Review by Russ Tierney, photos by Rob Stanley
Up first tonight are Amsterdam’s My Baby making sure they get the blues cliches in early with their name alone, but maybe forgetting it’s a complete bitch to youtube and hunt down in this here cyberspace. They take to the stage as a stripped back two piece with Zeppelin-esque atmospheric slide blues licks before a 3rd member wanders out in the form of front woman Cato Van Dyck.
The second track sees a mumbling directed in Cato’s direction from guitarist Daniel as he attempts to introduce her properly, but she too seems unable to interpret while choosing to pick out some rapport with drummer and namesake Joost Van Dyck. They share a nice moment where you can feel them visually communicating to kick in the next jam, kinda how blues should be, a little loose around the edges and indeed jam-like, and all while one member seems so laid back he’ll fall off his stall. In reality they’re tight and along side Joost Van Dyck’s superb and complementary backing vocals, he later informs us that Cato’s early coughing fit was due to her being ill and running on pills, not that you’d notice as her vocals are on point for the majority of the set.
The cliches continue (and I’m not saying that in a negative sense, this is what I want from a blues show!) with rolling floor tom train chugging grooves and galloping rim shots aplenty that all help sweep you up in the moment the way blues should. The only thing we’re not getting tonight are 12 bar runs… but then they don’t have a bassist. As I heard the guy next to me say “If these guys have an album, I’m gonna buy it, they’re fuckin brilliant aint they”. After some detective work online however, I feel they may surprise a few on record with a more unique sound than illness allowed them to explore tonight.
With the main man tonight, I think I could pretty much just get away with ‘it’s fucking Seasick Steve, of course it’s good’ and leave it there without question. After all, this is the quirky genius of a man who put out a hand written press release on one sheet of A4 for his Hubcap music album. Anyways, coming out to applause and after a few humbled bows (which he does after each song), he sits down and simply exclaims “lets get down to business”. Now Steve does have that edgier, looser quality in his armoury. Sure he has songs and melodies, but you’re never too sure what tangent he’ll go off on within them, especially as he reaches for his favourite tipple to keep oiled between every song too. Sometimes he makes jokes about drinking the massive cup of tea sitting by his side, but all he manages to do is pick up the cup to merely sniff, much to the amusement of everybody. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves, by the end of the first number Seasick’s already tired looking guitar gets a bit of a beating and looks to be a string down, right until I realise later in the set that it’s probably just his preferred guitar strap in a piece of string. Luckily enough he’s blessed us with a big screen to see such details, and that comes in handy in the vast Civic and especially given in song number two he breaks out his trademark hubcap “guitar”, before in track three, a third. It’s the third number where I first clock the introduction of a female multi instrumentalist who drifts between being on stage and not (song depending) while playing either keys, bass and violin. Later drummer Dan is introduced as “Dan on the cast iron frying pan” (literally), as he proceeds to tell us how he has to remember to take them in after every tour as they’re from his home and he needs to cook his eggs or somethin’.
This brings us nicely on to his stories that punctuate his laid back in between song demeanour. As female screams ring out from the audience during one gap, Seasick promptly asks for her number and instructs to “walk the walk if you’re going to talk the talk”. Later on he picks a rather attractive young lady out of the audience to serenade, he continues to inform her that she and he need to pretend he’s 45 years younger and that “the amazing thing about music is I’m an old and crusty guy up here and you’ll still jump right on”, echoing the lyrics of the song he kicks in to -of which I’d love to tell you which, but setlist fmers have left me high and dry on this one and I couldn’t catch the titles amongst the laughter. Another trademark charm exchange comes as he pulls out his washboard guitar which is effectively a washboard with various banjo pieces nailed to it. “I read a review saying Steve’s really getting in to his effects on this new album, so I’m gona show you my secrets” he tells us with a giggle while talking about the washboard. “This here is my washboard! This a plaster! And this here is a thimble that’s pushed on real tight! Health and safety n all, it could fly off and hit one of you or shit”. Continuing “This here is a plaster, and this, this is a second thimble” – I think the plaster is to hold the other thimble in place has bashed out beats on the washboard. “This is a thumbpick! I don’t normally use these but all those special effects ‘n such”.
A life times worth of struggle, being a traveller, feeling and experience come to the forefront as he extracts a tune from this one stringed instrument, which eventually descends in to a chaotic middle section (he’s got a story that) reminiscent of a grunge laden Kurt Cobain.. but of course as he later hints at his love for Jimi Hendrix, we suspect his love for some random outbursts of mood based noise originates here. I could sit here repeating his stories and humble nature all day. He reminds us that “he knows who his employer is” referencing the UK kick starting his career at such a late age after his appearance on Jools Holland, and that we have to keep believing in the dream which prompted his song ‘Keep On Keepin’ On’. In conclusion however, ultimately all you need to know is Seasick could come out here tonight with a string nailed to a piece of wood and get a tune from it that the audience would lap up… and come to think about it… he does just that!