Crab in a Cab
“Making a more than welcome return to the ol’ (forum) are horn powered soul ska punkers Jesse James. Always a pleasure, never a chore, a band that just keeps on delivering the goods. Bequiffed hyperactive good times ahoy me hearties.” ~ a quote from the forum blam online magazine
And as the above statement says, yet again I returned to the small gig hall all us “grungers” go to, to let out our energy and have a jolly good time on a Friday or Saturday night. As all good evenings start on our traditional route to the Tunbridge Wells forum, my friends and I boarded the number 28 bus to start our long journey to one of our favourite places. We did the usual, singing songs on the bus to annoy the driver and any other passengers not crazy enough to be joining us at the gig, and of course shouting expletives as we drove through crowborough, finally to end up at the blessed and so very sacred Forum. Yes, there we were again at the Holy Toilet!
So there we stood outside the doors, waving our printed out tickets in the air waiting in the cold autumn air to be let in. As usual, we were let in, in fours, got our hands stamped and paid our £6.50 for the anticipated musical display of something they call “ska”. I took my seat at the bar and watched all my friends run excitedly to the stage to await one of our favourite bands, Jesse James.
I expected there to be a better turnout. The last Jesse James gig I went to really was packed and breathing really wasn’t as easy as it should have been. However, the crowd seemed happy and the atmosphere was good.
First band: A willing band which other reviewers called “weird” and “eccentric” with the usual instruments a forum audience would expect on a ska night. This band, called “Rain Eater” didn’t seem to well known as not even the lovely and friendly barman didn’t know the name of the band. It was a typical first set, the band were nervous and the front man didn’t seem too confident. But he got the crowd slightly warmed up; a little swaying and nodding was seen, but unfortunately for the band, no “pit”. As the set progressed, the front man seemed to show similarities to the front man from the popular band “the Hives”. I don’t know whether he was using the Swedish legend intentionally as a role model or whether his personality genuinely matched his. But nonetheless he seemed to warm a bit towards the end of the set. I’d give the band a generous 3/5 for effort and the sheer funniness of the front man by the end. Bless him, he did try.
Next up were the brilliantly musically talented and ska orientated beauties Crab in a Cab. We had the pleasure of some experienced sax and trumpet playing and I was pleasantly surprised with the quality and skill the musicians presented. Their timing was good and there seemed to be a real connection within the band. In the first song “more than this” the front man showed off his confidence and raised the skankometer in the crowd. There was a lot of nodding and movement and the crowd seemed to enjoy the band. They played examples of their new material which the audience gladly expected and much to the bands delight and complying with forum tradition, the band get a mosh! The band conformed to the usual ska band rules, the clothes, the movements, and the usual. There I was sitting at the bar feeling like I fitted in, maybe that’s the reason all these people gather here from time to time. To feel reassured that we’re not really freaks all the time! We just conform to! certain attributes of people who aren’t “normal” or “trendy”. The lead singer seemed to me to have an uncanny resemblance to the lead singer from “Good Charlotte”. I really hope I’m not insulting him! There was a lot of audience participation in this set and a lot of moshing. The pit got slightly violent as one of my friends, Matt, came out with a few hurting ribs. Then again, who doesn’t get hurt slightly in a pit? I used to come out with bruises, it adds to the fun! But tonight I decided to stay out of the way for the benefit of this review. The audience enjoyed the band, as did the barman. Much jubilation and happiness. I was surprised to hear that other reviewers had given the ska crazy band bad reviews, I liked them!
The third band was called “The Needles. This band had obviously gone a bit OTT with their promotion as all 4 members of the band were sporting red “Needles” T-shirts. The word “twats” came to mind. If the band had embodied brass into their act they may have been better received. However, the band had good timing and again, a good connection. They seemed like experienced musicians in that they used some very obvious text book musical phrases and chord progressions. They used dynamics in the right place, emphasising my belief that at least one of them must have studied music. Despite the perfect musical theory, or maybe because of it, the band became boring and I lost interest as did the crowd or so it seemed. There wasn’t much audience participation and the band seemed to get desperate and did the usual “ who here likes Jesse James” to try and get the audience to cheer up and be a bit more accepting of their material. However, it was all at a bit of a lo! ss, as no one seemed to care by the end of their set. The boys promoted their website and quickly made an exit.
So between scrawling notes in my little book, which I found hard to decipher when I got home, and writing notes to the ever hospitable barman (because it was too loud to talk) my friends came back and forth telling me stories about what was happening. I’m glad everyone had a good time.
And so, the band everyone was waiting for, Jesse James! The crowd cheered loudly and there was a lot of clapping and whistling. This was the band that everyone had come to see and even I found myself wooing and clapping loudly. The audience was thrilled and immediately the atmosphere changed from people falling asleep in the crowd (which actually did happen much to mine and the barman’s amusement) to dedicated fans jumping up and down and starting a skanking and mosh pit. I was probably the only person in the room not involved in the movement. The timing of the band was great and the set was obviously well rehearsed. The phrases were tight and the quality of music was at a very high level. But above all else, everyone in the crowd knew all the words to the songs and Jesse James were really working the crowd well. The whole band was very confident performers and as seen before, they exceeded my expectations once again. The band stated clearly that they liked playin! g at the Tunbridge Wells Forum, as did most of the other bands. Despite the small size of the place, the line-ups there are always great. The set was well compiled, mixing old and new material and of course the inevitable fans favourite “shoes” was played at which of course I abandoned my notepad at the trust of the barman and ran off to join the madness in the skank!
I returned to my barstool, thanked the barman for looking over my belongings and noticed that the pit hadn’t dispersed. Throughout the set, the pit was “jumping” and the audience didn’t lose interest. People crowd surfed and by the end there were fans jumping on stage and dancing with the band. A perfect way to end, or start, your weekend. Jesse James, as always, gets big thumbs up from me. I would recommend them to anyone and hope they team up with “Crab in a Cab” again in the near future as they make a good combination. So thanks to the bands and to the brilliant staff! As all forum evening end, the audience rush to the doors to try and get out of the steamy abyss that the forum becomes by the end of a gig, and retreat into the cold night of Tunbridge Wells were parents would eagerly wait to get their children away from the “hell hole” and save themselves for another day, another gig, another great time!