Tramlines 2012 : Neon Railroad

Tramlines Festival, Neon Railroad, the Back Room, the Greystones Pub, Friday July 20th

Could this be a first? How often does a mother get to review the band her son plays in?

The band is Neon Railroad. He’s Charlie Jobson, the lead singer and rhythm guitarist. Sam Bradbury plays a scorching lead guitar, whilst Martin Townsend on bass and Tom Furnival on drums hold it all together.

So – last Friday, at the famous Tramlines Festival, in the back room at the Greystones, Neon Railroad were first up. The audience consisted of friends, family, the sound man and a few others who may have been with bands booked to play later. It’s a great venue – it has atmosphere without the sticky carpeted sleaze of many pub backrooms, and of course it has a history – posters on the dark walls celebrate some of the bands that have played there.

One of the many things I admire about Neon Railroad is that they always give their all to a performance. They play like they have a festival crowd in front of them – lots of enthusiasm and plenty of volume! They have been together for about 18 months. The boys all have day jobs, and they write their own material. Their set mixes covers and their own songs to great advantage, so you find yourself thinking you recognise something you are hearing for the first time. And that’s not because it’s a copy, it’s because their own material is good.

‘Tomorrow he’s a dad’, ‘Heaven Forbid’, ‘The Gypsy King’ – you can check these out on their Facebook or Youtube. Covers show off their musical influences and education ( I like to think I can take a little bit of credit here, for my own son at least).The Buzzcocks’ ‘Ever Fallen in Love with Someone’ ( I still have my vinyl copy somewhere), Dylan’s ‘Knocking on Heaven’s Door’, The Undertones’ ‘Teenage Kicks’ ( John Peel’s favourite) and Nina Simone’s ‘Feeling Good’ (yes, honestly).

They have grown in confidence. Sam no longer plays with his back to the audience. They look relaxed on stage – they look like they are doing something they have a good time doing. They engage with the audience. People sing along, and young men dance! They have played pubs, village halls and local carnivals, and this Tramlines gig was the first of a series of Festivals they are playing this summer. You can catch them at Y Not and at the Bakewell Music Festival. Don’t miss them.

Now I’m going to say a couple of things as a parent, so you can skip this bit if you want. I remember Charlie’s first performance – at a folk club in Leigh on Sea, Essex, at 6 weeks old. I’d sneaked him in to the pub, as we were visiting old friends who organised the club. A lovely young girl was doing her version of Joni Mitchell’s ‘River’. Right on cue, as she sang ‘I made my baby cry’ he did, and brought the house down. She forgave us. Some years later I took him to the Greystones to see Andy Irvine. Charlie surprised me – and Andy Irvine – by requesting ‘Sabra Girl’. He knew the Nickelcreek version and had spotted the songwriting credits. He then started busking, playing, writing songs and eventually joined Neon Railroad. I ‘m no longer required as chauffeur, so I don’t go to so many gigs. It’s wonderful to see them going from strength to strength.

I’m biased of course – but catch them if you can this summer. For an unbiased view, listen to the Youtube footage from Birchover Carnival. As well as the music, it catches a shared opinion from an anonymous member of the crowd!

And on Friday night my fellow Sloucher reviewer, Keith How went to see his son play in The Violet May, and I could have gone to see my older son, Jamie Crewe, at Prism in the Millennium Galleries – all part of Tramlines. The next generation o f musicians. Something to be proud of.

Words: Nicky Crewe




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