Dub Pistols are a 7 headed, 14 legged mash up of dub, hip hop, disco, electronica and jungle, they class London as their hometown and tonight and tonight only, they were to grace Exeter with their presence.
I checked the calendar, it was clear, checked the TV guide and apart from a night of Top Gear on every lads favourite channel, there wasn’t much on. I called my photographer and we made our way to the Exeter Phoenix to see what was going on.
We got to the venue quite early and stumbled upon Barry Ashworth (legendary frontman of the band who reminded me of Phil Daniels when he appeared alongside Blur in the ‘Parklife’ video) who was busy signing CD’s at the merch table, we introduced ourselves and said that we were going to do a write up of the nights festivities and grab some pictures, he then admitted that they ‘weren’t very good’ and asked me to ‘name my price’ in order to make up some fictitious words about the performance, I joked with him and said that I normally do that anyway!
We headed into the auditorium, took our usual spot side of stage and waited for the magic to happen.
The venue was pretty much full by the time that the support act (Jamie Joseph) took to the stage, he is a Derby based RnB/Soul singer/songwriter who was accompanied by his 4 piece band, they’ve been together about a year and before the show, Jamie told me how he has had a nightmare couple of days as his trusty van broke down in Derby, forcing him to miss a show in Falmouth.
Jamie’s voice was nothing short of superb, listening to these so called ‘pop stars’ on X-Factor and other such packaged pop programmes made me think about how he was so much better than any act that would be destined for the UK holiday camp circuit 10 minutes after the TV show ended!
Taking to the stage, he chatted briefly to the audience, saying that he was going to play a few songs, that he loved the Motown era of music and wanted to ‘take it back to when music was real’, ladies and gentlemen, he did just that, his cover version of Al Green’s ‘Lets Stay Together’ was spellbinding, his voice effortless, floating over the tight bass and rhythm section to get the song out to the crowd, take the instruments away and you’d have a voice that could turn even a hardened man to jelly.
Some of his songs almost had a dubstep/DnB style beat, the drummer doing a fabulous job of keeping time for the rest of the band to work to, some of their own tracks had a hint of funk thrown in to keep the energy levels of the crowd brimming, ready for the main event.
Their last track ‘Hit the Ground Running’ is to feature in a film called Legacy which is in development and should be hitting the silver screen in 2015, when you go see it and hear a really cool track, it will more than likely be this one!
Jamie and his band left the stage and the road crew jumped up and meddled with a few cables, tuned a few guitars and generally did ‘their thang’, toilet breaks were had, drinks were refreshed and before you could say ‘when are they on’, it was time for the main act.
Try a Little Harder
Lets Stay Together
Hiding up your Sleeve
Hit the Ground Running
The lights dimmed, intro music started playing and on strode the band, led by the sharp dressed musicians and followed by the enigmatic Seanie T dressed in his trademark sombrero and bandolier all paving the way for the entrance of the uber cool, sunglassed Barry Ashworth who received the biggest cheer of the evening so far. They burst into their first track, lighting the fires that would later explode much akin to a hairspray factory going up in flames.
Their infectious blend of rap/vocals and quality musicianship (including an amazing one man brass section) made damned sure that you were up on your feet, bobbing to the basslines and killer singalong choruses, you just couldn’t help yourself, even the folk stood on the balcony were leaping about like Mexican jumping beans!
Their take on the Stranglers track ‘Peaches’ was immense, a real show of how talented musicians could turn a classic hit from yesteryear into a firm favourite that even the young folk on the front row could relate to was impressive.
Talking about the audience, I have never seen such a mixed bag, from one extreme of teenagers with painted faces to more mature types, some skinheads, some dreadlocked dubsters and each and every one of them singing along, matching Barry word for word. Towards the end of their set, Barry invited our photographer up onto the stage so he could snap some impressive shots of the band with the audience in the background, he was a little lost after one track and as nobody told him to get down, he stayed where he was, snapping incessantly until he ran out of memory on his card!
The band left the stage, towelled down and returned one by one, introduced by Seanie T, everyone receiving a great round of applause as they strode onto the stage for the last few numbers, Barry again, getting the biggest cheer of the night, the man IS a legend!
Having never seen Dub Pistols before, I was more than impressed, I thought that they were a band who performed ‘dub’ versions of Sex Pistols songs…I know, I know!! so I felt that I learned a lot at the gig.
It was a great night, everyone left with a massive smile on their face and afterwards, Barry et al were even happy to join fans at the merch table to chat, sign CD’s and generally have a good laugh prior to calling it a night. This band are one to watch out for on the live circuit, if you get a chance to see them at a festival in 2015, please do make the effort, you’ll be so glad you did.
It was great to see that quality musicianship, excellent catchy songs and a blend of hip hop and ska can really bring so many people together in one place, touching the souls of so many. It was a highly enjoyable evening.
Now, where’s Barry, he owes me a 'pony’....
(I did enquire as to a setlist but the guitarist advised me that they don't use one, so apologies folks, move along, nothing to see here....)
If you would like to purchase professional photographs taken at the concert, please click on the link below;
Review by Steve Muscutt
Photography by Bruce Benson