Tarantism turn Le Pub into Funkytown for Radical Wales crew.
First off, a ‘declaration of interest’. We actually promoted this gig. You could argue that makes this review biased – but just ask anyone who attended if you want a second opinion.
Tarantism have been a vital part of the Peppermint Iguana story, our paths first crossing more than two decades ago. There have been gigs, interviews and countless hours generally sitting around at festivals chilling.
The full Tarantism experience involves getting musicians from all over the country together, so for the last few years Mel and Magnus have had a sideline in doing an acoustic folk disco set. Yes, we know, but it does work, honestly.
Rewind to August 2016. It’s the Green Gathering festival near Chepstow. Peppermint Iguana has now embeded itself with the Campaigns Area of the festival. It’s the corner of the festival where radical politics kicks in; where you can learn the history of the Spanish Revolution, learn how to blockade a nuclear weapons factory or learn how to make vegan cheese. Its pretty varied.
In the night all the education, agitation and organising is put to one side and hair is let down. We have an open mic stage with a solar powered PA and a crew full of the most down to earth creative people you will find anywhere.
In 2016 we let Mel and Magnus have a go. Jaws dropped, arms were thrown aloft and seventies style disco shapes were thrown.
Our already strong bond with Tarantism took on a new dimension. We have been constantly looking for excuses to work with them ever since.
So when we decided to put on a Green Gathering Campaigns fund raver, the Tarantism Folk Disco was top of our list.
But…… they weren’t the only ones on our list.
The last time we did this we had seventeen bands on the bill and room was full just with all the musicians. This time around we persuaded Tom to restrain himself and we stuck with just the two ‘support’ acts. I say ‘support’ but Tracey Curtis and Efa Supertramp are more than capable of headlining their own shows.
First on was Tracey Curtis. Going on first can be daunting, especially when the bar is in s different room to the gig, but it didn’t take long for the room to start filling up once Tracey had strummed her guitar and filled the room with her beautiful dulcet tones.
Tracey often gets invited to play folk clubs and the like but, as she points out mid set, she doesn’t really consider herself to be a folk artist. She doesn’t sing about old oak trees or canals, she sings about the perils of war and fighting fascism – amongst other things. Songs with a social conscience rooted in the working class community she was brought up in.
A Tracey Curtis gig is not a rock and roll event. It is an intimate little chat with someone with interesting tales to tell. Hence the number of people sat on the floor hanging on her every word, spoken or sung.
And there is a lot of chat between songs, in the way that, erm, folk singers do. There is talk of research for a song about shell shock, about the life of teenagers growing up in Basingstoke and curses. Yes, curses. As well as CDs Tracey has her own book of curses to cast upon thine enemies, or people who have pissed you off. (And on the night she sells more curses than CDs. Go figure).
After finishing her set with an uptempo tune about fighting fascism she is caught off guard by demands for an encore. Rather than follow it with a down tempo number she gets everyone to stamp their feet and clap their hands ‘We will rock you’, style for a number about patriotism.
The room then empties for empty glasses to be refilled before the one person music industry that is Efa Supertramp hits the stage.
This is Efa’s second gig of the day, having already done a matinee over the water in an anarchist social centre in Brizzle. That’s the way she rolls, supporting grassroots causes and ‘sticking it to the man’, wherever she can. Chipping away at the edges of the system.
‘All my friends are freedom fighters’ sums up this path she is on and many of her songs are either protest songs or positive solution songs, but an Efa gig still manages to be a fun experience with lots of laughs and plenty of love.
By the time she has finished the rapidly growing crowd is well warmed up and ready to be taken to a boogie wonderland.
Within the first few chords of ‘Just B Good to me’ the bar empties and the dancefloor fills up again. No room for sitting on the floor this time, or even standing around cheering – it’s strictly disco.
I stand at the back for a while, watching the look of surprise and joy on the faces of those that have not witnessed this before – friends looking at eachother with the expressions that say ‘WTF’ without the need for words.
‘I’m Coming Out’, ‘Lost in Music’ and ‘I Feel Love’ are just a few examples of how Mel can carry off a tune the best of them would struggle with. ‘Voodoo People’, ‘Outta Space’ and ‘Red Alert’, show the genius of Magnus and the magic he can weave whilst playing drums and guitar at the same time.
The set ends, appropriately, with ‘We are Family’, which takes on a whole new meaning with the gathered festival clan revelling in this mid winter gathering.
After the shortest of breaks they finally take us to ‘Funkytown’ for an encore that leaves the crowd baying for more. But all good things must come to an end.
If you want more, maybe, just maybe, you might be able to catch them on the Radical Wales open mic at the Green Gathering. And that alone will be worth the ticket price.