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The CrushersKid Congo And The Pink Monkey Birds
King Salami And The Cumberland Three
The Crushers

100 Club, London
Sunday November 29 2009




Youthful and bequiffed, The Crushers' vocalist looks like he's in training for a character role in a Colin MacInnes novel. The band's crash-and-bash garage-punk makes for a suitable soundtrack to such a scenario: rough 'n' ready guitar riffs collide with a rebel yell of a vocal.

But although The Crushers derive their key influences from American sources, they're a very British band. The singer's geezerish holler places the band in a world of mods 'n' rockers having a dust-up on Brighton sea front, of egg and chips at the Ace Cafe, with BSA motorcycles lined up outside. Brash, British rock 'n' roll that has more of its own identity than you might expect.

King Salami & The Cumberland ThreeKing Salami And The Cumberland Three don't come from Cumberland (at least, I don't think so), nor are there three of them. Five r'n'b reprobates invade the stage in a flurry of saxophone squalls. The vocalist, presumably King Salami himself, throws himself into every song, rasping out the vocals while leaning forward and back at impossible angles in a surrealist moonwalk.

If The Crushers took us on a journey to the Ace Cafe, King Salami magicks us to Notting Hill back in its scruffy days: you can imagine him holding court in some underground shebeen in about 1958, rockin' the joint like crazy while the local constabulary batter at the door. The band is clearly an evocation - if not quite a straight-up recreation - of an earlier era, when whipping up a frantic blues was the newest and coolest thing in town. But they've got their retro-schitck nailed, and it's hard not to rock along.

You may know Kid Congo. He was once the guitarist in The Cramps; he was a member of the Gun Club, and for three years he was one of Nick Cave's Bad Seeds. That's what you call some impressive previous. As a solo artist, he's much more of an unknown quantity, and I suspect anyone who knows him from his sideman duties might be surprised to see what he does as a frontman.

For Kid Congo turns out to be an amiable entertainer of the old school, fronting a band that's all decked out in Mariarchi suits and primed for some good old rockin'.  Perhaps the band name should drop a clue, for The Pink Monkey Birds hardly hints at po-faced austerity. Nope, the signs are saying we're in for a good time tonight.

With the Kid himself slicing out some idiosyncratic guitar lines - his own bizarre, intuitive blues - the band gives it some Tex-Mex welly. They pitch in to a set of rowdily cheery songs, Kid Congo himself ever-ready with a waggish grin and an assortment of expansive gestures, and many a between-song anecdote. The songs come principally from Kid Congo's two solo albums - Philosophy And Underwear, and his new one, Dracula Boots, from which the garagey blast of 'Rare As The Yeti' is a highlight - but his old bands are represented, too. There's a rush at the Gun Club's 'For The Love Of Ivy', and a staccato attack on 'Sex Beat'. The late Lux Interior - Kid Congo's friend, mentor and bandleader - gets a touching tribute: 'If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't be here. Actually, none of us would be here tonight!' - and then the band romps gleefully through 'I'm Cramped'. Lux himself, I'm sure, would dig it.

Kid Congo PowersIt's a surprise, in a way, to find that Kid Congo is such an affable entertainer - I was all ready for an evening of laconic Lou Reed-isms, or at least some heads-down seriousness. But freed from the need to keep his head down and his gob shut in other peoples' bands, the Kid proves to be a splendidly genial host.


Kid Congo And The Pink Monkey Birds:
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King Salami And The Cumberland Three:

The Crushers:

For more photos from this gig, find Kid Congo by name here.

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