With all the bad stuff, big and small, going on in the world at the moment, you almost feel guilty at enjoying an evening quite as much as the Hot Dang Dilly Halloween Special, but that’s the joy of great records and a great act in a venue dedicated to real music. Little Carl’s events at Nambucca are always good, and his festive specials are legendary, but when we learned that not only would Marcel Bontempi be headlining but that three of our favourite DJs would be filling in the gaps for the rest of the evening, a trip up the Holloway Road moved from the status of ‘wouldn’t it be great if..’ to ‘arrange everything else around it’.
Nambucca itself is a classic live music venue: easy to get to but away from tourist-land, decent bar, dance floor that’s big enough to cope but doesn’t invite a fear of wide open spaces, no frills and lots of space for the music to get out into. Arriving early so as not to miss some choice records, the atmosphere was already humming, and Sean the Rocketeer was already deep into a storming selection of the kind of wild and driving rarities he does so well. Lots of obscure British material in there, along with a good helping of Halloween themed tracks, and the sense of expectation that accompanies any Rocketeer set. Hot on his heels and leading into the first act of the night came Danny from Spain, spinning his magical brand of heavyweight jivers, many of them obscure originals from the later end of the Big Beat period but all with a pounding rhythm that drags you onto the dance floor whether you’re ready or not. For a taster of Danny’s kind of early 60s rock’n’roll killers, you could do worse than track down one of a dwindling supply of ‘We Are the Rockers Vol 1’ on Sleazy Records. Fortunately, he’s a frequent visitor to the UK, and what’s more there’s a second volume of We Are the Rockers in the offing.
Backing band The Killer Dillers took the stage to kick off the live music with a fine selection of covers, all delivered with precision, energy and faithful to the originals. Having journeyed all the way from Wales, and featuring veteran drummer Mark Kemlo – to be spotted behind many bands from the far left hand side of the country – they were clearly determined to warm the crowd up.
More cracking records from Carl, Sean and Danny – more frantic dancing – and so to the headline act of the day, talented singer, songwriter and guitarist, 50s-influenced graphic artist, and all-round Wunderkind, Frankfurt-based Marcel Bontempi, accompanied as ever by the equally talented Miss Ira Lee. We caught Marcel for the first time at the Rockabilly Rave last year and since then the album collection of his tracks, complete with self-deprecating and witty sleeve notes and eye-watering graphics, has never been far from the player. Fresh from a gig in Nottingham, he’d flown in especially for these two Halloween gigs and whetted our appetites with a series of graphics and photos to accompany his new Bury All My Troubles EP, Haunted House single and video, plus a poster so good it just had to be turned into a T-Shirt.
And for a break from my snapshot photos, here’s some good stuff courtesy of Phil Parr
And what a performance. Whether delivering the odd quirky cover, dipping into Surfin’ Bird as the intro to one of his many self-penned tracks, or cutting loose with some casually searing guitar licks, Herr Bontempi hits the groove from the start and doesn’t stop till he’s finally left the stage with the crowd still shouting for more. The backing band were working hard, too – no resting on their laurels as they launched into their second set. Marcel is a real treat – an individual immersed in the sound, look and style of the 1950s but with his own original, witty, but wholly respectful take on it all. His Facebook page is a joy and a real find is his Blog, with lots of examples of his artwork. How can one guy be so damn talented…
And from then on it was just one storming record after another as the DJs dug deep into their bags of vinyl goodies. In Danny’s case, I like a DJ who enjoys his own records so much he’s got mates on hand to take over while he has a dance! There were some boss strollers in there, too, and a clutch of classic boppers, and so many great jivers it became a case of trying to pick the record you weren’t going to dance to. By the time the crowd thinned out after the clocks going back gave us an extra hour, we were almost on the point of begging him to play a duff tune just to give us a break.
After far too many years in sweaty rock’n’roll clubs, it’s easy to become jaded and start to think you’ve heard it all. Thanks to promoters like Carl and the team working with him, acts like Marcel Bontempi, and some first-class DJs, and it’s possible to rediscover the sheer joy of the Big Beat. Who knows what Hot Dang Dilly will offer us next, but you can be sure it’s gonna be great.