This isn’t the first place I’d look for spirited high jinks and melodic romance: along a disused train track on a dim back alley in Dalston. But tonight Passing Clouds, an ex-printing works-cum-arts club and inspired sanctuary of creative cool, is packed to the gunwales for Chancery Blame and The Gadjo Club’s EP launch. And it appears the rising stars of London’s nu-gypsy scene already have quite a following.
The first signs of impending stardom become apparent when the band’s vocalist/violinist, Mr Chancery Blame – aka Phil Granell – takes to the stage. His performance is energetic…electric. All strings and screams as he belts out heady, heart-wrenching lyrics and the band explodes into their unique Balkan/breaks/folk-fused rock. I scan the audience and spot several Chancery Blame clones in their waist-coated/scarved/skinny-jeaned get-up and notice one particular lookey-likey knocking about at the front like a crazed Ian Curtis.
Blame and the band soar into a fiendish set of infectious, fresh, fun-fuelled gypsy rock from their studio EP The Pretty Face. There’s the perfect mix of prerequisite mantras about the darker side of love, with their trademark traditional, yet uniquely modern sound, and a superb cover of The Pixies’ Where is My Mind.
‘The songs that we do are a bit darker but still all about the energy and fun,’ says Granell. ‘There’s something a bit manic depressive about our music. It’ll be saying something pretty dark, about celebrity stalking or your wife leaving you for a lesbian, but it’s always got a dark humour to it.’
Taking as their starting point the traditional gypsy music of Hungary, Romania and the Balkans, with some Klezmer thrown in for good measure, Chancery Blame and The Gadjo Club gives it a gritty London edge, with elements of rock, gypsy punk, vaudeville and electro.
On stage Dave Shulman throws himself into a superb clarinet solo, tightly backed up by band members Barnaby Brown (guitars), Mirek Salmon (accordion), Dave O’Brian (double bass) and Jimmy Norden (drums), all injecting equal doses of sublime gypsy joy.
Looking back, Granell is thrilled with the evening’s events: ‘The night itself was amazing. We were full from 10pm till three in the morning with people queuing all the time to get in, so it was great to get such a good response from people. Dalston is a great area for a band like us. There is a great scene for our kind of stuff probably centred around Bardens Boudoir, where nights like Gypsy Hotel and Le Vagabond Boogaloo have a loyal following and put on all manner of music and cabaret from traditional Greek music to stripping jugglers, burlesque performers and rock ‘n’ roll bands.
‘We get a lot of people coming up to us after gigs saying that it’s really feel good music. It certainly gets people dancing and shouting. It’s the gypsy thing that makes you want to go nuts! For me after so many years of normal electronic music, which seemed to be quite serious, I loved nights like Stranger than Paradise where it was about having fun and dancing around to something more interesting than your average House tune. A bit like being at festivals really.’
Expect to see Chancery Blame and The Gadjo club on the festival circuit this summer following a string of 2008 stints at The Secret Garden Party, The Big Chill, Bhuddafields, Bestival, The Sidmouth Folk Festival and Glastonbury. In May they will be appearing on the Beat Freakz vaudeville compilation in the US alongside Transglobal Underground and the Amsterdam Klezmer Band. But for now it’s all about embracing East London’s live scene, Dalston’s enchanting, swirling, Passing Clouds and the gypsy kid clones trying to be Chancery Blame.