Red Hot Riot, The Strays & The Font at Frog and Fiddle, Cheltenham, 20th November 2021
The night had started on a bum note. Clearly, Regency Cheltenham has become a Godless and lawless town. Earlier, we had fled the overpriced and airless BnB we had booked – due to a mattress that lacked comfort – and then we were “held-up” for £12 for a beer and a glass of unpalatable wine in a backstreet boozer…
Noticeably, even the Frog and Fiddle had sold out…of all the tickets for night!
It was a lawless crowd of believers that had gathered for the homecoming of the bands; the phalanx of onlookers had come to whoop and holler as if it were the law! Animated as a box of frogs, it may have felt like we were fiddling as Rome burned -with the next lockdown imminent? – however, the relief at being able to “go WILD!” was palpable off and on the stage!
Coached in producing their own electric guitar sound the Font were determined to impress. If this band were a Venn diagram they would overlap with the Enemy, the Artic Monkeys, Oasis and, eh, the Font. Lined up at the front of the stage like the Dave Clark Five they were rightly proud of their songs. And the 90s tinged indie-rock sound was impressive. The band have admitted how scared they are performing live but under the microscope of scrutiny this evening, the nerves made way for a tentative and self-conscious swagger…
Swaggering on to the stage with a wealth of experience and a canon of their own songs the Strays clocked-on and set about provoking the audience. Always value for money the Strays are led by the indomitable Stella, proprietor and MC, who insists that everyone is offered a warm welcome and ultimately has a good time. Opening with “Cool your jets” the crowd’s reaction was as if provoked with a cattle prod. Live, this act is no bum steer, what you see is what you get: a blaze of colour, lively stage craft, those guitar riffs and a rhythm section you can set your watch by. I defy you not to enjoy their memorable live rock and roll performances!
Forest of Dean rockabilly gods Red Hot Riot, enjoy playing live – especially in front of a sold-out crowd, that appeared to be hand-picked – it is their very reason for existing. Having to take to the stage through the crowd, established their voice of the people credentials: their audience had slapped their backs and warmed to them before they had even reached the stage. Led by Ricky Delaney and that red Gretsch, the Riot are a force to be reckoned with live. The confidence exuded by a band on the cusp of something great is noticeable; when I first saw the Riot they were just pleased to be there…now they know they have a God-given right!
Right from the off, the fist pumps, head bobbing, limited bopping and restricted pogoing greeted a priceless set of original material and standard classics. The singles and album tracks were lined up – Move to La and Masquerade et al – before finishing in style with Rock this Town and seguing into Johnny B. Goode.
The stage craft has improved from good to excellent with the double bass playing a pivotal roll, literally, included now the laid down guitar playing, coupled with the guitar behind the head playing and even Mr. West is allowed to impress with a drum solo. Aside from the theatrics and these combined factors is one single fact. Red Hot Riot are a band, they play like a band and the collective performance is that of a band. I always liked bands that took to the stage like a gang with a unblinking mission of intent. Agreed, the assembled believers were intent on a good time from the outset; they helped drink the beer dry at the bar for God’s sake. For three hours on this night of a near epiphany The Frog and Fiddle was our spiritual home. Nights such as this are highly valued and of course priceless. I didn’t even mind the unintended drive home.
By The Swilgate Scuttler