Jred at Riff’s Bar

I live like a hermit these days. That’s almost entirely a consequence of the smoking ban. So it was a big event to find myself sitting on a warm summer evening talking to Jredheadgirl – aka Juliette Tworsey – and her friends and relatives and Firebug band members, drinking beer and smoking cigarettes before and after their show at Riff’s Bar last night.

I first encountered Jred in Forces’ Tavern a year or two back, where I occasionally wrote comments under the tag of idlex. It must’ve been 18 months or so before I learned that she played in a band in California. And it was only last month I found out she was coming to England to play a few gigs. And it was only last week that it occurred to me to actually go see her play at Riff’s Bar outside Swindon. Hermits are like that: It doesn’t occur to them to actually go meet people. Particularly the virtual people who inhabit the internet like angelic beings, who are almost all only known by what they write, rather than what they look like, or how they speak, or how tall they are.

Juliette Tworsey is a very real and vivacious 5′ 3″ stick of a girl with a mane of long red hair and a flashing smile. She’s an inch or two taller in her stacked boots. She’s wearing skin tight jeans and a skimpy halter top under a long blue double-breasted overcoat with giant buttons down each side. And she’s smoking roll-ups in a roll-up holder, and rummaging around in a big handbag to try to find a lighter. And she is talking, easily and humorously. She has to be reminded two or three times that the show is about to start before she eventually goes off to join the band inside Riff’s Bar – which is really just a pub with a tiny stage at the end of one of its bars. Not that there is much preparation needed. She just takes off her overcoat, and plugs in her yellow guitar.

The other members of Firebug are a trio of well-built, six-foot-plus, American alpha males in jeans and sneakers. And they form a tight unit that drives a band of which she’s very much the lead singer and spokesperson. She introduces them by name. These are deeply competent musicians. Adam Levy on bass. Ty Dennis moonlights as drummer for the Doors. And as the lead guitarist Jules Shapiro plays, he keeps tossing little extra musical inflections and asides and remarks into the melodic torrent. And Juliette rides the wave easily at the front, jigging up and down at the microphone, stepping back from it to add another musical inflection on her guitar.

The result is very much like Chrissie Hynde fronting the Pretenders. There’s the same kind of tension between the female lead and the male backing, between sensitivity and brute force. It’s very sexy. They’re playing the Sonisphere at Knebworth on Sunday, and they thought that while they were here they might as well play a few bars. So here they all are.

After the show, people drift back outside. It’s more like a party than a rock concert. The band members chat to each other and to the customers. And Juliette sits talking, bantering with a glass of wine, about Irish relatives and the music world and LA, where people drive along six-lane freeways at 70 mph, texting.

And Juliette is touched that I’ve driven all the way from Devon to see her. And, after midnight, as people finally start heading home, she’s worried that I’m going to be driving all the way back. She suggests I stay the night at a motel. When I persist in the folly, she suggests I drink some coffee. And she tells me to email her when I get home.

Which, of course, I do. Because she told me to. I stop for a big mug of coffee at a motorway service station. And I report my safe return on her facebook page first thing when I get back.

All in all, a memorable night out for a hermit.

About Frank Davis

smoker
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12 Responses to Jred at Riff’s Bar

  1. belinda_1 says:

    Gig
    Very vivid! sorry to be missing it.
    Blogrolled at http://f2cscotland.blogspot.com/

  2. belinda_1 says:

    Gig
    Very vivid! sorry to be missing it.
    Blogrolled at http://f2cscotland.blogspot.com/

  3. Frank Davis says:

    I think everyone’s very jealous of me. Over on Juliette Tworsey’s wall on Facebook, Robert Prasker (aka Winston Smith) wrote:
    I have to confess that I am jealous that Frank got to see Firebug and meet JRed while I didn’t. But I’m very glad, too.
    And Lorin McCann wrote:
    I am jealous, I wish I could have been there. Would have been a great place for many of the F2C members to meet.
    Jred herself seemed happy though:
    Very nice Frank! Thanks-
    Anyway, I’m back in my hermitage now. That’s probably my high excitement for this year been and gone.
    Frank

  4. Frank Davis says:

    I think everyone’s very jealous of me. Over on Juliette Tworsey’s wall on Facebook, Robert Prasker (aka Winston Smith) wrote:
    I have to confess that I am jealous that Frank got to see Firebug and meet JRed while I didn’t. But I’m very glad, too.
    And Lorin McCann wrote:
    I am jealous, I wish I could have been there. Would have been a great place for many of the F2C members to meet.
    Jred herself seemed happy though:
    Very nice Frank! Thanks-
    Anyway, I’m back in my hermitage now. That’s probably my high excitement for this year been and gone.
    Frank

  5. Anonymous says:

    Same here!
    I’m glad you enjoyed them, and your review corresponds very closely with my own thoughts after the Camden gig the previous night. I really was knocked out by how good they were. Of course I was already prejudiced in their favour after chatting with them beforehand (and in the same way as you observed, Juliette was talking so well and with so much passion about smoking bans and politics that I was afraid she’d forget that she was supposed to be on stage!) but they were even better than I expected.
    The songs were strong, Juliette fronted the whole show magnificently, and the band were really talented. I could hear the Led Zeppelin influence in the rhythm section, with Adam’s fluid bass lines (and what a superb player he is!) and Ty Dennis’s powerhouse drumming; and I could also hear hints of Ummagumma-era Floyd in some of the tribal rhythms that the band broke into at times.
    Juliette and Jules’s guitars also meshed wonderfully – they’re both superb guitarists – and her vocals were way beyond anything I expected. The interest and variety of their material kept me rapt throughout – I honestly can’t remember the last time I heard a band playing original songs I’d never heard before and been captivated from start to finish (it was probably in about 1972).
    The only bit thing that was a bit wrong was at the end of the evening, when everyone went outside to smoke. The pub’s rules (or maybe Camden Council’s) are that no drinks can be taken outside after 10:30, but there’s a little porch area (where the bouncer was standing) with a couple of shelves at the back, so everybody puts their drinks on them. However, because the porch area is enclosed on three sides and covered, you’re not allowed to smoke there. This meant that every time you wanted a sip of your drink, you had to put your cigarette out before taking the two or three steps into the porch to grab your glass! Utterly, utterly absurd.
    That aside, I had really good conversations with Adam, Jules and Juliette afterwards (I think Ty was busy packing up his drums) and really warmed to them as people, quite apart from admiring them as musicians. A truly great night out.
    Did you come away with a CD of Season for Change? I can’t stop listening to it, and everyone I’ve played it to has been hugely impressed.
    Rick S

  6. Anonymous says:

    Same here!
    I’m glad you enjoyed them, and your review corresponds very closely with my own thoughts after the Camden gig the previous night. I really was knocked out by how good they were. Of course I was already prejudiced in their favour after chatting with them beforehand (and in the same way as you observed, Juliette was talking so well and with so much passion about smoking bans and politics that I was afraid she’d forget that she was supposed to be on stage!) but they were even better than I expected.
    The songs were strong, Juliette fronted the whole show magnificently, and the band were really talented. I could hear the Led Zeppelin influence in the rhythm section, with Adam’s fluid bass lines (and what a superb player he is!) and Ty Dennis’s powerhouse drumming; and I could also hear hints of Ummagumma-era Floyd in some of the tribal rhythms that the band broke into at times.
    Juliette and Jules’s guitars also meshed wonderfully – they’re both superb guitarists – and her vocals were way beyond anything I expected. The interest and variety of their material kept me rapt throughout – I honestly can’t remember the last time I heard a band playing original songs I’d never heard before and been captivated from start to finish (it was probably in about 1972).
    The only bit thing that was a bit wrong was at the end of the evening, when everyone went outside to smoke. The pub’s rules (or maybe Camden Council’s) are that no drinks can be taken outside after 10:30, but there’s a little porch area (where the bouncer was standing) with a couple of shelves at the back, so everybody puts their drinks on them. However, because the porch area is enclosed on three sides and covered, you’re not allowed to smoke there. This meant that every time you wanted a sip of your drink, you had to put your cigarette out before taking the two or three steps into the porch to grab your glass! Utterly, utterly absurd.
    That aside, I had really good conversations with Adam, Jules and Juliette afterwards (I think Ty was busy packing up his drums) and really warmed to them as people, quite apart from admiring them as musicians. A truly great night out.
    Did you come away with a CD of Season for Change? I can’t stop listening to it, and everyone I’ve played it to has been hugely impressed.
    Rick S

  7. Frank Davis says:

    Re: Same here!
    Well, you’re a far better music critic than I am!
    And that CD’s the one with Juliette peeking out from behind the yellow guitar? If so, yes I did get one. Juliette wanted to give it to me, because I’d “come all the way from Devon.” I pointed out that she’d come all the way from California, and she caved in, and I paid £10 for it.
    While I was driving back, it occurred to me that I had a CD player in the car, so I put it on. And yes, I liked it. It’s still in the car CD player, and I play it every time I go out (not that I’ve been out much).
    Frank

  8. Frank Davis says:

    Re: Same here!
    Well, you’re a far better music critic than I am!
    And that CD’s the one with Juliette peeking out from behind the yellow guitar? If so, yes I did get one. Juliette wanted to give it to me, because I’d “come all the way from Devon.” I pointed out that she’d come all the way from California, and she caved in, and I paid £10 for it.
    While I was driving back, it occurred to me that I had a CD player in the car, so I put it on. And yes, I liked it. It’s still in the car CD player, and I play it every time I go out (not that I’ve been out much).
    Frank

  9. Anonymous says:

    Blimey, another hermit in Devon. I’m the same, the pubs are dreadful now and not cheap. First time visiting your blog, nice read. Thank you.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Blimey, another hermit in Devon. I’m the same, the pubs are dreadful now and not cheap. First time visiting your blog, nice read. Thank you.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Re: Same here!
    I’m not sure about that – I thought I sounded a bit pretentious!
    Yes, that’s the CD. I had it pressed on me by Jules (I think – things were getting slightly vague for me by the end). Great music and a great band.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Re: Same here!
    I’m not sure about that – I thought I sounded a bit pretentious!
    Yes, that’s the CD. I had it pressed on me by Jules (I think – things were getting slightly vague for me by the end). Great music and a great band.

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