“People were going nuts. At the end there was a huge stage invasion with about a hundred people on stage.”
The Thunderbolt’s New Years Eve do sees the return this year of the 45s, one of bristols most fabulous combos. Billed as ‘a cover band for people who don’t like cover bands’, they play the classics but not how you’d expect. I spoke to them to find out more.
“We don’t play them in the same way they were done originally. We play some Chuck Berry, James Brown, Stax and Rare Soul and some of the songs are quite obscure – ‘classic’ tracks that not many people will know. We put our own slant on them, our own style. We want to be unique.” Bassist Jimmy Curry adds, “our sound is big, riff-based, a massive wall of noise,” which creates a huge, cohesive sound, with plenty of great melodies. Of the current tunes the band are playing, Jimmy’s favourite is their version of Shout: “more like the original Isley Brothers’ version, more gospel than Lulu.”
Each member of this Bristol three-piece has their fingers in many pies. There’s Bobby’s Fortune Drive, Drummer Des also plays with Doreen Doreen, top soul act Big Boss Man and does sets with DJ Benny Blanco. Their best gig so far was this year, Jimmy says, at Glastonbury Festival. “People were going nuts. At the end there was a huge stage invasion with about a hundred people on stage.” There was a downside though, “we weren’t allowed to wear our wellies on stage – they were too muddy”. Other festival highlights this year include Grillstock – “we met De La Soul afterwards” – ValleyFest, and a couple of little Bristol street festivals. This year they have played in Bristol “a lot”, but all around Britain and Ireland as well. They’ve also spent a lot of time in Europe, including a week-long residency at a hotel in Zermatt, Switzerland, right below the Matterhorn, “the mountain on the Toblerone packet.” While in the Alps, they also played the French towns of Chamonix, Meribel, Macot La Plagne and Tigne. Further afield, there’ve been gigs in Helsinki, and in Austin, Texas.
“Austin band the Heartless Bastards toured the UK, and on a night off saw us play. They invited us over.” The 45s’ short four-night tour in Austin included two nights playing at the famous Continental Club, with owner Steve Wertheimer “giving us loads of good feedback.”
The lads have got themselves into a few scrapes since the band’s been together. This one’s from their Chamonix trip: “We were there in February. A river runs through the alpine town with electrical cables running along the top of the bank. We were walking back from a gig, at about 2am, when Bobby decided to hang off the cables. He slipped and went into the freezing water. Des had to dangle me down so I could pull Bobby out. But we always get out alive… just.”
Dave MacDonald, landlord of The Thunderbolt in Totterdown, is a big fan of the 45s. “They are class musicians, world class, these guys have it all,” Dave says. Plans for 2017 include a return trip to the Alps in January, hopefully a live session with Radio Bristol’s Simon Buschenfeld, and “we’ve started to write our own original stuff.”
There’s no doubt this work-hard, play-hard band will be producing great music next year and beyond, and that their live gigs will continue to be legendary. Whether they’re reworking classics or creating new ones – make 2017 the year you get to see them play.
The 45s play The Thunderbolt for NYE 2016, limited tickets still available here.