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CC Smugglers / Keston Cobblers Club - Union Chapel, London (28/10/17)

Photo credit: CC Smugglers

Photo credit: CC Smugglers

What happens when you bring together two of the finest live bands in the UK and give them a double headline gig at one of London's best music venues? A standing ovation for both bands, dancing in the aisles and a very, very happy audience. Whoever made the decision to curate and organise this gig, we salute are a genius!

This wonderful gig was one of opening events of the excellent annual London Folk & Roots Festival, which is rapidly becoming one of the highlights and 'must see' festivals of the London musical calendar.

First up were the high energy, very entertaining, infectious and 'show stealing' CC Smugglers, a wonderful Bedfordshire based six-piece, who started live as a gorilla busker band and who are now making a huge impact wherever they perform. They had a storming set at the main stage of the Cambridge Folk Festival this year, so it was very interesting to see how they would handle in a intimate setting of the Chapel. It is fair to say that the band exploded onto the stage bathed in the warm yellow glow of the house lights with their song 'Lydia' and thoroughly enjoyed themselves on stage throughout their set, even joining the audience at some points in their performance. They transformed the Union Chapel in a huge street carnival. One of their songs 'Grumpy All the Time' was dedicated as Richie explained to someone in the audience with a 'mood on', which voted by his friends turned out to be a gentleman called Ian. In Richie Prynne the band have a perfect front man, an energetic and very engaging and entertaining showman, whose skills have been honed by many street performances. The CC Smugglers are a very talented and tight unit. Instantly likable, they always have a huge amount of fun on stage and this is highly contagious.  

The CC Smugglers are Richie Prynne (Lead vocals, Rhythm Guitar, Harmonica & Banjo), Ryan Thomas (Vocals, Lead Guitar, Dobro & Banjo), Sam Barret (Vocals, Rhythm Guitar & Fiddle), Dan Edwards (Vocals, Double Bass), Iain McFarlane (Vocals, Drums, Percussion) and Tom Seals (Vocals, Piano, Accordion). 

Their set was perfectly summed up by Richie who said "This may be the house of the Lord, but that doesn't mean we can't get rowdy!   

Their set included songs from their 2015 EP 'Write What You Know' and some newer songs including 'Rhythm' and their latest single the very catchy 'Dirty Money'. The band are currently running a crowd funding campaign and pre-sale on Pledge Music for their debut studio album.  We think on the strength of this live performance alone they are well worth supporting. BBC 6 Music’s Cerys Matthews described them as “the best live band on the scene at the moment”. We won't disagree.

After a short break to catch our collective breath and a visit to a very busy 'merch' stand. This fabulous show continued with the brilliant and highly regarded Bromley based Keston Cobbler Club, fresh from their sell-out 'Almost Home' album launch six months earlier at the venue. The KCC are one of the most innovate bands in the country and this was on display throughout their fantastic set. Like the CC Smugglers they are instantly likable and have created a very close and hugely loyal following over the years. Unfortunately the tuba playing Bethan has left the band since the launch, but now the band now have a new tuba player called Dan, who was with the band originally. Formed in 2009, the beating heart of the KCC are brother and sister Matthew and Julia Lowe plus childhood friends Tom Sweet and Harry Stasinopoulos. They were also joined on the night by Connor and Helen for a few of their songs adding extra instrumental layers. A super set followed with lots of crowd favourites including 'Your Mother', 'You-Go', 'Wildfire', 'St. Tropez', 'Bicycles', 'Forest Hill', 'Demons', 'Almost Home' and one of my personal favourites the fantastic 'Contrails'. We even had a great version of Paul Simon's 'Graceland' for good measure   

The KCC were joined on the well deserved encore by the CC Smugglers to form a new super-group, which we would like to name either the 'CC Cobblers' or the 'Keston Smugglers'.

This was a gig which left the audience with huge smile on their faces. A superb night of music from two of the most innovative and entertaining live bands in the UK. A perfect start to The London Folk & Roots Festival.

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