Vintage Trouble: Soul Rockers With Dynamite in Their Boots

Fronted by the most talented man to ever be rejected by reality TV, Vintage Trouble are currently igniting the UK with their blistering brand of blues-rock and smoking soul.
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Fronted by the most talented man to ever be rejected by reality TV, Vintage Trouble are currently igniting the UK with their blistering brand of blues-rock and smoking soul.

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Live-wired, straight-shootin, dirty-mouth'd, pelvis-pushing juke music is how Vintage Trouble describe the infectious sound they’re touting across the UK and it sums them up as perfectly as the carefully shorn sideburns of their spinning top, tonsil tearing, pocket rocket, hip shaking singer – also known as Ty Taylor – a formidable talent who survived the ordeal of a U.S reality TV talent contest to find the next lead singer for INXS and came out the other side with a far better prize of a credible career fronting one of the best new bands to emerge in years.

Like most members of their rapidly expanding fan base (known as ‘Trouble Makers’), I first came across these hard working LA soul rockers on Later With Jools Holland. After years of turgid indie land fill, egotistical bling encrusted rap brats and introspective, plodding, doom mongering rock, it was refreshing to see a band with some dynamite in their boots, massive f**k you grins and a bit of good old fashioned panache.

Despite playing a style of music firmly rooted in the past – and let’s face it what music isn’t – it felt almost cutting edge to see four blokes actually enjoying their craft instead of looking like they’d rather hide in a bedroom and burst in to tears. Thank f**k for that – a new band to be excited about instead of hoping the decent ones get back together again. A new band that won’t pretend their music is impossible to categorise because it’s like nothing else before it or since.

You could almost hear the collective “Wow!” as the nation watched, jaws agape at something as simple as a band playing some red hot get-down and get-with-it soul grooves.  Twitter was flooded with praise for them. It was such an explosive performance that I’d almost downloaded their debut album before the song had finished. Whilst it didn’t quite capture the perspiring balls out dynamic of that show, it was still packed with some seriously fine tunes and after a few listens it easily qualified for my soundtrack to the summer.

It felt almost cutting edge to see four blokes actually enjoying their craft instead of looking like they’d rather hide in a bedroom and burst in to tears.

A few months later I was camping in a far flung corner of sun drenched Humberside when a text came through alerting me that the band were playing in my area… at Sowerby Bridge Working Men’s Club. I thought it must be some kind of joke - a band that good playing a working men’s club in a tiny backwater town squeezed between Halifax and hippy Hebden Bridge? Cool! After struggling with a piss poor 3G signal I eventually managed to log on to an online ticket system and secure some of the last few tickets. Ten pounds each. Wow!

It was one of the best live gigs I’ve seen and I’ve been to a few. It was the same buzz I felt after seeing Prince, The Rolling Stones and The Clash. That elevated feeling you get when you’ve know you’ve just seen something really special - that “I was there” moment you instantly add in to your top ten. This was in no small part to the intimate venue which was exactly as I’d imagined it - a typical northern WMC complete with a tinsel curtained backdrop, fairy lights and cheap pints of John Smiths. I half expected a thick set MC to waddle on and introduce a peeler, but packed out and sweltering like a Mississippi barbecue it was exactly the right venue to see a band like Vintage Trouble. It felt special to be watching somewhere they could have probably filled four times over at double the price. Even their tour bus outside seemed to dwarf the building its charges were about to ignite.

Playing the entire Bomb Shelter Sessions album, the band had the crowd in their pocket from the first second. Suited and booted, these dudes know how to interact with their audience and get them on board. Taylor is seriously one of the best frontmen on the planet. He has a natural ability to whip any crowd in to a frenzy, enough charisma to persuade you to walk over broken glass – he spins across the stage tossing out feel good vibes like bread to the ducks and hell’s teeth did we gobble up those crumbs.  He effortlessly wills you to surrender to the VT beat, grinning and shimmying, leading a call and response routine like some clap-happy gospel preacher, but without the God stuff - just heaps of energy and a message of unpretentious positivity backed up by some of the finest bad assed boogie you’re likely to see outside of a Chicago juke joint.

It's an easy option to compare him with a young James Brown or Otis Redding – so why not?  He has the voice, the moves and a shit hot band, dressed like a gang of skinny, riverboat gamblers; they’re not too cool to look like they’re loving it all as much as their audience.

Grinning and shimmying, leading a call and response routine like some clap-happy gospel preacher, but without the God stuff.

You’d have to be a stone cold cynic or paralysed from the waist down to come out of a VT gig without some serious spring in your heel. When you walk in to their world you pretty much agree to lower your guard and surrender your shoes to their shuffle.

I saw them again recently at the Cockpit in Leeds. The venue and crowd was slightly bigger, but they still had people going nuts from the back to the front. They finished with a blistering version of “With a Little Help from my Friends” that had the crowd roaring and, as is their habit, they immediately headed directly to the bar to meet and greet the sweating hordes. This is not a band that worries about fresh towels and canapés.

When they’re not playing clubs they’re busking in the streets, train stations and shopping centres. The week before the Leeds gig they somehow found time to play an afternoon gig at a school a few miles from my house. All this hard work is just starting to pay off. Voted “Best New Band” by Classic Rock Magazine they seem able to transcend all audiences from heavy rock festivals to soul clubs. Mods, rockers, hippies and skinheads can all claim a piece of the action.

It’s hard to know where they go from here. They play a style of music way beyond their years and in the grand scheme of things are unlikely to become the next big movement, but as a live outfit they will (sadly) begin to outsize the smaller venues by virtue of their rapidly gaining popularity.

Purists argue they’re derivative, that they’re getting serious label backing or that they’re just a pub band - none of which matters a fig when you’re turning on thousands of sweaty people, bouncing around like lunatics and hollering their hearts out. At times like these we need bands like Vintage Trouble.  We need reminding how to party again. As the t-shirt used to say “F**k Art - Let’s Dance!”

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