I recently had the opportunity to do a couple of things I haven't done in a long time - see a silent movie on the big screen and go to an end-of-the-pier show; both on the same night. As part of the Bournemouth Arts By The Sea Festival, the Dodge Brothers were in town. And the Brothers - Mike, Mark, Alex and Aly - weren't leaving until they had educated us good people in the fine art of classic Americana skiffle blues.
Lesson one came with their live musical accompaniment of silent film classic Beggars Of Life, with honorary Dodge Brother (and film music documentarian) Neil Brand on piano. The last silent movie I'd been to (not including The Artist) was a screening of Abel Gance's 1927 masterpiece Napoleon nearly thirty years ago. Although not as epic (or as long - Napoleon clocks in at five and a half hours, plus intermissions), Beggars Of Life proved to be equally engrossing. Whilst images flickered up on the Pier Theatre's silver screen, the band played along. As Mike had explained in his introduction, they had a basic idea of what music they were going to play but were also free to improvise - reacting to the emotional flow of the film and changing their performance accordingly, just as the musicians back in the 1920s . In recent years, Beggars Of Life has gained a critical acclaim it didn't get during its original release back in 1928. Its story of a girl and a vagabond trying to escape the American heartland is perfect for the Dodge Brothers' music and there was thunderous applause at the end to prove it.
After a break for a traditional seaside fish 'n' chip supper, the School For Skiffle was back in session. And then some. In the Key West Restaurant at the end of Bournemouth Pier, the Brothers played a raucous set to an enthusiastic audience. There's a couple of covers in the setlist but the Brothers mainly play their own material - or as they call it, "new songs that sound old". ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco And Firearms) Blues had the audience hollering out the chorus and raising the roof.
After a couple of encores and a flurry of autographs, the Dodge Brothers were gone - off into the wild, spooky Dorset night, destination unknown (but probably Hampshire). If you weren't there - shame on you; you missed a treat. Atone for your sin by seeking out their latest album. The Sun Set was recorded in the legendary Sun Studios in Memphis. Ten tracks, all self-penned by the band and all terrific.