Smerins Anti Social ClubWednesday, 17 August, 2011
Boomtown Fair – Main Stage – 13 Aug – 20:30 (1.00)
Brassy and bold, Smerins Anti Social Club are fast becoming staples of the Bristol festival scene, and how lucky for the festivals. Having played at numerous similar events over the years, including Bristol’s Harbourside Festival, Brisfest, and even the Montpelier Bean Feast, they are now Boomtown veterans. They are so much part of the festival that it just would not be quite the same without some help from Smerin. Synonymous with fun, dancing, sunshine and colour, throwing themselves into the music, supporting virtuoso sections with huge smiles for their bandmates, Smerins Anti Social Club look more than comfortable on a stage. And they don’t half sound alright either. Described in the programme as ‘punk-funk, dub and groove’, they have to be heard to be believed.
Needing no introduction, they blasted into their first track, and the crowd received them with feet stomping and hands raised. Smerins Anti Social Club are the sort of band to get the party started, and the early evening slot was perfect for them, as they set the standard for the night ahead. They played a mixture of their older work, with its 20s jazz style and happy, summery, melodic vibe; and newer, more mellow and soulful tunes. Either way, theirs was a big sound, created by a big brass section, and excellent use of dynamics, as Smerins Anti Social Club played around with rhythm, tempo and volume to keep the crowd constantly on edge. Many of the crowd members will have recognised some of the older tunes, cleverly interpreting sections of classical music to suit a very modern, very discerning audience. And many will have been waiting to see if Nuala Honan were to join them on stage, as she often does.
Enter the lady with the voice. Nuala Honan’s rich, soulful voice is fast becoming legendary in Bristol and beyond, as she effortlessly belts her way through her own songs, or those of Smerins Anti Social Club. This is a voice of incredible strength, and incredible range, awing the crowd as she holds onto impossibly high notes for an impossibly long time, no hint of a waiver or a wobble. Spellbound, the crowd did as they were told as she compelled them to ‘Sway’. No other voice would be big enough to match the talent of the band.
From every band member, this was a showcase of real musical talent. Perhaps some interaction with the crowd was sacrificed this time for a performance slicker than some of their past ones, but the result was a very polished and professional show. Smerins Anti Social Club are the ones with the style and the big smiles, and, to the joy of festival goers throughout the Summer, they are not too shy to shout about it.
Band members: Tom Arnold – Violin. Nic Bailey – Saxophone. Steve Banting – Bass. Pete Bushell – Drums. Netty Hawker – Trumpet. Nuala Honan – Voice. Toby Riches – Trombone. Humphrey Roberts-Powell – Keyboard. George Smerin – Guitar. Tom Wilding – Trumpet.
(c) Claire Higgins 2011
Reviewed Tuesday 16th August 2011, Bristol.