LIVE: Routemaster Bus and Fender Stratocaster 60th Anniversary Gig

By Samarth Kanal

Gosh, TFL. Trying to butter me up like this with the promise of a free bus ride, four bands and free food and drink – or should I not have mentioned that last one? Either way, as easy as it is to solely consider whether this display of freebies and well-decorated buses would make up for all of the signal failures and delays, the event was actually organised to commemorate the joint 60th anniversaries of the Routemaster Bus and the Fender Stratocaster.

First, here’s some stuff that Fender and Transport For London might want mentioned: There is one new-model Routemaster Bus dressed up in a Fender livery, and 25 limited edition guitars which replicate the red-ness of the iconic bus as well as the pattern on the seats.

With that out of the way, the first of the three bands was Arcane Roots. The alt-rock band from Kingston-Upon-Thames hit every high note competently, and the electric bass didn’t trample on the acoustic guitar on the two songs that they played. Unfortunately, the constant popping and crackling coming out of one of one of the amps did detract from both Fender’s hand in this event and Arcane Roots’s set.

Mike Duce from Lower Than Atlantis should have been on next, but as this was a gig themed around buses perhaps the schedule was disarranged as an homage. Still, when he did eventually arrive, an acoustic rendition of ‘English Kids In America’ was carried out very well – the melodic guitar sections sounded great and as you would expect from a proven frontman, not a note was missed.

All the Lower Than Atlantis fans departed for the next band, which was a shame because Bare Hunter combined bluesy, layered guitar hooks with harmonica solos and vocals which managed to sound really full, even if they were delivered out of a bus onto a busy pavement. Bare Hunter managed to outshine the other acts but they still lost out to Violet Bones for the prize which was a bus-themed Fender Stratocaster. Violet Bones were thoroughly underwhelming – dad-rock in it’s purest, most conservative and monotonous form. Still, everybody got a free bus ride to the TFL Museum, which was a consolation of sorts.

Brothers and Bones had the honour of playing at the London Transport Museum, though everything felt tame and and subdued – I was assured by a fan that they thrive in a larger setting. Perhaps that’s true, or perhaps the “fan” was actually somebody who had a vested interest in the band and overheard me saying that Brothers and Bones failed to make much of an impact. It ultimately didn’t matter as much of the crowd were employees, managers and journalists; not solely there to see the acoustic soft-rock of the London-based five-piece. Not a bus driver in sight, either.

What an amazing coincidence then, that the Year Of The Bus (yes, really) shares its anniversary with the Stratocaster. Acts such as Transit or Busta Rhymes would have been more fitting, perhaps, than a random assortment of bands who probably have little affiliation with buses or Fender guitars. Yet, it was eye opening to see how convoluted and contrived an attempt at tying buses and guitars could really be – as entertaining as it was, any other branding tie-ins between London Buses and unrelated companies could prove to be wheely tyring.