First things first: if you’re not the Stones, you should start on time.
The Brunswick is not high on my list for punctuality or accuracy when it comes to the two Fringe shows I’ve attended this year. Billed for 8 pm, a sign on the door notified the sold-out performance’s attendees that the show would not begin until 8.40. So far, so obnoxious.
On to part two of said ‘things’: I was looking forward to a rowdy evening with the Boogie Woogie Troop (note: Troop, indicative of not one, but several, nay, LOTS of members) but was instead treated to several solo speakeasy-type numbers by Troop leader Matt Gest. Not sure if everyone was doing their hair, Dutch courage-gathering, or just plain lost (at The Wick perhaps?) but I spent about a half hour wondering if I was at the wrong show.
Lucky for him, Matt Gest is disproportionately gifted and a bit of a charmer, with a penchant for flash, butterfly-patterned shirts. It also transpires that he has musical friends who’ve been hit very hard, several times, with the proverbial talent stick. They also look a bit like cowboys, which was a bonus for the female-heavy crowd. Original Troop members Jim Mortimore (bass) and Sam Walker (drums) were joined onstage by saxophonist Charlotte Glasson and Blues artist and erstwhile Pantene model Marcus Bonfanti for an evening of ear-pleasing swinging tunes. Like a pied keyboarder, Gest and Co wooed the crowd with standards like ‘Good Night Irene’ and Fats Domino’s ‘So Swell When You’re Well’. During Marcus Bonfanti’s ‘Now I’m Gone’, the soft whisper of knickers could be heard round the room, flying about as if through Jedi force.
It takes more than just talent (and good hair) to work a crowd. Half of the pleasure of watching the Troop and friends was sharing in the genuine joy the musicians exuded when onstage. The multi-generational crowd reflected this enthusiasm, bopping about with the exuberance of teenagers. Most numbers were rousing, and I found myself spellbound watching the hammers in Gest’s open-faced piano. So many notes! Such good fun!