THE RUMJACKS + MATILDA’S SCOUNDRELS – THE CON CLUB, LEWES 27.01.19
Another trip to The Con Club beckoned on a cold January night in hope that my cockles would be warmed by some hearty folk music. Having witnessed The Pogues on numerous occasions over their 27 year career, I found that this type of gig was best taken with a tipple, but tonight was set to be a whole new experience as I had driven 30 miles and shandy was sadly the only drink on my menu.
First up were support act Matilda’s Scoundrels who hail from just along the south coast in Hastings, where they are extremely popular on the local circuit. Having released their first album, ‘As The Tide Turns’ in September 2017, they have gone from strength to strength, and more recently they have ventured further afield as their popularity has increased.
They are now making regular appearances on the Festival circuit having played at Rebellion, Boomtown, Beautiful Days and Mighty Sounds, they are playing Bearded Theory in May this year amongst others. They have also supported The Levellers.
I have seen them a few times in their 5 years and they guarantee to entertain having built a reputation for rowdy shows with an air of fun and crowd participation. A perfect example of this is when they play crowd favourite ‘Sinking In Their Sins’. If any of you old punks may have inadvertently ventured into a Discotheque back in 1979 and wondered what on earth was going on when ‘Oops Upside Your Head’ would come on the sound system, then attending a Scoundrels gig is your opportunity to find out without having to be embarrassed. The rowing boat is a good workout and a welcome break from the mosh pit, though a hoist should be provided for the older audience members to get them back upon their feet. I have previously participated in said dance-floor exertion, but tonight was an exclusively female rowing boat and they did the band proud. You are unlikely to experience anything like this at any other gig.
My personal favourite on tonight’s setlist was the lyrically astute ‘Bow To The Powers’. Politicians should stand up and take notice. A cracking song.
Musically the band have matured, but to me their appeal is that they are still rough around the edges, the rasping vocals and their stage presence which make them such an entertaining live act. Also there are no signs of a sell-out.
Matilda’s Scoundrels are: Quinn (vocals and mandolin), Jason (vocals, banjo acoustic guitar and tin whistle), Jens (accordion), Jon (drums), James (bass guitar), Dan (guitar).
Watch out for them headlining at The Cowley Club in Brighton on Saturday, February 16th where you can catch their full set. You won’t be disappointed, so long as their red LDV tour van makes it back from Edinburgh!
More on the band HERE.
So onto the main offering for the night. The Rumjacks hail from Sydney, Australia and have been around for approaching 11 years, but this was to be the first time I had seen them. Hopefully they would make my considerably shorter journey worthwhile, though apparently they seem quite settled in England for now.
They released their debut album ‘Gangs Of New Holland’ (Laughing Outlaw/Inertia) in September 2010 to critical acclaim and most recently released their 4th album ‘Saints Preserve Us’ last year, so there was a large back catalogue for them to choose from for tonight’s setlist. On Ranker where you, the music loving public, get to vote for your favourite bands, The Rumjacks are at number 5 in The Celtic Punk section, which goes to show how well respected they are in this genre of music.
They have performed their brand of Rotgut ‘n Roll on the main stage at The Woodstock Festival in Poland in front of an estimated 400,000 people, supported The Dropkick Murphys and Gorgol Bordello, now it was the turn to play in front of approximately 150 people at The Con Club in Lewes. It had only been 5 months since they last played in Lewes and had obviously enjoyed it so much for them to return so soon afterwards. Given their tireless love for gigging they know what gets the crowd going and we would surely be in for a treat. As a result it is virtually impossible to pick highlights from a set which was full of so many up-tempo songs, rarely stopping for a breather apart from when they played ‘The Bold Rumjacker’.
They were often at their best when the tin whistle made an appearance particularly on ‘A Fistful O’ Roses’ and ‘Irish Pub Song’. ‘My Time Again’ involved some audience participation with one male crowd member assisting Frankie on vocals. ‘Fact’ry Jack’ was very well received and prompted a shout of “very good” from a scoundrel in the audience to much amusement of everyone else. The lead singer responded by saying that if he had heard that more at school then he probably wouldn’t be in a band. On this occasion we should thankful that the Australian education system failed little Frankie, though you could almost be excused for thinking that he is Irish with his vocals on most songs.
Key to the performance is the versatility of Adam Kenny flitting between the mandolin, banjo and bouzouki, adding a real folk sound to the punk style. Johnny McKelvey looks mean on the exterior but enjoyed interacting with the crowd in good humour even though they were pressed for time.
Even with the many original songs that are penned by The Rumjacks a personal highlight of the night for me was their cover of ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’ which brought back childhood memories of listening to my parents play the much more mellow version by Scottish folk duo The Corries. The Rumjacks play this with much gusto but it doesn’t take away from it being a lovely song. I note that Ed Sheeran has also covered this song but it’s safe to say that I have not seen that version performed live.
In summation It’s fair to say that The Rumjacks are accomplished musicians and are indeed a ‘very good’ live act, and I can say that as a rare sober member of the audience.
The Rumjacks are: Frankie McLaughlin (vocals, tin whistle, war drum), Johnny McKelvey (bass, vocals), Gabriel Whitbourne (guitar, vocals), Adam Kenny (mandolin, banjo, bouzouki), Pietro ‘Petrol Bomb’ (drums).
More on the band HERE.