Jumpin’ Hot Club
Thursday 16th January 2020
For a variety of reasons; (both work and health) my Gig Going Mojo left me in late 2017; meaning I’ve only been to a handful in those last two years.
This made tonight a ‘big deal’; as even though I implicitly trust promoters Jumpin’ Hot Club, I’d never heard a note from Mike Farris until Thursday morning when I checked him out on You Tube.
Plus; the gig; in the larger theatre room at Live Theatre had completely Sold Out two weeks previously and there was a waiting list for ‘returns’ …… so an expedition was in order.
The support act was being introduced as I chatted to some friends and my ears immediatly pricked up; did they just say ‘Martin Fletcher’? Oh yes Shipcote did!
FYI many years ago Martin was the harmonica player in a local band called the Blues Burglars who were as good a live band as I’ve ever seen; and I’ve seen some megastars!
Tonight Martin was accompanied by singer-songwriter Chris James and the duo regaled us with 40 minutes of ‘Bastardised Blues Classics’ plus a couple of Chris’s own compositions.
The first of these own compositions, was the duo’s ‘Internet Hit’ (147,000 views and counting on FB) Simple Man, which was from the Folkier side of the Blues and I easily realised why so many people would like it; even though Chris forgot the words halfway through!
The set flew by; with Fletcher sounding every bit as brilliant as I’d remembered, with his assortment of harmonicas plus he even got to sing a rather racy Charlie Musselwhite song; but the night really belonged to the languid Chris James and his intricate guitar picking and super-smooth vocals.
Well; I said the ‘night belonged to Chris James’ ……. that was before I saw Mike Farris!
There was a genuine air of excitement in the hall as the band filtered on stage and ‘got a groove going’ and I ain’t heard a roar like it at a gig for years; when Farris made his appearance!
Looking every inch the Rock Star with his jet-black quiff; shades, split knee jeans, biker boots and a sporty leather jacket, he immediatly strapped on a big ole black Gibson with an obligatory Bigsby and blasted into *Message of Love, which his adoring fans instantly recognised.
On the next song he dispensed with the geetar and stalked the stage dragging the mic stand behind him, like many of the Great Soul singers that have obviously influenced him over the years.
The influences didn’t stop there; as while Mike Farris can write a cracking song, certainly has a fabulously distinctive voice and singing style; his choice of covers at the end of the gig were outstanding; a Tom Petty song then Jimmie Rodgers T for Texas and Mary Gauthier’s A Little Mercy Now bringing the house down; and the encore of Ann Peebles’ I Can’t Stand The Rain being not just a surprise but a highlight too.
In between Farris and band rocked the joint like it was their birth-rite; using the ubiquitous ‘call and response’ several times, much to the delight of the hordes of people who had made their way South from the quaint fishing village of Ashington in Northumberland; who had seen him play locally the year before and seemed very excited and excitable all evening; especially when Mike mentioned the difference in local dialects. (Cos they talk right funny up there!)
I was won over very early on; but during his acoustic set in the middle realised I was watching a very clever and professional act that could adapt at will.
One of the joys of Live Music is seeing something no one else will ever see, as every gig is different. Tonight; one of the highlights was when Mike told a story of playing a Charity Gig in Guildford, Southern England earlier in the week and seeing and meeting one of his childhood heroes, Rod Argent and discovering the delights of Andy Fairweather-Low ……… I love the fact that Farris can still get excited about discovering new music at this stage of his own career.
If there was one of his songs that stood out for me, it was Tennessee Girl, a genuine love song written for and about hid delightful wife who was standing at the back watching her husband perform; with a smile on her face all night long.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise, for a boy from Tennessee; but this was a clever and very impressive mix of Blues, Gospel, Soul, Country and a hefty dose of Southern Rock that combined to create Mike Farris’s very own, and very enjoyable ‘style’.
Now to find a couple of his albums.
*Message of Love? As I didn’t actually know any of the songs I just picked up on the main lines of the choruses!