For a fairly impromptu gig, The Dodge Brothers played Penzance, for the first time, in front of a bustling crowd. The Acorn Theatre was busy on Saturday night, awaiting a group known for producing that warm taste of Americana – something not always readily available at this time of year.
Having been up at Newquay’s film festival earlier in the weekend, the evening was a last-minute move, according to organiser Louise Martin of Little Miss Music Management. But so often such evenings prove the best and The Dodge Brothers paid testament to that.
Their countrified, laid-back skiffle slotted into The Acorn as if it were tailor-made – immediately the standing audience tapped feet, danced up front; those in the seats above enjoyed the rockabilly sounds as they aired out with raw speed in tunes such as ATF, and sweet melody in the likes of Strange Weather. The southern states sweep you up like cherry pie does cream.
The group is made up of Alabama’s own, Mike Hammond (lead guitar and vocals), Culture Show presenter and film critic Mark Kermode (harmonica and double bass), Aly Hirji (rhythm guitar, mandolin, vocals) and Alex Hammond (washboard, snare drum, percussion). After the show all four commented on the venue’s “great sound” – probably down to its religious past, they noted – and the fervent reception.
Kermode said he had visited Penzance plenty of times but never performed in its westerly clutches. “I’ve not played down here before,” he said. “We were doing something for the film festival up in Newquay and everyone said ‘why don’t you play The Acorn?’ So we did. It was really lovely to play here – it was brilliant. A great crowd.”
Hirji, also the band’s manager and agent, echoed the sentiments: “We don’t get down here very often – it was nice to do something. It’s come together really well. The acoustics were spot on.”
The Dodge Brothers were quick to praise the set’s opening act, too, Ben Jordan. He’s a resident of Cornwall who hails from Virginia, US. With his calming road tunes – often heard on Causewayhead and St Ives – he paved the way for authenticity with dashings of Cornish charm. “Penzance took me in,” he remarked on stage. “Thank you.”
“It was lovely to play with Ben,” added Kermode. “It’s very difficult to find things that mesh and work.”
The Dodge Brothers recently released their new album, The Sun Set, recorded in Memphis, Tennessee’s very own Sun Studio – where, the band said, they only had two days to get it down. Apparently there’s something in the pressure (and turning a picture of Bono around and out of view) that produces a good record.
The 1950s were a welcome leap back in time for the ears of west Penwith – somewhere where pressure isn’t usually associated. It seems The Dodge Brothers can thrive in both stress and relaxation.
If somewhat paradoxical, given the sheering rain outside, the room was simply America for the night – when Elvis was alive, everything was Levis and X Factor wasn’t needed. It was a night for bourbon – The Acorn had to go to Co-op to get another bottle, apparently.
I’m hoping The Dodge Brothers come down and join Jordan – they said they’ve definitely struck a bond, by the way – again soon. After all, Penzance is pretty much the closest the UK can get to the US without jumping on a plane. This told on Saturday night for sure. Really, there’s no better place for Memphis to visit when it’s on the road.