Nuts! Whole hazel nuts!


We like a charity do in aid of encouraging people to be creative, particularly the youngest amongst us in inner London who might otherwise use their energies in less productive ways.

The launch of H Fest to support such an initiative at The Hospital Club was just such an event.  An indoor festival spread over six floors in this handsome red brick building welcomed us on a warm November night.  “It reminds me of a McCann Christmas party in the garage” Rach said as we dropped our coats off.  There was indeed a whiff of the 90’s about it.

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An Aquamarine Dream

P1060102“I think they were the best I’ve ever seen them tonight” E shouted as we dashed through a force ten gale following The Cuban Brothers’ gig at The Shuck, Whitstable.

Soaked through we arrived at the car.  I shook raindrops from my hair and shut the door quickly.  “I may have to agree, and Lord knows I’ve seen them enough times: I can only put it down to the new aquamarine suit and the hometown combo.” I replied.

Ah, aquamarine, my favourite colour and when worn by one of the inimitable Cubans – local to this part of the woods – a tough act to follow.

We’d arrived at 8pm, out of town hours, earlier than usual.  “Everything’s usually winding down by 11pm here” said my Whitstablian friend E.  “I reckon they’ll be on at 8.30pm.” “9” I wagered.

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Christmas craic: Mince pies in Soho


Christmas takes you where Christmas takes you.  On a warm Wednesday afternoon with shin splints – to Soho as it happens.


Starting off with a gingerbread latte in S’bucks, Vigo Street, I had my work cut out for me: Amongst other things I’d committed to popping in to see Los Hermanos Cubanos at Soho Radio with a few mince pies.


Four bearded men welcomed me and offered me another coffee on the house.  Everyone was in red.

I ventured into the studio and offered my wares.  Miguel was on the mic “Thanks for the mince pies S, but I cannot do them, the raisins they play havoc with my stomach. I think it’s a raisin inside – no?”


Kenny had two, Archie – one, Brent declined. I felt they were going down well.

“Get in touch with Bibi!” Brent called after me as I exited to Chopper’s hilarious monologue.

The record store I’ve intended to go to for aaaaaaaages beckoned.  Sounds of the Universe is pure disco.  I chatted to Neil.  “I need something along the lines of Vince Montana – you know ‘Love is the Message’ or Raw Silk – that kind of thing.”  He pulled a CD out for me as I proffered a pie.  He took a bite: “Mmmm, nice.”

A pit stop at a Swedish gentleman’s outfitters provided the venue to change shoes, and Sam – the conversation.  Trying to get into the music industry as a producer was tough at 25 he told me; ‘This city is hard, but I keep chipping away to manifest my own destiny’. “Tell me about it” I said and took out the goodies.  His eyes lit up on spotting the Christmas vittles as I held out the tupperware.

P1040250Riflemaker bid my time before drinks.  I chatted to Darren and Ian about the art on the walls. Welsh Ian talked ferries to Ireland, I talked about the craic.  Darren told me he was an artist and interested in the process – what got someone to put the marks on the page that they did? Speaking of that I must crack on I said, snapping a pic of one of Josephine King’s gripping paintings.


The Campari bar at Polpo was my final stop. Ivan the bartender told me about the drink that seems so right in Italy. He mixed us a cocktail, we raised our glasses – cherry red with a splash of Prosecco, all Christmassy.  “Hold on a second” I said, “I’ve got something here might go quite nicely with this.”

Favourite disco instrumental ever – sublime:

A journey back in time

cubansApparently some people count sheep to help them get to sleep (really?) but the other night found me counting the number of times I’ve seen The Cuban Brothers before dozing off.

I could add up H&M designer collaborations I’d attended I suppose, but that would probably only go to five or six.  Los Hermanos Cubanos however are a different matter.

“You must have seen them at least 20 times!” Van exclaimed over a pre-birthday dinner in South London.  “No way!” I replied.  “The first time was a Sunday Best party at S’Estanyol beach in Ibiza in 2004. Since then maybe once a year?”  “Rubbish! I don’t believe you” she said.


A smokily scented night in Brixton, November 2014: Less threatening coming out of the tube, someone even brushed past me and said: ‘Sorry.’ More Starbucks than Iceland – although I was pleased to see Iceland still had prime position on the high street next to ‘King of Trainers’. “Let’s go to the Village” Foxy said.  “It’s all chi chi – kind of one up from street food.”

Three souped up jalopies drove slowly by – the heavy booming of the bass so loud that the pavement vibrated.  “That hasn’t changed – thank God” said Foxy.


The old market on Coldharbour lane now houses a myriad of cutesy restaurants, bars, hairdressers, vintage shops – all brimming over with gentrified Brixtonians.

We had a cocktail whilst inadvertently crashing someone’s 30th birthday party.

P1030933A lengthy queue to the venue for our evening’s entertainment had us surrounded by the usual plethora of beards and a lady regaling her companions with stories of the magnificence of Dorset. “Looks like a late one Foxy.”  “Yeah, I reckon they won’t be on until 11.30pm tops.”  “Nah, 11pm I’d say” I replied.


Several beer bucket challenges later we stood before the stage.  It was 12.30pm. Kenny ‘the bastard’ was doing his stuff as Archerio and Miguel warmed up at the side of the stage.”  Our new Japanese friends next to us were practically asleep.  Eager twenty-somethings craned their necks to see more of Domenico.  Miss Dorset pushed and shoved with elbows that denoted many a triumphant sale bargain.


I turned over in bed, closed my eyes and searched through the venues in my mind.  The ICA, Carphone Warehouse Ball at Alexandra Palace, Bestival 2005 (or was it earlier?), Koko in Camden… I got to 15. I tried to find the 16th, I knew there was one, but I was sleepy. In the favoured expression of Miguel Mantovani It was time to just ‘allow it.’


*1st two photos from ‘Ibiza Spotlight’

New kid in town

P1020693T and I approached the venue.  The music was thumping and I wondered if we were in the wrong place.  The pictures of this beach club looked so nice – so sexy; lots of people lounging casually by the pool drinking buckets of champagne with the sun shining down upon them.

If Pinky was there he would have said ‘What fresh hell is this?’ as we walked in and tried to make our way through a seething mass of semi naked bodies. Never mind, we’re adventurous types and with one Caipiroska down we started to move to the music.

P1020700Kengo ‘the bastard’ as he’s fondly known, hopped on the decks and suddenly everyone woke up.

I looked at a tall sultry looking figure standing beside him. He seemed like the new boy, suited and booted, a little shy and slightly ill at ease – Domenico’s been around for a few months now, but I’d yet to witness him in the flesh as it were.

Miguel arrived.  “Ocean Beach, Ibiza, it’s great to be here, the feeling is nice, the feeling is nice.”  He walked up to a man tattooed from head to toe with a large beer in one hand, and pulled the free hand over to his crotch: “Hey! Security! Security!” he shouted in protest.

P1020714He turned to another group: “You from Birmingham? Lovely place.  Before my porn career, I used to run a brothel there, I think maybe your mother worked for me.  No, sorry, sorry, it was your grandmother!”

The dancing started.  Archerio, a Dad for just 11 days now took to the floor with Kengo San as the new boy looked on.  “There’s just something about him..” I said to T.

Miguel officially introduced Domenico.  He somersaulted out to join them and then breakdanced in the most graceful manner I’d ever seen. Tall and lean with an incongruous sort of Made in Chelsea look, his body seemed to be made of rubber.

AAqlbGDbWXn-pphrg0P4IpKU6eBMeiw86rkKFfznGhwAfter the performance I asked Archerio where they’d met him.  “At a dance off” he replied. “We were so impressed we asked him to join us. He’s only 19! He does this amazing thing with his legs where he makes them a dead weight and then just spins around.”

I turned to Domenico.  “So, is this your day job now?”  “Well, I’m in a band as well; we don’t have a name yet, but we will – look out for me.”

We will Domenico, we will – and we like how you fit.

Archerio’s moment

ImageWhat a day, what a line up.

Poor Nile.  Quarter of the way into the Chic set the sound went.  Completely. The band played on as the audience started to holler: ‘We can’t hear you!’ How it took almost half an hour for the technical wizards to click something wasn’t working is a mystery.  This was after all Hyde Park, central London with some of the biggest stars around strutting their stuff on the hottest day of the year so far.

‘I’ve been doin’ this for 30 years now’ said Nile, ‘and this has never happened before; the amps have blown because of the heat! We’ve wished for this day forever… but bring back the rain!’

Only in England: The summer equivalent of leaves on the line or the wrong kind of snow.  ‘And, at the most important part of the show when we play you all the hits’ he continued.  Finally, the crowd roared as Chic took off again, with sound, and let rip into ‘Thinking of you’  the unforgettable guitar riffs and melody of one of Niles’ biggest hits for Sister Sledge, and yours truly’s personal favourite.

‘Oh wow!  We love playin’ for you guys so much – it’s killin’ us!’ Nile exclaimed before breaking into ‘Let’s Dance’.  Who even remembered that he wrote that for Bowie?  He finished off with Good Times (his favourite) with a bit of Rapper’s Delight mixed into the middle and encored with Le Freak.


We went for some refreshment in this sunhat wearing scorcher of a day.  ‘I’ll be over by the Cubans’ I said to my cuz.

I got chatting to a couple of girls from Romford next to the Float stage, and asked for a cigarette.  ‘What are these?  I never saw them before.’  I said, looking at the silver packet. ‘Oh, they’re cheap – we’re from Essex you know. Where you from?’ ‘Maida Vale’  I said. ‘Mayfair?!!!!  That’s posh innit!’  ‘No! Not, Mayfair – Maida Vale!’ I repeated.  ‘Where’s that then?’  ‘Well, it’s sort of near Kilburn’.  ‘Oh yeah, I know.  My Dad used to live in Kilburn – then he got a job’.  I cracked up laughing as they headed off with handbags and lashes to search for more amusement elsewhere.

I looked up to see Miguel introduce the new ‘suits’.  Archerio catwalked out, sporting a bright turquoise number with yellow tassles down the side.  What a dazzler it was. Kengo San joined him in an equally vibrant bright red ensemble with white tassles, but Archerio stole the spotlight: Was he strutting, was he pouting?  Was that a Zoolander pose? It was his moment and he knew it.


J Lo followed on the Great Oak stage but it was a hard act to follow.  All tight bodysuits, hair, tanned and surrounded by buff dancers with the wind machine turned up to 11, she did little to hide her most famous asset and gave the guy standing next to me plenty of opportunity for some close up shots of her derriere.

Two haloumi sandwiches later, the main act appeared: Lionel.  What a pro. Sweating profusely due to what looked like a complete outfit made of leather and python, he wiped his face with a towel after singing each one, then slammed it down on top of the grand piano before he cruised through the next.  From ‘Still’ to ‘All Night Long’ he had everyone singing.

‘Good day’ my cuz said, as we turned to leave.  Yep.  A walk in the park.

On my way to The Stones (X rated)

ImageI wove my way back through the crowds, sustenance in hand and found myself momentarily distracted by some familiar voices…

I headed towards a small stage surrounded by palm trees and came upon that seminal act who alone can make you laugh from the depths of inside, like no one else.

‘Eets good to see you, eets fantastic to be here, on this day of The Stones’ .  ‘I feel so good, I want to share it with you today, I want to let off white jets of foam into the crowd, in fact white ribbons would be better but I would be arrested!’ Miguel Mantovani shouted.  With Kengo San and Archerio either side they made an arresting sight with the sun beating down and the tunes funky.

‘Look at this good looking guy – my son, Kengo – what a good looking Japanese bastard he is’.  The audience practically crying with laughter at this point.  Miguel gravitated towards a mother, father and son group front of stage.  ‘You, you are the mother – no?  You are the father?  And this is the son?  Wow!  He’s a handsome guy.  Where you from?  Look, later tonight your son is going to be pumping and pumping – it’s not too soon for him, eets the right time!’  The parents looked mortified and I couldn’t focus for laughing so hard.

They sang and break danced, some special guests came on and did some more.  But this was Miguel’s day.  He held the crowd in the palm of his hand, the comedy factor was off the scale as befitting a day of such note: ‘Well, many of you know I used to work in the porn industry.  I retired in 1987, I made the last film with Carlos Puccino, but then I started to sing.  Some years ago I came out of retirement and I made ‘Willy Wanking and the Chocolate Factory’ – eets okay for you, eets okay for me, frens!’

A booming noise cut across the park: ‘Oh look – I see the main stage is on again – okay frens – see you later!’

I rushed off, as did many others, keen to secure a place for this most auspicious of events, but with a lightened heart and a huge smile on my face.

Formalise those curves


As befits an act of class, last night saw Los Hermanos Cubanos perform in a venue that spoke volumes:  The Jazz Cafe, home to proper funksters of the old skool variety such as Roy Ayers, Courtney Pine, Bobby Womack and let’s never forget Gil Scott Heron (RIP).

Accompanied by the CBs – a reference lost on none to the JBs – the brothers went up another notch towards the heady heights of a funky soul band for the noughties plus, without losing any of the original charm and essence that makes them what they are.

We knew they meant business when they descended the stairs in suits – not just any old suits but double breasted ones for ‘Double Penetration’ as Miguel so soberly introduced his fellow compadres – Archerio and Kengo San.  Red patent shoes for Archerio, some nice sensible brown brogues for Kengo, and  Miguel sporting a very fetching pair of sparkly silver numbers as well as a cute short sleeved shirt with a kitten print, meant that we could breathe a sigh of relief:  They may have grown up in one sense but in another they remain very much the epitome of irreverent elegance we love to love.

The audience were of a certain age, with a couple of birthdays being celebrated including Sharon who’d just hit … well respect for a lady’s age prevails here.  Miguel shouted ‘Champagne here for Sharon, in fact champagne for everyone!’ Closely followed by ‘Can I touch just one breast? Oh yes, that’s a nice feeling frens’.

And so it continued.  Some funky tunes belted out interspersed with great break dancing and hilarious commentary that ensured you were never without a smile on your face. ‘The album is coming out in a couple of months frens, I do it for free in fact if this is the kind of crowd we get at the Jazz Cafe – I do it for free!!’ he reiterated. We’ve been hearing about the album for so long now that I’m sure when it eventually appears, it’ll instantly achieve cult status and you won’t be able to locate a copy for love or money.

Mica Paris joined Miguel for a duet and we were in quintessential Jazz Cafe land swiftly followed by him reminding us to ‘Be careful my frens – the office party is coming, I know many of you are pumping in the toilets someone you like all year…., just be careful because in January you are walkin’ around like thees’ as he shuffled across the stage with his head bowed in a sort of walk of shame manner.

Double Penetration reappeared in reassuring black all-in-ones with white tassles down the sides.  They danced for us and when we all called for more at the end they obliged with a jammy little encore of ‘Ace of Spades’.

The CBs were introduced one by one including Magnus: ‘He’s German – but my frens he was born in England.  Who remembers the war?’ Miguel shouted, ‘Yeah, I do! My granmother does – but it’s okay for us, it’s okay for you, we love him anyway’.

You’ve matured guys and your timing as always is perfection.  We’ll take you as a music force to be reckoned with when you produce the tunes you did last night – but we’ll never forget where you came from – and by the looks of things, happily, nor will you.

Let’s do it, let’s do it, let’s do it, let’s do it, and do it, and do it…..

I couldn’t help it, I had to go.  They make it hard for me to resist, those Hermanos Cubanos, when they magnamimously play in my neighbourhood at regular intervals.

After weeks of staying in other people’s houses, and a holiday, I was finally back home with the redecorating nearly complete.  Champagne was in order and D and S celebrated with me.  We weren’t quite sure what D would make of our Cuban friends but a babysitter had been hired, so we knew he was in for the long haul.

The Paradise was buzzing in a bank holiday weekend kind of way – up for it but in a suitably relaxed – here come three days off – manner. More champagne and beers followed.  I got chatting to some people near the stage. ‘Oh yeah, I’ve seen them at Skegness – they were fab’.  ‘Was that Rockness?’ I asked – confused by the plethora of bubbles I was consuming.  ‘No, I can’t remember what it was’.  I turned to someone else:  ‘Have you seen them before?’  ‘Oh, yeah!  I think they’re great – I mean I know I’m a man but I just do’.  ‘It’s okay!’ I said, ‘That‘s the beauty of it!’

Kengo San was on the decks and order was restored to the crazy world we live in.  We shimmied.  ‘They’re five minutes late’ a girl beside me said. ‘They’re supposed to be on at 10.30pm’.  S and I smiled at each other: ‘That never happens – 11pm earliest’.

It was a subtle entrance but suddenly as if by magic Archerio appeared followed by Miguel – resplendent in a neat nautical braided number: It was a tight fit, but he pulled it off.  They joined KS on the decks and then the party really started.

Tunes, rapping, hands in the air, a bit of repartee with the audience but tonight was a crowd that liked their Brothers cool and the music and dancing to the fore –  as always those boys judged it just right and gave them what they wanted:  Old skool, hip and cool, we had it all from James Brown to a surprising Rihanna ‘Only Girl’ – if memory serves. Or was it Pitbull feat somebody? Either way, it was a big jump up and down exhuberant moment and despite Miguel’s protestations at the direction the music was going in – their dancing was inspired.

I looked behind me:  D was grinning from ear to ear and lo and behold, beside him was Will Smith’s son.  ‘How come your Dad let you out tonight?’ I asked.   He laughed and said ‘It’s the corn rows, isn’t it?’ and then leapt onto the stage and showed off his finest funkiest break dancing moves alongside Miguel, KS and Archerio. A huge cheer erupted.

More dancing followed and before we eventually departed, I said hi and goodbye to a charming Kengo San.  He introduced me to ‘Will Smith Junior’, aka JP.  ‘Are you two friends?’ ‘Yeah’ KS replied, ‘I’m teaching him how to breakdance’.

And that’s the thing about those Brothers; they share the love and they keep it real.

As Miguel made his exit he called out ‘Ha’ luego!’ Appropriately so, for Ibiza is fast approaching for Los Cubanos:  24 June at Es Vive requires a partner in crime, yet to be located, but if you find yourself there I’m pretty sure una gran fiesta con cojones awaits  😉


The Cuban Brothers (*PG certificate)

Hoxton.  A foray into these parts is rare, and walking towards the venue for tonight’s entertainment with a chill north easterly wind blowing straight through me, I wondered at my own dedication to the cause.

Los Hermanos Cubanos.  It’s been almost a year since I saw these amigos but I knew they were the only boys who could cut through the cold by raising the temperature, and bring a smile to my face with their irreverent humour and funky tunes  that no one would be able to wipe off.

‘Not many people here, are there R?  I said to my cousin over the neon orange lit table as we surveyed the scene of two lone twenty year olds with haircuts that denoted the territory, pogoing on the dance floor.  ‘I knew they’d never be on at 10’.
‘Yeah, but guess what – drinks are half price until 11.30 – even the champagne!’ ‘Well, cheers to the recession; let’s have a couple of glasses!’

As the place filled up, the anticipation grew and the tunes got better and better at making it impossible to stay seated.  ‘Come on cuz, it’s time’ I said.

We headed to the edge of the dancefloor and waited with a buoyant crowd for the magic to begin. Suddenly a cheer went up and there he was, Miguel, descending the staircase in his fedora hat, shiny blue tracksuit, oversized aviator shades and long black wavy locks, closely followed by his ‘nephew’ Archerio sporting an all in one blue lurex number with tassles down the sides.  Kengo San leapt to his duties on the decks and all was right with the world again.

‘Hey Hoxton, eets good to see you, we just got back from the Oscars.  OK, lez go’ Miguel said as he bounded onto the dancefloor.  ‘Hey! Sexy ladeez in the house tonight – we been partying too much in the las few days, you know ladeez; we might have the ‘plasticine’ problem if you know what I mean. D’you know what I mean?’ ‘OK, lez go, eets good to touch – that’s what I’m talkin’ about’.

Ladeez and gentlemen alike shrieked with laughter as Archerio and Kengo San started break dancing to a rapturous round of applause.  Archerio ran towards us, sweat flying off him: ‘Hey sweeties!’ Before we knew it six of us were in a group hug.

I continued to laugh and dance as I wiped the sweat that had now transferred onto my cheek. A smell of rotten eggs wafted through the room causing Miguel to pause on the mic: ‘OK, guys, guys; I been partying with Charlie Sheen for the pas few days, you know – lots of the nose… ahem…’ he said touching it. ‘ Whoever is letting off the arse whiskey – you gotta stop, OK?!’

It got crazier; it usually does.  The finale as always was ‘All Night Long’. Miguel invited us to join them on the dance floor, and within seconds we were there – an audience that was as eclectic as it was bonded by the wit of an act that transcends age, gender and race. Next opportunity for more:  18 March at The Paradise, W10. ©