As I strode up to the Brook, the first thing that struck me was the innocuous appearance of the venue. The over-used, Tolkien-esque font and general worn façade gives off the impression of being outside some hardened boozer. The queue was short and the advertisements gave the impression that the Brook is a haunt of tribute acts, namely “Fleetwood Bac”. However this is all a ruse to frighten student reviewers. For the fearless, it reveals more impressive innards probably akin to the autopsy of a shot putter. A point Larry Lance of Alabama 3 would later adhere to in conversation, saying in his hoarse Welsh voice, “the floorboards are damp with blues and ale.” Your reviewer did not have the equipment to investigate this health and safety issue. With great difficulty I’ll put my wit aside for a moment and state that the Brook is truly a local treasure. However one cannot receive free beer, even if they are media. Apparently the recession has done away with the music bribe, which I recall being de rigueur back in my Rolling Stone days.
The first act were the hot- stepping, swinging, jiving Black Kat Boppers. A band that have graced the Right Guard deodorant stage at Bestival as well as playing their fast-paced blues at the Fuji Festival, Japan in 2014. The lead singer danced and sang in such an intriguing fashion that Black Kat Boppers are, no doubt, more than a life raft for culturally stranded Rockabilly fans. Their crowd pleasing “Baby! My lovin’ is true” ignited the crowd. Particularly a leather clad couple in front of my companion and I, who enraptured us, in what could be delicately described as unusual finger play, involving a seemingly unromantic part of the back. It was an educational night. They were probably a needed amuse bouche too. Later the audience would be dealt with a performance from Alabama 3, described by a band member, as an attempt to be like Pol Pot. (More on that provocation in the interview section).
I believe an amuse bouche is sometimes a palette- cleansing sorbet but what do I know I’m from Dudley; our most culturally revered artefact is a Lenny Henry statue. Anyway, if the Black Kat Boppers were an inoffensive sorbet then Alabama 3 was a smorgasbord of sweet, savoury, spicy edibles and inedibles made by my schizophrenic uncle, Bertie. This was unsurprising, as from their beginnings they have fused country with techno and later dub-step and other electronic genres that often seem similar to people without metronomes. “Woke up this morning”, which is their most iconic song, known for being the soundtrack to Sopranos, was certainly mixed with a variety of big beats. The band omitted some of their more famous songs such as “U Don’t Dans To Tekno Anymore”, “Mao Tse Tung Said”, “Hello… I’m Johnny Cash” (a personal favourite), and “Ain’t Goin’ to Goa”.
A review of Alabama 3 would not be complete without some acknowledgement of their theatrics. Analogous with their music the band dressed disparately. Reverend D Wayne donned a Suggs costume, a.k.a. sunglasses and a suit, and Larry Love wore a studded cowboy jacket. The audience enjoyed the playful banter of the Reverend which took the form of a Dean Martin tribute, “I stopped drinking… It was a tough twenty minutes.” I’m not sure if it was an ironic take on ‘working the crowd’ or not, but whatever the reason it seemed to get a laugh on face value. To some degree, this embodied the general sense of the evening, as a tribute to their youthful antics. Neither the crowd nor Alabama 3 cared about their age, they just wanted to party and Alabama 3 gave it to them. It was a blummin’ techno-country hootenanny.