The Journeymen

The Barrel, Banham, Norwich

1st October 2020


At last a real live indoor gig with a full five piece band, proper lighting and sound, my first for 6 months. It took place at The Banham Barrel, a pub in deepest Norfolk that in normal times regularly puts on live music in its excellent event space. This show was a test event to see if socially distanced live music could be made to work, with well spaced pre-booked tables housing 'bubbles' of up to 4, and only table service allowed. This was probably the first show in East Anglia for a long while and as such was a news worthy event that meant the BBC were there to cover it for their local 'Look East' news coverage.


The band was the fairly recently formed Journeymen was fronted by well known blues man Dave Thomas. He was backed by a fine group of local musicians, notably the excellent Gareth Tucker on blues harp and Mark 'Boweevil' Howes on lead guitar. The 80 minute set was full of classic blues numbers from the likes of B. B. King, Howlin' Wolf, Bob Dylan, John Mayall & more. Interspersed with these was a smattering of songs from Dave Thomas' back catalogue, including his recently released album 'One More Mile'.



The evening opened with B. B. King's 'Everyday I Have The Blues', that set the scene for what was to come, foot tapping blues of the highest order. Thrown into the mix early on was John Mayall's 'Burn Out Your Blind Eyes' and Jimmy Rogers' 'Ludella'. Slim Harpo's 'Got Love If You Want It' allowed Gareth Tucker to take the lead with a masterful demonstration of his harmonica skills. Similarly, B. B. King's 'Help The Poor' allowed guitarist Mark Howes to take front of stage.


As we got deeper into the set it became apparent that the band, although not having played live for a long time had not lost their touch. The band were tight, the performance slick and the entertaining inter-song anecdotes from Dave Thomas added to the evening. The shackles were off, they were clearly enjoying themselves, as were the audience.



The latter part of the set featured a couple of Dave Thomas' own compositions with 'Sweet Black Angel' and 'Subaru Blues'. 'Sweet Black Angel' was preceded with an amusing tale about the beautiful “Miss Alice” who Dave Thomas had taken a liking to, and was the inspiration behind the song. To wrap the evening up The Journeymen closed with Rosco Gordon's ‘Just A Little Bit' and J.B. Lenoir's 'Talk To Your Daughter'. For the latter, appropriately, Dave's daughter Jess joined them on stage to accompany him on vocals and add a new dimension to the sound. However, she could not be persuaded to join the band on a more permanent basis, even though pressure was applied.



There was no mid-way break in the show ensuring as much music as possible could be crammed in. Even so, a couple of songs had to be dropped from the planned set list to meet the 9:30 p.m. target and ensure everyone had left the venue before the Government imposed 10 p.m. witching hour, so sadly no time for an encore. The seating arrangement reduced the 270 capacity venue to a mere 40, so it remains to be seen if the model can be made to work and be financially viable. On the basis of tonight's audience it was a success, everyone stuck to the rules and there is certainly plenty of hunger for such events. The organisers at The Barrel must be applauded for giving it a try.


Words & Photos: Laurence Harvey