Not so very long ago, in a town not all that far away, I rock up outside Aylesbury Station to pick up my photographer. I've already been round the town twice to find the station, and predictably it will take another few laps of Aylesbury's town centre before we ditch the car in a multi-story and head off to find the Legendary Friars Club.
First port of call is to get our passes and then find drink (long enduring day in the office.....and hell.....it's Friday!)
We pass under large brick arches and round the side of a really quite impressive Victorian built mega hall to access the entrance to the Civic Centre. Already a throng of people are shuffling outside puffing on cigarettes or making their way through the tiny one person entranceway in-between overly enthusiastic door staff. Already at this vantage point in the queue, we can see a mass of middle-aged men and women, clearly ecstatic to be let out of the house. Dressed up to the nines in their best Matalan attire holding gingerly onto their plastic pint glasses like it was the first time. I predict that once we get our passes, we'll quickly retreat to the backstreets of Aylesbury for a traditional pint in one of those hard see through thingies.
Eventually we are at the front and we get directed over to a hole in the wall to receive our passes. An old couple of Gals are there before us and one is thanking the guy on the other side for such a wonderful invitation for such a special event on such a lovely night. Oh Jesus... They finally start to shuffle away from the window but our hopes are dashed when the particularly dotty one swings back to the window with the wrist band dangling from her frail fingers. "And what exactly is this for?" So after another few minutes of her and the staff fumbling over her decrepit snap-able wrists, she moves along and we get our passes.
We'll skip to our return to the venue as the pub visit wasn't all that. Not all that traditional, too loud, men with work boots eyeing up my entrance pass. (This might have been out of admiration, but I suspect they wanted to test out their footwear over our pretty non local, gig going, non Neanderthal faces.)
So back inside we start to explore. Yes, we are just about the youngest people here. I see one couple with a spotty, curly haired youth wedged in-between them but apart form that...Nada. The bar and reception areas are nothing to write home about but the stage itself is quite impressive. Sports hall like, with very high ceiling and generous space to move. The balcony above (to which we have access) surrounds the top three sides with DJ and sound desks neatly arranged.
It's not long before the support band is called up on stage. China Crisis. The crowd seem genuinely excited so we mosey on down to the front. I can't say I've heard this band before. A name like that resonates in my head like some kind of Asian Punk Ska outfit! Sadly, this wasn't to be the case. A middle aged assortment of men pick there way on the stage to their chosen instruments, from here they look more like groupies doing sound tests. You couldn't mistake the lead singer however. Suited up and looking remarkably like Tony Hadley from Spandau Ballet, he flaunts his way up to the microphone and starts addressing the legion of fans before him. I instantly feel unnerved by this man on stage. The crowd seem to love him but with his constant flicking of the hair, facial quirks and (strangely) the touching of his face meant I almost can't look at him.
As you can probably guess, I won't be writing a hugely favourable review for China Crisis. Not only have I never heard of them or wished too, there style of music is seriously too old 'new wave' for my liking. As a whole, the band is tight and professional with even the creepy singer hitting the notes pitch perfect. It doesn't alter the fact though that I want to run for my life away from the aging rockers and the mums quite literally dancing round their handbags next to me.
For the remainder of their act, we escape to the upstairs balcony to sup beers and play with the camera.
Between acts, we step outside and grab an unsuspecting member of the public for an interview. I felt I needed a little more background of the atrocity which was China Crisis and also of the upcoming Kid Creole performance. We strike gold! Not only is this guy Johnny an extremely nice guy but is knowledgeable on both music and of Aylesbury in general. Far too much was said to be put into this meagre review, but least be said we were told about CC's admiring fan base and their rather successful 'support act' role for the last thirty years. Johnny wetted our appetites with his past experience of Kid Creole in Brighton and generally gave us a run down on the life of the Friars club and Aylesbury. Apparently the main reason for the 25 years gap of the Friars club not being open was due mainly to the outburst of violence between local skin head ruffians and their counterparts from Bedford back in the eighties. Hmmm - interesting. We left him to get ready for the Kid Creole crew but not before getting a diamond quote "Aylesbury's a small town, with big fowns and big showdowns...." - Nice!
We enter the venue and make our way to the front. Although the crowd is the same as before, their definitely is a more laid back, jostling, party atmosphere in the room. The band enters the stage to the appreciation of the crowd. Drums, brass section and various others assemble on the stage including the almost infamous Bongo Benny with outrageous turquoise suit and oversized white golfing hat. The stage fills up with yet more musicians and the famous Coconuts - more about them later! Then finally the legendary Kid Creole enters the mix and boy - this man still has it. Dressed in natty long limbed pink suit and matching fedora, a quick address to the crowd and they kick off more or less straight away with Annie, I'm not your daddy! The crowd go nuts; this is what we've been waiting for all evening. Each band member kicked seamlessly into action with a wonderful mix of Caribbean percussion, big brass sounds and jacked up funky piano, guitar and most importantly vocals provided by The Kid and the Coconuts. The girls are just great. They are the perfect accompaniment to The Kid and just watching them leaves me out of breath. (No, not in that way.) They are just so incredibly energetic with perfect dance routines moving in and around the stage. (Mostly cavorting around The Kid) and yes, they are extremely easy on the eye. The songs keep coming and the atmosphere turns into more of a carnival as each minute passes by. The songs Stool Pigeon, Gina Gina (my personal favourite...) and I'm a wonderful thing, baby all went off like a wicked big band tropical fun bomb and I doubt there were any unsatisfied punters in the venue that night. This is definitely a band that is best seen live. None of what I'd listened to before had prepared me for the pure funk genius which The Kid incorporates into this spectacular piece of showmanship. Every musician with solos and as a whole played to perfection including might I add, the lead guitarist who allegedly is the son of the late great Jimi Hendrix, but we are sure this is just a wild rumour.
The band might have a line up utterly changed from their days playing here back 27 years ago, but I canmore or less guarantee they sounded as if they'd never left us. It is a great accomplishment for the Kid to have stuck to his groove and maintain a band of such high calibre which still can rock any venue or audience. It's late, and we have a thousand roundabouts before we reach home (Milton Keynes). So we leave with a swing in our step, rhythmic melodies stirring the blood and lyrics still pounding our ears. I might even come back again, the venue's quite good. If the Friars Club can establish itself again as cultural music haven fit for the modern day, who knows?
Then again, I might have to leave it ten years and shave my head!
Review by Matthew Phillips (AKA Pilchid)
Photography by James Hough (AKA Mintyhit)