Wang Dang Thank You Ma'am!

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We were just about to leave the house when my girlfriend Jo caught a glimpse of what I was wearing.  "You're not going to wear that jumper again, are you?  Why don't you wear a nice shirt instead?"  I wasn't budging though, it was still cold out and I love my multicoloured GAP jumper.  My brother had given me it for Christmas but I'd worn it so much since then that it had already started to bobble.  

It was bang on 7:30 when we arrived at Perth Theatre, half an hour ahead of Aw, you've got a jumper buddyshowtime.  I had learned while doing my review of the last Monday Night Thing show, that people tend to arrive early and the unreserved seating fills up pretty fast.  Even still, we had plenty of time to grab a drink and check out the merchandise stand.  I was particularly taken by support band The Wynntown Marshals t-shirts, which were modelled on a vintage Scotland football top.  Unfortunately, I was poorer than Willie Nelson after an audit, and Jo totally wasn't picking up the heavy hints I was laying down.  This time, we managed to get a seat front and centre, I took off my jacket right at the same time as the man sitting behind me.  Suddenly it was revealed that he was wearing the same multicoloured GAP jumper.  For some reason everyone in the auditorium, which was quickly starting to fill up, seemed to find this hilarious.  "Aw, you've got a jumper buddy," Jo quipped.

The Wynntown Marshals hit the stage bang on time and immediately impressed with their own brand of Americana.  Their sound was a wee bit like The Drive-by Truckers, simple and soulful songs with a country vibe, sung by a frontman with a great voice.  First song, 'Blind Sided' was a good example, with some stellar jangly, clear as a bell telecaster playing from Iain Sloan which fuzzed up nicely for a searing solo.  The Marshals original material really impressed me, particularly the re-working of 'Different Drug', one of their earliest tunes, recently re-recorded for their first-class career retrospective After All These Years.  

Strangely though, it was a stonking cover of the L.A. Gunns song 'Ballad of Jayne" which helped kickstart the Wynntown Marshalls career.  The legendary broadcaster 'whispering' Bob Harris heard the song on a compilation of 'Hair Metal Covers' and playlisted it on his BBC2 radio show, championing the band whenever he could.  The 'Ballad of Jayne' got an outing on Monday and it had me singing along in my seat.  The original was always a little bit of a guilty pleasure of mine.  It's a great song, but the original vocalist, Phil Lewis, always grated on me a bit.  The Marshals version is so much better.

During the interval, I got up to go and get some drinks, waiting at the bar a guy came up to me and said: "two people sitting that close to each other wearing the same jumper, what are the chances?"  I laughed politely and took my drinks.  "You took ages,"  Jo said, "what happened, you get talking to your jumper buddy?"  I sighed and took a sip of my pint.

I was really looking forward to seeing Wang Dang Delta, I'd caught the end of their set at Southern Fried and really wanted to hear more.  I'd also seen guitarist Pete Caban's country band Rancho Bebop and the Full Moon Howlers at the Craige Hill festival and the man even played my Prom 22 years ago!  As proprietor of Bandwagon Music he also sold me my most prized worldly possession, my very first acoustic guitar, and when I was a teenager he always seemed to be behind the counter when I sheepishly bought books of guitar tab.  I remember him looking at my purchase of an Oasis's "What's The Story Morning Glory?" book and declaring:"For God's sake can't you figure it out yourself?  It's only four chords!"  He still took my money though.

Wang Dang Delta really hit the ground running with the Allman Brothersesque 'Well Run Dry' which featured some great rhythm and lead playing from Pete, some really funky keys from Alan Sutherland and a great vocal from frontman Ian.  This was shortly followed by 'The Honeyman', a beautifully crafted tribute to folk musician Les Honeyman who died 25 years ago.  It's a celebration rather than a lament though, and the band really ripped it up, particularly harmonica player Jim Harcus, who makes Paul Butterfield sound like Bob Dylan.  In the words of the song, they really were "Doing it the Honeyman Way".

There was a bit of a wardrobe malfunction during "Shutting Down the World", a song which had a distinct Albert King vibe.  Pete's guitar strap came loose and he was left trying to keep it in place like Elvis during his '68 comeback special.  By this stage, he was also down to just one guitar, having broken a string on the other.  This was a great excuse for a little impromptu marketing from frontman Ian McLaren.  "Why don't you pop along to Bandwagon music St. Pauls Square, Perth.  Perfect for all your guitar needs".

My favourite song of the evening was the smooth and funky 'Sit and Think of I like seeing older gentlemen drum really, really well.You'.  It started innocently enough with a plaintive harmonica intro before morphing into an upbeat, catchy groove that would have all but the most curmudgeonly tapping their feet.  Pete's playing reminded me of Wayne Bennett, guitarist for the amazing Bobby Bland and the rhythm section was exemplary.  Bassist Jason Wotherspoon was clearly having a ball and drummer Pim Pirnie was like a human metronome, never missing a beat.  Jo leaned over and whispered, "I like seeing older gentlemen drum really, really well."  Kind of weird, I thought, but I guess you are in the right place!  We were also both really digging the spacey synth lines as the song drew to a close.

It was nearly the end of the night and there was only a couple of songs left.  'Caravanette' was a really witty piece of songwriting that reimagined 'Route 66' for the A9.  It featured a great vocal from Iain and I think that we could all agree that too few blues songs pay homage to Ullapool.  The final song was 'Ride On' made famous by Christy Moore, which left Pete plenty of room for some smoking soloing.

After the show, I had some banter with bass player Wotherspoon (who in a previous life was my college lecturer) before assembling the band for a quick photo opportunity.  On the way out we passed the merchandise stall and again I gazed longingly at the Wynnton Marshals t-shirts but Jo still wasn't getting the hint. 


This show was part of the wider The Monday Night Thing series of Concerts.

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