Brixton Windmill, London
Oct 9th 2013
Louder Than War’s roving reporter braves the elements to bring us back this review of Jonny Cola And The A Grades live in London.
Well, I learnt two important things tonight; 1. I am no longer cut out to ride long distances on a motorcycle in appalling weather to a gig and 2. Jonny Cola and the A Grades were worth the effort. I secretly knew this, having had the pleasure of reviewing new album ‘Spitfire’ recently – still in the running for my ‘Album Of The Year’.
I was due to arrive at Brixton Windmill at 8pm to interview the band. I was half an hour late and very contrite at keeping them waiting, but they were gracious, candid and entertaining. Which pretty tidily sums up their performance tonight (interview coming soon).
Jonny and the A Grades had arranged the gig and line-up tonight to ensure that all bands on the bill would give the audience a good time. I normally ensure that I watch all bands on the bill, so I apologise for missing out tonight on the two support bands. Next time I’ll let the train take the strain.
Brixton Windmill is an odd, but quaint venue; halfway between a scout hut and a bar. Tiny, cramped and dark, with the stage tucked in one small corner, this was certainly an intimate night. The band had been concerned that, as an A Grades live virgin, I would miss some of their dynamic tonight due to guitarist Mauro Venegas’ absence with impending fatherhood. “You’ll need to come and see us again as a five piece”. I will, but I suspect they did him proud tonight.
They launch into album opener ‘In The Woods’, a real Glam-stomper which sets out their intentions perfectly. Jonny would be a star on any size stage, and I sincerely hope that in the coming year they reach bigger audiences.
‘Blow Up’ follows, with the lascivious “don’t talk with your mouth full” refrain. The band said that Mauro supplies the riffs and the pouts, and I can imagine that this would be a stand out track for him. However, guitarist / producer Jez Leather pulls out all the stops tonight to flesh out the sound and does a sterling job.
‘Tropical Beach’ takes us into Pulp territory. Quirky, catchy and full of lust, it is irresistible and the select audience seem to agree. Jonny drops to his knees, writhes between Jez and bassist Simon Drowner, and I can momentarily imagine what it must have felt like to witness Bowie and Ronno for the first time in 1972. Of course it’s all been done before, but that’s not the point! It is, as you know, rarely done well. When it is, it’s worth the trip.
We get ‘Going Over’ and the gorgeous, older EP track ‘Halo’. The audience know the words and Jonny targets the front row individually with the mic.
All too soon it’s time to head back to reality, but not before ‘The Party’s Over’ and ‘Ripples’ send us home with something special. Jonny’s been checking his phone at intervals for any news from Mauro. The text comes at 22.15; ‘it’s a boy!’ A perfect end to an intimate gig. Congratulations. I will definitely be back to see the full line-up in all its glory but I won’t forget tonight. It even made the hellish ride home worthwhile. Magic.
All words by Martin Haslam. More work by Martin can be found in his Louder Than War author’s archive.