Armitage Smith.

On Saturday 20th October, I popped along to The Lounge in Camden for the final date of the “There’s Still Room To Rock ‘n’ Roll” UK tour that featured The Dirty Strangers and The Brutalists. When I say “UK” in actual fact only two dates were outside the confines of the M25. Opening proceedings were Rich Ragany and the Digressions’ first full-on live gig. Joining “Rags”, in no particular order were formerly of the UK Subs Ricky McGuire on Bass, Simon Maxwell, (The Role Models, 20 Professional Youths) on drums, Kit Swing rhythm guitar and vocals (Seven Days and Doesn’t Die), Andy Brook (Shush) on keys and Gaff lead guitar (from the Dedwardians). With a half hour, time slot Rags uncharacteristically was more subdued than he is when he’s playing with his “Day Job” band Role Models with the between song banter. Pretty much letting the music do the talking, which it did in volumes. The Role Models arguably are the perfect soundtrack to a Friday, Saturday night out. With The Digressions though, instead of a sweaty packed dive bar, you’re treated to a slap-up three-course meal. Naturally, their just-released album “Like We’ll Never Make It” was aired in I think its entirety and if you thought the album was good, live it really does all fall into place. This might’ve been the band’s debut gig, but they seem supremely comfortable in each other’s presence.  I had only one criticism and that was that Kit seemed to be using her guitar as a comforter more than an instrument. Now don’t get me wrong as she has an amazing voice, but I would’ve preferred her to ditch the guitar and literally be more vocal, taking over some of Rich’s vocal lines. Funnily enough, just before the gig, Simon asked if I was going to review their set because if I was they’d better not be shit. I’ve never given much thought to what the polar opposite to shit is, but whatever it is, Rich Ragany & the Digressions were it.

The Brutalists feature a non-bass playing Nigel Mogg on vocal duties with brothers Mick and Robert Cripps, Kent Holmes and Charlie Nice making up the rest of the band. Part Thames Delta, part Westway, part Brixton, part Bash Street Kids, it’s hard to think that the band reside in the sunnier climes of LA. Like The Digressions the band are even better live than on record and that not an insult to the producers of both records. It’s just a willing, appreciative audience, will fire up any band with both feeding off each other. After the Brutalists set; my belly was full. Also, like the Digressions The Brutalists plundered their debut album but managed to slip in a cover of the Rolling Stones “When The Whip Comes Down” which to the ill-informed, could be their own. The stage at the Lounge is rather small, just enough for a drum kit with a stack either side, which meant Mick, Nigel and Kent were playing in the audience. Not that this seemed to bother anyone as the band were able to request and quickly receive drinks from the bar.

The Dirty Strangers have been led by Alan Clayton since the band’s inception in the mid-80’s. The Dirties have a strong Rolling Stones connection with both Ronnie Wood and Keith Richards chipping in the odd guitar track here and there over the course of the Dirty Strangers recorded output and sometimes turning up to play live. With that in mind, image if Keith Richards hadn’t bumped into Mick Jagger on Dartford train Station in October 1961, instead of becoming the Stones lead vocalist, keeping Ian Stewart on piano and striking up a writing partnership with Brain Jones. For me, that’s The Dirty Strangers. Guest musician for this tour was former Quireboy and current Thirsty guitarist Guy Bailey who fitted in perfectly with the Dirties modern take of Rhythm and Blues when R ‘n’ B actually meant something worthwhile.

For “Gold Cortina” taken from the “West 12 to Wittering” album that the aforementioned Ronnie Wood plays the guitar on, Mick Cripps relieved Al of his guitar with Nigel and Al embracing, looking like Rock ‘n’ Roll Siamese Twins to share the vocals. After their set, I said to Al that if only every single gig that I went to could be that good as what I had just seen.

Photographs used with kind permission from Eric Duvet Photography 


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