The life of a rock’n’roll DJ in London these days is not an easy one. Just being able to turn up and spin a few hours of great floor fillers is hard enough, but finding venues to do it in requires the detective skills of a Sherlock Holmes and the entrepreneurial skill of a West End impresario. The month has brought the bad news that Hubba Hubba will close after its November event – victim of another change in pub manager who believes that a change of name and a lick of paint is going to bring crowds of high-spending punters to an unremarkable pub behind Euston station. So it was a huge pleasure to be in town to make one of DJ Little Carl’s occasional Hot Dang Dilly nights at Nambucca in the Holloway Road and see his willingness to take a chance repaid with a large and enthusiastic crowd to savour no fewer than three top DJs and two fine bands at the Castin’ My Spell Halloween Pirate Party.
Nambucca is what a music venue should be – accessible enough to get home by night bus, but far enough away from Hipsterland not to have to comply with the whims of what’s trending today. Bar, dance floor and stage – what else do you need? With Carl himself and Jungle Jim sharing the honours on the decks early on, the atmosphere was buzzing and by the time the support band, Pip Pip and the Swags took the stage, the crowd was building nicely, despite competition from another North London rockin’ gig that had fallen on the same night. The band struggled a bit with the PA set up which didn’t seem to suit a guitar-heavy sound and dominated the vocals for much of the set, but the crowd loved it and left the dance-floor end of the venue packed for the rest of the night.
Sean aka The Rocketeer took to the decks to warm the floor up for the main event, delving deep into his superb collection of desperately rare British beat tunes, every one a wild and frenzied gem that left jivers panting for breath. Sean’s organised and worked a wealth of British Rock’n’Roll events, so he knew just what he was doing and by the time the Rapiers took to the stage, we were firmly back in late 1950s Britain.
The Rapiers have been around a good many years, but no one can touch them for the authenticity of their sound. When they play their Shadows set, they’re more like the Shadows than the remaining Shadows are, and the proof of the pudding is in the esteem in which they’re held by surviving veterans of the 50s British scene. Tonight, though – in keeping with the Halloween date – they were in Pirates mode, faithfully emulating Johnny Kidd’s backing line-up, with original bass player Nick Simper providing the jewel in the crown and clearly enjoying every second of it. Guitarist Neil Ainsby takes over the vocals for the Pirates set, complete with cutlass and a voice that hits the spot precisely. With a big and enthusiastic crowd filling the front stage area, one could imagine that this was just what it was like to catch the Pirates in their heyday – and that’s what the Rapiers do so well. Lots of familiar faces, great bands, an endless succession of great records and even decent beer over the bar – and all for £15. No wonder Sunday was a quiet day for Mrs M and me.
With the 50th anniversary of Johnny Kidd’s tragically early death falling in October next year, we can expect to see a lot more of the Rapiers in Pirates mode. In the meantime, let’s hope Carl can keep Hot Dang Dilly as a regular feature on the rock’n’roll scene.
You can check out the news for Hot Dang Dilly on the dedicated Facebook Page. The Rapiers have their own excellent website and Facebook page.