Rock and roll music, the chance to meet old friends, and maybe even get a tattoo added up to a riotous night at the Rivermead
A night out at a leisure centre may not be everyone's cup of tea, but last Saturday at the Rivermead provided a rare treat for aficionados of traditional rock and roll, when the "Rockers Reunion" came to town.
The sports hall was decked out with stalls selling rock and roll memorabilia, clothing, belt buckles, and the widest selection of multi coloured shoes imaginable. Elsewhere, collectors thumbed through endless cd racks, all neatly divided into their own genres, and everyone agreed that it was a much more pleasurable experience than simply ordering off the ubiquitous Ebay.
One of the more unusual stalls was busy all evening, as boys and girls alike waited patiently to have traditional rock and roll designs tattooed onto various parts of their anatomy.
The punters sported all manner of uniforms, from Teddy Boy to biker, some with the look of East End gangsters, and others with hair that The Fonz would have been proud of.
Long lost friends greeted each other warmly as the "Reunion" got into full swing, with the bar doing a roaring trade from the off. This was the 26th annual event, and many of the Rockers had been to every one.
Rock and roll music filled the air with crazy rhythms, and the generous dance floor gyrated with jivers all eager to show off their moves. Numerous bands played on the wonderfully intimate stage, highlighted by the Skyrockets who involved several members of the audience with the microphone and with encouragement to join them on stage to dance.
The second half of the show saw the two main performers take to the stage. Mike Sanchez and his All Star Band played outstanding rhythms and boogie woogie. Mike seemed to take on the persona of whoever's song he was performing, rolling his head and grinning during Fats Domino's "I'm Ready", and shaking his eyes manically as he became Little Richard. The highlight was when he left his keyboards and walked along the front of the stage giving a fabulous rendition of Chuck Berry's "Brown Eyed Handsome Man".
Sanchez left the stage dripping with sweat after the efforts of his all action performance, and the rapturous applause was thoroughly deserved.
The finale was left to Sleepy LaBeef, the legendary singer and musician from Smackover in Arkansas, and a real coup for the organisers of the party. A huge presence on stage, Sleepy's deep baritone voice was a hit from the start. He changed tempo effortlessly, switching from the melancholy "Completely Destroyed" to the rocking "Hello Josephine" without missing a beat. He plugged his recent release "Sleepy LaBeef: Roots" with a stirring rendition of "Cotton Fields", but it was the moving "Long Black Veil" made famous by Johnny Cash that was the highlight.
Sleepy is famous for the spontaneity of his shows, which was emphasised when his drummer joined him up front to sing "Sweet Home Alabama", and also when he was enjoying himself so much that he unexpectedly ran out of time at the end of his set. He quickly slotted in the perennial favourite "Ain't Got A Home" and bade Reading a fond farewell, stopping briefly at one of the stalls to chat to the rockers and sign posters and copies of his cds.