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GA-20 + Big River

Friday 2nd February 2024

The Beaverwood, Chislehurst, Kent

Drawing inspiration from legendary artists such as Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters, bringing a fresh perspective to traditional Blues, Boston Massachusetts trio GA-20 delivered a soulful and authentic sound at Kent's The Beaverwood in Chislehurst on Friday night, paying homage to the genre's rich history.

Although the bonus ball of the evening was the welcome addition of Kent-based Blues Rock support band, Big River, influenced by the classic sounds of bands like Bad Company and Free, who we last saw (and interviewed) at Faversham's WRC award-winning A New Day Festival back in August 2022.

Formed in 2016, we first came across guitarist Damo Fawsett when he played with his band at our WRC BluesFest at Gravesend's Leo's Red Lion nearly ten years ago when headliner Aynsley Lister, The Mentulls Andrew Pipe and Damo, jammed together on a brilliant cover of Freddie King's 'I'm Tore Down'. Since then we've seen this band, also consisting of 'The Voice' finalist/ex-Mick Ralphs Blues Band vocalist, Adam Barron, drummer Joe Martin and bassist Simon Gardiner on the circuit numerous times, and despite tonight being their first gig of 2024, as expected they unleashed a storming 45 minute set.

Opening with their banger, 'Hometown Hustler', featuring the first solo from the cowboy-hatted Fawsett, Martin's drumming on his precariously placed kit on 'The Long Way', kept the momentum up, before Barron grabbed his mandolin, and kept his word "that this is rockier than you think" on 'Don't Hold Out' from their last EP. A deviation from the expected set list saw a great vocal from Adam on a cover of Chris Stapleton's 'Tennessee Whisky', with the quartet then upping the tempo on the Martin penned 'Why Should I', a mouthwatering taste of their new EP due out this Spring. It was then back to the title track of their last four-track EP, 'Beautiful Trauma', before closing out with 'Dancing With The Devil' and finally, their last soulful single, 'Wings', as Damo ended as he started, with a fabulous Bonamassa-like solo. Indeed, a flying start to the night's proceedings.

Must admit I had to do a double-take when I saw this gig advertised on this brilliant local venue's itinerary. GA-20 actually playing in my neck of the woods, given the battle I had last May seeing them during another rail strike at London's iconic The 100 Club? But boy was that worth it, and consequently, I've been going on a bit about this band for a long time now, to the extent that I was accompanied tonight by a few friends who wanted to see what all the fuss was about!

Named after the guitar amplifier manufactured by Gibson from 1950 to 1961, the band is based on the two guitars and drums line-up favoured by Hound Dog Taylor & The Houserockers, with Pat Flaherty (vocals) and Matthew Stubbs (a young veteran from Charlie Musselwhite’s band) channelling Hound Dog & Brewer Phillips, while drummer Tim Carman fulfils the rhythm role, much as Ted Harvey did for Hound Dog.

There was no standing on ceremony as the trio arrived on stage and launched straight into their 19-song set (yes - really) and the slide guitar of their foot-tapping standalone single 'No No', followed by a lovely cover of Lloyd Price's 'Just Because'. Taking turns to play bass lines under each other’s solos, Carman's drum intro on 'Double Gettin' morphed into him tub thumping with a maraca in his right hand, although Stubbs took the guitar solo honours on this occasion thanks to that amazing twang on his trusty Silvertone.

They followed this with another track from their 2022 album, 'Crackdown', as the shades wearing Flaherty, told the amusing story behind 'Dry Run', flirting with its Beach Boys-like vibe, before their marvellously entitled Hound Dog Taylor & The Houserockers cover of 'Give Me Back My Wig', saw a great vocal from the Afro haired/bushy bearded Pat reinforcing the lyrics to those follically challenged in the audience.

Indeed, this was irreverent Blues with an almost Punk twist, as they segued immediately into another timeless Hound Dog classic, 'She's Gone', and its amazing Cajun feel, before Matt and Tim left the stage to allow Pat to perform a wonderful RL Burnside acoustic cover that thoroughly deserved its "you could hear a pin drop" response from The Beaverwood faithful. Carman and Stubbs returned for the title track from their 2019 album 'Lonely Soul' with another outstanding guitar solo from the latter, before they returned to 'Crackdown' and 'I Let Someone In'.

Yet another from their Colemine Records chart topping third full-length record, the delightful opening/closing track, 'Fairweather Friend', was a stand out for mine when I saw them at The 100 Club, which was followed by a cover of 'I Don't Mind', including an awesome vocal and guitar solo from Flaherty, that would no doubt had James Brown & The Famous Flames feeling good. Stubbs masterclass solo on the unreleased 'Conniption' was also testament to some more great material in their locker, although the trio slowed things down again with a classic cover of Little Walter's 'My Baby Is Sweeter'.

Taken from their latest release, 'Live In Loveland', Pat's sublime Blues vocal on 'I Cry For You', was followed by the more up tempo 'Just One More Time', a Billy Gayles with Ike Turner's Kings Of Rhythm cover, with the dual guitar attack again to the fore plus a very impressive drum outro from Carman. However, the highlight of the evening for mine was yet another Hound Dog Taylor cover, 'Sitting At Home Alone'. Pure Chicago Blues, preceded by Stubbs' Charlie Musselwhite tale, the moral of the story being "If you don't like the blues, yer listening to the wrong shit”. Cue Flaherty removing his Carrera's and sitting on the edge of the stage with his guitar, before proceeding to walk amongst the delighted audience, and ending his amazing solo by standing on the top of The Beaverwood bar. Follow that!

Well follow that they did, with two more tracks from 'Crackdown', the rockin' 'Great Balls Of Fire' vibe of 'Be My Lonesome', plus the slower, 'Easy On The Eyes', with Pat's vocal and solo making it more like easy on the ears! An amazing evening's entertainment was rounded off with a final Hound Dog cover of 'Let's Get Funky' plus an encore that I didn't recognise (apologies).

Suffice to say that the merch line/queue afterwards was deservedly long and couldn't resist buying my copy of ... surprise, surprise ... 'GA20 Does Hound Dog Taylor - Try It... You Might Like It!', which I'm in no doubt that I will! Just a shame that they didn't have my size in the "If you don't like the blues, yer listening to the wrong shit” t-shirts! Already looking forward to collecting my XL next time, just don't leave it too long please!

AJ

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