The Moanin' Bones (At Stramash)
Updated: Feb 10, 2022
A rock 'n' roll journey on a Friday night, full of a rocky, country sound that took twists and turns with adventurous, lengthy solos. The Moanin' Bones, a cover band with an edge, provides a musical experience that is the perfect start to the weekend.
“The Moanin’ Bones had a sound that was entirely theirs. One that was rocky, and electric, and playful, with a bit of an attitude that gave the sound bite and power, especially as the night went on and things became even more rock ’n’ roll."
That Friday night, on the chilly 21st of January just before 10 PM, I climbed out of an Uber with a friend of mine to see The Moanin’ Bones playing at Stramash. We emerged, steps away from the venue, in the beating heart of Cowgate, one of my favourite areas of Edinburgh. The bridges of the city above us, the stone buildings on either side, rising far up above that lower level of Edinburgh—combined with the fact that it is a place where nightlife, revelry, and music often converge—made this neighbourhood, as it must be for many, have a nature that felt all at once enchanting and mysterious. A place where, who knows what or whom you might see, where you might end up, what might happen.
So what better place, then, to experience music, amongst others out on a Friday night? With everyone feeling optimistic with the recent arrival of the new year and the knowledge that, soon, everything would be opening up again?
There were still reminders of the pandemic, of course. We had to wait longer than we might out in the cold because of spacing limitations, and when a table finally became free, we were wearing our masks as we walked toward it. It would be table service that evening—which meant no dancing. On the dance floor, anyway.
And yet, that night, we would have an incredible time. We would be swept away in the set, made up of songs both familiar and new, that The Moanin’ Bones played. Taking us on a journey, a time travel journey, through the tunes of rock ’n’ roll.
The journey that The Moanin’ Bones took us on was one that began, as they played the first song, J.J. Cale’s “Call Me the Breeze,” a country-esque rock song about freedom and being out on the road. With the strong Americana vibes, it felt like we were in a rock bar in the US.
The type of place where one might drink a bourbon in the middle of the night at a local watering hole whilst on a road trip along Route 66.
Right from the very start, the performance was incredibly strong, with the songs being played in such a professional way that they were easy to dance and sing along to. As if I had known them all my life, even if it was the first time I had been hearing them.
But The Moanin’ Bones is not just a cover band; they added, through their particular bluesy, country, rocky sound and the solos that they played from the start and very much owned, their own vibe, their own feeling, to the songs they were covering.
As a result—whether they were playing a song by The Beatles or one that had more of a country-rock vibe—The Moanin’ Bones had a sound that was entirely theirs. One that was rocky, and electric, and playful, with a bit of an attitude that gave the sound bite and power, especially as the night went on and things became even more rock ’n’ roll.
Some tunes played during the first half of the show included “Green River” by Creedence Clearwater Revival, “Bertha” by the Grateful Dead, “Easy Ride” by Relatively Clean Rivers, “It’s All Over Now” by The Rolling Stones—and so many more.
With each tune, the band managed to have such an original rocky, cool, fun sound that it pervaded no matter what song they were playing.
But what made the night so enjoyable was that, with such a varied set list, it felt that the rock ’n’ roll journey we were on take us to so many different places. Sometimes, we were at that roadside bar off Route 66 we started off at; other times, we were on the road itself, heading somewhere; other times, we were deep in the bayou, the fog lifting from the water around us.
It was a powerful experience, to be in Stramash that night, going on such a journey to different times and places through the music that transported us.
And it was an experience that got even better in the second half of the show. It was as if the band was saving the best for last. After the half hour-ish break between sets, our rock ’n’ roll journey took on even more power, more speed. It became more adventurous, too, as the band members had more fun with their solos, going on for a long time, taking twists and turns. During their solos, they also vibed off of each other, too, one band member picking up where the last had left off, which meant that the audience could continue to enjoy the tune in a new, surprising, exciting way.
The second half of the show, it was a real rock ’n’ roll dream. Starting off with the retro tune, Chuck Berry’s “Never Can Tell”—a nod to the beginning of the genre of rock—they moved onto other highly danceable, fun, classic rock ’n’ roll tunes.
These included “It’s Only Rock and Roll (But I Like It)” by The Rolling Stones, “Reelin’ in the Years” by Steely Dan, “Good Times Bad Times” by Led Zeppelin, and so many more.
In this rock ’n’ roll dream, the music lifted us, as we danced in our seats as best we could, as we sang along, as we felt the energy of the night taking over, a night where things felt so much more optimistic than they had in a long time.
With those long solos, with the drumming that seemed to go on forever, one familiar, fun song played one after the other, we were able to stay longer in the heights the music took us to, forgetting so much of what had been difficult about the pandemic and feeling hopeful about what fun life might have for us.
It was exactly the right time for such feelings. That Friday, it was the last weekend that there would be restrictions in Scotland, and we were all celebrating a return, or perhaps an arrival, into a different type of reality, one full of music, of energy, of the unbridled joy that comes from celebrating life.
It was a thrill to be able to set it to music, that feeling of things finally changing, improving. Of us feeling free again, the same way one might whilst traveling, in an old American movie, along Route 66.
After the show and after the band, I went outside with the frontman of the band, Chris Buckley, to ask him a few questions about the band and the set and what it was like to perform at Stramash. We found a quiet place to talk, which, though it was only a few steps away from the venue, was a far cry from the noisy nightlife-filled street that was Cowgate. It was silent and still, this little alcove-like street, the way that so many of Edinburgh’s many small, hidden streets are. And it was there, surrounded by the tall, time-worn, stone walls of the buildings that rose high above us, that I learned a bit more about The Moanin’ Bones.
What I learned—or, more accurately, what was confirmed to me—was that The Moanin’ Bones was no ordinary cover band.
In fact, Chris explained that their aim was to put together an “alternative set of retro covers,” songs that people don’t get to hear that often, songs that, simply, are “not played.”
Additionally, the idea was to choose “challenging numbers,” which was something that would certainly explain just how powerful and impressive the music had been, with all its complexity, tight performances, and lengthy solos that had made the show so enjoyable to experience as an audience member.
I also learned, from talking to Chris, that he and the rest of the band members of The Moanin’ Bones had used the lockdown as a time during which they could rehearse and keep adding songs to their repertoire.
This would explain the impressive performances, too, with Chris on rhythm guitar and vocals, Alex Rey on lead guitar and vocals, Ryan Bonnyman on bass and vocals, Gian Paolo on the drums, and Nicholas Franck on the keys and vocals.
As for playing at Stramash, Chris described it as a “great” space, and that he “couldn’t ask for more of a venue.” It had everything a musician would want, with a proper stage and great facilities backstage.
I also asked Chris, as I always ask the musicians I review, what Friday meant to him. His first answer was, “Work”—which makes sense, considering that he works as a musician for a living. But when I pushed him for an answer that was a little more fun, a little more rock ’n’ roll, he answered, “Binkies.”
As in, Whistlebinkies, the Edinburgh venue where Chris often performs, and also runs the open mic where I first met him. That place might be considered his workplace, too, but it also could be considered—as many music venues are for musicians—his home away from home.
After the interview, we went back in, him back to where he had been drinking, me back to where I had been. Another friend had joined our table at this point, and another band was on the list of entertainment for the evening at Stramash. Energised and optimistic after having gone on the journey The Moanin’ Bones had taken us on, we felt, for the first time in so long, the power of a Friday night of which we did not know the ending—and which we hoped, with the kind of magical thinking that occurs during such a beginning to the weekend, that it never would end.
Interested in learning more about The Moanin' Bones? You can check out their Facebook account to learn about upcoming gigs or to get in touch, or their Instagram here. If you want to find out more about future gigs at Stramash, find out on their website here.