Every Band Should Have A Brass Quartet

Posted on October 24, 2010


Southside Johnny on-stage at the Shepherd's Bush Empire, London

This week I fulfilled a promise to my Dad. For his birthday he asked my brother and I to go to a gig with him. A small favour you might think – but given his music taste I dreaded it. (He once thought he was into ‘Acid House’ music because he owned a dance compilation cd)

Southside Johnny is the name of the band, formed in the mid-70’s – they have a sound somewhere between Bruce Springsteen and Kiss. It is fair to say that at 23 I was less than half the age of the band members and most of the crowd – but I was pleasantly surprised to find myself enjoying the music.

Their musical line-up was impressively large, including 2 guitarists, 1 bassist, 1 drummer, 1 keyboard/vocals, 2 saxophonists, 1 trombonist, 1 trumpeter and Southside Johnny himself on vocals.

The charismatic and temperamental front man sang himself hoarse, conducted the orchestra of a band, who somehow managed to keep up with his relentless orders, and kept control of the chaotic set – often choosing the next song on a whim and demanding his band immediately start.

This was a very different approach from the package wrapped performances from modern bands I have grown up watching – choreographed and rehearsed leaving nothing to chance.

The brass instrumentalists take centre stage

The beautiful spectacle of watching true musicians working seamlessly together on-stage made up for the fact that obviously Southside is past his best singing years.

There is something special about brass instruments played well that forces you to smile. Combine a bass sax with an Amish outfit and you have a man born to entertain. The resonance of the sounds seeped into my lungs as I stood with my Dad not far from the stage.

‘Every band would be ten times better with brass instruments’ was the realisation induced by that evening. Southside often called to the band members to take centre stage to play an improv’ solo mid-song to rapturous applause.

The venue is one I love too. Shepherd’s Bush Empire is grand in design – being an old theatre house – and provides an intimate atmosphere normally reserved for the pits and holes of the ‘underground’ music scene.

As enjoyable as the music and performance was, the highlight of the evening for me was the spectacle of two 50something year old male city-types in suits pissed as farts manically dancing just behind us. Had my brother and I not been there I have no doubt my Dad would have joined in.

Posted in: The Odd Box