T-Model Ford thinks he’s 86, but he can’t be sure. T-Model Ford once killed a man with a knife (self defence, he claims), and T-Model Ford ended up in a chain gang as punishment. There are few alive who have the chops for singing the blues more than T-Model. No-siree. A true heavyweight concluded the month long Spitz Festival of Blues.
T-Model sang with all the venom of one who has drowned night after night in whisky, women and brawling. A diminutive stage presence, he and his guitar, or ‘black nanny’ as he addressed it, gave the Spitz a dose of that Mississippi attitude all these middle-aged white men venerate with their very lives. Some bopped along to drummer (and support act) Lightnin’ Malcolm’s steady and unremitting beat (right here was that monotonous ingredient that hard blues gave garage punk acts of the 60s such as MC5 and The Stooges) and some got cranky when I was talking too loudly behind them. So sorry.
It was just the two of them on stage the entire show, and while Lightnin’ Malcolm proved himself an accomplished percussionist (and indeed lived up to his name on guitar in his own slot), there were many moments when one could not help thinking that these sparse, aggressive songs would be better with the grizzled delta hero performing them on his own. One of T-Model’s signature tunes is I’m Insane, which tells you all you need to know about his harsh songs, which are certainly not for the faint hearted. If it weren’t for the fact that he was evidently having so much fun playing, one would wonder just how he’s bothered carrying on with life, having suffered the full spectrum of disasters that make up your average song in this genre, one so remote to the affluent punters at the Spitz.
Now, I really don’t want to criticise this venue but I’m afraid it is necessary. The chaos that was the Holly Golightly show has been well documented on these pages, and Robert Belfour‘s gig on the penultimate night of the festival apparently saw organisers take to the stage to tell the audience to be quiet at all times, before mingling through the crowd reminding folk to keep shtum: perhaps the most patronising thing one could possibly do at a gig. Maybe it would have been better to charge fans for tickets, with the added condition that they don’t turn up.
T-Model’s show was less tainted, save a bizarre ban ordered by the man himself on buying alcohol during the performance. He swigged Jack Daniels throughout. Apart from that, oh, and an irritating habit of the bar staff to unashamedly, verbally, demand tips for serving you 3.50 ‘lager’, everything was great.
The Spitz remains a special venue and should be saved from closure, as is threatened. The quality of the artists who play here remains of the highest standard – but it isn’t as sacred a venue as it thinks it is. Like a wayward sibling, it is surly and difficult to get along with, but in the end we can’t help loving it, and London’s music fans would be traumatised were it to vanish.