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Mad SinMad Sin
Guitar Slingers
Graveyard Johnnys

Boston Music Room, London
Monday December 31 2012

 

 

Life begins at the hop, they say. And the new year begins at this hop, a shindig that'll power past midnight like a T-Bird with the hammer down, if tonight's bands have anything to do with it.

The UK's psychobilly/rockabilly scene (I put it like that because the boundary between psycho and rocka is pretty fuzzy at times) is a strange beast. It exists almost completely under the radar of the media and the music biz, and that's probably just the way the scene likes it. Nobody is hankering for crossover success around here. Nobody's going to get upset if Artrocker magazine doesn't review this gig.

All of which means that this is a window into another world, where bands can attract a substantial crowd of fans - boisterous, bequiffed punker-geezers and spike-heeled Bettie Page babes - without ever putting a precision-sculpted barnet above the parapet, and where the styling cues of vintage Americana collide head-on with an ever-widening range of influences trawled in from all over.

Here's a band that's a case in point. Graveyard Johnnys are from Wales, and occupy the stripped-down, no-nonsense, punk rock end of the 'billy spectrum. They're all black T-shirts and big rock riffs - they claim Sepultura and Turbonegro as influences, and their drummer has dreadlocks, so at once we can see that this band doesn't stick too firmly to the rule book. They kick up a fine racket if you like your rock - and, believe me, everyone here tonight likes their rock. The Johnnys are raw and kickin' and they do the right kind of business. A no-shit win for the lads from the land of leeks, then. Gwaith da, foneddigion, as the rockers say in Wales.

Graveyard Johnnys / Guitar Slingers

The Guitar Slingers do what it says on the tin. Fronted by an amiable chap with a quiff like a ski ramp, they give it the ol' hayseed hoedown at a hundred miles an hour. Whatcha get is yer actual rockabilly in the raw, with a dollop of country twang and plenty of punk rock wang-dang. A mess of rockin' influences, then, but the band haul it all together with gleeful aplomb and a certain no-shit attitude that keeps the set barrelling along. And here, by the way, is more evidence of the international bricolage of modern 'billy: the Guitar Slingers feature members from France and the UK, and here they are playing music that's equally influenced by The Clash and Hank Williams.

Mad SinBut it's Mad Sin that everyone's here for. From Germany - which, of course, yet again serves to emphasise what an international phenomenon all things 'billy have become - they're a gung-ho gang of loons.

Shameless showbiz showboaters, their set is as much crazed theatre as it is a rock music performance. They hurtle into their rough 'n' tumble with much manic joviality and just a hint of cartoon menace.

Frontman Kofte deVille is a looming presence, part scary gang boss, part pantomime villain. He hurls himself about the stage, growling and hollering while the band kick up their ruckus behind him.

With umpteen years of touring behind them - Mad Sin formed in 1987 - the band is tight and well drilled. Every lurch and gurn, every stunt and swagger has been honed by the hard school of relentless touring.

There's a full-tilt blast through Bob Marley's 'I Shot The Sheriff', reinvented as a barrelling rocker, and a greatest-hits grab-bag of Mad Sin's own big tunes - and if Mad Sin never really stray from the fast 'n' furious psychobilly blueprint, to the point that their songs tend to blur into one big blast of rockin' noise, it hardly matters. One big blast of rockin' noise is what we want, dammit.

There's a brief, and uncharacteristic, interlude while the singalong country jaunt of 'Nine Lives' lightens the load, then it's back to the heavy stuff. Fast to the finish, when fireworks shoot from the stand-up bass, and Mad Sin leave the crowd breathless and sweating in the post-gig devastation. Yep, that's rock 'n' roll, folks - and that's showbiz.

 

Mad Sin:

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Guitar Slingers:

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Graveyard Johnnys:

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For more photos from this gig, find Mad Sin by name here.

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