It can sometimes feel quite hard to get an ‘in’ when the artist for the gig you are going to is someone unfamiliar to you, but who already has a large catalogue of work, and an ardent dedicated following. I won’t name the band, but I saw someone once a few years back, and it felt I and my beloved were the only ones who hadn’t picked up the script. Worse, it felt impenetrable and rather like attending someone’s birthday party and singing happy birthday when you don’t know their name, and no one would tell you. Awkward.
Happily it wasn’t like that in the slightest for Jonny Brown Ltd and his acoustic solo set and it quickly felt like we were among friendly folk. I’m not very familiar with Twisted Wheel or their back catalogue, but I’d heard really good things about Jonny live and so I was in. I was a happy bunny anyway, as it was my first gig at Venn Street Social in Huddersfield. Actually I’m lying as it is the venue for the old Parish (before it relocated), and it was nice to wander out to the trusty and drafty old barn out the back of the pub. Old place, new style and name.
The line up started late to accommodate an evening football match. I was fearing what might have been a leery football chanty atmosphere, but while there were many drunk brains, it was a light and good natured evening. Thanks to the top performances.
First up was Stepford Wives, fronted by an older guy and 3 younger musicians. It’s an age mix you often see in the audience, and it was great to see it mirrored back on stage. The band are from Saddleworth and were a first experience to me. I’d happily see the band again, there was a great quality tight sound and a pretty blistering set of straight up indie punk.
This Stepford Wives set was to pin down the tone of the evening and there was style, quality and humour in equal measure. Lead singer Niklos Jackson explained the band didn’t hail far from Jonny but they hadn’t previously played on the same bill yet. There’s exciting times for Stepford Wives ahead, as they are playing support to the Buzzcocks; from their style, these lads must admire the masters, and in turn they will win a lot of new friends from the Buzzcocks crowd.
Jonny Brown came on like an unstoppable force from the off, relaxed, amongst friends, and clearly here to entertain. Clearly Jonny’s personal troubles are well documented and it was great to see him equally focused on the music and in being relaxed on stage. Jonny is a man comfortable where he is at.
The Jonny Brown Ltd set seemed flexible and Jonny was dictated to in part from the crowd shouting suggestions. One of the most ardent fans in the room was a prettily happy drunk lad who told the audience his pending wedding would feature some Twisted Wheel songs. He implored Jonny to sing his favourite by offering to compare willies. While Jonny gallantly declined the kind offer, our flashing lad went ahead solo and ultimately got the song for exposing his dong. Jonny admitted it was a new first in his long and winding career.
Musically, I loved the confidence Jonny had for his guitar playing; a hint of blusy country on his acoustic guitar and an excellent storytelling voice. I was stood alongside Louis Barnes, excellent lead singer from The Slates who also clearly loved the set – Louis told me Twisted Wheel were one of those bands he grew up listening to as a kid. Haha, a new a claim to fame of mine is definitely our ‘duet’ (along with most of the crowd) to Strife. If only I knew all the words.
So, if anyone has any doubts about a Jonny Brown gig then banish them – top quality music, top fun, top people, Jonny Brown creates it, his supporters add to it.