The Urban Voodoo Machine first played under this name at Nick Marsh’s Big Send-Off, at Green Acres in Epping Forest, Essex, England in July 2015. Nick was, of course, a founder member of the band and their lead guitarist since 2003. Although the group had always loved New Orleans Jazz Funerals and Mardi Gras street party music, they had not yet performed in this capacity. Not until the funeral of their dear brother, who died battling cancer at 53 rock ‘n’ roll years young, that is!
As lead singer/band leader Paul-Ronney Angel explains: “We had to do something BIG and amazing for Nick’s last party and this was the obvious thing to do. We knew about the Second Lines and stuff having been to NOLA a few times, but to actually do it is a different gumbo of fish all together – we’re used to playing on stages cranking our amps up and yelling to the monitor engineer to turn it up! Marching forward without any amplification is a whole other beast!”
It was a beast they managed to tame just fine tough. In the three weeks after Nick’s death they practiced by parading around various parks in East London, picking up new fans of small children and stray dogs as they marched along. When the big day came they had assembled a twenty people strong Marching Funeral Band that led the coffin to the grave side playing ‘St James Infirmary’ and ‘House Of The Rising Sun.’ After the coffin had been laid to rest, the band had the 500 or so people, who had come to pay their last respects to Brother Nick, singing along to ‘When The Saint Go Marching In’.
And that’s where this story was supposed to end Brothers and Sisters.
P-R again: “We did this as a one-off for Nick of course, but we all really enjoyed playing this way and a while after the funeral were keen to do it again. The drummers, J-Roni-Moe and Jary had both gone out and got themselves proper marching drums, Slim had swapped his accordion for a tenor horn, I was bashing the banjo and hollering through a megaphone and in addition to Lucifire, Ane and Le Boner we had hooked up with some other great horn players. Thing is, all that practice had actually made us quite good and it was like the band had a ‘new skill’. We thought it would be a shame to waste this nice-nice present that Nick had left us and not do it again! “
Fast forward to August 2015 and Clerkenwell Festival in London. After a triumphant headline show in the park, they paraded hundreds of people to the after-show, a mile down the road, in a church. They haven’t stopped parading since really and they have been seen doing their thing at the Classic Rock Awards (both Alice Cooper and Wilko Johnson loved it), Brooklyn Bowl, Red Rooster Festival, Gypsy Hotel, Gaz Rockin’ Blues, as well as the streets of London in general.
Oh, and not forgetting that they are a Marching FUNERAL band, they played the anniversary memorial for their departed fiddle player Robb Skipper, as well as funeral services for their friends, Cyka, English Craig and Vicki DeVice.
P-R: “We’ve done a couple of funerals of people we don’t know too, adds Angel. It’s a big responsibility doing that and we won’t let them down as they ‘Fly Away’, to quote the gospel classic that we sometimes play. We’ve actually expanded our repertoire and learned some of our own songs too – by request of fans who want to hear their favourite song by The Urban Voodoo Machine at their funeral. Yes, it’s true – we are taking advance bookings, let’s face it we’re all gonna check out some time!”
Music is a big part of life and to have a celebration with both sad and happy music when a person dies, is a good thing, if you ask me.
By the way, you’re all invited to MY funeral! Guess who the band will be, putting the Fun into Funeral?