This review was originally published by the Hastings Online Times here
Darren Johnson couldn’t get any friends to come with him to savour the delights of Saturday Unplugged, when a myriad of lesser known bands play short acoustic sets in numerous pubs across the Old Town and now St Leonards. But that didn’t daunt him, and of course he had a brilliant time, as logged below. Darren also took the photos.
“Ooh, we’d have loved to have come to Fat Tuesday again but we’re dog-sitting.”
“I really wanted to come but I’ve got to spend the weekend preparing something really important for work.”
“I was definitely going to come but I woke up feeling full of cold so I’m just going to spend the day mooching in bed.”
My various attempts at rounding friends up for Fat Tuesday’s Saturday Unplugged session proved utterly fruitless this year. But I’d agreed to do a write-up for HOT, plus I was really looking forward to it so, sod it, I’m not going to let a complete absence of drinking buddies put me off. What it does mean, however, is that I arrive in Hastings Old Town – where 40 artists play multiple sets across 20 different venues (plus, for the first time, an additional 15 artists across five venues in St Leonards) – without much of a plan for the afternoon.
Plans for previous years had involved doing a bit of background research on each of the acts and working out who to see, or everyone choosing one or two acts and formulating a rough plan from that, or simply holing up in one pub for the whole afternoon and enjoying whatever came along. This year, however, I arrive with no plan at all.
I make my way to the Royal Standard on the seafront, always a nice pub with a great selection of live music throughout the year, and arrive just as the band are about to take the stage for the first slot of the day. Lost Revellers combine gypsy jazz, Celtic folk, Eastern European traditional music and classical to deliver something quite delicious. It’s a wonderful start to the afternoon and they go down a storm as I’m sure they did for the rest of the day.
I decide to hang around for the next band: the Hastings-based Buddha Triangle. There’s an equally diverse range of musical influences on display once more, but this time it’s a blend of soul, funk, reggae and rap. In their 15-minute set they deliver to the audience a taste of each of those. It’s fun, quirky and highly entertaining, but creative and original, too.
Still in the Royal Standard I’ve already had several pints, we’ve not even been going an hour yet and I’m starving. I take some time out from the bands and pop across the road to Neptune Fish and Chips restaurant for a plate of plaice and chips and a cup of tea before deciding to head along Rock-a-Nore to the Dolphin for more music. I get there just as Creature Creature are finishing off their last song. Hmm, they sound quite good. I check where else they are playing so I can catch them later on. Next up in the Dolphin is Earl Grey. No strangers to Fat Tuesday, their acoustic Americana-flavoured vibe with some delicious electric guitar goes down a treat.
Earl Grey at the Dolphin
Another pint downed and it’s time to work out where Creature Creature are playing and catch up with them (as per my highly improvised plan). I make my way down George Street to the Anchor but before I get there I’m waylaid at Butler’s Gap. A crowd has gathered to watch a busker playing some beautiful slide guitar and the drummer out of Buddha Triangle has set up his kit on the pavement next to him to provide an impromptu rhythm section. The crowd lap it up and it carries on like this until the drummer’s band-mates drag him away in time for their next scheduled appearance. It’s never just about the scheduled appearances at Fat Tuesday though…
I make it to the Anchor just in time to hear Creature Creature. The Brighton-based five-piece initially started out as folk-punk outfit 40 Shilling On The Drum before moving into hard rock territory. For their Saturday Unplugged acoustic set though they return to their folk-punk roots. Highly enjoyable, I will definitely explore this band further in future.
Next I move on to the London Trader and catch most of Doghouse Outhouse. A precociously-talented young bunch of musicians from Kent, their laid-back soul-infused sound gets a huge round of applause. I’m slowing down a bit drink-wise now but decide to head on to the Stag to catch old friends Milton Hide. Amidst all the fun and drunken revelry of Fat Tuesday there’s sometimes a danger that the eccentrically raucous bands on the circuit are the ones that grab people’s attention but I’m pleased to see the gentle and thoughtful observational ditties of this lovely acoustic folk duo are well-received.
Milton Hide at the Stag
We are now moving towards the end of the five-hour Saturday Unplugged session and I glance through the programme to work out where I want to be for the final slot of the day. A taste of Memphis rhythm & blues and early rock’n’roll in the shape of Sister Suzie and her band at the Jenny Lind seems like a perfect way to finish up. It is absolutely ram-packed. I just about squeeze in at the back but can’t hear a thing so, like several others, I go out on to the street to watch her set crowding around the open doorway next to the stage.
An afternoon of great music and terrible fashions – why do musicians’ ideas of quirky always involve one of just three outfits: Hawaiian shirts, ex-military uniforms or those waistcoat/trilby combos? Never mind. A huge variety of music, a great array of talent and copious amounts of tasty beer, Saturday Unplugged 2020 is another big success.