So, it was Sunday evening, the chores had been completed, kids were winding down ready for another week of school, bags were packed and I could have easily sunk into the settee with a bottle of red and a repeat on the telly box but I wanted more, I wanted to go out, drink and dance and generally not give in to the delights that Monday held in store for me.
I checked what was happening at all the local music venues in Exeter and stumbled upon a band from Spain who were playing a few low key dates in the UK, they were called Guadalupe Plata and they were appearing at the Phoenix in the heart of the city….tonight, I HAD to be there!
I tell a lie, take things back a few weeks and I was asked to cover the show at the venue by a good friend of mine who happens to be the PR Manager for the band, he explained that I wouldn’t have heard anything like what these guys put out and it would be a very ‘important’ show. I looked the band up and from their description on Facebook, it simply said ‘Blues’, I think after the performance I would amend that to ‘Psychobilly, Rock n’ Roll and Swamp Blues so thick you could stir it with a stick’ but that’s just my take on them….
We arrived at the venue to find a keen crowd had congregated in the bar, readying themselves for a night of music and entertainment, we entered the main auditorium and waited for The Bonnevilles to take to the stage. Two gentlemen took their places, a curly haired drummer and a slick looking guy on guitar and vocals, both looking very dapper in their trademark crisp white shirts and pencil thin black ties. Their set consisted of some killer bluesy/rock infused tracks that did a great job of blowing away the morose feeling that Sunday evenings normally offer. Their music was raw, punchy, the live experience really coming through, some tracks took things down a peg or two but the underlying brashness of just the two musicians on stage really added to the simplistic but effective noise that floated around the room.
The between song banter was amusing, we were told that a new guitar had recently been added to the collection and that it was purchased very cheaply from a popular online auction site owing to the seller spelling the manufacturer name incorrectly and subsequently not attracting one single bid! The Bonnevilles recently put out a new long player called ‘Arrow Pierce My Heart’, many of tonights tracks were lifted from this as well as some older numbers which sounded just as tight as the newer material. They’re playing the remainder of the UK dates with Guadalupe Plata, I thoroughly recommend that you check these guys out either face to face on tour or via their social media channels (all listed at the end of the write up).
We left the room for a well earned beer and a chat about what we’d just witnessed, both agreeing that they were really really good and we’d be following up the evening with an interview with the guys as soon as possible.
Shortly after, we shuffled back into the room for the main event, three guys from a town called Ubeda in Spain which is famous for olives (bet you never knew that!) took to the stage and kicked into their set. Using traditional instruments like guitars and drums, they also had a washtub bass which I haven’t seen for a long time and I have to admit that it sounded great!
Their blend of bluesy riffs, slide guitar, bags of feedback and howling, stabbing vocals transported you from Exeter to a dusty, wild western themed town where gunslingers and sheriffs duelled in the street to win the hearts of the local maidens. I think The Guardian newspaper summed up their sound perfectly by saying “a Spanish trio who sound like Jack White being lassoed by Os Mutantes in a Robert Rodriguez saloon scene”. I can easily see their music being used in a blockbuster movie directed by Tarantino or Rodriguez sometime in the near future.
Towards the end of their set they played a song that seemed to go on forever, it was a real rumbling freight train of a track and just when you thought that the ride was about to end and you were waiting for the safety barrier to lift so that you could exit the ride, it all kicked off again, another lap of the circuit was well and truly under way! I lost count as to how many times this happened but come the end, it was starting to amuse me, were they going to go on ALL night? surely there was a curfew, it was Sunday night after all and some of us had work the next morning!
The room SHOULD have been heaving, being a Sunday night, the turnout was okay, this did’t matter as the front two rows were busy jiving and generally ‘getting down’ to the amazing music on offerI explained about the Sunday night thing to the band after the show and they looked as if they share the same issues back home in Spain, a global issue I guess! I was told that an interview wouldn’t be possible as they didn’t speak English very well, I guess the same could be said for my grasp of the Spanish lingo, I wasn’t sure that me asking them where the toilets are would cut the mustard! All told, we chatted for about half an hour, the bass player telling me about how he cut his finger up really bad using a circular saw (he’s a carpenter back home) and thus why it was wrapped in a bandage throughout the performance. I also looked through the tour schedule and wrote down a few things for them to do in Bristol and Glasgow ahead of the shows, the guys were very thankful and were eager to sit me down to share their bottle of Tequila, I politely declined the offer as was driving but I did happily take a can of coke and a sandwich for my trip back home.
For what was looking like a dull evening in, listening to the dogs snoring their asses off turned out to be an incredible night with two very talented and amazing sets of musicians, if you haven’t had the pleasure yet, make sure you check them out on social media, you’ll thank me later!
Words Steve Muscutt
Photography Rhodri Cooper