Having dismally failed to blog about our last house gig of the year with Kal Lavelle and Billy Lockett (which was excellent, I should say), I am determined not to let our January show with Franky and the Jacks pass without comment.
It’s been almost exactly one year since the inimitable Gideon Conn had us all beaming from ear to ear in our front room on a bitterly cold and snowy January evening; and what a year it has been! We’ve been privileged to host some of the most talented singers, songwriters and musicians out there, while our community has grown into a small but enthusiastic cohort of committed front room fans.
Fast forward one year and we’re in another front room in Surrey, waiting to hear a band that I first saw at Wilderness Festival in 2012. To say that I am excited to be hosting them here is to downplay my emotions. They are one of those rare bands that make my heart soar every time I see them play. They are, as a friend put it, “a Katie band, through and through.”
I’m always a little bit anxious when it comes to putting on these shows – there is nothing more exposing than putting your music tastes up for other people’s judgement. And it’s been a while since I last saw Franky and the Jacks (or FatJ for short) play. What if they aren’t as good as I remember?
Silly question, of course. From the opening notes, Franky Doody and his band took us on an exhilarating rollercoaster through a set that had me exhausted just watching! They play with total conviction, relentless energy, and they all look like they are having a bloody brilliant time doing it.
The bottle of bourbon they effortlessly demolished during the performance added to the party atmosphere, but their playing never faltered. These guys are great showmen, and they are gifted musicians too. Their sound is a unique melding of many musical influences – gypsy, swing, jazz, folk and country – that is impossible to categorise. In their own words, their sound is “better explained by a metaphorical battle between musical genres. In other words there begins a fight between folk and jazz, folk is badly injured and as he trips and is stumbling to the floor, jazz seizes the opportunity and kicks him hard in the ass. Folk lets out an almighty cry and it is precisely this cry that is the sound of FatJ.”
Their set was mostly original songs, penned by Franky, including Big Red Bastard, Party Pooper, Hold Your Tongue, and the touching Back for More, written for a musician friend in a coma after having been hit by a police car. There were some covers too: the Yiddish classic Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen (dedicated to newly weds Ché and Charlotte), and Townes van Zandt’s Waiting Around to Die.
Franky Doody’s vocals have a wonderful tension to them that I can’t quite describe (“strangulated, but in a good way” according to a friend), switching from soulful to growling, and from pleading to teasing.
Jack John Beale plays violin with a freedom that (as a sometime/would-be violin student) I am deeply envious of, adding the wonderful gypsy-feel to the sound. Sax McGuiness’ harmonica playing (along with some interesting dance moves!) had us all whooping with delight, while Tom Rosenfeld held it all together beautifully with the double bass.
In an evening full of highlights it’s hard to pick a favourite moment, but their penultimate song ‘Who Knows What Tomorrow Will Bring’, was a solid thirteen minutes of joy. They left the stage area to play amongst us, getting everyone up on their feet (yes, even the teenagers), and gave us a highly entertaining outro to finish up.
I want to say lots more about the songs,the performance, and the genuinely wonderful vibe they created for us, but I simply don’t have the vocabulary and this blog may never get finished. Franky and the Jacks, please come back for more!
You can find Franky and the Jacks in all the usual places:
And you can also buy their first ep here http://frankyandthejacks.bandcamp.com/