John Fairhurst Band @Rich Mix 06/02/14
OK, so it’s Shoreditch on a Friday night. Normally I would rather eat my own body weight in guitarists’ nail clippings than visit a Shoreditch venue on a Friday night but, in this case, I’m making an exception because the venue and the artist are a little bit special. Rich Mix is a charity and social enterprise comprising a cinema, performance space and food outlet in a building which at one time was a garment factory (when we made garments in the UK). John Fairhurst is a bit special as well; his style is predominantly blues, but don’t expect third or fourth generation, ironed-out gutless blues because this guy taps into the feel of the original mid-twentieth century originals with a little side order of Indian classical tradition and some Hendrix and Neil Young for seasoning. His songs are featured in two films to be released in 2015, “The Beat Beneath my Feet” and the Scorsese-produced “Tomorrow” and his latest album “Saltwater” (highly recommended by MusicRiot) was released in late 2014. So we’re looking forward to this one.
To start up the evening, DJ Chris Tofu warps and bends blues with electronica and samples to build up the atmosphere before the John Fairhurst Band really kickstarts the event. The “Saltwater” album has some fairly big productions, but the live set is a power-trio affair delivered by John, Pete Episcopo (bass) and Toby Murray (drums). While the focus is always on John Fairhurst’s playing and vocals, this set-up only works if the rhythm section is at the top of their game and Pete and Toby certainly don’t disappoint, providing a solid foundation for the songs and John’s extended solos. The set leans heavily on “Saltwater” material, featuring the Mississippi John Hurt classic “Pay Day”, the Hendrix-inspired “I’m Coming Home” and an astonishingly powerful version of the album’s title song to close the set. John Fairhurst’s playing is raw, loud, phasers-set-to-stun blues; it’s not for the faint-hearted 70s-era Clapton and Joe Bonamassa followers, but it’s a glorious earthy noise and the quality of the playing is stunning. I’ll certainly be having more of that later in the year.
As a bonus (well, this is part of the London Remixed Festival), the final live set of the evening is a collaboration between producer and live remixer Reverend Rockwell, John Fairhurst and Boxcar Joe Strouzer. You can’t argue with the performances and it’s an interesting experiment, but the programmed beats really aren’t a match for three great musicians playing together as a unit. Nothing wrong with it, but it just wasn’t the highlight of the night.
Things are looking good for John Fairhurst this year. He has a newish album to promote and, on the evidence of tonight, he’s going to win new fans every time he plays. The fact that his music is featured in a couple of new films as well is probably more valuable than radio plays in the current climate; I’m really hoping that things work out for him.
And how do I feel about Shoreditch now? Well, it would be great if it was all like Rich Mix, with a diverse audience and staff that make you feel that they actually like having you in their venue. It makes a huge difference to the entertainment on offer and the people who pay to see it when profit isn’t the only reason for opening the doors on a Friday evening. Fair play to Rich Mix.
Click here to see some of our great photos from the gig.