Black Mekon – Cherry Pickles – Birmingham – live review

Black Mekon – Cherry Pickles

The Night Owl, Birmingham

24th August 2019

Besuited, superhero masked fuzz rock’n’roll delinquents Black Mekon have a new album out now. To celibrate this they have just completed a tour with their sisters in crime Cherry Pickles. So Fighting Boredom put on their best shirts and headed out to catch the hometown last gig of the tour. Read what we thought below.

The road we need to go up to get to the Night Owl is choked with kids, ubers and lunacy. The photographer parks the car and we can’t hear each other as thunderous drum and bass shakes the wall next to us. The road is full of bouncers, hench young men swaggering and teenage girls shouting at each other. Luckily the refuge of the Night Owl is just down the way there. We go in and I leave the spare ticket I have on the door for the next person to use. I know it’s worth it, this is Black Mekon. 

There are Go-Go dancers projected onto the wall opposite where we sit, Kid Congo and French pop being spun by the deejay, who looks suspiciously like Black Mekon without a mask, but how could it be, those dudes never take them off do they? There are what looks like a married couple of stuffed animals in a coffin, paper mache oblivion onstage and fairy lights wound round the stairs. There’s a sixties oil lightshow playing behind the stage and a disco ball spinning all night. There are any number of perfect quiffs around the room and Cherry Pickles wander around grinning at people and looking perfect. We take a seat outside but I don’t realise we are outside until I look up. I think that’s Black Mekon, the brother, behind the merch looking as cool as, the Black Mekon arcade game plays to itself next to him and two punks resplendent in leather and studs with excellent hair stand drinking by the stairs. 

Cherry Pickles appear in their stage clothes which are a long white dress for Priscila the guitarist and cherry adorned white shorts and top for Mimi the drummer, and is that Black Mekon (the other brother) on stage without his mask? I just don’t know. Also, the best shoes of the night are onstage now, two tone patent black and white leather boots, if you were wearing them, you won.

The microphone distorts the vocals just so, the guitars are loud and overpowering and the drums hit you in the gut. The drums speed up and the crowd move forward to the stage. It’s simple latin tinged rock’n’roll. The guitar is distorted and slams out rockabilly surf licks over a righteous beat from Mimi. The vocals are loud and distinctive over the noise and the beat goes on. Their charm is in their simplicity. They’re not trying to be clever and complicated, it’s stripped back rock’n’roll, Priscila’s vocal gives the music a south american tinge and as they surf into a Cramps psychobilly groove the whole thing slides sideways as it rocks, Mimi is shaking maracas above her head and the beat goes on.

So that’s what Cherry Pickles do. Rudimentary crazed rockabilly psycho music, and they do it until their smiles are huge and infectious which makes you smile too. It’s music that makes your body move. Their giant eye goes flying into the crowd and the meanest doorman in the world goes and retrieves it. He then proceeds to put it on his head and then collapses giggling, that pretty much sums the set up for me. Even the people paid to be here are getting into it.
‘This one’s for the lovers’, my favourite song by them. ‘Jimmy the Werewolf’ with a slow slow strum and drum beat the vocal is slung low and the vibe is Ricky nelson via the Cramps. Awesome. Mimi’s smile is now infecting the whole room. The drums kick in again like Punk means something and the vocals and guitar try to keep up. It goes low down, quiet and you know it’s going to kick back into a holy glorious noise and they’re lost in it. There’s sixties girl band vibe to it, when girl bands used to be hard as nails, the crowd are singing along and with a glance at each other they move mics, drums and everything into the audience, they stomp out a fuzzy girl band garage number and Priscila is singing to the crowd standing next to her as they dance. Cherry Pickles, raw and wonderful. 
Black Mekon hit the stage in black suits, white shirts and black ties. All three are wearing the superhero masks. Black Mekon sits at the drums. Hits them. Hard. Black Mekon stands with his guitar, looks down, hits it, hard. Black Mekon stands at the front, legs just so apart, feet just so, one in front of the other. Looks at the crowd and slams into Jenny Was A Klepto. The massive dose of fuzz and attitude mashes my head just as I knew it was going to. The drumming Mekon is relentless, hunched forward over the tiny drumkit never even seeming to draw breath. Black Mekon on the second guitar moves all the time looking down. It finishes, Black Mekon at the front tries to say something but it’s so distorted you can’t understand anything, then he turns and shouts about being interrupted, stops shouting and they lay down more over fuzzed rock’n’roll stomp. This is music for freaks, music for hot rodding speed addled delinquents, music for shouting ‘Fuck You!’ at the man. Music for making the neighbours hate you.
I’d say that the three Mekon’s are more focused since the last time we caught them, but I’m unsure that focus has anything to do with this, I reckon it’s a combination of pure badness and muscle memory that contributes to this driving force of noise. Look, it’s just two guitars and a drumkit, they don’t need anything else. There are people dancing, moving and singing all the way back now. They slow it down to a blues, rockabilly sleaze monster of a song. Remember the Cramps singing Ricky Nelson distilled into a smooth moonshine and then drink the whole thing back.That’s what this feels like. The white hot hit burning your throat and making you choke. Black Mekon at the front seems agitated and lost now, reacting to the up and down rockabilly massive fuzz guitar he’s playing. Black Mekon on the drums can hardly sit down for the whole song.
The drums and guitar Mekons swap places, Black Mekon then attacks the guitar and Black Mekon at the front plays the harmonica, then rants, then harmonica, then rants. The fuzz kicks back into madness and huge riffs and once again I’m sold. The huge rock’n’roll attitude that they have is given life by the masks, I’m sure that they play harder and with less fucks given than if they went onstage as themselves. Then to prove the point, Black Mekon, who may or may not have been the guy behind the merch chatting amiably to us an hour ago, steps up to the mic and as the music carries us off to dustbowl car races and switchblade scars gives everything he has as he wildly carries the song forward. 
Then Cherry Pickles are back, different clothes and masks but it’s them, Black Mekon introduces them as the ones ‘who break all our equipment’ and they go again. Brilliant fuzz and distortion and the added thrill of three vocalists who are fighting for the mic. Black Mekon wrestles the mic back off Priscila and as they launch into their last songs everyone is dancing, the bar staff are in the middle of the crowd, there are disco jumpsuits, fifties dresses and bowling shirts all going potty to the righteous rockabilly punk fuzz. As they draw it all in there’s a kid sitting at the back playing the Black Mekon arcade game. Just as you think it’s over with a last blast of feedback, they lurch back into playing. They end with immaculate cool, throwing the guitars down and exiting the stage.
We’re all smiling, overcome by the distortion and glee filling the room. Black Mekon, if you haven’t realised yet, you need to let them into your head. Who says so? We do. 

Black Mekon

Cherry Pickles

Black Mekon’s website is, they are on Facebook, have a Bandcamp page and Tweet as @blackmekon

Cherry Pickles are on Facebook, have a Bandcamp page and Tweet as @pickles_cherry

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

Adrian Bloxham

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *