The Lion Brewery in Ash is well known locally for its Thursday evening jam session and regular gigs but when I received an email from the landlord, Mike Armitage, stating that a band from the southern United States was going to play a surprise gig there I simply had to investigate how this happened and go and take some photos.
The band turned out to be Skinny Molly fronted by Mike Estes formally of the band Lynyrd Skynyrd who have produced over 60 albums with sales of over 30 million copies since the sixties.
So how did they end up playing at the Lion Brewery at the start of their European tour? There had to be a connection so I started to ask around. My enquires led me to Dixie Automotive at Henley Park in Normandy. This started to make sense as Dixie Automotive specialise in servicing and repairing classic Amercian cars. The owner, Nick Smith had become friends with the band some years ago and on their 2009 tour they had stayed with him and visited The Lion Brewery on a Thursday night when there was a jam session in full flow. The band got on stage and performed a few numbers which were well received but they probably didn't expect to ever see the place again.
When planning their 2010 European tour Nick suggested to the band that they stay at The Lion Brewery on the or arrival in the UK and one thing led to another - they were booked to play a gig. Nick was to pick the band up from the airport on Wednesday, 27 January so I went to the pub to meet them and have a chat.
When i arrived the band were working their way steadily along the bar sampling each beer in turn. After sampling each of the draught beers they realised it was only 8AM back home and ordered a full fry-up each! During our conversation it became apparent they love English beer (I'd already worked that out) and never fail to be disappointed when they arrived at a venue to find they had been given Budweiser on their rider to "make them feel at home". "It's all we can get back home!, said Mike Estes who also admitted it was kind of embarrassing to still be discovering so much about drinking at their age. Jay Johnson (lead guitar and backing vocals) added that the after effect "sure hurt more" than when you're younger referring to a bad experience with Beligian beer which was of a strength not experienced by the band until then.
The band are basing their tour in the UK with excursions into Holland, Belgium and Spain. Kurt Pietro (drums) told me they were going to stay near Heathrow one their first night before setting off for Cardiff for their first gig. Then Nick suggested staying at the Lion Brewery which wasn't much of a detour. Jay added that they treated it as an extra rehearsal and they had a few things they wanted to try out anyway so the Lion Brewery's loyal customers struck lucky with a free performance. The set consisted of southern rock songs and fittingly for a band from the deep south ended with a rendition of Sweet Home Alabama, a Lion Brewery favourite!
Mike Armitage, the landlord of the Lion brewery, was very pleased with the evening. "This was first discussed on Sunday night", he told me. So to get such a good crowd in on a Wednesday night at such short notice was terrific. He also told me the band hired most of the equipment locally as their own was in a van ready for their first gig in Cardiff.
He would like to book them to play this year's Ash Music Festival, an annual event which raises money for charity. This year's festival will be held on Saturday 31 July on Harpers Recreation Ground, Harpers Road, Ash and will be raising money for the Phyllis Tuckwell Hospice (www.pth.org.uk) and Cardiac Risk in the Young (www.c-r-y.org.uk).
Great gig, great accents!
Member since: 10th February 2010
Chris Martin is an award winning photographer based in Southampton (formerly based in Guildford) and is the 2009 Master Photographers Association Events Photographer of the Year.