Monday 14 November 2011

Local Heroes Part II: People's Republic of Mercia St Peters Church, Northampton, November 6th 2011

So it’s Sunday, so it’s time to go to church, right? Not a very popular option for aging hipsters, but tonight it was slightly different…Rather than listen to a dusty clergyman, we got to hear some home grown Rhythm and Blues…

I was asked by the lovely gentlemen of Birmingham based Boogie merchants The People’s Republic of Mercia (that’s PRoM for short) to review a gig in Nottingham - at St Peters Church, no less.  It involved at least one free beer and possibly a diet-breaking Pizza so of course, I was in. Now, I assumed that the venue would be a deconsecrated church, possibly made over by a low budget Lawrence Llewellyn-Bowen to resemble a postmodern concert space. I was wrong. This was a real life, fully working House of God. The soundman waited patiently for Evensong to finish before wheeling in the PA. This was not going to be a typical gig….
The mighty PRoM were supporting the legendary Dr Feelgood…an inspired pairing. To make life even more interesting, it seemed that the good Doctor had struck some sponsorship deal with a Motorbike dealership and at both ends of the aisle, stood a couple of enormous Hells Angels approved hogs. In Church. Whoda thunk it?
More Tea, Vicar...?
So fortified by the aforementioned Beer and Pizza, off we went. For the uninitiated, PRoM are a longstanding Birmingham Band who have spent the last few years, schlepping up and down the motorways of the UK, bringing their own brand of righteous R and B to the masses. Ironically, they’ve done many of those gigs supporting Canvey Island Wunderkind (and former Feelgood founder) Wilko Johnson. Ain’t life weird?
So, the tunes…PRoM are plugging their most recent EP – ‘Stir Crazy’, the title track of which set us off in fine style – all taught rhythms and incisive, Telecaster driven Rock and Roll. At times, the band displayed a nice, Stonesy swagger, topped off not by Jagger’s vaguely annoying mid Atlantic twang, but Nick “Aston” Hall’s slightly more down to Earth lyrics about train travel, serial fiancĂ©es and beach holidays – all aided and abetted by Rich Martins blueswailing harmonica. Strangely enough, he performed in the pulpit giving him the appearance of a debauched Vicar…
PRoM manage to combine the most unlikely (and deeply unhip) influences to make a satisfying whole. Who else covers Edgar Broughton and The Groundhogs in 2011? In a church, too? And before you write them off as a bunch of seventies throwbacks, I’ve also scribbled down the words ‘The Replacements’ in my notebook. Quite close to ‘Rave-Up’ and  ‘Yardbirds’. Get the picture? Oh yeah, I’ve just noticed ‘Wah Wah freakout’ scrawled next to that,  too…

The Feelgood crowd gave them a more than generous reception and I guarantee a few of them will be checking out the band at a later date. That’s the effect they have on an audience. PRoM are grafters, in the old fashioned sense of the word. Not for them the Artic Monkeys style viral marketing approach or the over the top hype of (include name of your least favourite flash-in-the-pan media whores here). They’re taking it to the streets, maaahn. Just like good, old fashioned bands used to do. You need to see them live. A great, sweaty night is guaranteed for all.

(To give you a bit of a taste of the band, for your delight and delectation, here’s the title track of their current EP ‘Stir Crazy’. Watch out for ‘Coast’, due before Christmas 2011).

PRoM Website