Not every event in Brighton can boast an Amy Winehouse impersonator as compere, but then not every event is Club Berlin, a new live night at the Jive Monkey which had it’s second outing this week. If an Amy Winehouse impersonator is a bit drunk and can’t remember all of the words to the likes of Rehab or Valerie, does that ruin the experience or make it more authentic? And was the drunkenness part of the act?
As I arrived, Dominic Von Trapp from Sweet Sweet Lies was performing a solo acoustic set. Accompanied on ukulele and guitar, Dom sang a host of tracks, most of which were familiar from his band’s album The Hare, The Hound & The Tortoise. The songs stood up well – the songwriting is solid and Dom’s distinctive voice and delivery is one of the things that makes Sweet Sweet Lies special.
Next up was Jennifer Left, also playing with a pared down band to fit onto the tiny stage. No bass or drums this time around, but she was joined by her guitarist and incredibly talented multi-instrumentalist Helen, who played keyboard, trumpet, accordion and xylophone. Jennifer Left looked more like a pop star than ever, with her heavy eye make up and cool new bob making her look like a dark haired Dusty Springfield. To cope with the reduced set up the band played up the jazzier elements of their songs, which worked especially well on their cover of New Order’s Temptation, and rounded up with a preview of their new single due in October which I’m sure we’ll be writing more about nearer the time.
Finally we had Call Me Jolene, who appeared the most band-like with guitar, bass, drum and vocals, but were still reduced in numbers. Rather than play a stripped down set as the other bands had, they played to a backing track – rather disconcerting when a piano track starts playing mid-song with no keyboard player on stage! Despite the presence of ex-Gene frontman Martin Rossiter on bass, Call Me Jolene are very much about Sophie Pointer: her vocals are the centrepiece of each of the songs they played and she was the only member of the band to engage with the audience. The songs themselves are slick adult rock songs, one pitched as a future James Bond theme, and another pitched as Jolene’s response to Dolly Parton’s song that the band took their name from. Some of the band’s songs I’ve heard on Soundcloud have a bit of a country feel, but this wasn’t especially evident live – I’d love to hear more of that coming through.
Club Berlin returns to the Jive Monkey on Thursday 20th Sept and features IDC, Bela Emerson, Das Fenster and Saffron Reichenbacker.