Katesgrove based carry-on country band the Rumpo Kidz and the bard of Elgar Road Nigel Pounds crossed borders into Hampshire last Saturday to perform at the White Hart, a lovely big old boozer at the old end of Basingstoke town. After negotiating the consumer-Narnia of a shopping mall at the heart of the new Basingstoke, our redbrick troubadours traipsed through the heavy rain with all their gear on their backs.
The night was a fund-raiser for the Samaritans in memory of 26 year-old local Chris Manning, who took his own life in 2011, and who had performed at the White Hart. His mother Nancy spoke very movingly about her son and urged us all to be vigilant and generous where people’s mental health is concerned, especially with troubled youngsters.
Nigel Pounds was first up, reading poetry from his latest work My response to. I wouldn’t say Nigel was nervous, but I did see him muttering words to a hat stand earlier in the evening while trying to avoid getting too sozzled. He needn’t have worried as his short, pithy and poignant poems went down very well indeed amongst a crowd of locals and regulars who had not heard his work before. His performance did really hark back to the vibrant days of the late 70s and early 80s when poetry was regularly heard at gigs.
Nigel is a natural compère and started with a few self-deprecating jokes before his strong CV or not CV poem. He reached a high point with three short romantic pieces from his latest work including the simple and beautiful Song of love. His later performance was a bit more raucous, but Nigel was really enjoying himself by then and ended on a high note with his cri-de-coeur Spark. There was a real sense of interest and warmth in the room by the end, and he was approached by several people interested in and buying his slim and smart-looking new volume (available on paper from Amazon from 9 March 2018).
The Rumpo Kidz, decked in cowboy hats and country music clothes, started with a punk flavoured version of Jackson which sounded like a freight train running through IKEA. The audience appeared tremulous at first, but around track three they really started getting it and the other resident musos started nodding their heads in approval. Like a restaurant bill or a group of goths in a dark cellar, the Rumpos are impossible to count or number; their risk assessment must include the wearing of steel toe caps in smaller venues as they are so tightly packed on stage.
For a band so well staffed, I could still hear every instrument, including the squeeze-box and the tea-chest drum. There is a focus on the passion, fun and exuberance of music rather than the ultimate quality of sound, without any tedious sound-checkery and guitar-god posturing. Not that there aren’t some talented musicians among them; they really could be three bands and they sometimes are! The country ballads were mainly sung from a front line of playing warblers while the guitarists, accordionist and harmonica player held a strong line at the back. Their formation maybe the envy of Jaap Stam who is said to prefer the same double helix formation when playing at home.
Talented Whitley legend Jason Knight, with his keyboard strap over the shoulder, looked like a Dylanesque gunslinger. As for the front line, Paula Curtis is such a great singer and musician she appears to be channelling Sandy Denny from the Strawbs’ first album era; I can’t think of any higher praise I can give. Joe Wilcox’s strong voice gets ever better, while Katesgrove Green Party candidate, Louise Keane, can play any manner of tiny guitars with brio, and Linda’s harmonies and lead vocals were full of soul and energy.
The Rumpo Kidz on Youtube at the White Hart, 10 February 2018
They played some great tunes, including a melancholy and beautiful leaving on a jet plane and a brilliant deadwood stage. The Pogues’ Sally Maclennane was played as always in loving memory of the late, great, David Murtagh. The whole set consisted mainly of old country standards and ballads; the most with-it song was Tiffany’s 80s hit I think we’re alone now. As the Rumpo’s anarcho-collective spokesperson Neil Dunnet once said: “one of the absolute joys of old age is not having to pretend to like modern music”. They ended with the great Ramones sing-a-long Baby I love you and it is fair to say the Rumpos won over the crowd.
The White Hart is a fine and friendly pub and a bit like the great Reading pub and live free music venue the Turk’s Head; there should be a twinning at some point. I would recommend it on a Saturday night, if you are over in Basingstoke.
The following band was Johnny Marvel’s Blues Groove Rhythm Revue; they were absolutely superb and played great old R’n’B rock and soul. The whole Reading cultural contingent stayed around to see them until kicking out-time and then left Jane Austen country a very-happy-but-knackered band on the last train back to Reading.
Matthew Farrall, the author of this article, died on 20 April 2018.
We are grateful to his family for allowing us to continue to display his work online.