Kid Congo and the Pink Monkey Birds – Black Mekon – Rhino and the Ranters – Birmingham – live review

Kid Congo and the Pink Monkey Birds

Black Mekon

Rhino and the Ranters

The Sunflower Lounge, Birmingham

8th December 2017

What better way to round off 2017 for Fighting Boredom than to see a bona fide original. Kid Congo Powers has been a part of our music since we started listening to it, add to that the brilliance of Black Mekon alongside Rhino and the Ranters and you’ve got what could be vying for gig of the year. Time to comb up the quiff and drink whiskey.

It’s freezing, the forcast is snow and my screen wash ran out somewhere on the M6, the photographer is pumping out vital techno and I’m trying to concentrate on the Sat Nav as we enter bandit country. I’ve texted the Tattooist but got no answer, and now I’m searching for parking. The pavement is like an ice rink and the steps a death trap, we jump the pool of murky water underneath the concrete pagoda and slowly feel our nostrils freeze. There’s a Black Mekon on the door who tells us it’s warmer downstairs and as the photographers glasses steam up we arrive.
There’s only a few people down there, but one of them is Kid Congo Powers, selling his own merch. I tell him we are reviewing and he tells us to be kind, I make an arse out of myself by stuttering something along the lines of he’s going to be brilliant… I don’t care, I shake his hand and we wait. 
Still no tatooist, but the freaks and sleazebags are coming in, there are quiffs, tattoos and leather jackets, old punks and guys dressed up, I’m in my best shirt, you need to make an effort. The photographer is resplendent in his favourite Swans shirt. We’re ready.

Rhino and the Ranters are a rag tag bunch, the singer is suave, seedy and sophisticated looking, the drummer is resplendent in cap and googles, just in case the crowd turn on him and the mandolin player has a top hat and waistcoat. There’s also a very tall cool looking bassist , I’m assuming the space stopped him using a double bass as I’ve watched online. They start off with a bluesy acoustic guitar and it’s soft, calm and very, very loud. The room is tiny, but the sound man adheres to the turn it up very bloody loud school of thought which from my space seems the best possible way to go. Rhino and the Ranters play rock’n’roll, swampy and cool, laid back and very groovy. There’s a sleazy, washed out, Tom Waits feel to the music. You get the impression that this lot would win in a fight.

They are playing music for themselves, the singer involving the crowd and getting very little back but he is making himself and us smile. The drummer starts to play a tyre rim and faster skiffle. They go on to play slide guitar blues and folk tinged rock’n’roll. They are great, a great little band that start the night off a treat. 

The rooms full now but I’m fairly sure it’s going to get fuller. It’s getting warm, the photographer has disappeared to the front thinking much the same as me regarding space. From this moment on my notes are just cramped scrawlings, which in the circumstances seems pretty apt.


Black Mekon take the stage, the two front men are resplendent in suits and superhero masks, the drummer sports a huge beard and glasses. They are, as ever, brilliant. They slam into a drum beat and harmonica combo which blasts the cobwebs away. It’s as cool as you like, primal and real.
They are loud, distorted to the point of losing control and it’s bedlam. The room has filled even more and the heat and volume is rising.
They have one mic, taped to the mic stand, and they sing everything into it, vocals and crushed together harmonies. It sounds stupidly good. They have rockabilly sleazeball songs, storming guitar slamming songs and when they kick out Salt Liquor it’s as if they have something to prove the way they play it, it must be because they are here with one of the originals, one of the few that are still going, still spreading the rock’n’roll voodoo word. They’re now slow and dirty, sexy and coated in oil, the sound is chewy and disturbing dripping with sweat.
They play New Kind of Hell and kick the shit out of it. It’s rockabilly, garage punk done right and the fact that it’s being done right now matters, because this has been done before but who gives one, when they’re up in front of you and the volume, madness and distortion is messing with your head it’s all that matters. Fighting Boredom love them.
 The room is now breathing room only, I can’t read my notes so this is coming from the gut. Kid Congo Powers was a founding member of the Gun Club, he left them before they got to make a record to join The Cramps, he has said that he offered to sacrifice a finger to Ivy, made some of the best punk tinged drug addled psychobilly punk records in existence and then rejoined the Gun Club eventually going on to join Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. The guy has produced some of the best music of our times and has influenced so much more. So I am not at all surprised that this room is full and the show is sold out. The band are intense, three guitars and a drummer, who is tattooed and looks as hard as nails, the other two guitarists are the tallest man in the room and a sailor, and then there’s the man we came to see, resplendent in a cape, using his hands to act out the songs and dramatically introduce them, Kid Congo Powers and the Pink Monkey Birds.
They launch into the music and it’s a sleazy, Halloween pantomime sound, with Spanish tinged guitars fighting with the monster stories and songs of lost love and lives, the guitars twang and move while the man sings. He talks about the Yeti before launching into pure undistilled Garage rock’n’roll punk. He announces that his guitar is vaguely in tune before launching into another classic of sleaze filled rockabilly with extra added werewolf screams, they play instrumentals that work the sound up into a psych out frenzy as the Kid rolls his eyes and plays for us. He talks about a band he was in and then plays Some New Kind Of Kick’, I’m somewhere between a teenager looking back and a grown man remembering why I fell in love with this sound in the first place. The fact that I’m stood next to two of the psychos who were there with me first time around for some of those crazed teenage years makes this even better. The tattooist is here. The photographer is behind me.
This is the spirit of sex and drugs and rock’n’roll wrapped up and distilled, Kid Congo looks like he’s having a ball and he is an original, you only get to see such people every now and again. 
Then the sound switches to something very familiar and For the Love Of Ivy’ blasts out, every word acted and drawn out, and God I love that song. ‘I’m gonna buy me a graveyard of my own..’
My notes here are just scrawl, the band are having a blast and the groove just gets better and better until they play the last song, possibly one of the best songs in the world ever and made his own by the patented Kid Congo Powers delivery, Sex Beat, the drug addled, sexy as hell Gun Club’s opening statement and rarely bettered. Fantastic.
Then he’s gone, we can breath and reflect on just how good it was. Kid Congo and the Pink Monkey Birds, utterly brilliant.
Kid Congo and the Pink Monkey Birds

Black Mekon

Rhino and the Ranters

Kid Congo Power’s website is, Kid Congo and the Pink Monkey Birds are on Facebook.

Black Mekon’s website is, they are also on Facebook.

Rhino and the Ranters have a Bandcamp page and are on Facebook.

All words by Adrian Bloxham, all pictures by Martin Ward.

Adrian Bloxham

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