“A Night of Rascals, Props, and Music Magic at The Cavern Freehouse”

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Review and photos By Ken Jackson

My recent visits to The Cavern Freehouse in Raynes Park have been somewhat sporadic, but just six days after my last attendance, I found myself once again pushing open the bar door, eagerly scanning the crowd of music enthusiasts for familiar faces. Tonight’s gathering was larger than usual, all drawn to witness a band that many may not have heard of yet.

The main act of the evening was, of course, The Soho Dukes, and this marked approximately my sixth or seventh time experiencing their lively performances. The band impressively weaves together various musical elements, showcasing great musicianship, and clever and witty lyrics, all delivered with style, panache, confidence, wit, and humour.

The sets by The Soho Dukes are consistently theatrical, featuring an array of props like top hats, oversized hip flasks, umbrellas, glowing orbs, hand mirrors, and other intriguing items. These Cheeky Chappies treated the audience to two hour-long sets with a brief intermission, both packed with original music. While there may have been a cover or two, I honestly can’t recall, as their first album, ‘Bar Fights and Tuppeny Uprights,’ aptly hints at their rascal persona.

Anticipation is high for their second album, currently in the works, featuring saxophone and trumpet additions along with a lap steel guitar—a promising blend for any music enthusiast. Trevor Rapson, one of the organizers of the Alfold Festival in early July 2024, was also in attendance, expressing his support for The Soho Dukes, possibly playing a role in their festival appearance.

The Tuesday Night Music Club was well-represented, adding to the vibrant atmosphere at The Cavern and strengthening the idea that good music is appreciated wherever it’s heard. Adding a festive touch to the evening, it was also Sue Hathaway’s birthday week. A significant figure at The Cavern, she curates bands she loves during her week-long celebrations and diligently collects contributions for the performers during the free-of-charge evenings.

The Soho Dukes, in their own playful manner, had a collection for Sue, showering her with gifts ranging from Cadbury’s cream eggs to spring onions. The band lineup includes Johnny Barracuda on vocals and props, Age (Appy Ammer) Blackwell on drums, Bomber on bass guitar, Col Foster on rhythm guitar, Si Leach on lead guitar, and the unique addition of Swerve on keyboards, making only his second appearance with the Dukes. Johnny Barracuda’s son, JB (Joel or Joe), even sat in for a short stint on drums.

Even with two packed sets, the enthusiastic audience craved more, and they were rewarded with a superb encore. As I walked back to the car, I couldn’t shake off the impact of the four-hour onslaught of sound and the abundance of music and entertainment. It was truly a superb evening that left a lasting impression.

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