Jolly Farmer Hythe Staines
Saturday 7th February 2009
“There’ll be no more –aaaaaahhhhh!”
Frayed Knot is one of the first of the Staines superbands to go public (expect some more in the coming months.) I am not really suggesting that these knotty boys are the new ‘Velvet Revolver’ or anything like that (to be honest) all I am saying is that this band is a superband as defined: It is an ensemble of competent musicians playing together as part of a separate yet meaningful project. Most musicians tend to do this kind of thing all the time anyway…it helps to oil the works and it also harmonises concepts and musical approaches…but the ‘side projects’ either gradually fade away or they become ‘main projects’ before too long. It will be interesting to see how the boys from Frayed Knot develop this initiative.
The problem with the local ‘covers band’ scene is that loyal live music punters end up hearing the same-old lame-old songs played in much the same way each week… week-in-week-out. This is because, as a ‘covers artist’, you are ‘expected’ to achieve a faithful representation of the original article. It is almost as if you are obligated to create a genuine ‘photocopy’ of the song – and it must be portrayed exactly as it is fondly remembered. And there are only ‘so-many’ songs that are straight forward enough to cover and also easy enough to recognise.
This approach to covering songs reminds me of the 80’s TV Show “Copy Cats” (starring comedians like our very own Staines hometown hero Bobby Davro) who would, supposedly, do amazing impersonations of our fave celebs each week. So,inevitably, you ended up getting a pile of Eastenders and Dallas impressions and the highpoint of the show was Andrew O’Connor doing a ‘hiarious’ Rik Mayall or Hilary O’Neil doing a marvellous Sybil Fawlty… in the end you were crying out for one of the stars to ‘do’ something ‘new’.
But if, as a covers musician, you dare to tamper with a sacred song- for example you might be tempted to add a bit of a fringe to the bottom of “Whole Lotta Love” or a tiny bit of lace to the collar of “Be-Bop-A-Lula” or you might even wish to embroider the pockets of “Baggy Trousers” with a couple of extra chords – then the audience will look at you in that special way that the vicar does when you let out an almighty fart in church. You will know, deep deep down, that you have committed a terrible sin in the eyes of the Lord and of the congregation, and you will realise- soon enough- that you deserve to be dunked, like a witch, into a vat of boiling urine as penance for such a terrible and unspeakable outrage.
Each week Simon Cowell implores contestants on the “America’s Got The X-factor Pop Idol” show to ‘interpret the song’ or to ‘re-imagine’ the song and he often tells the performers to ‘be themselves’. But this sensible advice doesn’t seem to go down too well in the whole pub ‘covers’ band industry. (Incidentally, this ‘industry’ is starting to become a big money affair with quite a few very accomplished and worthy musicians earning tidy sums of money in various tribute bands up and down the country.)
So it was a great treat to watch a band who were not scared to try some new covers, put a bit of a twist onto some familiar tunes and to add their own flavour and seasoning to some of the more traditional songs. So we enjoyed some ‘Snow Patrol’, ‘Oasis’,‘Killers’, ‘The Fratellis’ and ‘The Automatic’ but we also had some grand old ‘Eddie Cochran’ and a thick slice of ‘Black Sabbath’.
John Hulme is the larger-than-lifesize Andrew Strong type lead singer. He is a very powerful man with a huge set of battle-cruiser lungs and he could crush and squeeze every last drop of juice from the songs in the Frayed Knot song-book. I especially liked his rasping, teasing, wheezing approach to AC/DC’s ‘Back in Black’ which was superbly accompanied by Mark Hamilton on lead guitar and Lee Ridley on rhythm.
It is my long-held tradition – whenever I see a band attempting to cover an AC/DC number- to loudly demand that the lead guitarist gets up onto the back of the lead singer for a ‘walkabout’ into the crowd. On this occasion though, I reluctantly decided against the notion- mainly because the Health & Safety Executive would put me on their Most Wanted list… John is approx 6’13 and Mark looks to be well over 5’10, but the ceiling at the tiny Jolly Farmer public house provides only about 7 foot clearance!
The boys went on to cover “Morning Glory” (Oasis) with a fine performance by John and some nifty percussion by drummer David Bateman and also went on to give a delightful cover of “Every Rose Has Its Thorns”. Without a doubt my favourite tune was a remarkable rendition of the Red Hot Chili Peppers staple “Give It Away” with an enormous chunky base by Garry Pierrepont and finely cut slices of lead guitar from Mark…and the very tricky vocals were spot on. To be fair, the boys are not as good-looking or as energetic as Anthony and Flea – but I am sure that they must be very gifted in other departments (nudge-nudge wink-wink).
This band tends to concentrate on the catchy anthemic confectionery of recent years so, when you see ‘em (and I very much recommend that you do) you can expect some sing-along modern-day hymns. The indie tunes that they cover do not come across as stale or unnecessarily slick or formulaic. There is definitely an authentic and sincere heart beating away deep inside the creature that is Frayed Knot. Yes, their music is pop-infused and can, at times, be a bit sugary and feel-goody (in a cotton-candy party-time kinda way) but this approach is just right for the Staines pub scene. So the boys play the songs that make the crowd yelp with joy, but served up with a sabre-sharp ice-cool quality that would make lesser bands look on enviously.
One of the ‘finale’ songs of Frayed Knot was the Gilmour tune “Comfortably Numb” originally by either ‘Pink Floyd’ or ‘The Scissor Sisters’ depending on your point of view. In the best traditions of a typical pub on a Saturday night in Blighty, the exact pedigree of this song managed to cause a kerfuffle in the crowd with a few strong words and rude gestures slung about and things looked pretty ugly for a few moments when half the crowd started to bellow “It is a f*** floyd song” to be shouted down by the other half who screamed “No, everyone knows its by the f*** Scissors Sisters” (sic)
So we got to the end of the last set (via a whole pile of indie hits and even a rendition of the “Theme Tune from Horrid Henry” ) to the happily bouncing chug-a-chugging piping-hot version of the two-tone Madness ska hit “Night Boat to Cairo” (I am sure that Foulplay also finish on that one) and the boys took their well-earned bow and a heartfelt ovation from a slightly over-excited crowd. A fine tribute to a great sounding tribute band.
Keep the covers coming boys, by all means, but please be sure to keep a little of yourselves in each of the interpretations.