It’s always worth checking which bands are pencilled in for The Crossroads Festival from WDR Televisions ‘Rockpalast’. The show that caught my eye this year was Saturdays bill which coupled Australian Rockers Dirty York with the opportunity to check on Grimsby’s finest Blues Rockers The Brew. Not surprisingly the music was every bit as hot as the weather on Saturday evening.
Rewind back to another hot day; this one from July 2009. At Colognes Tanzbrunnen the ‘Bluesnacht’ Festival is in sudden turmoil. Following altercations backstage, the evenings highlight, Joe Bonamassa, has pulled the plug on mighty television God ‘Rockpalast’. All cameras are hastily removed from the Hall. Chaos reigns and the security doesn’t even know if I can enter the pit with a Nikon still camera. As it is, they let me through. A lucky break for me, but three other Brits also get a lucky break from Big Joe’s decision – The Brew. There’s a big time-gap to fill on television, and instead of being half an hours edited highlights, their entire set is broadcast nationwide.
The Band were suddenly ‘out there’. You can slog up and down the Autobahns of Europe until your strings wither, but catch an audience tuning in for Joe Bonamassa on Rock television and you reach the same audience without a single sleepless night in a third floor hotel room with ‘someone banging on the door’ as the Band describe road-life on their new platter (as proof that ‘out there’ is the result also of a lot of slogging down motorways!)
Fast forward to the present and The Brew are back under their lucky blue neon ‘Rockpalast’ signs. This time around though they are not ‘just’ having a whole set broadcast; on this hot march evening they are going out live, and not just on bog standard National Television but via the internet, worldwide. Things, it would seem, are ‘looking up’ for Tim and Kurtis Smith together with guitar hero and high jumper par excellence Jason Barwick.
The rock this evening isn’t all coming from Grimsby though and the evening kicks off with Australian rockers ‘Dirty York’. It’s something of a rarity to see a six piece band on the Harmonie stage but, as a long time Thin Lizzy fan any band that uses a twin guitar attack gets my vote. Interestingly it’s a Gibson Les Paul and a Fender Telecaster mix, but mix it certainly does, although the sound oddly enough seems more Southern States Lynyrd as in Skynyrd than Thin Lizzy. Well I guess Melbourne is down South as well even if it’s a different Continent. The band certainly rock with a very agreeable 70’s sound with numbers like ‘Born with a broken heart’ leaning heavily into Skynyrd territory They won’t win awards for innovation, but they do go down a treat, as does the alchohol onstage – Singer Shaun Brown complains about the “Bl**dy long way they travelled to get here”, but reckons the beer makes it worthwhile (bottle of ‘Becks’ in hand). Aside from Leon Russells ‘Stranger in a Strange Land’ (“My all time favourite song” – Shaun Brown) it’s a self-penned set that chugs along like a western express train through the likes of ‘All my friends look like Jesus’ and the ‘Rosalie’ style riffing of ‘Roll with it’. They won’t change the world, but nor do they expect too. Just making a comfortable living playing rock n roll is all they ask – and if Europe welcomes them with open arms they will be more than happy. On the strength of this show they will indeed be ‘more than happy’. If you like guitar driven rock with a melody and plenty of from the heart feeling – Dirty York are your men.
After the six piece onslaught Tim, Jason and Kurtis seem almost swamped by empty stage. Good thing too, as anyone who’s seen the band in the past will know – these guys cover a lot of ground, literally, in a concert. There’s no ‘gradually feeling the way in’ to a show for The Brew, it’s straight into the heavy riff of ‘Six Dead’ from the new CD. ‘Sirens of War’ follows, and much of the set is built around their new disc ‘The 3rd Floor’. This is no bad thing as it’s a fine rock disc, but having seen the band a number of times now I’m starting to have my favourites and missed the rocky ‘A million dead stars’ as well as the funky pop of ‘Monkey Train’ . Particular favourites from the new disc this evening were the title track ‘The 3rd Floor’ which says all that needs saying about life in hotels and motels on the road along with ‘Imogen Molly’ with one of those riffs that hits your head like an excocet missile and stays there.
Most interesting to me was seeing how the band itself has developed since that day at the Tanzbrunnen. Take a look at the picture on the 3SONGS logo of Jason in a mid-air jump from that show and there’s a similar picture I get this evening, but aside from his trademark feet together hopping style it’s hard to recognize it’s the same person. The changes are not just physical, most evidently, his vocals have become much stronger, as has his stage presence overall. Some of the bands showmanship has been pared down to, although it’s unlikely that Jason will ever get through a show without ripping the seam of his shirt from windmilling around the stage or leaping about when the mood takes him (which is frequent). There’s still a brief bit of Jimmy Page style violin bowing on the Gibson to start ‘A Smile to lift the Doubt’, but there’s no more setting the cymbal alight from Kurtis on the drums – he lets his sticks, and later his bare hands, grab the attention. (how often does anyone praise a drum solo?!).
By the time that Rockpalast has unplugged its cameras and signed off of the WWW for the night there is turmoil around a small souvenir table. I kid bassist Tim (father of Kurtis) that the band seems to have ‘got the hang of this rock n roll thing’ to which he could only reply that they’d enjoyed the evening – “As you can probably tell”. Lots of Blues Rock fans wanted to talk about the music to the band. Down by the bus stop were two girls who were undecided whether to get the bus or go back and talk to the boys. They’ve got the looks, they’ve got the moves and they’re rapidly setting their own stamp on the music. The Brew are set to rise – and a lot higher than the 3rd floor – the sky may just be the start.
You can see clips from the concert and interviews HERE
The Show will also be broadcast again on WDR TV on 23.04.2012
MY PREVIOUS BREW REVIEWS (inc. from English-network.de):