Masterminded by Tom Waters, former double-bassist with Psychobilly maestros the Zipheads, this punk all-dayer held at the Horn in St. Albans was held in order to raise funds for a wonderful charity called Electric Umbrella. The charity works with adults with learning difficulties, providing them with therapy through the medium of music.
As I walked through the door, I was greeted by the extraordinary dulcet-tones of Sinead Quinn singing You Are My Sunshine – this was a really heart-warming moment with the microphone being passed to her seven year old daughter, Emerald, who sang quite beautifully. This in a small way encapsulated the inclusiveness of the day’s event. The front bar reverberated to the wonderful sounds of Billington and Quinn, who were on the buskers stage. It was a mere dozen or so paces to the back room, where full bands played on a second stage in alternating sets ensuring nonstop music.
Kicking off the afternoon’s proceedings were The Rockit Pack, a sort of punk party band with a singer who was not unlike John Shuttleworth. Beginning their set with The Blues Brothers’ Everybody Needs Somebody,t hey indicated their good-time band credentials. This was followed by Now I’m A Believer and then somewhat unusually by Men At Work’s A Land Down Under, other left field choices included Tom Jones’ Delilah, Britney Spears’ Hit Me Baby One More Time and BlackSabbath’s Paranoid, alongside the more standard fare of the Undertones’ TeenageKicks, the Buzzocks’ Ever Fallen In Love, Sham 69’s Hurry up Harry, AC/DC’s Whole Lotta Rosie and concluding with the obligatory Ramones’ cover – Blitzkrieg Bop.
While it would be fair to say that they were not the best band in the world, they were a splendidly entertaining band who, thanks to John Shuttleworth’s forays into the audience inviting audience members to sing along, provided an ideal kick-start to the day.
Back to the buskers bar and centre stage was St. Alban’s own, Zipheads main man, and Tom’s cousin Ray Waters. Beginning with a witty ditty about his erstwhile bandmates, Ray then produced a fine version of the Merle Travis classic Sixteen Tons, then a composition of his own Roswell New Mexico, before a superb version of Nick Lowe’s What’s Shakin On The Hill. A cover of Warren Smith’s Uranium Rock went down very well with the handful of Rockabillies in attendance.
Then two originals, one called Alison Bree, a song about Ray‘s unrequited love for the American actress of the same name. And then a song entitled My Dad Listens To Reggae, which recounted the story of Ray’s late father’s love of Jamaican music. Then came Billy Bragg’s masterpiece New England on which Ray acquitted himself very well. Ray concluded his set by singer-songwriter-fying the Offspring’s Pretty Fly For A White Guy, which rounded off a typically wonderful performance by Mr. Waters.
It was then back to the back room for what turned out to be an astonishingly accomplished set by a band that I had not heard of or seen before, the inventively entitled Hallouminati. Though it may sound improbable, this band combined delightful Greek folk music, with ska and punk. The band’s frontman even played an electric bouzouki. They really were a breath of fresh air, and I urge all of you to go and see them play if you have the opportunity. They have an energy and charisma that makes them very appealing.
Next on in the buskers bar were the Maida Vales, or at least two of them. They put on a very good show with the rhythm and lead guitars working well together. With songs such as Love Is Suicide, Kiss Me Goodbye and Open Door, there is much to like about this band, especially when they throw in a delightful cover of I Want To Be LikeYou from Walt Disney’s the Jungle Book. The band concluded with a delightful rendition of The Doors’ Love Me Two Times.
Next up were the wonderful Larry Neal and the Slingers. This is effectively Electric Umbrella’s house band and consisting of three adults with learning difficulties, on lead vocals Laurence, on lead guitar Ollie and on drums Jonathan with the addition of Ray Waters on guitar and Tom Waters on bass.
The band worked its way rather splendidly through punk classics such as Hurry Up Harry by Sham 69, the Sex Pistols’ God Save The Queen, The Undertones’ great anthem Teenage Kicks, Sham’s If The Kids Are United, concluding with a superb version of The Clash classic Should I Stay Or Should I Go? This was a performance to melt hearts, with the help of Messrs Waters, this wonderful band had pulled off one of the most memorable performances that anyone is likely to experience – brilliant.
Back to the buskers bar, where Grae J. Wall and Los Chicos Muertos begin their set with a cracking rendition of a song made popular by Kurt Cobain, Where Did You Sleep Last Night. The sound is complemented delightfully by the double bass in this trio, while the drummer knocks out the rhythm on a wooden board. The band’s rendition of I Want To Be Sedated was excellent and benefitted tremendously from the harmonica playing of the lead singer. A rendition of Daniel Johnson’s True Love Will Find You In The End was handled deftly. Drunken 12 Bar In E, an up-tempo rocker of a song, was perhaps the pick of the bunch. I really liked these chaps and will look out for them in the future.
The penultimate act of the evening came in the form of psychedelic noise punks Dead Horse. Consisting of a drummer and two guitarists and a singer who was quite indecipherable, this band created a wall of sound which certainly rocked. Though, I confess that finding their groove was a little bit elusive for me. It’s just as well that we’re all different.
When Dead Horse had finished playing, I found myself one of two people left in the room. This was partly understandable bearing in mind that the day was already some ten hours long and the prospect of work the next morning. Mercifully some fifteen people reconvened for the headlining band St. Alban’s very own Brocker. And jolly good they were too. They have all of the key attributes of a very good melodic punk band: they have plenty of energy, tight musicianship and wonderful tunes.
Mixing their brand of punk with a bit of ska, they put on a very fine show, at one point inviting Tom Waters on stage to dance to a brilliant ska song entitled Stoffel from their latest platter. Tom then stayed on stage to sing a splendid version of Blitzkrieg Bop. Playing the bulk of the band’s latest album, Brocker demonstrated ably why they are top dogs. The Machine, Alcohol And Rock n’ Roll, Hellride, Distorted and Outside Of The Box, all from the Shambolic album, are all absolute winners. After the best part of an hour on stage, Brocker proudly lowered the curtain on an event that had been the antithesis of Shambolic.
This had been a terrific day of music for a fabulous cause. Well done to Tom Waters and hoorah for Electric Umbrella.
Live Review by Nick Kemp & Photography by Pauline di Silvestro at The Horn, St. Albans, for the Electric Umbrella Fundraiser on Sunday, 26th January 2020.