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Immortal Lee Country Killers Ii - Spitz, London, 30/4/2005

  by Dominic B. Simpson

published: 13 / 5 / 2005

Immortal Lee Country Killers Ii - Spitz, London, 30/4/2005


On a hot night at the London Spitz, Dominic Simpson sees Alabama trio Immortal Lee County Killers play their own unique version of the Southern Mississippi fried blues

Christ, it’s roasting in here. The Spitz festival, located next to Spitalfields market (and with a lovely ground floor restaurant/bar that opens out onto the market itself) is a favourite for this writer, but damn it can get hot up here in the summertime - on the second floor, that is, where this top quality venue is. The Immortal Lee County Killers are probably used to heat as well. Many bands can claim to play Southern Mississippi fried blues but the Immortals (yes, I suppose we must) actually are from the Mississippi – well, Auburn, Alabama anyway. Is that near Mississippi? It’s a long way from Hackney anyway. The Immortals have come to play the blues, which might explain why this is part of the ‘Punk Blues Festival’ organised by club night Not The Same Old Blues Crap. And when they say the blues, they mean the blues – Lightning Hopkins,'I’m So Glad' by Jesse Mae Hemphill, Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, Robert Johnson (who the Immortals have named a song after), Washington Phillips’ 'Denomination Blues', blokes with stupid monikers like One Hand Willy playing slide on their front porch. That’s a lot of blues, mister. On the same wavelength as Detroit brethren Soledad Brothers, the Immortals are here to rock like a mutha. First we have Clambake, though, a bafflingly titled bass guitar-less duo (what is it about the bass guitar with this kind of music? Is it banned by garage rock law?), who come onstage as DJ Too Bad Jim plays some punishingly loud monolithic garage rock over the PA. What can I say about Clambake? They’re a duo. The singer has curly hair. The drummer has an inventive use of a shaker and looks like he plays in Shakin’ Steven’s backing band. They play decent enough fuzzed up three-minute songs. The singers’ microphone keeps collapsing to the floor. Not that there’s anything wrong with all these things, but too many garage rock acts can begin to get a tad generic. Which is just as well for the next act, as High Plains Drifter not only have great memorable songs, better stage presence, and a better band name (a cool film with Clint Eastwood), as well as a frontman who seems determined to show his "chops" to the audience in the best possible way (generally acting like an idiot enjoying himself, pointing his guitar gun-style at the audience, rolling around the floor, etc.) – but they also have a sound that somehow manages to mix in orthodox garage licks with some occasional detuned Sonic Youth-style noise to unique and thrilling effect. Somehow it works, and launching onstage with the immortal quibble, “We’re High Plains Drifter from South Shields – you’ve all been to the place, right?”, they play an impressive, versatile set which can’t help but draw you in. The Immortals (sometimes known as The Immortal Lee County Killers III, for some reason) once had a drummer called Doug “The Boss” Sherrard, but he clearly wasn’t boss enough, and since his departure the implausibly named J.R.R. Token (“the Token one”) has filled his steps. Why tonight he has chosen to wear a blindfold is unclear; it certainly doesn’t seem to affect his performance, which involves the same high energy Keith Moon-esque drumming as per usual. He also fulfills another role, that of walking to the front of the stage and rousing call-and-response renditions of “going down to Mississippi” from the audience when a string breaks on singer Chetley “Cheetah” Weise’s guitar and we have to wait for the restringing process – probably the result of the ridiculous heat in the venue, which a sweat soaked Weise comments on innumerably through the Immortals' set. Formerly a duo, they’ve now spruced up their sound with the addition of a keyboard player (disappointingly, he has the rather ordinary name of Jeff Goodwin), who more than makes up for the deficiency resulting from a lack of bass tonight, as well as adding a psychedelic touch to the fire and brimstone testimony (and one that goes well with the trippy visuals on the screen as they come onstage). We could have done without their pointless reworking of The Doors’ 'LA Woman', but elsewhere they’re set is a perfect distillation of how the blues should be: raw, with lots of slide guitar, and with some throaty righteous vocals (are they ever not righteous? Maybe just mildly righteous?) about how “the blues killed Mama” or some other some such nonsense. Drawing on albums like 'The Essential F***d Up Blues', 'Love Is A Charm of Powerful Trouble', and 'Love Unbolts The Dark' there’s enough blistering blues and garage noise to get the crowd seriously going – literally into an apoplexy, as in the case of one fan at the front of the audience who looks about to explode of spontaneous self-combustion. What more can I say? John Peel loved ‘em. They have songs with titles like 'Go to Hell on Judgement Day' and 'Big Damn Roach'. They play 'Goin’ South' and '“Rock n Roll is Killing Me', the latter’s lyrics a revolutionary arms against apathy. Then again, it doesn’t really matter what songs they were, as this isn’t music for To Rococo Rot fans to take note of the interesting keyboard modulator. They rocked like a mutha. And they left the audiences synapses aching long and hard, witnesses to the testament of all that is Immortal – he’s to the next one, fellas. HELL YEAH!

Picture Gallery:-
Immortal Lee Country Killers Ii - Spitz, London, 30/4/2005

Immortal Lee Country Killers Ii - Spitz, London, 30/4/2005

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