I hadn’t been to The Boom Boom Club for a few months. Although I like it there, I don’t live that close, so it has to be an exceptional artist that brings me along! So when I heard that promoter PETE FEENSTRA had booked the great bluesman COCO MONTOYA (who I’d never seen live before), I had no hesitation in getting a place booked (via cousin Charlie who lives nearby). To add icing to the cake LAURENCE JONES was to be the support act – had to be a winner of a gig!
Charlie and I arrived early and found ourselves a place at the front of the stage; eagerly awaiting the show. Support act Laurence Jones was soon climbing unpretentiously on stage, and launched into ‘Can’t Keep Living Like This’ from his new album “Temptation”. It was a whirlwind start to a breath-taking set of exceptionally good music from a young guitarist, who music writer NIGEL FOSTER describes as ‘the future of British blues-rock’, and I think that’s a fair comment. Its quite a compliment considering he’s up against the likes of: DAVY KNOWLES; OLI BROWN; and VIRGIL McMAHON.
Now I last saw Jones at this same venue almost exactly a year ago, supporting the veteran bluesman WALTER TROUT (who as I write is unfortunately seriously ill back in the USA – and no doubt all blues fans are praying for him). I remember being impressed at the time by this young lad; but what a difference that year has made! He is noticeably far more confident than he was last May; and his chops are greatly improved – his Strat’s fret-board was his, to be used as gently or as roughly as he saw fit – with equal precision. It was a nice touch when he dedicated the title track ‘Temptation’ to Trout, his hero, who guests on the new album; and I must say, he did the old master proud. Another highlight for me was his version of Hendrix’s ‘All Along The Watchtower’. This is often covered, of course, but Jones didn’t slavishly stick to the Hendrix format; rather making it his own, with a lengthy but interesting solo that show-cased his considerable skills. And a bloody good job he made of it too! I also liked ‘Fall From The Sky’ a lot; and ‘Soul Swamp River’ which he sang (partly) without a mic at the front of the stage.
Mention must be made of Jones’ excellent band too. I think these are a different bassist and drummer to those I remember from a year ago. Finnish drummer MIRI MIETTINEN was a reliable powerhouse at the back of the stage; and ROGER INNISS was exceptional with his monstrous 6-string bass, the size of a scaffold-board! But, Christ, could he play it!
I spoke briefly to LJ after the show, and found him to be a very nice bloke – modest and affable. Now that the tour with Montoya is finished, he tells me he’s off to the RORY GALLAGHER FESTIVAL in Ballyshannon, Ireland; along with another old veteran favourite of mine, BERNIE MARSDEN. With the company he keeps this boy is going far! I notice he’s back for a gig at THE NEW CRAWDADDY CLUB here in Essex in June – that’s one for the diary. (Just realised, its only a couple of weeks away!) Anyway, good luck to you, LJ!
Half-time was unusual: normally the intervals at gigs are filled with beer and music blah blah (and fair enough too!); but after Pete Feenstra had finished plugging the next two gigs over this Bank Holiday weekend, Nigel Foster got up on stage to present him with a special award for all the hard work he’d done in promoting all sorts of music acts over the years. It was well deserved, and Nigel summed it up excellently with some very well-chosen words. Charlie and I also got talking to the photographer JENNIFER NOBLE of BLUES MATTERS magazine and her husband. She is a big blues fan; very knowledgeable; and quite a character.
Now for the main event. I’d been waiting a long time to see Coco. In my mind I always lump Montoya, Trout and BUDDY WHITTINGTON together – all big American bluesmen from the prolific JOHN MAYALL’S BLUESBREAKERS stable. I’ve seen Trout and Whittington several times (and my son James and I have had the honour of meeting them both too. Unfortunately James couldn’t make it tonight), but I’ve been waiting for Montoya for years; having never seen him live. Tonight was to complete the trinity.
Coco Montoya and his band; consisting of Nate Brown on bass; Brant Leeper on keyboards; and Rene Beevers on drums; took to the stage to great applause. Brandishing a brilliant blue left-handed Strat, fitted with a right-handed neck; the big bluesman kicked off his set with ‘Wish I Could Be that Strong’. It was a great opener, and was quickly followed by ‘Hey Seniorita’, with its latin feel. Various favourites followed, including: ‘Too Much Water Under The Bridge’; the funky ‘Don’t Go Makin’ Plans’; and finishing with ‘Three Sides To Every Story’.
Coco’s repertoire is a blend of various well-known bluesy vibes – both traditional and modern in style; yet all of it with Coco’s personal stamp of genius at its core. The influence of his original mentor, the late great ALBERT COLLINS, is manifest; and the tutorship of JOHN MAYALL is apparent; but his feeling and understanding of the blues obviously comes from deep down inside. Jennifer Noble summed it up succinctly to me half-way through the set: ‘Now THAT’S the blues!’ she said.
I met Coco after the show and had a brief chat with him. We talked about his blue lefty Strat; and about flying back to the USA next day. He is like many great musicians: modest and approachable; and has a genuine love of, and gratitude towards his fans. He told me he’s not going to leave it so long this time before returning to the UK for another tour – let’s hope he means it as I think everyone there would be up for another Coco gig ASAP! Thanks Coco – it was a fantastic night!
A final word should also be said about the hard-working bar staff at the Boom Boom Club – you never have to wait long for a pint, and you are always served with a pretty smile – A BIG THANK YOU LADIES!
Here is a vid of Coco in action at this very gig…..
May the Blues be with you! Phil The Music Quill