Photos by Sara-Louise Bowrey

Just as things were starting to swing again down at The Piper in St Leonards-on-Sea we’re here on a Monday night staring down the twin barrels of Lockdown 2.0 – which surely must be the title of a Guy Ritchie film somewhere down the line.

But with most of November now cancelled, the Piper team have pulled out all the stops to round up a bunch of great bands and musicians so we can binge on live vibes before the doors close for at least four weeks after 10pm this coming Wednesday.

Following on from the opening blast of an acoustic Kid Kapichi show last Friday we’ve already been privileged yesterday to sit through a double-act of Helen Sharpe and Blair (a triple-act actually as you can’t forget Helen’s super-talented daughter Poppy, who joined in on several numbers as well as taking the spotlight for a cover of Of Monster and Men’sDirty Paws’), plus a second sitting on the same day featuring Ellie Thompson – followed by the inimitable Dr Savage.

And now, just a day later, things keep on getting better and better as Al Mitchell takes the stage in the support-seat for a Blabbermouth headline show that will ‘proper rock!

But let’s first roll back a day and run over the Sunday entertainment.

Helen Sharpe and Blair

We last saw Helen on the pier a while back where she starred in the Queer on the Pier variety Pride cavalcade. At the Piper, with their pin-sharp PA, her vocal range and passion really was driven home as her big, big voice rolled around the room and held the crowd transfixed.

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As a counterpoint, Blair was up to his usual antics, and injected warm humour into the matinee show as well (of course) as some dextrous keyboard playing and his own unique vocal stylings.

Both performers gave unique Hastings tweaks to some classic standards (’Empire State of Mind‘ found it’s way to the old town for instance, whilst ‘Route 66’ became ’Route 1066‘ for the afternoon) – and Blair also twisted the lyrics of ‘Nobody Does it Better’ to create a quirky homage to the recently late Sean Connery.

And planned or not we now know that the only way to finish every song in every set is with a rousing Russian outro…

Ellie Thompson + Alice Barnard

Later in the evening as we got to the ‘late’ session, Ellie ‘L’  Thompson’s voice was immaculate and simply speaks for itself… just check out this example of her work:

Ellie was ably supported by Alice Barnard – another proper voice like an angel… who again we will just let you enjoy here:

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Dr Savage

…and there is no need for us to even try to describe Dr Savage as any self-respecting Hastings music lover will have seen him numerous times at everything from Voodoo Fest to Fat Tuesday and all points in between.

For the uninitiated maybe we should just put this out there…a comment on the video we streamed of the session where a viewer who was new to the ‘Savage Sound’ simple said ‘wow – better than Dr John’… and how right she is!

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Al Mitchell and Blabbermouth

So that brings us up to tonight, and after Sunday’s double-helping of classic soul and rock’n’roll standards we are now into original territory.

And if you want an analogy to capture the whole night imagine coasting on a bicycle down a long, long mountain track that meanders back and forth giving distant glimpses of faraway vistas to the soundtrack of nature…before hitting the bottom and furously peddaling to the top of the next summit with grim determination and headphones clamped to your ears as your vintage Sony Walkman plays a mixtape cassette of some of the greatest indie guitar bands of all time.

Al Mitchell is without his New Born Sinners tonight. He’s perched on a chair looking vulnerable in front of the socially distanced seated audience. But he holds the attention and respect of the crowd with his introspective style – although at the same time he could comfortably be booked as a background player on a posh restaurant where the owner wanted to create an intimate ambience that allowed diners to talk quietly to one another without having to focus on the music whilst at the same time being embraced by it.

Blabbermouth on the other hand crave attention and deliver powerful songs that are designed for one thing and one thing only – to make this band famous.

Dont take our word for it – see what John Robb (founder and chief honcho at Louder Than War) has to say on the matter…

Blabbermouth write insanely catchy songs and play them with a precision tightness and an infectious energy. Every song in the set sounded like a single. They are going to be huge.

John Robb – Louder Than War

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Our take on Blabbermouth is that if they aren’t in the top third of the bill on a handful of festival second stages next year then there are a whole bunch of bookers not doing their jobs properly.

Give them three years on this trajectory and you’ll see them headlining the John Peel Stage at Glastonbury – you read it here first.