You wait for ages to see a good act from Kent and then two come along at once.
Granted, the 220 people in Canterbury’s Marlowe Theatre Studio on Friday, September 28 were already well-versed in the hip-hop infused folk of headliners Coco and the Butterfields.
It made for a sensational atmosphere at the launch of the five-piece’s debut EP Fip Fok, named after their self-styled pioneering brand of banjo, double bass and guitar music, laced with beatbox drum kicks.
Yet the crowd had already been stirred up a treat by a sterling supporting bill of Tener Duende, Eric Ness and Funke and the Two Tone Baby, pictured below.
It was the latter who impressed the most, from the moment he lifted his hat and addressed the crowd: “Ladies and gentleman of the Marlowe Theatre, I am Funky and the Two Tone Baby.”
A one-man-band from Rochester, he goes by the name of Daniel Turnball when he is not rasping his gravelly Dylan-esque vocals. Yet his stage presence is much like that of Jack White.
By contrast his audience banter makes him appear like a dandy version of the Hitcher from the Mighty Boosh, in a good way.
“I had a dream last night that a lady in the audience wanted to be tamborinist in a one-man-band,” he joked as he tossed his instrument at a girl in the crowd.
“She caught it ladies and gentleman. I also had a dream that everybody in the Marlowe Theatre wanted be part of one big drum machine,” he added, as he got the crowd clapping and stomping to the tambourine, to which he performed a frantic harmonica solo.
Even Coco and the Butterfields frontman Tom Twyman could be seen jumping about to the trilby-wearing singer-songwriter’s set.
“Sorry for jumping around earlier – we have been very excited about today,” said dreadlocked Tom after the headliner’s dramatic opener.
A folk-pop cover of R Kelly’s Ignition Remix followed, showing why the Canterbury band won Live and Unsigned at the O2, the country’s biggest unsigned talent competition.
Their track Astronaut had the crowd singing back the chorus.
The band seem like great friends on stage, with violinist and vocalist Dulcima joking “diva” as Tom asked the sound engineers to turn up his mic. The crowd laughed as she said to her bandmate: “you are very sweaty – disgusting.”
Perhaps the most jaw-dropping moment was the band’s cover of Whitney Houston’s I Will Always Love You. So often done badly and very hard not to sound clichéd, Dulcima easily coped with the vocals as the band performed an inspired and tender folk accompaniment.
Covers of Timberland’s The Way I Are and Flo-Rida’s Low were also impressive as well as great sing-a-longs. As the gig went on it became more and more clear that their strength lies in Tom’s charisma, while Dulcima’s soaring vocals adds a polished touch to their rough beatbox and hearty folk edges.
They returned for an encore of their track Hip Hop Song and they could have stayed for another half hour if they had the material.
Both Funke and the Two Tone Baby and Coco and the Butterfields are planning on releasing their debut albums next year. The latter have even scheduled in their launch night already, once again at the Marlowe on May 5.
Judging by their live sets on Friday and promising sounding EPs, next year could be a very good year for Kent music.