Type “smack me” into Google, at your own risk, and third predicted search is “…on the bottom with a woman’s weekly.” Six years since her passing, and over three decades since Victoria Wood first performed the Ballad of Barry and Freda her finest hour is everlastingly. Proof while often pushed into the “novelty” pigeonhole, comical songs can be as eternal as serious songs; if I had a penny for every time someone called me Ernie……
Horse and carriage association, comedy and music, since day dot. Be you come at it from a comedian background or as musician, the aged hybrid functions, and it’s effective equally if, like me Saturday night at Trowbridge Town Hall, your jawbone aches from grinning like a jester as much as your feet do from dancing!
It’s been something of a music-comedy weekend at the county town, Barnsley’s The Bar Steward Sons of Val Doonican played the Pump Friday, with their cheeky, seventies children’s TV presenter style of pop adaptions, chief coordinator Kieran sung their praises while I regretted my absence. But I crossed the border and landed in Vegas for Saturday’s offering at the Town Hall; couldn’t resist.
Hosting three acts of varying genres, tenaciously linked by the comical element, the night will end bizarrely, with naturally witty Brighton chap-hopper Professor Elemental rapping through a horse’s head and encouraging the audience to knock an inflatable unicorn between them. But the assorted crowds gathered this wasn’t going to be the archetypal hip hop gig.
Starter for ten the first act is Bristol’s conscious, anarchist, cross-dressed trio, Boom Boom Racoon. An acoustic ska-punk band I’ve been raving, but dubious they’d fit into Devizes’ rather polarised music epoch. Apologies are made for the bassist recovering from a gum infection, as his usual shouty exclamations will be reduced. Nevertheless, offerings approximately casing their fondness of invading dustbins, the NHS, and Lotus Biscuits were purveyed with finesse, and the poignantly satirical Fuck You, Ashley, the final tune on their second album, Songs From Before the Times.
I’d argue though unconventional, in a geek post-punk fashion, veganomics, LGBT and other leftist subjects maintain a seriousness edge, making Boom Boom Racoon uniquely placed at a comical gig, yet concluding on their amusing high-energy adaption of the Venga Boy’s Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom, wherein they dub their own band name into the title, there’s forever a feeling not to take them seriously.
Calne’s Real Cheesemakers on the other hand blast loud rock in your face, all the while maintaining a heap of West Country humour. Akin to Boom Boom Racoon in only one factor, hilarity. Their psychedelia, surrealist-edged rock is aptly introduced with The Tortoise is Coming, and retrospective contemplation with Unicorns of the 1980s.
It becomes almost Dr Seuss at times, such as the vaudeville Trouserland. There’s a ballad involving dinosaurs, local banter with the Roundabouts of Swindon, and a Springsteen-fashioned lengthy, emotional build-up to a song which lasts but a second. The Real Cheesemakers nonsensically mock everything, in a metal style, even down to the dark, satanic ethos of the genre, as if Spike Milligan was Iron Maiden’s frontman, yet they were a Wurzels tribute, naturally.
They’ve supported Professor Elemental in the past, allowing him bound majestically on stage for a duet. Then the stage was stripped bare for the Prof to do his thang, an astounding hilarious stand-up routine, rapped.
Unlike the others, I suspect Professor Elemental comes from the comedian-turned-musician angle, as he weaves rap so effortlessly into what’s best described as stand-up. Topically waxing lyrical, satire and observational humour abound, astute in audience participation, such as the cliché rapper’s request to the crowd to “make some noise,” the Prof appeals they make specific noises.
As any professional stand-up he comments on his surroundings, the venue’s similarities to a council hall, cos it is; he elects himself mayor. He’s also no stranger to character assassinations, whipping off the jacket of his rainbow suit and trademark hunter’s Pith helmet, to become a crude and condescending businessman, heckling an unsuspecting girl in the crowd.
Everything the Professor does is astutely performed, with whimsical yet chivalrous charisma. He simply charms with lyrics chockful of pop culture references and judicious observations, it’s nothing less than hilarious. As the show progresses so too does the insanity level, to the aforementioned section where he’s donned a horse’s head and encouraging the crowd to bounce an inflatable unicorn between them.
Never a dull moment, there’s so much jammed into this show it’s tricky to pin the man down, like a one-man Airplane movie, blink and you’ll miss something. He explodes with colour and amusement, while attracting hip hop aficionados his performance is favourable to all, still, in his own unique manner, he can execute a fine rap too. He comes with a treasure trove of merchandise: comics, books, stickers and of course CDs, though I’d suggest the live show is his forte.
Once he lost the pith helmet, I realised he was older than I assumed, a stand-up comedian stage presence attributing hip hop into his act, he cited the Sugarhill Gang, suggesting his roots lie as old skool as I, a genre he salutes rather than mocks.
I sincerely hope he’s happy independently doing circuits, seemed as if he is, as his professionalism and natural comical ability would be ideal for mainstream TV to wreck, theoretically selling-out as a game show host, or mores to the pity, the best damn Doctor Who post-Tom Baker.
If I pondered through pigeonholing how divergent the three acts were, I was pleasantly surprised when they came together for an improvised finale, and in this the gig was a prime example of Trowbridge Town Hall’s diversity in programming; this was something I’d expect to see at a city venue or festival. A highly enjoyable evening with an assortment of hilarious class acts, in which I got to bounce a unicorn.
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