Saturday evening offered a wonderful combination of a chance (finally) to see a band who I have admired for a few years, a band who are new to me but who I will be making every effort to see more of and a venue I have heard about but never had the chance to visit before. In the end, all three lived up to expectations in spades and a great night was enjoyed by a packed house.

First up were Little Geneva. I have never heard them before or even heard of them but from the first number I was captivated by their music and by the personalities of the band themselves. Musically, they hearken back to the great days of the British Blues Boom – bringing to mind bands such as the Yardbirds, Artwoods, Bluesbreakers and a stack of others but without feeling derivative or copyist. Fronted by Rags Russell on vocals and harp and the Doherty Brothers – Chris & Dave – on guitars and with a killer rhythm section of Zak Ranyard on bass and Si Small on drums, they have all individually been on the Blues scene for a good few years but in this incarnation they really are something special and they got a very well deserved reception from the full crowd.

Headlining were The Mentulls. I’ve been trying to get to see them since I first heard their ‘Reflections’ album but I really wasn’t expecting the aural and visual blast of the band live – these are genuine rock stars with the chops to make it happen live as well as on CD. Guitarist Andrew Pip and his brother Jamie (keyboards, bass pedals and more) are the musical focus of the band with Nick Colman on drums and David Neil Crabtree on vocals and keys. Their music is massive and in your face live, Andrew throwing all sorts of Rockstar shapes and Jamie looking like the mad professor behind his Hammond B3 and range of Wurlitzers and Korgs. They aren’t just about power although there is plenty of it, songs like ‘Silver Bird’ and ‘Reflections’ have great subtlety alongside the power chords and Andrew’s solo on the later was simply gorgeous. Seeing them doing ‘Theme From An Imaginary Western’ brought back all sorts of seventies memories but they also mixed in a couple of new numbers as well with ‘Music That Shines’ a delight. The crowd was enraptured by the complex playing and interplay and they will be very well received when they come back in May next year.

The final part of the puzzle was the venue. There is a very strong scene on the South at the moment, with a lot of it centred of small venues with fantastic atmosphere.
Echo Hotel Music Club in Hook has just completed its first year of shows and looks like it will be plenty successful next year as well. The hall is in a community centre and it has excellent lighting and acoustics. Most of the crowd was seated and the admonition at the start to “Shut up while the band is playing” was well observed, everyone really listening to the bands. These kinds of venues are keeping the music scene alive at a time when pubs are closing all over and the traditional venues are dying out. Judging by the way the bands are treated and the audience reaction, this is a healthy future for contemporary Blues and rock.