Friday 19 April 2013

Festival of Awfulness - Dan Redding

Dan Redding
We entered a parallel universe through a worm-hole in Kingston's Bus Garage last Saturday night (13/04/2013). Just like Harry Potter's legendary platform 9 and 3/4, I shut my eyes and hoped for the best, blinking my eyes and shaking the fugue from my brain I stared at the sight in front of me. The No.88 Bar was rammed full of off-duty Jazz musicians and aficionados of the dark art.

Max Luthert
Now some of these characters aren't exactly bronzed specimens, spending a large chunk of daylight hours sitting in their pants with the curtains drawn but tonight they looked an even paler bunch than normal. It was like walking onto the film set of a zombie movie, each of these once composed and talented Jazz glitterati wore a sheen of cold sweat and twitched uncontrollably. The most relaxed group we're setting up their kit just by the entrance, Holley Gray (Bass), Luke Harris (drums) and Ross Ewart (guitar) were all smugly chuckling to themselves.

Sam Leak
Tonight was a special night for two reasons, firstly that it marked 31 years on this earth of the No.1 guitarist in Kingston, Dan Redding, and secondly this was the inaugural night of the Festival of Awfulness.

Paul Jordanous
Now we are bombarded with excellent US sitcoms in we which endless cheery characters spout morally cumbersome platitudes at us and the ubiquitous AWESOME is uttered every third minute. Here in Britain we certainly like a good party but we're uncomfortable when our trumpets are blown by ourselves and others. So here was a new festival that celebrated our national sport of self-deprecation.

Before me were some of the most brilliant minds and fingers of the modern jazz age, so what could be so awful about that? Well apart from the house band so ably led by Tenor Godfather Bob McKay and organ funkster Bill Mudge everyone else was going to be singing.
These musicians whose careers had been built on years of fine-tuned performances would be leaving with reputations in tatters but huge smiles on their faces.

Piers Green
As you'd imagine the only way to conquer the nerves was to drink huge amounts of alcohol and calm the pumping heart. What happened next was the most inevitable and enjoyable train-wreck of talent you'll ever be lucky enough to witness

Rob Streetley
The night kicked off with Dan Redding who sledgehammered his way through Peter Gabriel's song of the same name. Like the professional he is, and in true character actor fashion Max Luthert was up next with bouffant hair and facial fluff just like his hero Phil Lynott with 'The boys are back in town'. The charming Wendy Linsey brought some decorum to the night with 'Tragedy' and her rendition definitely wasn't one.

I had several blips during the night, a mixture of wine, an energetic burbling crowd and being poleaxed by laughter meant I missed Duncan Eagles brave version of Lionel Ritchie 'Hello', although I heard the lady next to me say, "I wished he'd fucking say Goodbye..."

Michael Kew
Apologies to all the people I missed with my sketches, it was a fantastic night and I was equally swept up in the celebrations.

Sam (& Jenna)
We had our first genuinely surprising light emerge from a bushel when a languid Sam Leak of Aquarium fame stepped up to the microphone. With glass of full bodied red in hand he shared Carly Simon's 'Know-body does it better' revealing why he is gaining a reputation as a matinee idol amongst ladies of a certain age.

Holley Gray gave a rousing 'Eye of the Tiger' followed by the heavily fringed Michael Kew whose hands shook so much he placed them firmly in his back pockets as he sang Ronan Keating's 'Life is a Rollercoaster'. A spirited 'Gangster Paradise' by Kingston homey Ant was received well by the swelling crowd.

George Trebar
Once again the likeable Paul Jordanous kept us on our toes by doing exactly the opposite. His post-modern wit was not lost on cerebral onlookers like local brainbox Roger Perrin as he sat down at the keys and played Elton John's 'I'm still standing'.

Becky Scarrott
The fuse of the second set was lit up by one of my favourites of the night 'Careless Whisper'. The massive chasm between the band's crisp talent (Bob McKay solo) and the singing of Piers Green was of Grand Canyon proportions......until..... I heard the next man to take the stage..... Rob Streetley.
Just like Marlon Brando he sweated sex-appeal but also inherited his mumbling diction and we all worried one of us would wake up with a horse's head on our pillow in the morning.

The best three dancers of the night came next. Sam and Jenna (Particularly the former) were scintillating with their moves on 'No Diggity'. While George Trebar's camp version of 'Abracadabra' would have brought the house down at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern. Becky Scarrott, dramatic 'Year 2000' was a real thriller never to be destined for the pulp fiction shelves.

Chris Southwell

Another George Michael pretender (Chris Southwell) came to the stage but this time with his Andrew Ridgely (Matthew Cox) and we were woken up before the drink took its toll.

George Bone

The biggest surprise of the evening was a man who had morphed into not one man, but five visions of Adonis. He oozed the strutting confidence of Robbie, the musical prowess of Gary, the unbridled sex appeal of Jason, the enigmatic subtlety of Howard and the sensitive caress of Mark.
Take that No.88 Bar he sang, 'Could this be magic?', for me it was. Just like the mild mannered janitor, George 'Badass' Bone, had turned into the Hong Kong Phooey of the Festival of Awfulness.

Leo Appleyard

The Ballon Merde of the Festival must go to Leo Appleyard because of the shear awfulness he brought to his Toploader tune. The hours of practice he must have put in and to unselfishly sacrifice his ample talents for his friend Dan were admirable. It wasn't all his fault though. The crowd had been baying his name like a pack of hunting hounds with a whiff of blood in their nostrils since the start of the evening.

Karen Straw
I was just able to hear the buoyantly bunched Karen Straw before I tried to find my way back into the real world.
Stumbling back through Kingston's bus garage and into a half-consumed can of super strength lager I knew I had arrived.

What will next year's Festival of Awfulness bring us I wonder.
All I know is Dan Redding will be a year older and everyone will be waking up the next morning with sore ribs from laughing (and possibly drinking) too much.

Happy Birthday Dan!


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