Kopparberg, a good friend, and a seemingly old local that smelt of fish and chips. I didn’t know the first thing about Alex Blood and the Diggers and being the only ones in the pub below the age of 35, I had no idea what to expect. Whatever I would have been told, I would have struggled to believe.
At nine o’clock, the band approached their very limited and modest setup and got playing. Not a loud or fast band but they managed to capture everyone’s attention. Probably because they were not the same mundane singer songwriter stuff you would expect hear during most live music nights. This was a very unique, acoustic set from ABATD; a band impossible to pigeonhole playing a mix of ska, rock, reggae and even hip hop. The most unique thing about the band is Alex Blood himself. He has a real Scroobius Pip feel to him; rapid verses but with more melodic, sung choruses to make a great contrast. Before saying he was from Derbyshire, I honestly thought he was from the East End.
Unlike a lot of bands who use a member as the namesake, ABATD were unique in this aspect too. Alex isn’t the centrepiece of the band, just the namesake. ‘The Diggers’ were great in their own right, proficient with their instruments but not just that. The bassist delivered amazing falsetto vocals which complemented Alex’s in a similar manner to the Arctic Monkeys. The guitarist also joining in with vocals at times to beef up choruses.
The band were unassuming and laid back, not just in the sense it seemed like three friends enjoying pints during a jam with a setlist on a phone but even through their music. ‘Sicky Song’, a simple song about someone who hates his job and tries get Friday off by pretending he has the flu, to which the band replies back in choruses, ‘Yeah right’. Lyrically, their songs typically took a narrative fashion refraining from being vapid and derivative but conveying a wide variety of topics ranging from sickies to living in the red.
After an upbeat first half, the band returned to the stage with variety of songs with a more serious message. With songs like ‘Racist Village’, ‘Nowhere’ and ‘Living in the Red’, it showed that as a lyricist, Alex really has a feel of the pulse of the country and working class sensibilities voicing the frustration at society and government.
The highlight of the night was definitely ‘Britain’s Got Talent’. A 2 minute rap from Alex alone, which was simply brilliant. The buzz of conversation died down as everyone paid close attention to the hard hitting piece about how Britain wasn’t exactly a shining nation with issues concerning society, surveillance, farmers, economy and government. The message was in tune with the audience’s thoughts as it ended in a raucous applause.
After finishing with ‘Living in the Red’ and a requested encore of ‘Britain’s Got Talent’, I approached Alex and the band to ask about their unique music. Alex was more than happy to answer my questions, the band were good sports having dedicating a song to a barmaid. Alex said his influences included Ian and the Blockheads and Public Enemy among others which reflected ABATD’s eclectic music. When I asked him why ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ was a solo rap instead of a song as it seemed to stand out next to the rest of their set, Alex replied that he felt if it were a song it would ‘dilute the message’. Whilst not what I expected, the band with music impossible to narrow down to a single genre were a pleasure to listen and watch.