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Thursday 17th November 2022

The Garage, Highbury, London

When both Wrinkly Rockers HQ and your gig buddy both ask if you’d like to go to see an up-and-coming Blues Rock band on a Thursday evening in November, how can you do anything but head on up to Islington and pop into The Garage to check out GA-20, a traditionalist revival Blues band from eastern USA playing Chicago style Blues?

Highbury is my family’s ancestral home and I have been known to visit the neighbourhood for another social activity - watching some guys dressed in red and white running around after a ball on a Saturday afternoon, so rolling out of Highbury and Islington tube station, it would be rude not to follow tradition and pop into The Famous Cock for a quickie! No football tonight however, (although some hints that a World Cup is about to kick off with flags of the world decorating the pub) and I swap the red of Arsenal for some Blues instead. We quickly cross over the A1 to sample some American culture.

GA-20 have just released their third album, ‘Crackdown’, which has an old school feel to me, with echo verb on the vocals and a smooth sound that reminds me of an American movie set in a 1950s small town, with a soda bar and open top Cadillacs and 58 Buicks cruising up and down Main Street! The music is an intersection of traditional Blues, Country and Rock ’n’ Roll - something very much seen as ‘cool man’! The unvarnished ramshackle Blues is a bit more driven live with some impressive slide licks thrown in.

This is the band’s second time in the UK and the support for this type of Blues is clearly increasing both here and in Europe where the tour rolls on after London. The set list is heavy on the new album material, which is expected, but I still get the feel of a Blues jam with the audience participating, jamming along with the band, especially towards the climax of the gig.

The band consists of Matt Stubbs on guitar who holds conversations with the crowd explaining the history of the songs, reliving band anecdotes and encouraging purchases from the ‘superstore’ merch stall at the back - all with his distinctive American drool. He explains the evolution of the traditional Blues revival and the band’s new catch phrase:

“If you don’t like the Blues, you’re listening to the wrong shit!”

Lead singer and guitarist Pat Faherty with his dark sunglasses, beard and bush of black curly hair, looks like he has just got back from Woodstock! His authentic 60s look is just oozing cool man! There is no bass in the band, which did surprise me initially, but I didn’t really notice, as between them the bass lines are covered by the bottom guitar string, when necessary.

Drumming and percussion is the task of Tim Carman - and I always think a Blues drummer has to be a bit better than the average Rock drummer in order to work with the rhythm and flexibility of a jam, and Tim admirably keeps the band together in perfect harmony.

By the end of the gig the crowd are jigging and dancing away as the encore breaks down into more of a jam session, which has universal approval. Traditional Chicago Blues is alive and well in North London, so, what is Paul, my gig buddy’s verdict? He seems to approve as you get to “Feel good for fifteen quid!” And with this cost of living crunch you can’t get much better than that!

Set list:

Just Because
Double Gettin’
Dry Run
Give Me Back My Wig
She’s Gone
It Hurts Me Too
Lonely Soul
I Let Someone In
One Night Man
Hold It One More Time
Sittin’ At Home Alone
Fairweather Friend
Easy On The Eyes
By My Lonesome
Let’s Get Funk


No Teasin’ Around
Shake Your Money Maker

Chris Bourlet

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