HENRY’S FUNERAL SHOE: Live @ Jacs, Abderdare (21/12/19)

Henry’s Funeral Shoe and friends rock Jacs in Aberdare. A local band, for local people, in a local pub.

There are more decent live music venues in one street in Cardiff than there are in the whole of the south wales valleys. But there are a few treats to be had. The jewel in the Cynon Valley crown is Jacs in Aberdare.

Whilst three gigs in three nights is not out of the ordinary, being able to drink at three gigs in three nights is something of a rarity for me these days. So far we have had a gig in Clwb Ifor Bach which finished early enough for me to get the train home and staying in a cheap hotel in Newport following a gg in Le Pub. Tonight I have the luxury of a mate driving to Aberdare – so the cider gets a hammering third night on the trot.

We arrive at Jacs early enough to stake out ourselves some seats, and get plotted up right opposite the stage. We also discover an unexpected surprise. The third on the bill band have pulled out and been replaced by an Iguana favourite, The Heavy Flames.

The Flames are Aberdare lads and play a variety of blues rock that was common place at one time but these days stands out as refreshingly different. Booty shakin’ rhythm ‘n blues with sharp guitar licks and harmonica laid over the top. They lay down an original set, showcasing many of the tracks on the debut album released a few weeks ago. For an encore though they play Black Sabbath’s Wizard Warning. Slipping a metal track into a blues set might sound odd, but with the harmonica it makes perfect sense and they make the number all their own.

Heavy Flames, flaming and heavy

The decision to arrive early has proven to be a good one.

WAGER are up next. Something of a super group, with members of Attack Attack!, Pete’s Sake, EnGarde, portraits and Mook being brought together. It is one of their first gigs together but the experience from their other outfits shine through as they get the slowly filling venue up and dancing.

WAGER – you bet!

I vaguely recall some ‘Christmas trifle shots’ supplementing the ciders before the main attraction, Ystrad Mynach’s Henry’s Funeral Shoe. Shots of something vaguely alcoholic with squirty cream on top.

After two awesome albums that have brought them close to a major breakthrough and seen them tour Europe, become Charlie Sheen’s favourite band and their music used on TV adverts and in movies – you couldn’t blame Henry’s Funeral Shoe if they simply rested on their laurels. But that’s not how the brother’s Clifford do things.

Their third album Smart Phone Rabbit Hole, amazingly sees the band go up a gear and easily matches their previous releases. For the first time the core of guitar and drums are supplemented by the addition of guest musicians throughout the album, giving an added depth to the sound.

Will that depth be lost when they play live without the additional musicians? No, of course not. These guys have been creating a wall of sound with just guitar and drums for a long time now and know exactly what they are doing.

Henry’s Funeral Shoe giving it welly

Old numbers like Dog Scratched Ear, Janice the Striper and Don’t let your Heart get Heavy, sit comfortably alongside newer material like Quick as a Hiccup, High Shoulders Everywhere and the album title, Smartphone Rabbit Hole.

The Shoe’s brand of delta blues would get a crowd rocking on a wet Wednesday afternoon in Llandrindod Wells, so a Saturday Night before Christmas in the Cynon Valley’s top live music venue is a recipe for some serious letting down of hair. Inhibitions are cast aside, strange concoctions are downed and shapes are thrown. Rock and roll at its down to earth rootsy best.

Santa will have to be on top form, he has a tough act to follow.