The venue is The Robin 2, in Bilston, near Wolverhampton. The temperature is below freezing. Tonight, King Pleasure & The Biscuit Boys headline.
(I have a confession. I've seen this band before, at YNot Festival in Derbyshire. But never on their own merit. More fool me.)
Tonight's support comes from Ricky Cool and The In Crowd. For the older readers among you, that name might ring a bell. Ricky Cool has been in many bands since the 1970s, but with The In Crowd, presents a throwback to the days of old Americana, and Jamaican vibes. They are a pleasure to watch, with a visible joy to be playing on all of their faces, not least the drummer, Harry Weston-Cottrell (who plays with the Midland Youth Jazz Orchestra), who always has a smile on his face, and unrelenting energy. He is like Animal (from The Muppets) to watch, bouncing, pulling faces, spinning sticks, and really getting into the music.
Along with the Jamaican vibes, the band are a throwback to the days of Mods. They play music one would hear in a Soho bar in the 60s (as TV would have you believe), amongst other stylings. They are a brilliant warm-up for the show to come.
To no fanfare at all, The Biscuit Boys take the stage. King Pleasure, ol' KP himself takes to the stage soon after. I had no idea, but this band have been going for over 30 years, supporting the likes of the Late, Great, Ray Charles during that time. During that time, there've been personnel changes, sure. Keyboardist, "Mighty" Matt Foundling barely looks 30 himself; and I doubt he's been in the band since an extremely young age.
Of the original band, only 2 remain. King Pleasure and the guitarist, Bullmoose K Shirley. But the way these guys lay together, you'd have thought this was the original line up. The comraderie between "Mighty" Matt and the comedian of the group, Shark Van Schtoop alone was world class. They all know where each other are on a stage that could easily have been their downfall, barely holding them all upon it.
Every member has his merits, from KP's incredible voice and crowd control, through to Bullmoose's mesmerising finger work on his guitar. But my favourite Biscuit Boy is Shark Van Schtoop.
He is hilarious to a fault. The only comparison I can draw is of the incredulous, wonderful funnyman; the late, great Eric Morecambe. At one point during the set, there's a bit of a painc regarding guest Harmonica player, Ricky Cool, who has forgotten the Harmonica that he needed for this song. So Shark pulls out his phone and dials for a Taxi, or an ambulance. He hides from people trying to take his photo, then poses a minute later, until your camera is aimed at him still, whereby he just retracts to his hiding place; behind his Double Bass.
The show is comparable to Ken Dodd, as in it could go on for the entire evening and then some. But Swing music, along with The Blues that they can and do intertwine it with, has that ability to allow you to lose track of time, space and all the troubles of the world. It is a night of unrelenting fun. The length of time this band has existed in some form or another shows in the way that this band has the ability to play up any crowd and get them dancing.
By the time KP play "Tequila", you realise that the show has to end soon. They've got a damn interval, for chrissake. There is 30 years of material for them to play. And in this day and age, with the politics of the world, and the rising hatred, we need more bands like this.