Largely overlooked by media, royalty and Downing Street alike, the Stompers' thirtieth anniversary celebrations - such as they are - have thus far been somewhat muted ... until tonight, when instead of the usual, intimate, reverential nature of Mr Denham's 'Speakeasy' recital series with one just special guest at a time, the good citizens of Dorchester were treated to a full frontal assault by the whole band in all its red-shirted glory. Playing to a packed house (which included some of our most dedicated fans in the front row, not to mention living legend Dennis Armstrong all the way from Bristol), we managed to rise to the occasion quite splendidly, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves ... and it seemed that the audience had a good time, too, judging by our enthusiastic reception!
A new venue for some of us, this jewel of a small theatre had a really great acoustic and a delightful ambiance, and - judging by the full house - also boasts a formidable publicity team! By way of a nod in the direction of his regular Speakeasy format, Mike slotted in three duets by the Stompers' front line - Mean To Me from Pete Middleton on trombone, Body And Soul from Trevor Whiting on sax, and Piggly Wiggly from Steve Graham on cornet, which provided further variety in a programme ranging from New Orleans classics such as Gatemouth and Climax Rag, via ragtime (Minstrel Man) to some of our Morton and Ellington arrangements (The Chant, Cotton Club Stomp and The Mooch). The icing on the thirtieth birthday cake was, of course, our secret weapon, Hamish Maxwell, who treated the audience to his versions of Big Joe Turner and Bessie Smith songs with his usual aplomb.
Not only was this full-band format a first for the Speakeasy series, but the session itself produced a landmark 'first' for the band's gig diary in that it was the very first time that a band member had ever arrived at a gig by bike - albeit an e-bike! It was most fortunate that Pete Middleton reminded Trevor Whiting - just before he went on stage - to remove his bicycle clips ... that would have been yet another 'first'! ...
Thanks so much to Dorchester Arts for hosting us and providing such a fine venue and huge audience - we'd love to return some time!