COLONEL MUSTARD & THE DIJON 5 @ THE O2 with ESPERANZA & DEAD MAN FALL
13th May 2017, and another defining moment in our scene, as Colonel Mustard & The Dijon 5, a band we’ve watched go from tiny little ramshackle stages playing ‘Junkie Breakfast’ to a handful of mildly entertained folk, to playing almost every local festival there is, to selling out the Barras to rapturous crowds, to playing the far-flung corners like South Korea etc. play their biggest gig to date at the O2 Arena (or the Carling Academy to you stick-in-the-muds) to a large chunk of their 10,000 plus-strong following (and that’s just on Facebook, you could probably double that number in real life).
There’s always a certain buzz to a gig at that venue, as there is always a certain buzz to any Mustard performance - but when Col.Mustard painted the place yellow that night it created a cosmic vibration that will be felt for a long time to come. Fine support was offered up in the form of ska legends Esperanza and the incredible Dead Man Fall to start the cosmic vibration off.
Esperanza are ska legends who have shared stages with all the local greats as well as some international legends including Toots & The Maytals, The Skatalites, The Undertones, The Selecter, The Specials, Fishbone, The Toasters, The Beat and Bad Manners among others! Dynamic, bouncing, energetic, slightly psychedelic, slightly fairground at times, but 100% pure ska glory! Bassist Jess E. Ska is a ball of alacrity, and the horn section will floor you with a wall of glorious sound, while the guitarists, keyboardist and drummer keep the rhythm rollicking and the riffs roaring to a cranked and skanked crowd of revellers. A crowd which keeps filling up and filling up the cavernous building, as Esperanza deliver a mighty set to really get the ball rolling fast and hard, like a corgi shot out of a cannon (the cricket ball stupid, not the dog!)
A nice surprise that night was how good Dead Man Fall were as I hadn’t seen them before. A very unusual outfit, with a very unique sound, the frontman playing maracas and drumming while also singing. A very percussion-based tribal sound, overlaid with scintillating basslines, soaring harmonious vocals and even a skilled horn section! The multi-instrumental wall of sound served to stupefy and then galvanise the crowd. By the end of the set everyone was dancing and clapping and singing, and despite a couple of technical difficulties (barely noticeable) the band really delivered a cracking set that impressed everybody I talked to about it.
Colonel Mustard are a band that I’m basically the biographer for, having devoted approximately 4,120 published words (add another thousand after this) of my best writing to the subject of the Yellow Movement and the (condi)mental mustardos. Over the last four years I have reviewed them regularly, keeping pace with their magnificent journey (articles which can be found by typing the band’s name into my blog on Wordpress). You would think there wouldn’t be much left to say on the subject, but if Col.Mustard proved anything that night it was that they were stronger and tighter than they have ever been, and that they still put on one of the best live shows in the country, their live experience is an enrapturing thing to behold, even when you’ve seen it a couple of dozen times as I have. Col.Mustard are like the white rice of the music world, they never go stale.
Brilliantly, they had ‘Crosstown Traffic’ playing as they came loping out from backstage like a pack of amphetamine injected bunnies bouncing along to Jimi Hendrix. They are changing it up all the time; their set, their remixes, their versions, their collaborators, even their patter evolves. And then there is the main stay attractions that never get boring, such as the army of mascots in tow, the crowd-surfing antics, the props (I haven’t seen that many unicorns since I dropped acid in a field full of horses that time), the stunts, the comradery, and above all, the crowd participation - the macrocephalous-helmeted Colonel and his menagerie of mustardy miscreants can still work a crowd as good as anybody, the way Freddie Mercury might, or maybe more like Mr. Motivator, or a model amalgam of the two, but moving nonetheless! There is not a single static soul at a Dijon gig, everybody is swept up in the yellow tidal wave and positive aura that permeates any place they play. Even the more morbid and morose among the multitude of different ages that make up a Mustard gig cannot help but tap their foot or nod their head (if not break out into all out disco fever).
They doled out all their hits that night including; ‘Ginger Girl’, such a poignant song after they dedicated it to our friend Val (who passed away) at the Barras gig and played a slideshow of her pics on the screen - any time I hear it now, it always touches me again like it did in the Barras that night. ‘Junkie Breakfast’, first song I ever heard by them and which now includes Freddo bars being liberally tossed out to the crowd. My favourite, ‘These Are Not the Drugs…’ which even featured the inimitable Mark McG doing his part (which doesn’t often happen these days). ‘Cross The Road’, a spectacle of a couple of hundred people crossing from one side of a gig to another and back under the directions of a ‘lollipop man’ that has to be seen to be believed. And all their other crowd pleasers in between, from reggae delight ‘Bouncy Ball’ to the infectious ‘Gay Icon’ to the uplifting ‘Dance Off’ and even a new song in ‘Freedom for the Children’.
Despite all the fun and the laughter, they are never ones to shy away from politics, and the band made their anti-Tory stance very firmly known that night. Something I can really get behind too, being a strike baby of the 1984 mining strikes in Durham I have a deep-rooted disdain for the party, and for their continuing destruction of our country. The group even changed up some of their lyrics to slam the Tories while having a good time and dancing. Good stuff, when you have a voice, use it, and the Dijon 5 certainly aren’t afraid to do that, and the voice of the Yellow Movement grows exponentially stronger every day, its whisper becomes a roar.
6th Dijon celebrity Gavin Mitchell AKA ‘Boaby the Barman’ was there too, to introduce the show and to join in on the antics on stage throughout the night. Smiling and gregarious with the fans as always, even when made to dress up like a badly-drawn superhero in some grindhouse B-movie. Gav is a legend onstage and off.
With the release of ‘Cross The Road’ as a single we hope to see a comeback album from the band soon. In the meantime they are still one of the best shows in town, I wouldn’t go as far as to say the greatest show on Earth, but in Glasgow, probably, including when Iron Maiden were here with Eddie a few days later. But as you’ve heard me extol the live show so many times, let’s hear some quotes about the band from other people who attended the gig at the O2, just to further cement the fact.
For further proof you need only attend one of their many gigs, if you can do that and not be satisfied, smiling, and stunned, by the end of it, I will shave off my mohawk and quit music journalism forever - I don’t care if you’re a metalhead or a Mozarthead, you will have a good time. Put it to the test if you want, they are playing the following dates;
Sound City Liverpool May 27th
Eden festival June 8th
The Willowman Festival 15th June
Kelburn Garden Party 30th June
Butefest 28th July
Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival 3rd August
Lindisfarne Festival 31st August
Live@Troon September 9th
The Assembly Aberdeen 28th October
And many more to be announced. Purchase the new Colonel Mustard single here https://www.hmvdigital.com/releases/6295033 and I’ll seeya’ all at the next big milestone for some more peace, love and mustard!
CTH. (Gonzo Div.)
Photo Credit: Martin Windebank