Jason & The Scorchers – Manchester Academy 3, 22nd July 2015
Jason & The Scorchers (JATS), from Nashville, Tennessee chose Manchester Academy to host the first gig on their short UK tour which ended with an appearance on the Outlaw Country stage at the Ramblin’ Man Fair in Maidstone, Kent yesterday. Formed in 1981 and with a few line-up changes along the way, the band we see today, still contains founder members Warner E Hodges, the son of country musicians Blanche and Ed Hodges and Jason Ringenberg the son of an Illinois hog farmer. Today’s line up sees Al Collins on bass and Pontis Snibb on drums. Read more about the bands history on their Facebook page here,
Opening act tonight were Federal Charm, with front man Nick reminding me of Johnny Lee Miller, although from his first ‘Thank you very much Manchester’ I suspected they were local, it sounded like a Manc accent to me! When I got home and checked on Facebook they are, indeed, Manchester based. I didn’t get a full set list but managed to jot a few song titles down along the way (although they may not be 100% accurate so feel free to let me know….) Too Blind to See with it’s mellow start reminded me of young Icelandic band Vintage Caravan, the song did get a bit heavier as it went along. Keep on Moving had a good beat and some screaming riffs. Nick then told is that their guitarist Paul had broken foot, just in case we wondered why he was hobbling, I hadn’t noticed as Paul looked to moving around the stage alright and he said any pained look was his usual guitar face anyway and I’m not going to say anything further about guitar faces!
Nick said they were going to play some new material, with a new album due out in October-ish. Guess What another one with a vintage feel but this time I’m thinking Vintage Trouble, with a bit of Black Crowes riffage. Federal Charm are shortly going out on tour with Joanne Shaw Taylor, when they support her on her UK tour this autumn. Hercules was next, about a transvestite, with a great Rocking beat, this one reminded me of the Screaming Eagles. Tell Your Friends with a strong bass drum beat had people clapping along in time and Nick got out a tambourine. Then some joker shouted how’s your foot Paul? The reply ‘Tell you tomorrow morning’ Nick asked if we were looking forward to Jason & The Scorchers and he said they were the friendliest bunch of Southern Americans he’d ever met. To which a cry rang out ‘How many have you met?’ and the answer was two, so that’s Warner and Jason then! The penultimate song (which I didn’t catch the title of) was a bit of a country/blues sexy song and reminded me of Alannah Myles’ Black Velvet in places. Then we came to the last one and I’ve jotted down Reaction as a possible song title! A good fast number and a great end to their set, which ended with a ‘Thank you. See you again’ from Nick. Federal Charm did charm me and, as they’re local, I’m sure I’ll see them again soon!
Nick Bowden – Vocals, Guitars.
Paul Bowe – Guitars.
L.D. Morawski – Bass.
Danny Rigg – Drums.
At last JATS came on with Jason looking very much the country cowboy in his white fringed shirt and Stetson. Warner had more of a Gypsy look with wild hair, waistcoat and scarf. Starting with Lost Highway and the opening line ‘I’m a Rolling Stone’ Jason could give Mick Jagger a run for his money in terms of posing and pouting and got his own lips round a mouth organ for part of the song. A great rousing opener and, if I hadn’t been taking photos and making notes, I’d have got a line dance going! Next came ‘One from a long, long time ago’ Shop it Around and Jason took up an acoustic style guitar with a fetching red glittery strap for this one. Now if I say a song reminds me of something it may just be a beat, a riff or a chorus, whatever but whichever song I say, think of it done country style! Anyway this one had a bit of a Status Quo start and Pontus, who I’ve seen a few times fronting Bonafide and playing guitar, looked just as comfortable taking a back seat, behind the drums. Jason took delight in telling us that Manchester was one of the only two places they got ripped off, the other being Toronto but he said he wouldn’t hold it against us! Lucky for us or they wouldn’t have been here! Apparently someone stole all of Warner’s leathers one time they played Manchester, a woman, from what Jason said, and he seemed pretty gutted that the charming lady didn’t steal any of his pre-worn attire!
Next came a popular song from 1986 Golden Ball and Chain and the riffs sounded almost harmonica like. Jason asked how many people were seeing The Scorchers for the first time. A few raised hands and whoops (including mine) indicated a yes and he thanked us for coming. Jason then told us that they were going to play a song they wrote with Arty Hill in Nashville, about the plight of the modern miner and he said Manchester isn’t a mining town but we used a lot of the mining products. (It’s not a mining town but does have a Coalfield). The song Beat on the Mountain a mellower number and I noticed Warner had switched to a different guitar, a white one, don’t ask me the make I just noticed the different colour! Jason said this was quite a bit different to doing a Farmer Jason show and also that this was the first JATS show with a bass in three years, a bit more on the bass later!
When the Angels Cry with a strong bass line reminded me of a little of Bon Jovi’s Sleep When I’m Dead, albeit a little slower and had Jason throwing himself around the stage, he looked very flexible, I wondered if he was double jointed and had ever been an acrobat! He even had a few flexible facial expression, reminding me of Mr Bean (Rowan Atkinson) or Rik Mayall (RIP). Jason thanked Federal Charm for opening up and wished them luck, a nice touch. He then told us that he dropped his guitar during the 2009 tour and how Warner Hodges fixed it, and all these years later still it’s working. Warner quipped that it was lucky they were rehearsing where the guy had a wood shop, glue and clamps! Jason advised that Good Things Come To Those Who Wait, was written with Warner, Jeff Johnson and Jack Emerson, and according to Warner it was written on his Mum’s porch. Jason told us a little about Jack Emerson’s influence, the most important thing to Jack was to make a musical statement and he advised them to make sure they go out and meet the people who are paying to come and see them after a gig. Good Things reminded me of The Rolling Stones’ Brown Sugar in places.
Jason said Peter Dutton was mixing tonight, and he had provided the only round based mic stand in the whole of the United Kingdom! Land of the Free Jason’s favourite song from their last album ‘Halcyon Times‘ released in 2010 went out to any veterans and to all our Grandparents. Warner was back on the red guitar, Jason played a bit of mouth organ, this was an interesting one, with some great riffs, a kind of Lynyrd Skynryd meets Led Zeppelin meets The Cult with a bit of Rolling Stones thrown in for good measure. I Can’t Help Myself with the chorus ‘I can’t help myself, when I help myself to you’ had Jason doing relevant actions for the line ‘Sometimes I’m weak, sometimes I’m strong’ I loved this one, a great one you which just couldn’t help tapping your feet and singing along to. I think it tired Jason out a little as he and Warner had their arms round each other at the end, giving Jason chance to get his breath back. There looks to be a genuine affection between the two, who have, after all, known each other for over thirty years. Warner said ‘Jason’s been doing that shit a long time. Jason will give you 115% every time’ although he added that their rehearsal yesterday left something to be desired. He likes playing guitar but it was a long day with them only having landed a few hours before rehearsal!
Pontus came out from behind drums and took up Jason’s guitar for Somewhere Within which went out to the memory of Perry Baggs, the original JATS drummer who died in 2012 following a twenty-two year battle with diabetes (see here). The bass player left the stage for this one and Jason was singing with Pontus on backing vocals, both singing with real feeling. Jason went off stage towards the end leaving Pontus and Warner facing each other to play out the emotive riffs. Jason came back to reclaim his guitar and Pontus reclaimed the drumming stool.
The band were obviously either fascinated or obsessed with this mic stand as Warner said ‘That sure is a nice round bass stand’ and Jason joked ‘With the amount of talent I have, I can demand a round bass stand and get it!’ I did get a photo of the set list afterwards but I think the actual set may have deviated from that which was intended, Somewhere Within isn’t on the list and the next one wasn’t Better Than This, I’m not sure which one it was but I’ve noted that whatever it was it was a bit Beatles, a bit Kinks, a bit Prince and even had a bit of a Hawaiian vibe in there somewhere.
At last we got to find out who was playing the four strings on this tour when Jason informed us that their regular bass player, Al Collins, couldn’t make it as he was on tour with his wife Stacie Collins, he jested that most people were loyal to The Scorchers but they couldn’t trump his wife! The man playing bass was Micke Nillson from Malmo, Sweden. He said that some say they only have Southern players, and as he was from South Sweden it was Ok, in fact it’s about as far South in Sweden as you can go! Another off set list song came next in Bible in a Gun with a heavy bass line and some interesting guitar effects, and Warner didn’t look to be using a slide but still interesting, slide or not! After the song finished we were advised thay Micke had never practised that song with the bands, so maybe that was the interesting effect, although I doubt it, Micke did a great job!
Jason then asked ‘Warner why don’t you sing a song now?’ Warner replied that he was trying to read the set list but even with reading contacts he couldn’t read it! (Apparently that happens when you get to 45 Warner, or so a smug young optician told me! Get some reading glasses from Poundland to wear with your contacts and you’ll be fine!) Warner said JATS were pushing 34 years together and that he (Jason) was doing almost as much as when he 26 but he’s not 26 anymore! The next song was written at a boutique hotel which used to be a women’s institution of some kind and Warner asked ‘Pontus? You going to sing with me?’ Better Than This being a great Rock ‘n Roll song which reminded me of Bonafide’s No Doubt About It.
Warner said he really wished he’d brought a drink up here and someone shouted water? He said water was ok! (Has he not tired Manchester Tap? It’s horrible so probably regretted that afterwards!) Jason then informed us that the next song introduced JATS to the UK in 1984, when the single Absolutely Sweet Marie (Bob Dylan Cover) was released over here and I noticed some of the lyrics included a reference to Manchester. Something along the lines of ‘I waited for you inside the Manchester traffic’ I don’t think that was in the original lyrics but it’s actually a fair assessment of the roads of Manchester, so it could have been. Veering from the set list again the next one was Broken Whisky Glass and Jason came off the mic for a while to allow the audience to sing ‘I can’t go on living in your broken whisky glass etc’ Tuneful? It didn’t sound too bad actually! Far better than some dodgy karaoke I’ve heard in the past! The song then upped tempo and Jason took over the (round based) mic (stand) again. Jason then said ‘God Bless you all. Thank you so much’ after a round of applause they went into Mona Lee a fast one which saw Jason doing a few nifty spins, throwing a few shapes and then saw him give a final salute before leaving the stage.
Shouts for more ensued with foot stamping and hand clapping which would have rasied the dead! Well it was enough to persuade JATS to come back, someone shouted ‘White Lies’ but first Jason thanked a few people, Leah for the stage sound and Rick Dutton for the mixing. Then ‘This is a song from a long time ago, a good one, it’s called White Lies a fast paced song and great way to end the show on a high. Jason mentioned that they would be playing Sheffield, Leicester and the Ramblin’ Man Fair, as they only play important cities, although I reckon a major factor in Manchester was Warner looking for his leathers! He said that they would be at the merch stand after for photos etc, thanked Warner, Pontus and Micke said ‘God bless ya’all’ He put his hands on his knees, looking knackered did one final salute a final word ‘Bye’ then the show was over.
It was a good fun show, a gig, a country dance, a sing-along, a JATS history lesson and a bit of comedy all rolled into one. The popularity of this band shows in the fact that the next two shows in Sheffield and Leicester sold out, and their final show in the UK this tour was an appearance at the Ramblin’ Man Fair. Hope they ramble on back to the UK soon!
Lost Highway (Leon Payne Cover)
Shop it Around
Getting Nowhere Fast
Golden Ball and Chain
Beat on the Mountain
When the Angels Cry
Good Things Come
Land of the Free
I Can’t Help Myself
(Bible in a Gun)
Better Than This
Absolutely Sweet Marie (Bob Dylan Cover)
Last Time Around
Drug Store Truck Drivin’ Man (The Byrds cover)
Broken Whisky Glass
Jason Ringenberg – Vocals
Warner E. Hodges – Guitar
Micke Nilsson – Bass (on this tour as Al Collins had other commitments)
Pontus Snibb – Drums