“Motörhead meets Muddy Waters” is how Ted Horowitz aka Popa Chubby describes his own musical style. With a love for the Blues and musical roots buried deep in the Punk scene of his native New York City, Chubby concluded that if Blues is the root of contemporary music then it should be at least as ‘dangerous’ as the Rock and Punk it spawned. At least that’s how I explain the steely edged Stratocaster shrieks, and the volume that occasionally threatens to reach mark 9 on a scale of ten, but for the most part remains at it’s 10 max. Even the bodies packed tightly into every available orifice of the Harmonie couldn’t absorb so much sound. There’s a sticker on Chubby’s guitar saying ‘Support your local Hells Angels Geneva’ Maybe it should say instead – ‘This guitar can seriously damage your health’. Certainly the skulls emblazoned on it’s strap are a warning.
When Chubby steps onto the stage he actually looks surprisingly sociable. A big man for sure, but with an honest smile that says he’s eager to please, and that means he’s eager to play. It takes a couple of numbers to really get warmed up. during which Chubby alternates between being seated on a drum stool and prowling round the stage. It doesn’t take him long to get everyone singing and clapping along either – just one glance in any direction and the people are his to command – and I’m thinking maybe I should have followed the plans of a fellow photographer who is shooting from the balcony on a long lens. I’m standing front of stage, centre, and hoping to get a shot or two when the Man is looking the other way. Those skulls on his strap though seem ALWAYS to be looking my way and laughing: “He sees you, and you’re dead Mr Cameraman!”
The evening progresses, the hall gets hotter, and so does the music. Do we really need another version of ‘Hey Joe’? Well if we do then it may as well be a good one, and Chubby delivers, as he does again later on with ‘Little Wing’. It would be hard to imagine two people so different in appearance as Chubby and Hendrix, but close your eyes and you can see Jimi acrobatically slinging his Strat over his shoulder. This is music right? And it’s what comes out of the speakers that counts isn’t it? And right now what’s coming out is as close to Hendrix as you’re likely to get this side of the heavenly Rock choir.
Am I going to be picky and say that those Tshirts saying ‘Too many notes, too loud’ from old Walter Trout concerts would find a worthy home here? Certainly not whilst I’m standing in front of Mr Chubby. It occurs after I’ve taken refuge at the bar though. I was hoping firstly that it would be quieter there, and secondly that it would be cooler there too. Wrong on both counts. Whilst Chubby was reworking the Stones’ ‘It’s Only Rock n Roll’ I’m staring longingly at the tantalizing cool water rinsing over used glasses behind the bar. My thoughts of immersing my arms in the cool suds are abruptly halted by the strains of ‘Over The Rainbow’ and it’s quite beautiful. I have to look up at the bar-side monitor to convince myself that those heavenly tones are coming from a Strat and not a Stradivarius. I can only imagine the disdain on the faces of those guitar strap skulls. It’s the same guitar, the same guitarist and the same gig. Just to prove it, there’s more blood, sweat, Rock n Roll to follow. My ears told me there was also quite a spellbinding version of ‘Hallelujah’. Does the world need another? Same answer as previously with ‘Hey Joe’ although even with eyes closed I don’t see Leonard Cohen in front of me. This is a RAW version in the best sense.
It’s been a roller coaster of a show. Mainly high up and scary, but sometimes things slowed just enough to admire the view. “Bonn is special to me” announced Popa Chubby towards the shows end. “It’s the first place I ever played in Germany”. A loud cheer goes up from the packed house. Is that a tear in the big man’s eye? Maybe just sweat?
There was a Harley Davidson parked outside the Hall when I arrived. When I left it was still there. I’d like to think it remained until it’s owner had signed his last autograph of the evening. I know, it’s only Rock n Roll…