My transition into Old-Fartdom is, I’m afraid, almost complete. Last week, it was George Formby, this week it’s Jugband music and Vaudeville…
On Sunday night, I went to the Slak Bar in Cheltenham mainly to see Philip Roebuck spank his banjo (so to speak), and he was great, benefiting greatly from the cosier surroundings of the pub (and apparently discovering the pleasures of West Country cider – well Strongbow at any rate…). If you’re wondering, the banjo got through the evening unscathed, but there was a tambourine fatality…
I hadn’t really been too fussed about the main band of the evening, the Wiyos – as I say, I was going mainly to see the King of the Buskers – but to be honest they absolutely stole the evening, with a mixture of all sorts of desperately un-cool sounds. I do try not to define bands by who they sound like (it’s a bit lazy), but really the Wiyos aren’t doing anything new, in fact everything they do is old, old, old - they do a kind of Louis Jordon / Texas Playboys, Jugband / Western Swing sort of thing.
Now, some of you may actually need to be persuaded that this is indeed a good thing, and really all I can say is, go see them. The whole act is just so infectious and such a laugh, that I swear even the most hard-bitten, cynical indie-kid would not be able to stop himself grinning aimlessly and slapping his knee, like some sort of dumb Oaky by the end of the set.
At first glance, a guitar, stand-up bass, vocalist trio, one of the things that makes the Wiyos so much fun is the performance of Michael Farcas, who not only sings, plays harmonica, kazoo and washboard, but also injects a real sense of humour into the set with his mannerisms and Harpo-style parodies. The other thing that made their performance so enjoyable was the way the three of them are clearly connoisseurs of old time music and managed to keep a good time feel about it, without it all getting too cheesy.
The Wiyos site gives away a number of mp3s, one of which I’ll put up here, but none of them quite do them justice. There are also some videos which are worth watching as do a better job of capturing some of the fun of seeing them live. The one I’m posting here, Cornbread & Butter Beans is about the best and features the washboard, (though unfortunately not one of Farcas’ Woody Allen-style washboard solos - I can’t help thinking there may still be a place for the bike horn in popular music…)
You're Gonna be Sorry
video of Cornbread & Butter Beans (17Mb)