Venue: The Garage
Location: Highbury Corner London England
It's The Sunny Valley Dance Band. They are a three piece, featuring Mark Refoy (Spiritualised/Slipstream) and the rhythm section from Ultrasound.
The bassist, Vanessa, is really something, with a voice so powerful it can be downright frightening.
📝 Pat Says
CAPITAL OFFENCETHE JBC GO LONDON
Upstairs at The Garage Saturday 5th January 2002
An elderly, poorly JBC rises in the dank midday. Pat Beirne, Max and Tamaki head straight for the train to London. As Max later points out, this actually allows them to go home before immediately setting out again for the venue. You see, Gentle Reader, why they let me navigate the bus.
The hardcore heads for the Cafe Rico on Abington Square, where your correspondent suffers his usual series of minor aneurisms at the content of Saturday's Guardian. Full Veggie Breakfast is the order of the day, and, duly restored, we head across the road to collect our kit from the pub, where we abandoned it last night in search of nocturnal urban delights.
All right, then - a drink at the Bradlaugh.
We pass by JBC Central to shower and to pick up George for the trip to London. As we board the bus, Kathie is in the driving seat, looking utterly miserable and racked with the flu that has been so fashionable in our neighbourhood ever since Depak The Shopkeeper developed it after opening what he thought was a parcel of specialist pornography from an address in Uzbekistan. Ever chivalrous and apparently indestructible, Steve swiftly takes the wheel and we pass a pleasant journey to London. During the trip we hatch a plot for the Great American Action Movie Of The Future. This is confidential copyright shit, so I'm not going to lay it on you here. All you movie producers in LA and Hong Kong and Bollywood are just going to have to e-mail me via the site and we'll talk.
We arrive at The Garage on the very stroke of 5:00pm and load in our shit through the strange backstage labyrinth that has, over the years, become known to us as The Birth Canal Of Rock. (It's hard to explain unless you've done it. Those of you who have will understand at once, I'm sure.)
Soundcheck is remarkable only for its ease. (Thanks, Rich!) We greet our esteemed opening act, The Sunny Valley Dance Band, and they are still soundchecking as the posse heads out for dinner. George, Kathie and I are joined by our good friend Bob Goodman as we head across the road to that splendid little trattoria on the Holloway Road called Spiazzo. Bob, of course, is an ex-Doctor-Who-Monster and the author of The Hobbu Song . He could also use a job right now, so do write in, won't you?
This Spiazzo place really is very nice and not very expensive at all.
I enjoyed a Pizza Buffala (well, you're forced to, ain't ya?) with mozzarella and fresh tomatoes. They serve Budvar too. Go there. Eat and be happy.
After espressos we pass by a nearby bar, where I am happy to greet Mister Edwards, writer and fellow Tottenham Hotspur FC fan, in town from Pittsburgh, where he has been living lately. Also, scarcely credibly, I find myself face to face with the man who has, since last summer, come to be known to us as No Show Crouchy.
Sunny Valley are already on stage as we return to the club. They are a trio, made up of:
Mark Refoy - Guitar, singing
Vanessa - Bass, Singing
Andy - Drums
Mark, of course, is my pal from NN1, who played in Slipstream, The Tell-Tale Hearts, Spacemen 3 and Spiritualised. The others were in Ultrasound. They come from way up north, Sunderland, possibly, though I can't be sure and I wouldn't want to hurt their feelings by placing them in the wrong town. Whatever, they live in London now.
Vanessa's got a song about it.
The chorus appears to run "Save my soul!"
Sunny Valley make an extraordinary noise, deep and rumbling, yet drenched in melody and harmony. Mark is a beautiful guitar player and Vanessa has a voice to bring down the walls of Jericho. Spotting Dooj Wilkinson in the audience, I rush up to share with him an idea that I have been nursing since I first saw the band: "Dooj - that's the girl you're going to marry!"
(It is not without satisfaction that I later discover that they have exchanged telephone numbers.)
Then I find myself next to Juan-Carlos, a devoted Spacemen fan from Lima, Peru, who shows up at a fair few of our gigs. Perhaps naively, I ask him if he likes Sunny Valley. "Pat," he replies, looking at me as though I have lost my mind, "That's Mark Refoy." Yeah, that's good enough, as it goes. This is a fucking beautiful band.
They haven't released anything yet, but when they do you should just go straight down the record store and buy it. It'll be brilliant.
Sunny Valley finish with Everything, a wonderful Refoy composition that Slipstream used to play in their last, dark days. I haven't told anybody this before, but the night that Sumosonic got dropped off Creation I sat and played that song over and over again, tears streaming down my face.
It felt fucking great.
It feels the same way tonight.
In due course we line up to start. The hall is full, pleasingly, but there is even less room up on the little stage. Things kick off well, though, and we are cruising through Who Loves You Now? when The Talented One's amplifier starts to sound distinctly dodgy. By the end of the tune it has all but given out entirely, but thanks to Rich's quick thinking we soon plumb Eider directly into the PA. It sounds surprisingly good, not least because, thank God, Max programmes his sounds directly into an effects unit before they ever go any further down the pipe. The set rolls on with nary a bump.
Diamorphine is, if anything, better even than last night. And this time we have the sense to follow it with Partytime , which makes a lot more sense than Rain . Thence to Girlfriend , a special request, not perhaps as evil as the night before, but definitely still carrying a sting. We finish with another deep Sister Death . People weep. Literally.
We get called back for Soul Happy Hour and Take The Skinheads Bowling (Camper Van Beethoven) , a rather more cheerful way to say thanks to all the people who have come out to see us on this cold and dismal night just after Christmas. The eleven o'clock curfew in force at the venue means that we can do no more. A few people say to me later that it's a shame we don't play longer, but that's just a fact of life on the UK scene. Bands are rarely expected to play for longer than 45 minutes, and the time just doesn't get allotted. Tell you what I expect a lot of those British bands can't play for longer than 45 minutes.
We spend a happy half hour back in the dressing room, drinking and smoking with our friends. There are people here tonight who have been coming to see the JBC since 1983 or 1984. Some of them used to be rock journalists (got proper jobs now). Several of them tell me that the band is better than it has ever been. These are people who stopped feeling the need to flatter us way back, when we threw up on them or accidentally shot their dogs or something, so I take their comments seriously and it makes me happy and not sad.
The only faintly jarring note is the demise of Max's amplifier.
Mark is stalking the backstage area distraught, convinced that he has killed it during the Sunny Valley set. Max is more philosophical and doesn't apportion any blame to Mark, but it isn't easy to see your amp suddenly go down after almost 20 years of trusty service. Good-bye, old horse, and all that. Kathie and I resolve to try and get the thing fixed at the splendid Phoenix Soundworks in Earls Barton. So resolved, we head for the bar and spend a very pleasant few minutes drinking with Mister Dooj Dooj.
Then, indecently satisfied with our string of odd little dates, we retreat to the street and load the van. The London Posse disappears in a cab, while the hardcore travel back to NN1 in the van, enjoying Bob Marley on the radio and learning, via the same medium, that Curtis E. Johnson and Syd Barrett share a birthday. Somewhere along the way it is decided that, "on our return to JBC Central, we should smoke a shed load of marijuana."
And this we do.
I should like to extend the grateful thanks of the JBC to all those who booked us, helped us or came to see us. Especially I would like to thank Kathie Schaer for the loan of her bass amplifier and Jonny Mattock for the loan of his drum kit. And a special shout to Tour Manager George.
It was real, mate!
Pat Fish 2002
Superb night - came at the end of a long, dull week and made that all seem a lot more bearable. First time I'd had the joy of seeing and hearing you live after a long time listening to radio and recordings: brought along a friend who'd never heard of the JBC and left a complete convert. Great stuff - wish there were more bands this good.
With the taste of turkey and stuffing still in our mouths (sorry Pat), we are already treated to a day out in the smoke! After (unintentionally) vandalising an Italian restaurant off Oxford Street we turn up at the now familiar Highbury Corner in good time.
Without realising quite who I was watching in the Sunny Valley Dance Band, finding out that it was none other than Mr Tell Tale Heart himself, explains why I enjoyed them. Who can forget their support of one Peter Murphy on his solo return at the ex-music hall, Derngate, many moons ago, where they threatened to overshadow the master of eye-shadow !?!?!? I feel the need to go dust off my copy of The Eight Til Late....
More than ably assisted by a singer/ bass-player resembling a cross between Alison Moyet and Frank Black (meant in the nicest way, as I like them both!!), this three piece showed an impressive skill, power and diversity.
Then the moment we've all been waiting for for the last 24 hours!
Although the set list is understandably predictable (I'm not complaining, as just about all my favourites are here!), each track is played with a gusto and this venue just appears to have an "11" on the amps as at just the right moment, any given track can just blow you away.
Unfortunately, Max's trusty amp finally succumbed during a heavy metal onslaught (didn't know you were playing Hysteria!?!), but not even this could reduce the effect of the torrents of guitars rushing over us.
In a night where the high-rise of She's on Drugs battled with the skyscraper known as "Niagara", nothing stood out like the "twin towers of misery and despair" - Diamorphine and Sister Death. Seems strange to say about a band which provides a staple diet of Caroline Wheeler's and Soul Happy Hour, but we all have to mature sometime, I guess. Then again, maybe one wouldn't work without the other. What do I know?
One thing I do know is that nights like this are few and far between and will be cherished by everyone on hand, even those lucky enough to stumble into "Upstairs at the Garage" rather than the far less catchily titled "Garage".
Happy 2002 chaps !