It’s not very often that you see Blues-Rock being played by just a drummer and guitarist. It’s rarer still for the drummer to be both female and pregnant. Welcome to the unconventional musical World of CC and Tone aka Little Hurricane as the duo bring their very individual brand of Lo-Fi-Indie Rock to Cologne’s Luxor venue. 3songsbonn generally stays true to the name. Every so often though there are bands playing not too far away that are just too promising to draw boundaries on.
My last visit to Luxor on the Luxemburgerstrasse in Cologne was to see Larkin Poe and I was not disappointed and I’m still hoping for a Bonn booking for what I consider to be one of the freshest Blues Bands on the circuit. Similarly, Little Hurricane on YouTube, with their high-energy presentation and stripped down to the essence sound, also promised to be capable of bringing the Blues to a whole new and younger audience. Just guitar and drum – not even ‘just’ guitar and drum though: actually a couple who met through the small ads of like-minded musicians and went on to be partners on the road as well as off. Music promises not just to be in their blood, but that of their children too – as the heavily pregnant tummy of CC behind the drums this evening suggests, this is one baby who can safely be described as picking up ‘Good Vibrations’.
A ‘perk’ of not being famous is that CC and Tone can walk in the venue front door a half-hour before the show begins without an eye being batted. In fact, I passed a pregnant young lady just a few feet from Luxor with lanyard hanging from her neck who looked familiar. My only thought was that it must be tough to attend a Trade Fair in such conditions. Then I heard the word ‘venue’ mentioned and the said young lady turned right, followed by the young man close behind her in a baseball cap – into Luxor.
Fast forward a half hour and I’m in the narrow entranceway of Luxor. Behind me and to my right the CD stand is doing good business even before shows start – ‘manned’ as it is by that very lady who passed by earlier.
Celeste Spina, better known as CC, actually reminds me of the late, great Ted McKenna of Rory Gallagher/Alex Harvey fame. Not in her appearance it must be said, or in playing style, but because throughout the show she is always flashing heavy-duty Vic Firth drumsticks and a constant smile. With delicate roses tattoed on her left arm and those thick and chunky drumsticks hammering down onto a Ludwig kit, CC’s appearance is very much a lady of contrasts. Stylewise she is also something of a conundrum. Despite her petite frame, CC makes heavy use of the bass drum and swivels her body around a lot where others would leave the switching work more to their arms. It’s not a complaint though, just an observation, and the said drums are not more than six feet away from where I’m standing so I’m not used to such evaluations. Usually, the drummer is hidden far away at the back leaving room for the rest of the band out front.
In Little Hurricane’s case though the ‘rest’ of the band is actually Antony ‘Tone’ Catalano and he is almost as unorthodox as his partner. There are three guitars onstage. Two of them look to be identical Silvertone semi-hollow models, so I’m assuming there is a difference in tuning that this arrangement saves time on (any Little Hurricane fans can advise me here?) The third is laid out on top of a keyboard stand that actually holds a guitar flight case on top of which is laid the said guitar. It reminds me of the ‘ironing board’ looking stand used by Wille & The Bandits for their laptop Hawaiian Weissenborn model. Tone’s makeshift stand though holds what looks like a Fender (Tornado?) and is his go-to set-up for playing slide. Like I said – unorthodox, and that’s really what makes Little Hurricane’s sound so unique.
Just having two musicians onstage is not all good news though. A style leaning so heavily on attack and raw gut energy needs just those attributes for the whole show. It looks great on short Youtube videos, and the band’s songs are usually pretty short too. Tonight I get the impression that the duo is enjoying playing, but they don’t quite get into top gear. “We almost had no show tonight”, pointed out CC. “The band went to Cologne but the guitars in the direction of Amsterdam”. It’s the first of a five-date German tour and there’s an unsettled feeling. Tone even leaves the stage whilst CC is playing and she’s left to do a shuffle or two wondering when he will be back.
Music, coming from such a close couple should be telepathic almost, but there is more eye contact between drummer and guitarist than with the audience. Tone peers out from under his hat with regular questioning looks directed at his fellow musician and wife, as if there is perpetually room for a slight improvement – be it with regard to what will be played next, tact, volume, rhythm or who knows what. CC’s answering gaze though to every look from her partner is always a calming smile.
If the music doesn’t always quite catch fire, it does smoulder along very agreeably. I loved the swampy sound of ‘Big Business’ and those chunky Vic Firth sticks get a real bashing on ‘Grand Canyon‘. Covers of CCR’s ‘Bad Moon Rising’ and ‘Bill Wither’s ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’ have a rootsier feel than the originals. It’s only ten-thirty though when, after ninety minutes of playing, the choppy staccato guitar of ‘Boiling Water’ rattles to a finish. There are no bows to the audience, and no encores, CC is soon back at the merch table, this time joined by Tone.
During the show, a mike had to be moved from the vocals stand to the slide guitar: “we could only afford the two mikes – extra weight…” smiled Tone at the time. When I ask CC about filling out the band, finger and thumb are rubbed together in unison. It’s all about the cost. “A bassist would be great maybe in future. Horns would be wonderful too…” she enthuses “We use them sometimes at home in the States”. Right now, Little Hurricane is a band with huge potential. Their previous show in Germany was a sell-out but a one-off, so it pulled audiences from miles around. This five-date tour looks to be about putting out the word and financing the petrol more with merchandise sales than door tickets. It really shouldn’t be that way for such a talented duo. Big crowds really are just a hit away from Little Hurricane and with their short, pop-commercial, grungy tunes that could happen any time.