue', Altered Images' 'Happy Birthday' and Doris Day's 'The Deadwood Stage' (from Calamity Jane) from the same band, let alone at the same show?). It is all those things and more, for The Lucky Ones are a band who personify the phrase the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. They are my new favourite band. Ain't I lucky?

Check out some of their tuneage on their page at

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