Hastings Fat Tuesday: an amazing Mardi Gras-on-sea (best bands)

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Words: John Bownas, Pictures: Sara Bowrey

What else are you doing at the end of February that is more important than a great five-day party by the seaside – at Hastings Fat Tuesday?

And Hastings has this covered…because, in preparation for the solemn start of Lent, the town throws caution to the wind in the name of Mardi Gras… or ‘Fat Tuesday’ as it’s better known to non-French speakers.

Now we know there are Mardi Gras celebrations all around the world, but Hastings really extends the concept into a Mardi Marathon, because the doors open to the fun factory on Friday and run all the way to the wee small hours of Tuesday night.

This isn’t a session for the faint-hearted… but at the same time it has appeal for everyone from the youngest to the oldest.

The programme is expansive – but the event is far from expensive…in fact much of it is free entry, with the exception of a few headline late night shows (such as Magic Numbers in the brilliantly refurbished ‘The Brass’ – a venue that truly deserves to be on the national tour list of any aspiring band).

And even these are very reasonably priced.

So, from the Grand Ball on Friday, where masks (think Viennese Opera rather than Covid) and outrageous costumes are the order of the day, through acoustic bands leading multi-venue pub crawls, a 1,000+ carnival parade, darkly lit cellars full of sonic invention, rooms full of reggae beats, music-industry masterclasses, and packed-out gigs full of delighted music fans… through to the final showdown aftershow party, Hastings Fat Tuesday is a non-stop rollercoaster that will set any festival-goer up for the season ahead.

Louder Than War’s perspective

We’re a bit slow out of the blocks getting this review posted, and were beaten to the punch by John Robb, our friend over at Louder Than War.

Hastings Fat Tuesday
John ‘Louder Than War’ Robb

And he put so many great words together that we can’t resist sharing them.

Capturing the general vibe very nicely, this line rings incredibly true:

“Roger Daltry is standing outside the pub and bands are popping up in the street busking sets. Kid Kapichi jump out of a car driven by a Nova Twin – it’s like a conveyer belt of the new wave of British bands who will dominate the landscape in the coming years.”

John Robb, Louder Than War

And on a visit the Western end of town, John found what is probably Hastings’ newest musical offering, from a band made up of seasoned and well-known professionals:

“Hot footing it up to St Leonards, where many of the locals find the one mile wander into Hastings an epic and long journey, a micro scene is thriving. Its high street has its own clutch of bars and hip spaces in the fast-changing seaside landscape. On the Saturday afternoon Aircooled play in some tight backroom space and announce their arrival to the world with a great hypnotic set of krautrock fused with electronica. The trio is built around Justin Welch (Piroshka, Elastica, Suede and Oliver Cherer (Gilroy Mere, Dollboy, ATL etc.) with Katherine Wallinger on bass who is a great player and lost none of that idiosyncratic four-string style and sumptuous cool. There is a spark of creative energy about the band and so much potential to turn this into something serious.”

John Robb, Louder Than War

Mixing the new with the old, a visit to a ‘quiet’ Monday-night session in the Lord Nelson pub allowed John to discover the talents of King Size Slim, and this is one of the best descriptions we’ve read of his unique sound:

“The charismatic bearded Tom Waits-kinda guy is one of those people whose lived in face tells a thousand stories, and his croaky compelling vocal delivers them one by one. Some people seem to have the music flowing out of them like the beer in the taps of the nearby heaving bar, and like some kind of UK version of Seasick Steve, King Size Slim puts the edge into authentic.”

John Robb, Louder Than War
King Size Slim

If you haven’t clicked any of the links above do so now, so you can read up on how impressed John was with Dubinski (‘they are like a Steve Lamacq band come true’), Murderers Are Optimists (vein busting intensity’), Hotwax (The band’s musicianship is off the scale’), and Blabbermouth (‘The band have the songs, the swagger and the style to own a big stage slot at a Reading-type festival’) … three of whom are Hastings home-grown and will be leading the charge of bands who will soon be leaving this seaside enclave to take on the world (hot on the heels of Kid Kapichi).

DUBINSKI
HOTWAX
BLABBERMOUTH

In our view…

From our own travels through Fat Tuesday’s five-day programme of delights we have to flag up a few bands that we reckon need similar praise heaped upon them.

Our criteria here is simple… bands who would fit neatly into any festival line-up and would bring smiles to the faces of new audiences in a matter of seconds…so, in no particular order:

Sister Suzie… she’s sassy, she’s brassy, she’s made the move the south coast from the North East, and for that we are truly grateful. This is rock’n’roll from the soul, with a swing in its step and a groove you just can’t ignore. She played a five-night residency at one of our favourite late-night Glastonbury stages a year or two back, and we saw the crowds grow bigger every night as word spread.

Sister Suzie

Buddha Triangle… often joined on stage by most of Kid Kapichi, Buddha Triangle are a phenomenal and colourful force of nature. They take reggae vibes and blend them with rap stylings backed by thumping guitar and bass riffs and the occasional brass addition if the mood suits them. We love it when they freestyle and riff off the audience, but they have a stock back-catalogue of brilliant songs which give them a foundation from which to build whatever they want.

Aftershow: Hastings Fat Tuesday 2022: Tuesday Tour. 1/3/22

The Haystingers… ‘Hillbilly Boogie’ is both the name of one of their songs and a perfect description of their sound. Cool hipster bookers might instantly overlook this seasoned group of musical maestros, but that would be their loss and the gain of the more discerning and open-minded festival curators who would recognise The Haystingers as that perfect ‘ please everyone’ act who you could put on any stage at any time and who would demand instant attention and respect. It’s country, but it’s funky!

Haystingers

Creature Creature… Melodic rockers with a proper edge, Creature Creature stamped their mark on Fat Tuesday with a rare acoustic outing and in so doing proved precisely how strong their songwriting is. The test of any tune is what happens when you strip it back to the bare essentials. Built back up to full volume we can easily see Creature Creature playing at festivals such as 2000 Trees as they climb the ladder towards Reading and Leeds.

Creature Creature

someone/anyone… If you like your indie tunes to have a jazz influence running through them and you appreciate quality production as well as impassioned live performances then someone/anyone is probably the band for you. Proving that talent runs in the family, lead singer Harry is a chip off the block of Keith, frontman of aforementioned Haystingers.

Someone Anyone: Hastings Fat Tuesday 2022: Tuesday Tour. 1/3/22

And the list goes on… The Savage Second Line Band are your ultimate parade leaders who would march all the way to New Orleans and back without missing a beat; Message From the Ravens are on the cusp of something beautiful; Scott Chisholm could soon be a force to be reckoned with; Redcatz simply put the rock in rockabilly; and Tom Fryer seems to have come out of nowhere with a pre-written first album of material that could go into stellar overdrive.

Here’s to next year – book your hotel room early

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