Stiv Cantarelli & The Silent Strangers @ 12 Bar Club

A loud blues cocktail for the Silent Strangers


Cantarelli always professes to be a punk rocker at heart - a fact he then proceeds to demonstrate, via intense and stormy guitars, way more eloquently.
 It is no wonder he felt so excited about playing Soho's infamous-for-intimate-gigs-and-late-night-boozing 12 Bar Club, where he naturally felt at home.

The characteristically miniature 12 Bar Club stage is supposed to squeeze in 4 bands per night (luckily, not all at once). Having witnessed the band's typical energy on stage before, I was eager to see how this experiment would play out. 
For the history, Cantarelli and his anything but Silent Strangers - Antonio Perugini on drums, Fabrizio Gramellini on bass and new member Roberto Villa on guitar, saxophone and the odd tambourine - are also big on the blues, from John Lee Hooker to the old Mississippi Delta trademark sound - a fiery repertory that shoots straight to the heart.
Their recent album Black Music/White Music, and the even more recent Three Sides ep, nearly overcame Cantarelli's old flirtations with the Americana genre, opening up to more post punk-blues rock territory. A new music world that the trio thoroughly explored, self-exiled in a marathon three-day, heady-and-hermetic session inside a long-abandoned Italian church.
Luckily for the small audience that was now gathered in the small, dump central London bar on a rainy night, the band knew how to warm this place up.
 There was electricity in the air, from the rowdy drama of the band's original Mahogany Jones, to the powerful cover of the Stones's Under My Thumb - all underlined by Cantarelli's raspy voice.
An excerpt from the singer's solo album Innerstate, a collaboration with dark alternative Oregon band Richmond Fontaine - vivid reminder of his old ballad days - crept in there too.
As time passed by, the audience increased in number and vibrancy, and the late London drinkers popping by for a last pint were exhilarated by the live dynamics. Cantarelli and Perugini's performances were typically sweaty, balanced by Gramellini's steady bass and Villa's atypical succession of instruments and styles on a stage that constantly reminded us of limitations.
In fact, whether it is the 12 Bar Club's tiny performance space, or a staple Dylan verse, you can trust those dark Strangers not to be deterred. It is nothing else, but their fever for a music they deeply sense and believe in that dictates the limits here.

Text and photography by Danai Molocha.

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