East London’s Moth Club doesn’t look like much when you first go inside; the front room is an old working men’s club, the kind of place where pints of ale are sipped and darts are thrown in a dimly-lit bar room.
However, cross the sticky carpet and go through the corridor and the place tells a different story. Out the back you’ll see Hackney’s coolest mingling on the dance floor, the whole room framed by the club’s old ceiling which has been fully decked-out in gold glitter. It’s an appropriate stage for American alt-country star Jonny Fritz, as he performs a similar feat: dragging old archetypes of masculinity laughing and dancing into the twenty-first century with a wink and a nod and a whole lot of glitter.
Taking to the stage first is Joshua Hedley, a fellow American and Fritz’s fiddle player for tonight. His solo instrument of choice, however, is a beat-up acoustic guitar. Clad in boot cut jeans and a cowboy hat, he brings a little bit of Nashville to England. The crowd fills the space in front of the stage as Hedley regales them with tales of lost loves and honky-tonk bars. Three chords and the truth still proves an effective formula: Hedley’s powerful voice and deftly strummed chords leaves the crowd wanting more. He happily obliges with an old Willie Nelson track, a fitting tribute to a clear influence. As he sets the guitar back down on the stage, he makes a quip about having to get into his suit for the next act and wanders through the crowd.
Classic country plays over the stereo as Texas Joe, a man with impressive sideburns and an even more impressive ten-gallon hat, spins some records. Enter stage right: Jonny Fritz, sporting a brash red suit and floral shirt. Turns out Hedley wasn’t joking about the suit thing. Fritz eagerly takes to the merchandise stand as cheerful gig-goers sip more beers, selling tapes, records, and, perhaps the funniest piece of merchandise I’ve seen: a condom emblazoned with the cover of his album “Dad Country”.
Looks like London could use a bit more new-fangled old-fashioned American country music: Jonny Fritz has left the whole crowd smiling.
Soon enough it’s time for Fritz to take to the stage; back comes Hedley in a matching red suit and his fiddle. Jonny picks up the guitar on the stage: these two are packing light, as they’ve been traveling around together by train. However, it soon transpires that they play with the skill and enthusiasm of a band with tons of members. Fritz croons and strums whilst Hedley’s fiddle lines dart around the songs, as the pair rip through tracks from their extensive back catalog. Jonny puts down his guitar for an a cappela rendition of Sweet Creep cut ‘Stone Cold Daddio’, and the strength of the song is proved by how well it works with just his voice. Fritz has the crowd eating out of his hand by now, he jokes that he’ll finish someone’s beer that they leave on the stage with the comic timing of a stand-up. I notice his feet tapping as he sings the cheeky lyrics to ‘Down On the Bikini Line’. He’s wearing cowboy boots that glisten with golden glitter: they look like they’ve been crafted from the very ceiling of Moth Club.
Jonny thanks the crowd. We’re the best English crowd he’s had apparently – and I believe it, everyone is whooping and clapping. A request for hydration is duly followed as a crowd member presents cups of water to the pair, which they down as if they’re in a beer-chugging competition. It’s near the end of the set now: time for requests. The band turn out to be a two-man jukebox, as crowd members shout out songs they want to hear and they immediately launch into them. The crowd gets to dancing for Fritz classic ‘Exercise’, and the band signs off with another fan favorite: ‘Middle Brother’. As the show wraps up, I look around the room. Looks like London could use a bit more new-fangled old-fashioned American country music: Jonny Fritz has left the whole crowd smiling.