The Stairs, The Wicked Whispers & more: The Butterfly’s Ball & The Grasshopper’s Feast, The Kazimier, Liverpool

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The Stairs

The Wicked Whispers’ final Kazimier feast included a reunion of some Liverpool legends. Getintothis’ Paul Fitzgerald tripped off to The Kaz in anticipation.

The Wicked Whispers pulled off an absolute masterstroke at The Kazimier with the third of their The Butterfly’s Ball and The Grasshopper’s Feast nights. All the stops were pulled out for this one. As well as three solid perfomances from themselves, The Wood and Mama Roux, they brought something very special to the party as their last hurrah. Against the odds as a final farewell to this much loved venue and after months of planning and scheming, they brought The Stairs.

Reunited on stage for the first time in 20 years, they stormed through a 19 song set of bluesy RnB garage wonder to the huge appreciation of the packed sold out crowd. Two crowds, in fact. As well as those of a certain age, old enough to remember the band at their early 90s heyday, there were many who’d heard the tales, the stories of this remarkable band’s past.

They gathered in earnest for the soundcheck. Old skool heads drifted in and out of the building, hanging out drinking tea, and waiting for the chance to hear those familiar riffs of songs like Flying Machine, When It All Goes Wrong and the smokers’ anthem that is the magnificent Weed Bus ring out in Wolstenholme Square once more.

For this wasn’t just a return to the stage for The Stairs, it was a return to the Square. Back in 1991, before the apartments and tapas bars, before Cream, and while The Kaz was still (just about) Club Continental – where hairdressers gathered to bag themselves a footy player – over in the corner at number 11, The Stairs rehearsed every day for hours and hours on end, churning out tune after tune, spliff after spliff. The Superstars Of Smoking had their own palace, and the other bands who rehearsed there would stop playing and listen in awe as The Stairs played. There was a gang mentality to this band. A togetherness, and a feeling that this was their world that you were witnessing. Steve Powell, who recorded the classic Mexican R’n’B album sums up after the gig.

Fom the start, recording the Weed Bus EP, it was obvious that The Stairs were the epitome of a ‘great band’. Great songs, great players, big characters and a togetherness and uniqueness that set them apart from the rest of the local scene. Young bands who weren’t even born when it was recorded talk to me about Mexican R’n’B. I tell them The Stairs were the best live band around by some distance. I’ve just watched them. They still are.”

Powell‘s band, The Wood, opened the show with an all too brief set of classy acoustic blues soul songs, ideally suited to the massive strong soul voice of the incredible Alex Evans. Some great songs here, too, and though the set could’ve been a tad longer, this tight and tidy threesome are definitely ‘one on the boil’. More please.

Check out our retrospective of The Kaz’s finest moments. 

As the crowd grows with the sense of high anticipation, the always impressive Mama Roux take to the Kazimier stage. Again, it was a shortish set, but enough to give a taste of the power of the voodoo blues handle this gang are rocking. With a sound that wouldn’t seem out of place in a late 60s Whisky A Go Go line up, and the occasional nod to Beefheart and Dr John, their Storm EP is well worth a listen. Tight as tight can be, with heavy bass and great stonking sax blasts, they bound all over the stage, lost in each and every moment, eyes fixed and focussed on each other’s contribution. Robert Johnson‘s vocals get slicker and stronger with each song, and this is an accomplished set which drags the bar-hangers back onto the dancefloor front of stage.

Mike Murphy of The Wicked Whispers, introduces their set with a heavy heart, sad that this is the last time the band will be playing this venue. Theirs is a set of classic-styled melodious jangly pop, with its harmonic Byrds leanings, taken from both the Maps Of The Mystic album, with some newer material included, they deliver this fuzzed up, and wigged out set with a quiet and understated confidence. Some proper catchy riff led melodies here, and an impressive delivery of strong songs too. As they take their leave from the stage, they look as excited about the arrival of The Stairs as the crowd is.

Just a couple of months ago, The Stairs hadn’t been in the same room together for decades. Many of this eager crowd hadn’t seen them play since the early 90s, the rest never did. So as Mike Murphy introduced them with a glint in his eye, and an almost tangible pride in his voice, the crowd’s reaction was huge. It went off. Royally.

Kicking off with the ragged stoned wonder of Mary Joanna, it was bang, bang, bang. Tune, tune, tune. And with each one, the crowd went for it even more.

Clearly having the absolute time of their lives and glad to be a gang again, the maturity of their years was clear to all. Gone were the 10 minute gaps between songs of yesteryear, to be replaced with a vibed up scatterbomb attack of each class song, one by one. Maguire‘s tribal drumming, Edgar Jones‘ hot and heavy dirty bass, Ged Lynne‘s always brilliant guitar work, and the solid, stoical back up of one time Zuton, Austin Murphy, added to the crowd’s warm and appreciative welcome.

Its powerful, strong, and faultless. But then, it always was. Its been too long. Far, far, too long. The Russian Spy and I, Out In The Country, Window Pane, Woman Gone and Say Goodbye, they just kept coming. Not polished, but perfect. Not clinical, just cool. And a couple of delightful Paisley shirts thrown in to the mix. A proper Stairs gig, this.

There’s a new song, six minutes in length (in their heyday, they could’ve fitted 3 songs into 6 minutes), called 1000 Miles, based on a jam they used to play in rehearsals, and at such a length, Jones declares it the ‘go the bar song‘. Its good too. We hope there will be more in the future.

In a moment that Jones announced as ‘Ged gets the A-side‘ brotherly camaraderie, they launch into Lynne‘s jaunty and recently released and Fall-influenced Shit Town. He loves it. So do the crowd. The final song of the set, Skin Up For Me, Baby is spat out and speeded up, and The Stairs climb the stairs from the stage, leaving the crowd baying for it, screaming for it. It, of course, being Weed Bus.

Stretched out, and with Jones‘ delivering a spoken intro over the beginning, to fans of the band and this song, Maguire‘s tom-tom heavy intro sets the whole room off, and from there its a full on, bouncing, arms in the air, singalong all the way to the end. Its as glorious a rag-tag show ender as it ever was, leaving everyone in the room buzzing all the way to Sound for the after party. Whatever part of the crowd they came from, old faithful or new convert, young or old, they stood around grinning in Wolstenholme Square unbelieving of the fact. Its 2015, and they’d just seen The Stairs live.

Pictures by Getintothis’ John Johnson

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