Little Carl’s annual Halloween gigs at Nambucca in North London’s Holloway Road have become a ‘must’ in our rock’n’roll diary for a number of reasons – a gathering of the clans of old pals, the guarantee of some of our favourite DJs, a new poster from Marcel Bontempi and, above all, some superb headline acts. This year’s Spook-o-Rama was doubly attractive, offering not just the chance to catch up after the long desert of lockdown but also the prospect of seeing Scottish beat combo the Kaisers in their first London performance since we caught them at the 100 Club what seems like a lifetime ago.

And the night delivered as promised. Support act were the Keller-Tönes (note the umlaut emphasizing the Hamburg cellar bar vibe – yes, I did my Germany tour!), performing together for only the second since the long interruption of lockdown. The trio features Lynette Morgan and Gary Boller on drums and bass respectively, taking a break from their usual incarnation as the Blackwater Valley Boys to explore their love of early 60s beat sounds, and joined by Andy Ames on vocals and lead guitar. Their opener of Jay Swan’s ‘You Don’t Love Me’ had me wondering for a moment whether they’d be covering dance floor favourites but the set list immediately swung away into a mix of beat group numbers and originals delivered with an authenticity, talent and enthusiasm that got the growing crowd thoroughly warmed up.

DJs Blaster, Danny ‘O’, Sean the Rocketeer and, of course, Carl himself (in the guise of a worrying convincing ghost of Buddy Holly) kept the dance floor full of assorted bopping ghouls, spooks, Beetlejuice(s), plus a random dinosaur with a mix of stonking big beat sounds until the witching hour as the Kaisers took to the stage. These guys are just so good, it’s hard to find the words to capture it: full on, early 60s, Beatles at the Star Club, waistcoats, drainpipes and winklepickers look, hard core guitar-driven rock’n’roll, packed with witty, original songs delivered with consummate musicianship and an energy that never dipped from the opening chords of ‘Hipshake’ to a frantic encore of ‘What’d I Say’ and ‘Alligator Stomp’. New single ‘That Kind of Fun’ was in there somewhere, along with a prime selection of vocals and instrumentals that hit the spot with an audience hungry for more and more (and I even remembered to rescue the set list off the stage at the end). The current line-up of Kaisers George, Johnny, Gus and Mark has stood them in good stead for 25 years now and I’m just hoping it won’t be too long before we can tempt them south again. Band finished, DJs came back, and we danced to records we know and love and records we’d never heard before and loved till closing time came and – thanks to the change in the clocks – went and we limped down the Caledonian Road to bed.

There’s something about Carl’s Nambucca gigs that just makes them special – whether it’s the bands, the records, the crowd or a combination of all three. Whatever it is, and however complicated life in 2021 might get, it’s definitely my happy place!

And I couldn’t let the review slip without thanks to Kaiser George for his lockdown industry creating a series of Gerry-Anderson style marionettes (think Cliff and the Shads in Thunderbirds Are Go) of our favourite rock’n’roll heroes now available as bubblegum cards, postcards and stand-ups from KGM (Kaiser George Marionettes). If you haven’t already got a set, better get them on your list for Santa soon.