This gig was a rare appearance of The Dodge Brothers in Southampton, one of few outside Lymington, away from their residency and core fanbase at the Thomas Tripp. And the intimate Platform Tavern on Southampton’s Quayside rose to the occasion, filled by an incredibly receptive audience, who at points even flowed onto the pavement outside.
The Dodge Brothers are lead vocalist and guitar/banjo player Mike, double bass and backing vocals man Mark and second guitarist Aly — and surprisingly enough for a rockabilly group so termed, they aren’t technically brothers, but appear to borrow their monicker from the siblings who gave birth (and their family name) to one of the great American motor cars. Interesting to some will be the fact that the bassist is infamous film critic and television presenter Mark Kermode, and interesting to others (perhaps most specifically the students in the audience) is that front man is Mike Hammond, a film academic from the local University.
The band encompass the traditional stylistic range and hybrids of folk musics like blues, country and bluegrass.
The gig flyer stated that the band play “authentic fifties rockabilly”, which despite one connotation suggesting that the band have been going a fair while now appears here to identify that the songs performed are old rockabilly classics (although it is indeed possible that the performers are authentic fifties children). This description doesn’t do justice to the full range of the group’s repertoire, however, as though the rockabilly part is correct — the band encompass the traditional stylistic range and hybrids of folk musics like blues, country and bluegrass — and all the songs were probably played in the fifties, several had origins in previous decades, dating from the early thirties.
Having a desire to steer clear of obvious favourites (ignoring a portion of the crowd’s chants for Johnny Cash numbers) The Dodge Brothers showcased their wide knowledge of the music of early to mid twentieth-century America which grew into rock’n’roll proper in the fifties. They did play tunes that some would know though — Leadbelly’s “Goodnight Irene”, Bill Monroe’s “Blue Moon of Kentucky” and other classics like “Stagger Lee” and “Jack O Diamonds”. Many of the songs sound recognisable though, due to both the nature of folk music and the ‘covering’ of songs and adaptations of traditionals etc alongside the obvious style and sound that rockabilly has. The band entertained the audience with a wealth of material, performing about twenty-five songs spread over two sets including “Mystery Train”, “Slow Down”, “Number Nine”, “Freight Train Boogie”, “Wild Bill Jones” and “Oh Death”.
The live show retains much of the feel and the tones that give it that “authentic” roackabilly mood.
Although on record they can sound more modern, the live show retains much of the feel and the tones that give it that “authentic” roackabilly mood. With a percussionist joining the band for most of the second set the mood picked up even more and overall, the crowd packed into the small venue engaged with the music and created a great atmosphere to accompany the sounds. Without wanting to get carried away, it almost created that wholesome hootenanny you’d imagine similar folk gatherings including these songs in years previous would have been.