Bluesbunny arrived in Bowness on Windermere in the heart of the picturesque Lake District only to find it grey, overcast and with incessant showers. Picturesque or not, scenery and rain just don't mix. There was only one thing for it. Check into the hotel, get to the venue and settle in for the evening's entertainment. And perhaps sample a few of the bartender's fine ales, and being in Cumbria no doubt some of the local Jennings Brewery beverages would be on offer. Comfortably ensconced, and thirst being quenched, Bluesbunny waited patiently for the first show of the CMEAS Spring Tour to get underway.
Minneapolis trio Brother Big Bad is first up. And as the jet lag wears of and the adrenalin kicks in they are quickly right in the groove. Bassist Andy Carroll is providing some chunky bass lines, which coupled with Marc Bohn's precision drumming, creates a sound that seems to reverberate of the walls and ceiling so much that you can almost touch it. DJ Phillips gives a superb rendition of the Ben Folds Five song "Tom and Mary", followed by Andy taking over the lead vocals and doing likewise on "Heartland", while "Birmingham" sees DJ multitask by adding harmonica to his guitar and vocals.
We finish on a real high with "Daughter of a Debutainte" (another from their new album "These Are The Things You Already Know"), a storming blues influenced number complete with some fine slide guitar. The band have given us a set off highly infectious and catchy, yet often intricate songs. In some ways they come across as a sort of modern day Kinks. The audience is happy, the band look pleased, the guitarist declares he is off to the toilet - just a bit too much information there DJ!
Next is Canadian Ebony Tay. Her first two numbers, "Fump" (a tribute to the great jazz musicians of Harlem) and "Cry Woman", are performed solo with just an acoustic guitar as backing to her deeply soulful voice. For the next song she switches to electric guitar, and also borrows Fluttr Effect's talented guitarist Troy Kidwell to add a further layer of sound for "Ghetto Soul" from her "Stories of the Firehorse" EP. Ebony's songs feature some sharp social commentary delivered to seriously funky rhythms - honestly, it's like listening to Curtis Mayfield in female form.
The set comes to a close with a cover of Bill Wither's "Ain't No Sunshine", and this time she borrows an entire band in the shape of Transport to provide the backing for an excellent interpretation of the song. Sadly however we do have to highlight one major fault in her performance - it just didn't last long enough. With solo, duet and band performances in one night she is clearly versatile, and she's not short of skills in the guitar department either. Furthermore she knows how to funk good and hard. Speaking personally, that's a quality I've always admired in a woman!
We've reached the halfway stage, and after their brief stint in a supporting role it's now Transport's turn to move front and centre. The second three-piece of the night consists of Keir Nuttall on guitar and vocals, Scott Saunders on bass and Steve Pope on drums. As they introduce the opening number the ever alert audience detect an accent that indicate they come from a bit further south - Brisbane, Australia to be precise. It quickly becomes clear that this is a band who believes that that music should be loud, energetic and fun and they are performing accordingly, with "Sunday Drivers" being a case in point.
Other highlights were a particularly vigorous version of Run DMC's "Walk This Way" (far superior to the abomination inflicted upon us under the auspices of Comic Relief by Girls Aloud and Sugababes), and the intriguingly titled "Number 85" which turns out to be about monkeys in space, well the 85th one to be specific. They close with "The People Have Spoken", the outstanding track from their first full length release "The Inner Chimp" and the perfect finish to good evening's work.
Finally it's Boston's Fluttr Effect. As before we have a guitarist (Troy Kidwell) and a drummer (Jason Marchionna), however no sign of a bass player. Instead three babes appear - seems a fair exchange! However, unlike the current trend in female trios this threesome are not there just for decorative purposes. Valerie Thompson plays a mean cello (bet that's a phrase you never thought you'd hear); Kara Trott is the possessor of a wonderful and mesmeric voice, and Vessela Stoyanova is busily assembling something that looks like an oversized stylophone.
Its turns out I'm mistaken and it's not a giant stylophone. It's actually an electric marimba (a sort of cousin of the xylophone apparently). And after the opening song "Transmission" it soon becomes obvious that Vessela knows what she is doing with it. This is a band that should definitely be savoured live. They play with an intensity and energy that creates a dense, resonating wall of sound that hits you head on. The audience certainly loved it and persuades them to return for an encore. Valerie 'threatens' a cello solo before the whole band launches into "Say Goodbye" to bring the evening to a climactic and thunderous close.
So, how would I sum up the night? Well, four great acts, from three countries, across two continents have led to one very happy Bluesbunny. An evening, and early morning, well spent.