It was through a combination of good fortune, serendipity, and kindness from friends that I was able to attend this gig. I had been thinking of doing so for a few weeks but did not think it was possible, and was all set to see the Grazing Saints in their support slot at the NAC instead, but thanks to a conversation with some lovely people the previous evening travel arrangements were put in place, my thanks to them!
The Fisher Theatre in Bungay is a lovely venue, and as I entered the auditorium Jose McGill had just started his set, performing tonight with Ali from the Vagaband. I was immediately struck by the warmth and clarity of the sound, it was beautiful. This pared down version of the Vagaband gave a whole new dimension to their own songs, almost like hearing new songs, the covers also sounding amazing. It was a breathtaking set which I cannot praise highly enough. The Fisher Theatre is a cracking little venue with superb acoustics, and the sound engineer on the night got things absolutely spot-on.
Jose seemed to be having a great time onstage, getting everyone to stamp along and I think he would have played all night if he could. Ali too seemed to be enjoying herself, on flute, sax and clarinet, as well as backing vocals. The rendition of Ballad of El Molino at the end was quite simply extraordinary, and is something I feel quite privileged to have witnessed, Ali was sensational on this, and the massive reverb at the end worked brilliantly, it almost ventured into dub – really! I always enjoy hearing the Vagaband in all their permutations though usually I enjoy most of all the full band but it is always interesting to hear experimentation, and tonight it worked an absolute treat – a gem of a performance. Jose was clearly having so much fun, and whilst always professional there was a delicious playfulness and freedom about this set. Apparently Jose was later praised on his set, by a fan who said that tonight he had “the spirit of Townes Van Zandt on his shoulder” and brought tears of emotion to the eye. High but deserving praise indeed!
Of course the headliners tonight were the Bunkadoos, with their second live rendition of the Beatles’ classic Abbey Road. There were some nice touches on the stage such as the 1970s decor, including a lava lamp! The band took to the stage (complete with barefoot “Paul” on bass) and warmed up with a few earlier Beatles numbers such as I Feel Fine, before slipping into the album proper. These are very talented musicians and gifted singers, and in no way a tribute band. This was a set performed with respect but also love and they did it full justice. Ross Mitson on guitar and vocals has an amazing voice with great range, and handled lead vocal on quite a few of the songs but vocal duties were spread amongst the band with Dan Scoggins also providing many lead vocal numbers as well as keyboards and guitar. They were joined for several numbers, including Here Comes the Sun, by Jose, and for I Want You (She’s So Heavy) by Leo Thornely of Balaclava Kid and Dad. Leo is another musician I really admire and this rendition of the song was extraordinary, I don’t think I could imagine hearing this song live without him now that I’ve witnessed this. The entire set was outstanding, and if I had to pick highlights this would certainly have been one of them. Good to see Ross ‘rocking out’ with Leo, Ross (who also performs, with Claire, in Norwich band Stromm) is so adept at the delicate side of songs clearly loved this heavier moment too.
It’s so clear that the band get along really well and were having a blast, and even drummer Liam, as “Bingo” with shades was given a go on lead vocals for Octopus’ Garden.
Jose rightly remarked what an astonishing achievement this album was by the Beatles, so diverse but also so melodic and full of classics.
The proceeds of this gig are going to the British Heart Foundation in memory of Barry Scoggins.
This is what the band had to say about the night:
Two years ago we decided to play the whole Beatles album “Abbey Rd” at a gig. It was borne out of desire to play these lovely songs in order and we avoided being ‘purist’ about it, letting the songs breathe. The main objective was that it was fun for the audience and the musicians. The gig was received very well and we were constantly asked when we would do it again, the time wasn’t right until now.
With a wonderful collaboration with the fisher theatre, Bungay we are pleased to announce that we will be putting on a whole night of music on the 3rd May. There will be lots of Beatles music, plus some guest spots from some of our amazing friends on the Norwich music scene culminating in a last journey through that mythological final Beatles album.
The proceeds from the night will be going to British Heart Foundation. Mark and Dan from the band lost their father to a heart condition last year and it is fair to say that he was waiting for us to do this gig again. So it seems right.
The Band comprises of Dan Scoggins on Piano and Guitar, Ross Mitson on Guitar, Mark Scoggins on Bass and Liam Harvey on Drums.
We are determined to make it a fantastic night and will be using every resource possible to give you a wonderful, fantastic, heartfelt experience. Come along and see what we have got in store. It will be an unforgettable night.
An absolutely superb night of music, in a lovely venue, with great sound, great musicians and a totally sympathetic sound engineer in Gerry who did a sterling job! If the Bunkadoos should ever decide to do such a thing again I would like to place on record my requests for Revolver, Rubber Soul, or The White Album!
words and photos by richard shashamane