*Birmingham Review caught up with Table Scraps just before the doors opened. To watch our interview with the band click here, or on the YouTube window at the end of this BREVIEW*
There are more qualified people here tonight, than I. As the evening rolls out conversations about blues, rock, blues rock, punk, rockabilly and the hangover of Ozzy Osbourne (figuratively), I stand on the periphery looking in. My extensive knowledge of the Tori Amos back catalogue won’t help me here.
Luckily, I have Damien Russell: drinking companion, back up wordsmith and the Cyrano de Bergerac of American blues and pan Atlantic punk. All the informed references come from him. The visceral reactions (which you could argue are just as punk as punk) and tired metaphors, they come from me.
A packed room cut in half, the Hare & Hounds Venue 2 (minus the back bar..?) is comfortably crowded as Black Mekon take the stage – and I mean take, jumping more than any men in matching jackets and Kato masks may have ever jumped before. A searing harmonica cuts over a steady, kick, drum… in a barrage of twisted blues. Strings break, shoulder straps break, speaker stacks hiss; the bouncing boy to my left is told politely “…ok, ok.” Reds, greens and dry ice take us into a double jab at “the welfare state” as short blast songs punch their way around an eagerly complicit crowd. “You’ve got to understand, Black Mekon can’t die.” The room continues to fill.
As Round One comes to a close we make a short trip through doors not meant for us, past a cigarette, then into a curiously quiet downstairs bar; maybe amphetamine is making a comeback. “Do you get the feeling if Nick Cage was to start a punk band…” offers Damien, as I write down perhaps the only intelligent part of my summary.
Some more conversations about Americana, blues and the relevance of territory and skin colour, then back up stairs for Round Two – or Table Scraps, as the bill poster presents them. I feel somewhat more confident as I do know some, not all, but enough Table Scraps songs to confidently chip in from this point, and no one is in this room by mistake. But I have ears, the Internet and not just red headed piano players in my iTunes account. And like all artificial intelligence, I too can learn.
But when the immediately faster tempo throws itself on our mercy, or perhaps the other way around, I don’t really care. See, I used an adverb, that’s how reckless I’ve become. Table Scraps on record sound gloriously DIY, but live there an added sheen. I heard ‘Motorcycle’ in the soundcheck (one of my repeated Table Scraps endevours, if not only for the lyrics) and had been “surprised at how clean the sound was”. But being neither musician nor sound engineer, this was the first of my potentially garrulous assumptions.
On stage, tonight, hidden by a sea of frenetic heads, Table Scraps sound raw, low, deep, punchy and all the other adjectives a fucking rock band should be. Or punk, or whatever the appropriate genre moniker may be here (please refer to line one). By the time ‘Electricity’ is basking in a frenetic but tight guitar solo, I’m fully on board. This is fun.
The song of the hour is up next, ‘My Obsession’, as the Table Scraps half of the latest 45 Consortium 7” gets drop kicked off stage; fierce and threatening, in a good way, like some clever simile involving Christian Slater and a Magnum .44. Then an elongated misstep proves DIY is still DIY, and a well natured “…fucking drummers man,” from Scott Abbott take us into a track the set list calls ‘Teeth’. God bless garage rock, a repeated chorus and ‘belched out’ harmonies – it’s good to see something so tight yet so confident, even in its fuck ups. It makes me like them more.
The addition of Tim Mobbs seems to have helped bolster the bolshy two piece into a more well rounded trio, with the band themselves citing the added freedom they now enjoy – on stage and in the logistic that get them there. Mobbs also has a Theremin, which he plays sporadically (is there any other way..?) by using the head of his bass guitar. It adds some extra colour and twist, no pun intended, and for some reason makes me think of the child’s chemistry set I used to own. No idea why, but warm and fuzzy is the end result.
There are moments in the rest of the set where the rapid punches move to more obvious body blows, as elements of grunge and stadium rock wrestle each other on stage. And there is some similarity to a band whose name suggests a violent approach to large seeded fruit… But the tag team vocals and unashamed solos bring a fresh edge. It is perhaps also worth pointing out that being 5ft 7” on a good day I can’t see much of what’s going on at the front of the room; I write and record this evening relying on my more audible senses.
“You know this one…” yells Abbot, before ‘Motorcycle’ stands as the penultimate track of the night – with no pretence of an encore strutting itself to the wings and back. It’s a big sound to get right in a small room, but Table Scraps have delivered their set with aplomb and I am itching with something to see them on a large outdoor stage. Roll on September 16th.
But for now it’s back downstairs for more cider, by-partisan backslapping and reference points I will have to note down and research. Now what exactly is a ‘Black, Flag..?’
INTERVIEW: Table Scraps @ Hare & Hounds – 27.04.17
For more on Black Mekon, visit www.blackmekon.com
For more from the Hare & Hounds (Kings Heath), including full event listing and online ticket sales, visit www.hareandhoundskingsheath.co.uk