Support: Miraculous Mule
Live at OSLO, Hackney
Tuesday 21st February 2017
I sat at the bar of OSLO in Hackney and asked for a lager. They gave me a Pauliner in a tankard I could hardly lift! It was a good end to my working day and a good start to the gig. Soon Fantastic Negrito’s manager came and found me and brought me past security to the backstage area where I found a slightly stressed out Negrito awaiting the bands merch, which had been left at the last venue.
Negrito was introduced to me and I mentioned that we’d met at Radio SOHO last year when he was interviewed there by Pete Paphides. The backstage area had a few guys hanging around on phones chatting and we had nowhere to talk, so Negrito exerted his front man powers and asked them all to leave, which they did immediately and never returned. We sat quietly on a bench in this little room and began the interview. I asked him a few questions about his path in life, musical inspirations and aspirations and about his tragic car accident that had lost him the ability to feel in his right hand, among other things. From the very beginning he seemed humble, almost mystical and looked straight into my eyes, intrigued by my presence. After seventeen minutes, I shut down the recorder and we just talked for another half hour as strangers finding out about each other. He told me about how he’d run the streets as a youth and reminisced about smoking his last joint over 15 years ago. He admitted he often feels absent from the reality of what’s going on anyway and so smoking pot wouldn’t do much for him. Then I told him about my drumming and band. I also told him about my idea to travel around the world and film a documentary called ‘Culture Vulture’, dipping into different music scenes, seeing concerts and interviewing bands. He said that it was a brilliant idea and that I was special and he thought I was a hustler, which made me laugh. Soon we heard the support band Miraculous Mule playing their first song onstage so I said goodbye to Fantastic Negrito who seemed in no rush to get rid of me (as I am sometimes conscious of being an interviewer). We’d met and shake hands formerly, we departed with a tight hug. I felt inspired by our meeting and excited for the concert ahead.
Miraculous Mule were a 3-piece, all-male band consisting of drummer Ian Burns, backing singer and bassist Patrick McCarthy and his brother, on lead vocals and guitar, Michael J. Sheehy. Michael is the main songwriter who had previously been in the band Dream City Film Club. They played rock and roll with elements of psych, blues and gospel which was really exhilarating and filled the room with a wall of sound. Patrick wore a fez and Michael had a paisley shirt on giving them a Madness vibe and a bit of a mod edge. I’d recently written an article about them for Vive Le Rock magazine so I knew they had been going since 2011 and were from Kentish Town. I appreciated their set and their lyrics which were at times thoughtful and other times amusing, especially the gospel chants. They played well and people started to get into it towards the end. I hope to see more of this band.
They finished their set and I went down to the bar awaiting Fantastic Negrito and his band taking the stage. When I returned the venue was packed. People were queuing downstairs and paying £19 a ticket to see the American Bluesman. I managed to saunter through the crowd and get to the front. The band were tight as a squeak and Fantastic had incredible stage presence. He was moving around the stage, dancing and interacting with the crowd which was really funny. He knew no bounds as comedian and the audience loved it. They played tones of great songs including ‘Scary Woman’ and ‘Working Poor’ and the band performed effortlessly. When he played ‘An Honest Man’ he told all the men in the audience; “You’re all out there watching me, but you know I’m one thing you will never be. It’s something I had to do for you because you couldn’t do it. And that is to be an honest man. But I can only do it for about seven minutes.” And the crowd laughed and the band started the song. I was singing it all the way home.
It was the first time I’d seen him with a full band as he’d played at the blues kitchen Camden last time he was in the UK and I saw him perform with his amazing keyboard player. He mentioned backstage that Robert Plant of Lez Zeppelin was a fan and had told him to stick with the keyboard played and he didn’t need a band. Negrito told me; “Yeah but I want to play with a band, I like it!” And after seeing him play I totally agreed that having a band was the way forward. It just added to the energy onstage and the sound overall. I was completely blown away with Fantastic Negrito, his character, stage presence, retro vibe and soulful presence are mesmerising to watch. He will be massive over here. Mark my words.