Ten years of Doonimania!
Who would’ve thought a novelty band themed on reuniting the disparate offspring of Val Doonican would have the legs to last ten years? Well that’s what they’ve done – buoyed by a huge attendance in the Woodland at Bearded Theory, and now a sell-out anniversary show on their home turf – perhaps it’s fair to say they’ve ascended from novelty support act to a destination band. I think it definitely is.
We’d arranged to take Ludo to park at Sam and Matt’s – Ella got the train to be collected by Sam and once work was finished I drove up to meet them, arriving first thanks to some train delays. Once the van was parked up I had a lovely cup of tea, being the rock and roll person I am – but soon enough once Ella, Sam, Dave, Caroline and Murphy had arrived the lure of cider was too much – then we drove in to Barnsley for the party!
Once the many many many greetings had taken place we headed in to the venue in time for Pocketful o’Nowt – I don’t even know how to begin doing them justice in words! Mike, the frontman, greeted the audience flaunting his iPad, loaded up with a music app for him to accompany guitar, bass and drums – often whilst dangling from the light fittings, climbing over the barriers to join the crowd and generally cavorting.
As would prove to be the theme of the evening – definitely on the novelty spectrum, but with genuine musical merit. I’d call it some kind of insane rock and blues – starting with a cry to Put A Little Glam in Your Life, we were treated to a unique spectacle taking in varied subjects like death, a world-record use of the work fuck, a song about Screaming Lord Sutch and another about Michael Jackson’s daughter. I’d recommend seeing these nutters again!
Whilst we’d popped to the bar mid-set we saw Stuart from The Sweetchunks Band arrive and immediately dry-hump Brian against a pool table as a precursor to what was to follow! Possibly my only quibble with the whole evening was the venue’s decision not to open the bar in the stage half of the building! With traffic a pain The Sweetchunks Band arrived later than planned, but were set up and soundchecked in record time ready to take the stage.
They kicked off with the We Are Not Pirates song and then into a cover of Levellers song The Boatman – although I do particularly like the addition of ‘If I could choose the life I please then I’d be Brian Blessed.’ Tom was present as Carruthers the Butler – and he’d really upped his game, bringing a tray and cocktail glasses with him. Given Tom’s magnificent beard, a word of warning was offered with Shaved Off His Beard – a cover of The Beards song.
Epic love song I Would Punch A Bear For You was up next and then Folk Star melding into Paradise City as a homage of disdain to Nickelback. Kiss was always going to be the moment of dread for Brian, he’d consented to be Stuart’s plaything – but only if it was in the audience – so an awkward encounter took place just over the barrier much to the amusement and possible discomfort from the folk gathered there.
Traditional Hampshirian folk song Bullet In The Head was followed by a bluesed up version of I’ve Got a Brand New Combine Harvester. It wouldn’t be a Sweetchunks gig without Bees are F**king Awesome, and a fun set was ended with Highway To The Danger Zone – Carruthers was back on stage to heft a Hampshire flag, which regrettably ended up in Naomi’s hands to cause a bit of mosh-pit mayhem. These guys are fast becoming one of my live favourites.
We retreated to the bar for drinks and a natter – Hobo Jones and the Junkyard Dogs were up next, and I’m ashamed to say time ran away with us catching up with folk leaving us dashing in to catch the finishing track, a raucous rendition of Levellers anthem One Way. A regrettable-not-regrettable diversion, it was great to catch up with folk I’ve not seen for a while but it’s always frustrating to miss out on a cracking act too. But there’ll be other times!
One thing none of us would miss out on would be The Bar-Steward Sons of Val Doonican, though – they took the stage to a rammed venue, and clearly found it quite moving. They kicked off with a rousing Happy Birthday before anthemic Tarn Life kicked in. Massage in a Brothel and then the controversial Get ’em Art of The Pub – doubly so given a young lad right at the front of the crowd enjoying the gig!
The set proper was a relentless assault of Bar Steward anthems – Since You’ve Been Ron, She’s from Dodworth, Bag for Life, The Zipper (Scott so nearly held it together, but for another burst of siren from Björn at the last minute), If I Could Punch a Face (It’d be Justin Bieber’s), Walking in Man-Piss and Festival Heroes. The humour is timeless, the musicianship great – and it has to be said, the sound and lights were awesome – as always in the Rock and Blues venue.
Then they were off the stage – leaving plenty of time for an encore, whilst they were off the stage the lights dimmed down and the crackly prelude to the hidden track on the new album was played over the sound system, before Alan returned to stage – clad in a Prodigy inspired knitted tank top and double-mohawk wig arrived to deliver a live performace of Silent Farter – it lived up to everything I’d hoped for, and I had hoped for so much too! Bloody hilarious.
The rest of the band returned to finish the encore off – Lady in Greggs was sung along with so loudly Scott looked visibly moved, then Kanye West is a Cockwomble complete with Alan’s flipchart to aid the singing along. Tom made his second stage turn for The Devil Went Down To Barnsley – at the end casually asking me to get him up on shoulders, Tom’s a big unit – but three or four of us managed the feat in the end!
The gig (on stage at least) finished up with Jump Arahnd – with members of the support acts joining on stage. Scott got us to surf him to the bar then back through the side stage door – losing a shoe in the process (which he wasn’t amused about!), whilst we had balloons to play with and pop, before the musicians took to the dance floor to carry on the party with an unplugged rendition of I Fought The Law.
Amazing night – I’ve seen the kind of work that bands like The Bar-Stewards put in to do what they do, so to see a tenth birthday celebration go so brilliantly was a genuine pleasure. Best yet, they’ve just been confirmed as a last-minute substitute at Wistful Festival as unfortunately Blunderbuster can no longer make it. So a huge happy tenth birthday, here’s to at least ten more!
Our taxis ferried us back to Sam and Matt’s – only for Matt to provide us with some awesome burgers whilst we had a couple more drinks and giggles before heading to bed. Amazing hospitality, amazing people – amazing evening, and a first time ‘stealth camping’ in Ludo – albeit on someone’s drive (with their permission!). Roll on the next one!