I met up with Cheltenham based skiffle pop trio ‘Thrill Collins‘ in the Brixton Windmill on the first night of their European Tour. They assured me, repeatedly, that they were not on holiday and they were working really hard.
Between songs, Peter the cajun drum box player smirked, “We’re serious musicians you know”. Robbie the lead singer glances over and visually stops himself from laughing before breaking out into a cover of Spice Girl’s ‘Say you’ll be there’. The crowd lets out a small cheer in recognition of a part of their childhood they thought they had forgotten.
In collective horror it dawns on everyone in the crowd that they know the words to not only ‘Say you’ll be there’ but also the host of other 80s and 90s pop classics that sit on Thrill Collins’ playlist.
I am stood in Brixton Windmill, one of London’s worst kept secrets. An underground music venue which has been described by the Independent as one of the ‘top ten music venues’ in the UK. It has posters both old and new plastered over the walls advertising bands who at some point will grace their stage. It’s the sort of place with band’s stickers plastered over the toilets – you know the sort of place.
The chances are there are not many in Brixton that would have previously heard of the Cheltenham based trio – Thrill Collins. The band has developed a small cult following but this is disproportionately formed of people with thick west country accents and an unhealthy relationship to cloudy cider. Not those who frequent underground music venues in Brixton.
For the Windmill though this is no problem. They sums up their musical ethos by saying, “most important of all is the quality of music – it’s no good telling us that you’ll ran the place with your mates; if your music sucks we aren’t interested”.
On this evening there is no more than 20 people watching but significantly everyone is smiling.
In fact it is hard not to have a good time when you watch Thrill Collins. The band’s enthusiasm, excitement and exuberance on stage spills over into the audience, whatever its size. With wit and ease the front man Robbie Pert leads the audience through their set. Not only is he genuinely entertaining he is also exceptionally funny.
There is no doubt that Thrill Collins do what they do very well – they entertain. Perhaps most importantly though, they do not take themselves too seriously – they are called “Thrill Collins” for fuck sake!
For the length of the set it allows the crowd to let their metaphorical hair down and to stop taking themselves too seriously. Can you really be worrying about that report that’s due at work as you are singing along to a skiffle band playing a cover of the Back Street Boys ‘Everybody‘?
A personal highlight for me was their ten minuet long “History of gangster rap” which had a strong Will Smith emphasis. It was a clever combination of incongruous songs blurred together in a skiffle melody. The continuous referencing of Will Smith suggests that it was just a little tongue in cheek.
The Windmill marked the first night of their European tour which will see them grace Chamonix, Barcelona and Malaga among others. After their set I asked the band if there was one message they wanted to give about their up-coming tour what it would be. Their response was telling. Almost in unison they responded, “This is not a holiday” (their emphasis) before once again bursting out laughing.
Whether you want to or not you leave a Thrill Collins gig feeling good. Their intoxicating blend of 80s and 90s pop brings out that deep rooted human instinct, the instinct to shout along to pop songs.
You can see all of Thrill Collins upcoming tour dates here.