In Brill it’s not difficult to raise enthusiasm for a music gig, but for Oxjam we wanted something and someone special – different from the usual crowd of respected but familiar musical faces.
So we went back in time to Brill’s best band of the 1990s – the Big Bucks Blues Band – who finally parted company in 1999 and went their separate ways. I traced the surviving members (one of them, Cath, a very good friend – died 3 years ago) and all of them were up for a reunion for Oxjam. Even better, Cath’s son Luke – also a musician – was able to leave the London smoke and join the band for the night.
We hired the village Sports and Social Club for free and they made sure they had plenty of barrels of Brill’s micro-brewery, Vale, on pump. Alan, one of the old band members and still in the village, organised the PA system and got the musicians together for a couple of rehearsals. I organised the publicity, posters, stickers, etc. The main poster billing was placed on the home page of the Brill village website, in shop windows, and on every wooden telegraph pole in the village. Word of mouth about an impending Big Bucks reunion stirred up a mini hurricane of interest and excitement.
Oxjam team gave me as much support and stuff as we needed, and we decked out the hall with Oxjam banners and the excellent posters from Oxfam Education Team’s MDGs pack.
So, we agree a date that was good for all, Friday 23 May, and then had the brainwave of inviting Pete the Poet as MC for the evening. Pete lived in the village for 3 or 4 memorable years at the end of the 90s. He was a headmaster in his day job, and a highly charged performance poet much of the rest of the time. He wrote some very funny poems about life in Brill – but now lives in North Devon. No problem, he was up for it, and brought his whole family with him.
Even the weather stayed good – so we opened the doors onto the club deck and playing fields, erected gazebos, spread out tables and chairs on the grass – which freed up dancing space inside – and we were deffo going to need that!
First session was unplugged, each individual band member playing a couple of songs, with Pete delivering his amazing, witty, word conjuring verse in between songs. Clive’s blues shouted, harmonica driven Amazing Grace was the stand out for me first half.
And the people came – in numbers; the club was heaving; crowds of old friends who remembered BBBB well, and crowds who’d never heard them, but heard of them, and wanted to hear what the fuss was all about.
BBBB are/were Dave on guitar/vocals, Julian – guitar/vocals, Alan – bass guitar/vocals, Clive – harmonica, Cath used to play keyboards so Richard played these for the night, and alto sax (he used to play often with the band anyway), and Luke joined in on guitar for several songs. Charlie joined in on drums – the old BBBB used a drum machine which wheezed its last before the gig started!
All of them are excellent and original musicians and singers. The second half had BBBB in full cry, belting out their great sound, swopping the lead between them; while nigh on 200 people bopped in whatever space they could squeeze themselves into.
‘Rock Island Line’ was blasted out at 300 mph, ‘This is Hip’ was mesmerising, ‘Land of the Navajo’ is always amazing when Alan’s voice and Clive’s blues harp play off each other, ‘Let the Good Times Roll …’ and so we all did.
A great evening, fantastic atmosphere, £350 clear to Oxjam, people drank the bar dry of good ales, several people rated it “…the best gig I’ve ever been to in Brill”.
And that – believe me – is saying something!
BBBB enjoyed the reunion so much they’d like to return next year – and play another Oxjam.
We’re up for that!