BoB (Bands of Brisbane) visits Britain via Newstead
Back in 74 when I started, Indooroopilly High was a multicultural school with students from around the world. At least six different countries were well represented, which was rare back then. Diversity ruled, with students from all over - England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales, Ireland and Birmingham, they were all there. Which is why it felt like a school reunion on Saturday night at the Triffid when I went to see Cool Britannia. All those children of the Ten Pound Poms from the 50’s and 60’s, plus more recent arrivals and a few from the Barmy Army who’d missed the flight home, all there ready to have a good time.
Now I’m not really a huge fan of tribute bands, and Cool Britannia are most certainly a tribute band. But the thing is, they pay tribute to a place and time rather than a band. No super nerds watching every little moment of a KISS tribute band slavishly copying every minute detail here. Although to be fair, KISS have pretty much become their own tribute band. With Cool Britannia it’s more, as Dennis Denuto would say, all about the vibe. And the vibe is 80s and 90s Britpop and Indie music.
The night started for me with support act Owls of Neptune. Actually it started hours earlier with the Southern Districts Spartans Basketball Association’s 40th anniversary dinner across the river at Kangaroo Point, so I missed the first band. A quick drive, a desperate search for a carpark, and a change of shirt, then it was Owls of Neptune. Bands have become very Neptuney of late I’ve noticed. Just a few weeks ago I went to see the Neptune Power Federation. This band was definitely not them, but they were a damn good four piece from the Sunshine Coast…an eclectic mix of styles and looks, playing great music. The guitarist was scary though. He had a serious musician look and an even more serious musician beard to go with it. He looked like he’d teach guitar at the Con. While the singer, keyboard, guitarist looked like he’d arrived for a Woodford Folk festival one year and never left. A great band who we’ll no doubt see more of.
So, support acts done and stage reset, every single person in the room started singing “It’s coming home,” for no apparent reason. Except one. I’d never heard of the Three Lions. But everyone else seemed to know the score. Over seven hundred people belted out this anthem and it was the perfect introduction to Cool Britannia taking the stage. Especially once I’d Shazammed it and worked out what was going on.
The band is Lee Bond, with an impeccable Mancunian musical pedigree, on bass, Dave Fillmore, who’s swapped his Slash top hat from the Eye on Stone band for a more appropriate Adidas bucket hat, on guitar. Neil Roche-Kelly from Portsmouth is on keyboard and i-phone torch, while the fried Mars bar in the Fish and Chips is drummer, John Hamilton from Glasgow. But the front man, guitarist and lead singer is the real heart and soul of this operation. Mick Hughes, you may remember him from such bands as The Sunny Coast Rude Boys and Sásta, he’s the organiser, promoter, publicist, coach driver, problem solver, head technician and leading showman of the whole shebang.
Mick and the band criss-cross both Britain and the 80s and 90s with music from The Verve, Blur, The Happy Mondays, Pulp and Oasis. Lots of Oasis. Mick’s voice doesn’t have the requisite range to completely cover this hugely diverse spread of songs and singers comfortably, but it’s a pretty tough ask of any voice to nail Shaun Ryder from the Mondays, then Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker, then Liam Gallagher from Oasis. But no-one gave a toss as he drove this magical musical bus full of deliriously happy tourists around on a sightseeing day trip of all the highlights and memories of the fabulous Britpop era.
“Who here’s from London?” he asked the audience, as at least 75% of the crowd roared back in the affirmative. “Who here’s from Manchester?” he asked the audience, as at least 75% of the crowd roared back in the affirmative. “Who here’s from Wales?” he asked the audience, as at least 75% of the crowd roared back in the affirmative. I guess he could have said Djibouti and people would have roared. I was waiting for my chance as I’d lived in Blackpool for a time, but it never came up.
So is Cool Britannia the name of the band or the name of the show? Technically the former. But the key to Cool Britannia is the audience. So it’s both. Sure a Ska band like the Rude Boys gets the crowd jumping and into the music, but there’s a synergy here that transcends the usual band/audience relationship. And sure, a traditional covers band has its devotees who, like the punters at the Triffid on Saturday night, dress up and know every word of every song. But the Cool Britannia crowd are not just reminiscing about a band, they’re paying homage to a time in their lives. They’re reliving their youth, a time when music was new and exciting. And it was their music. The world offered endless possibilities, and the burdens of global warming, the war on terror, social media, political correctness, occupational health and safety, mortgages, loan repayments, picking schools for children and buffoons becoming Prime Ministers or Presidents, were just distant clouds on the horizon. Thankfully the sun never set on the Britpop Empire and Cool Britannia offered out a hand and helped the crowd journey back to another country and a wonderful time in their lives. Without the massive British contingent in the audience, singing along for all they’re worth like it’s the last night at the Proms, Cool Britannia would just be a very good covers band doing the 80s and 90s songs. But the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, and the parts, including the frustratingly brief appearance of the Rude Boys horn section, are pretty damn good. It makes for a whole sensational night out.
Since I saw Mick on Saturday night he’s started two new bands. On Sunday he started a Pentangle tribute band that he’s now off on tour with. The other he started yesterday morning and is called Jam Sandwich, playing the songs of The Jam and the music that surrounded them. They were in the studio working on their second album last night.
Somebody stop him. He’s out of control.
'Bands of Brisbane' out.