Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Stand Together for Matt Long, Heal Together for Life

When Matt Long, front man of blues rock band Catfish, received the horrifying news that his cancer had not abated but had instead spread, he naturally felt shocked, terrified, desperate. Treatment and care from the NHS has been invaluable but with options running out, private healthcare is the next avenue to explore. What happened next was equally stunning. A crowd funding appeal hit its target in hours and continues to grow. 

An online auction received dozens of donations of music memorabilia, raising thousands more. Some of his music industry colleagues thought a benefit gig might be a good idea. So many of them, in fact, that there were far too many to fit into one gig. The result was nothing short of a set of music festivals, featuring some of the best blues rock artists around today. With dates in Broadstairs, Staines, Luton, Darlington and Milton Keynes, the breadth and depth of talent brought together by this common cause is nothing short of incredible.

The Staines event on 19th May was held in the Thames Side Brewery, a large, airy, laid back craft brewery and cathedral to live music. In the balmy early summer weather, the Brewery was transported to the American deep south by the music and by the wonderful atmosphere created by the fans enjoying a Sunday afternoon’s good beer and great music and the powerful sense of camaraderie between the musicians who traded places and learned each other’s songs to make sure everyone could deliver the most memorable performance.

Thomas Heppell opened, followed by Martin Abrahams, Alex Voysey, Demi Marriner, Mike Ross, True Strays, Elles Bailey, Greg Coulson, Catfish, Alice Armstrong and Laurence Jones. At one point, Catfish keyboard player Paul Long, father of Matt, held his phone to the mic to allow Matt to talk to the audience from hospital. There were more than a few cheers and tears at his powerful, heartfelt message of hope and appreciation for the remarkable power of people when unified by a common cause. It was a message of friendship, of love and an important reminder that, no matter how dark the road ahead seems, we are never alone.

Current Catfish bass player Adam Pyke and ex-Catfish drummer Kev Hickman stepped in to support a number of other artists with Pyke’s remarkable dexterity and driving, powerful punchline and Hickman’s trademark high energy rhythm crafted with flying hair, arms and drumsticks and yet carrying such breadth and gentleness. Demi Marriner provided backing vocals for True Strays and Elles Bailey in addition to her own set. Elles Bailey doubled up as MC. Alex Voysey stepped into Matt Long’s daunting shoes as Catfish lead guitar. Jess Hayes brought stylish harmonies and a smooth, strong sparkle to lift the tone, joined for one impromptu song by her mother Val Cowell of Bad InfluenceJoe Wilkins supported some of the ensembles with his effortless flair on lead guitar.

Demi Marriner’s seductively joyful country-blues sound is uplifting. Mike Ross brings a punchy, precise, driving performance. True Strays combine roots rock with blue grass for a flamboyant roller coaster of guitar and double bass. Husky, sultry country rocker Elles Bailey has recently signed to independent label Cooking Vinyl. Greg Coulson’s command of the keyboards would give Bruce Hornsby a run for his money and his soaring vocals bring a spine tingling fizz to the show. Catfish, short of the phenomenal guitar work of Matt Long, still show themselves as a slick, energetic outfit with rock solid compositions. Alice Armstrong was recently selected as Contemporary Blues Artist of the Year and has appeared on BBC Radio 2. Laurence Jones is signed to Marshall Records and is supporting Status Quo on tour. Regardless of the importance and value of the reason for the show, the sheer talent was almost overwhelming at times yet the artists never competed, simply ebbing and flowing together as one.

The Stand Together Against Cancer – Concert for Matt Long series is an incredible opportunity to see blues rock talent like you’ve never seen before. More than that, though, it’s a wonderful demonstration of the incredible power of music to unite and, hopefully, to heal.

The remaining dates are:

1st June, The Bear Club, Luton

29th June, The Forum Music Studios, Darlington

30th June, The Stables, Milton Keynes

Joe Joe Jims Bar in Birmingham is also hosting a fundraiser spanning three days from June 7th to 9th

Peter Freeth

Instagram @genius.photo.pf

Web genius.photo

Images: Peter Freeth

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