Monkey Bizzle Supports Boot Hill Xmas Bash at The Southgate

Not as greater deal of options for entertainment as recent weekends gone, I still had a double-booked dilemma. As much as nipping to the Sham for Train to Skaville appealed, I can rest assured this gig would go off based on past experience. Similarly, though, whenever those crazy canal-type Boot Hill All Stars are chalked on the Southgate’s board, their unique and often comical frenzy of gypsy-folk-ska is a hoedown not to be missed, despite seeing them plenty before.

I opted for the latter, partially being anything longer than a fortnight without attending the Southgate and I get withdrawal symptoms, but more so because The Boot Hills were supported by Monkey Bizzle, who I’ve yet to witness live. Aware of this bunch of bananas too, though, after fondly reviewing their debut album Idiot Music, back in July, a fine primer to convince anyone checking them out is a must.

So, it was to be, a rare thing; a single record deck united with conventional instruments awaiting a show at the ever-dependable Southgate Inn, Devizes, and intrigue set in on how some of the, shall we use the term conventional again(?) punters would react to this. Our own reviewer, Andy looked ominously at the addition, even when Monkey Bizzle kicked proceedings off, and I wagered he was pleased to see me, knowing I’d cover anything more my cup of tea than his. To mark its greatness though, it must be said, aside from not busting into crazy legs and finishing off with a back spin, Andy reported how much he unexpectedly enjoyed it.

Though just like the Southgate, we are limited to suggest anything about both bands in this double-header are anywhere near conventional, and with corsets, props and handmade geetars from recycled produce, the Boot Hills did their own thing, in their own tried and tested way, and it’s something to behold.

But not before Monkey Bizzle set the scene alight with their outrageous brand of rib-tickling hip-hop. In many ways, despite a different pigeonhole, the two bands complement each other with west country folk background similarities; even sharing drummer, Cerys. If The Streets injected something of urban capital life into UK hip-hop witty commentary, and Goldie Looking Chain did likewise for Cardiff, Monkey Bizzle do it for the west country. Though we may’ve hinted comparable before with the utterly fantastic Corky, while this one-man band offers pastiches of hip-hop classics via an acoustic method, five-piece Monkey Bizzle subtly fuse rock, reggae and ska into original compositions, scratching and rapping over hip-hop beats.

As self-confessed when waxing lyrical, the result is “idiot music, for stupid people,” and “if you think this is stupid, then you’re a fucking idiot,” yet all presented here is tongue-in-cheek. The mocking irony of the egotistical rapper bigging himself up isn’t something entirely new-fangled, neither are pot smoking, blagging mates or akin subjects covered, but Monkey Bizzle boons the concept with an agreeably local touch, and it works so very well.

Was it enough to delight da Southgate posse, hardly being the rock steady crew and all? I believe it was, and kudos to Deborah and Dave for bringing them, something different, to town.

Yet the show was only half-baked, and despite a few sounds hitches and the missing member due to sickness, professional rebels the Boot Hills came on to do what they do best, bring the house down with this insatiable zest for energetic folk rock, as danceable as ska, as cavernous as blues and as west country fun as the Wurzels in Toy Town.

Yes, it’s rude and crude, comically entertaining, with anarchistic, often blasphemous themes where female masturbation references, puking on a night bus and frenzied Dolly Parton and Toots & the Maytals covers come under banjo turmoil goodness. If it sounds like madness, it totally is, but I wouldn’t have it any other way, and it has become something of a personal Christmas treat tradition now; a predictably, but still absolutely fantastic night at the Southgate.

For the Boot Hills, the Xmas party continues next weekend closer to home, at Bradford-on-Avon leading pub venue, The Three Horseshoes. Meanwhile The Southgate hosts Phase Rotate next Saturday, the 18th, followed by Sunday’s unmissable Christmas party with It’s Complicated. Anything succeeding this will be stuffing Quality Street and cold turkey sandwiches.


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Idiot Music, is the Monkey’s Bizzle

This is isn’t the favoured way to start a review, but this is idiot music for stupid people, if you think this is stupid then you’re a fucking idiot, and that’s a quote, from the opening title tack, which ends on, “oh, there it is, up my bum; can I eat it now?”

If Goldie Looking Chain is all too millennial, but hip hop, for you, should be served with massive chunks of deadpan sauce, west country tongue-in-cheek sarcasm and general silliness, Monkey Bizzle’s debut album, Idiot Music might just be the thing to pick off the menu.   

Through the Pythonesque nature of Idiot Music though, wailing guitars, proficient drumming (from Cerys of the Boot Hill All Stars), and substantial dope beats means this is far from amateurish, and will rock the festival circuit. In fact, the Somerset five-piece sold out the album launch party at The Barge on Honeystreet a fortnight ago; I see why. This drips with Scrumpy & Western charm, like Gloucestershire’s Corky, Wurzels meets the Streets, the elements of “agricultural” hip hop make this apt for our local crusty scene. Yet with wider appeal, it is, simply, parental advisory fun.

Primates tend to be a running theme, a particularly danceable funky signature tune named Monkey Funk, a King Kong themed rap, another including David Attenborough samples. There are also drug references aplenty, the reggae-inspired Heavy, or Doves (Methylenedioxymethamphetamine) needs no explaining, but in it, it mocks the chav culture in such a way you may’ve thought only Goldie Looking Chain could. Something it’ll inevitably be compared to, but more so than the humour drafting this side of the Seven, what makes this so appealing is its nod of respect to hip hop rather than mocking it, is greater than that of Goldie Looking Chain, in a similar way there’s was with Beastie Boy satirists Morris Minor and the Majors, if you get as old skool as I!

One thing’s for sure, Monkey Bizzle isn’t to be taken seriously, but for the most part it’s listenable to as a hip hop album rather than pure novelty too, unique rappers Skoob and James make this so, especially as the album trickles on, both CU Next Tuesday and Ha Ha Ha being particularly entertaining, Oi Mate ripples with The Streets’, Give Me My Lighter Back but under a ska riff.

Nothing here is going to become next summer’s banging anthem on Radio One’s Big Weekender, an honour they’re clearly not bothered by or striding towards. To face facts, what you get is a full album of highly entertaining flip-flop and amusing lyrics of daring themes, wrapped by gifted musicians only playing the fools. And for which, Idiot Music has got my name all over it!


Boot Hills Take The Barge

If there’s one business to be in during this period of paced easing of lockdown, it must be the marquee business, it’s another for pubs to adequately comprehend what to put inside them. Establishments erect a tent and furnish it with tables so punters can eat and drink alfresco, and some might have an acoustic singer compliment it, but supplying entertainment to suit a crowd eager to get social lives up and running again is the tricky part.

For the Barge at Honeystreet, with its unique combo of a pub, wharf and campsite, historically it created a perpetual mini-festival atmosphere, ergo they’re no strangers to understanding how to accommodate restrictions and still throw a mind-blowing party.

What the now-owners have done is nothing short of miraculous; to enhance this ethos, and create an apt space to house the original concept.

With fields-worth of camping pitches, tipi glamping zone, the derelict barn transformed into a tremendously decorated arts and performance space, a brilliant children’s playpark, suitable showers and washroom facilities, the many vast improvements have made the Barge something folk could only dream of in years gone by. And for which they should be extremely proud.

Glamping in the bell tents at The Barge

Naturally, I had to check this out myself, improvements already underway prior to lockdown when I last paid a visit, for Knati P and Nick’s Skanga sound system. Of course, back then we danced inside the pub, and given when I booked tickets for this Boot Hill All Stars extravaganza, we were under the impression restrictions would be fully lifted.

To maintain decorum and keep everyone seated while hosting a gig from a scrumpy and western, Wurzels-meets-the Specials in a kind of frenzied gypsy-folk-punk band of misfits, eagerly anticipating their first performance since lockdown, was never going to be easy. Yet through sheer respect for what the owners of the Barge have achieved, restrictions were adhered to and the best made of a bad situation.

Junksville Geetar!

Crowds remained seated, within the huge airy marquee, though were aching to break out in dance fever, as the celebrated Boot Hill All Stars did their thing, with bells on, corsets, fluffy dusters and frontman Flounder wearing a testicles necklace and sporting a new twin-tooth Ripsaw Resonator made from recycled and renovated material from Junksville Guitars. All revealed as they disrobed from their “lockdown attire” dressing gowns!

But this was not before support came from the bizarrely unique jack-hammered blues duo, Dry White Bones. Unique I say by way of a Dave on harmonica, and a washboard dangling from his neck, with metallic camping mug, and a variety of homemade percussion features attached, to compliment his other half’s rusty but powerful blues vocals plus acoustic guitar. The pair make quite a show, with entertaining banter and an improbably unpredicted sound; Dave breaking into a sublime harmonica solo of Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald’s Summertime, only as an intro to their own composition, for example, is nothing short of genius. Yet, if you feel a guy tapping a camping mug sounds a bit silly, this is something you really have to witness yourself to fully appreciate.

To the main event of the show, and it is a show, rather than a gig; think vaudeville in a gypsy caravan, circus at Madstock to just go part of the way. It’s an expression of unabashed folly, where Toots & the Maytals’ Monkey Man, can befittingly follow a frantic cover of Dolly Parton’s Jolene. Props such as chairs for Cossack dancing, and handheld signs, one reading “tiny Jesus,” the other, “on a hot cross bun” correspond to their original and humorous song titles. A gig where if dancing is not allowed the gang encourage items of clothing be waved around instead, ending with a pair of bloomers landing on Flounder’s guitar headstock.

Classics known to Boot Hill fans, the comical female masturbatory subject of Devil’s Doorbell to ska-fuelled Night Bus and Monkey in the Hold and were accomplished, (the latter I plug is on our 4 Julia’s House compilation,) but not before a few new, lockdown-related tunes were presented; one of the NHS, the second concerning the Homer Simpson practise of drinking alone in your underpants. With twelve years of doing this under their belt, though they confessed nerves to me prior to going on, it seemed like riding a bike to the punters, stimulated by the epic routine.

There could be no act more apt for The Barge at Honeystreet, yet with a restaurant, and passing activities along the canal or campsite like paddle boating, The Record Deck longboat record store, and Stephanie and Simon’s traditional printing press from a pink milkfloat to name but a few, there’s always something happening, and it’s usually bonkers. As for gigs, the show must go on, and for a mere fiver ticket stub, next Friday sees the arrival of Grizzley and the Grasshoppers, Saturday night will go off with local legendary resident DJ and producer Rich the Ditch and friends on the wheels of steel, and Somerset hip hop outfit, Monkey Bizzle’s album launch on the following Friday 9th July, in this pocket of resistance from our affluent conservative corner of the universe.

Me? I got out of the rut and had a blinder, thanks for asking.


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Over Boot Hill to the Southgate

With the distinctive odour of stodgy crusty nourishing the air, the Southgate Inn Devizes jam-packed once again, this time in anticipation of a plentiful tequila-guzzling gang, breakneck banjos, and feathery lunacy, under the banner of those Boot Hill All Stars.

 
If there’s a band in the area I’ve been meaning to check out more I’d favour you remind me of them.

 
Okay, so I’ve put these nutters on a pedestal prior to catching them play, but the perilous move paid off; they were everything I imagined they’d be, with added professional folly. A canal-type’s darlings, talk in the rain-drenched beer garden consisted of various motors, otherwise was the sort of crisp banter you’ll only receive from these waterway travellers.

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Truly the worst photos taken for Devizine; accept no subsitutue

In which case, The Boot Hills couldn’t have been more apt for the Southgate, its proprietors rightly proud of their canal culture; these guys know how to have fun by the boatload, and fun it was. One chick down unaffected the mob, but not before a duo self-titled “Dry White Bones,” astounded the tavern with a unique blend of fiery folk with guitar, bowler hat, doc Martins and claves.

 
Fast, furious but friendly, The Boot Hills squeezed into the tight space and dancers wasted no time to celebrate their inimitable sound of misfit folk-fused rockabilly, gypsy-ska and general nuttiness. Sporting banjo and quiff, Flounder, composed the group, for want of a more appropriate word, and Cerys titillated with either tambourine or fluffy stick in a sturdy corset and top hat.

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If their own compositions didn’t feverously fire the crowd enough with tales of female masturbation, a cover of Toot’s Monkey Man certainly did, but most poignant was the scorching dissolute interpretation of Dolly’s Jolene. Phew, I’m flabbergasted, it was a filthy fuelled show of dubious ethics and warped values, and with a support résumé as varied as The Damned, The Beat to The Wurzels, it’s easy to see these misfits actually do fit, and what is more, bring the party with them.

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What? They had zider….

Favourites on the festival circuit of Glastonbury, Camp Bestival, Endorse, and Boomtown, for the best part of ten years, but who’d count? They hold the Once Upon a Time in the West, a festival which adopts their insane ethos, and if last night was anything to go by, expect this to go off.

 
It’s the sixth year of this festival, with a reputation of one of the friendliest and most accessible festivals on the circuit, it offers variety as diverse as punk, dub and ska, with the likes of Urban Lions, and The Tribe, to Corky’s devious blend of agricultural hip hop, he dubs Scrumpy & Western, oh and to ensure it’s a true west country welly-fest, the Wurzels also booked. Personal favs, Train to Skaville and Phil Cooper appear too, amidst a boundless line-up. Tickets on sale now for £85 here.

 
Akin to the opening of US sitcom Cheers, The Southgate continues to be that place sometimes you need to go; where everybody knows your name and always glad you came. Celebrating a year now at the helm, Deborah and Dave have successfully given birth to a live music landmark right here in our otherwise trivial town.

 

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