Bird is the Word; Birdmens at Long Street Blues Club

See, you know I ain’t gonna bullshit you, too hungover for that. To hell with advertorials; we’re the review equivalent of Catchphrase, we don’t abide by them here, we say what we see. Be warned, being I’ve bunked the morning off work, you’ve got me to cast my punitive opinion the Birdmens night at Long Street Blues Club, our usual Long Street reporter and part of the furniture there, Andy, I’ve demoted to photographer just for this occasion.….

Of course, it’s nice to return to any venue I’ve not poked my bulbous snout into for a while, and yeah, I was tipped off by the one band guitarist, Dave Doherty, there would be no holding back at this here gig, but nah, no money changed hands for me to plug it, other than they’d be space on the dancefloor for me to shake my scraggly rump, obscuring the view of members of the blues appreciation society that is Devizes’ Long Street Blues Club. Which I did so, cos the Birdmens gig was everything they said it would be, and a little bit more.

We could ask for Howlin Wolf meets Jimi Hendrix, but a Birdmens in the hand is worth two in the bush; when isn’t Long Street Blues Club a safe bet? For crying out loud, that town councillor is bring Errol Linton to town next occasion, 4th June: is Liz Debbie McGee, cos that’s magic?!

In fair exchange for said honesty, if you did attend, you’ll know where I’m coming from; it was simply a sublime night. Birdmens was a lockdown project, a potential supergroup trapped indoors with nought else but to produce a beguiling album, but, quite clearly by last night’s performance, aching to get out and play together, despite various collaborations in the past, in this new official guise; I get that.

Something of an exclusive then; they came, saw, kicked into touch the most blinding set of authentic sixties-fashioned swampy delta blues to have ever graced my widening eardrums, and left the spellbound Devizes’ blues aficionados to trek onto Holland for the Moulin Blues Ospel festival, their only other date to erm, date; show offs!

Long Street signifies everything crucial to punching a Devizes pushpin into the global blues map. Yet rather than hosting an established name as usual, the Birdsmen gig was a risk, if a bulletin wasn’t spread of its legendary line-up. Anyone with a slight acquaintance of the local blues scene will know any one of these musicians could give a breath-taking performance solo, armed with just a xylophone. Absent off the Birdmens roster were guitarist Joel Fisk, keyboardist Bob Fridzema and Giles King on harmonica. The remaining crew of lead & rhythm guitarists, Ian Siegal, Jon Amor, and Dave Doherty, with bassist Rob Barry and Jonny Henderson pushing the keys was more than plentiful.

With more pizazz than 007, Ian Siegal is the spark and definitive frontman, he is to UK blues as Ray Winstone is to UK gangster movies; just naturally fits like a glove. Though fronting was divided between him and Jon Amor, who needs no introduction. I’m supposing its professionalism and comradeship which allows them to slot into routine so superlatively, rather than time to perfect this live act, which they’ve not really had much of.

They started as is their album, with “Cat Drugged Up,” and must have featured most of the eleven tracks with a finale of the funkiest “Diggin’ That Rut.” With time spare for Jon take centre-stage for his magnum opus “Juggernaut,” and his Costello-esque “Red Telephone,” and for Ian to hold a mellowed homage to classic blues in the key of The Whispers’ You Never Miss Your Water, executed akin to Otis Redding, I swear on my cat’s life. It was at this point Ian unnecessarily excused himself elucidating his two broken ribs, but no one was complaining. It was an enraptured show from start to finish; upbeat when it needed to be, emotive and precisely accomplished.      

Inexcusably, I’ve got that eighties Elton John song stuck in my head this morning, I Guess That’s Why They Call it the Blues; no guessing about it, Reg, Devizes had itself a night to remember. Based on this, if Dave Doherty recommended a flower pressing workshop, I’d attend without question.

But none of this occurred before Tom Harris donned his blues Stetson in support of this memorable gig. Something unique about our Tom, his wailing vocals, just as his smiley face could’ve been the work of Harvey Ball. He’s supported at Long Street annually at least, for a decade. He rinsed his original compositions in style, with a self-penned scatological festival-toilet blues song, followed by a gritty version of Simon and Garfunkel’s Sounds of Silence, hinting at his extreme metal band Kinasis, yet not straying from appeasing the blues aficionados; we like Tom.

Long Street Blues Club yet again pulled off a blinder; yeah, there’s dynasties of dedicated blues obsessives, regulars there with the habit of inspecting as if it was opera, but it’s far from cliquey, most welcoming to newcomers, and when a band like Birdmens thrust some life into it, it goes off.


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