I haven’t had much time for music recently, which is pretty terrible. Not through having too much to do; the opposite rather, and promising myself the luxury of mountains of CDs and gigs gigs gigs once this and once that. It’s partly practical necessity, but only partly. I could listen to internet radio, investigate any number of half-listened-to records. Like John Cage’s ‘Cheap Imitation’ which is on now. Wow, this is dull stuff. Plink plink plonk, six notes not in search of a tune. Bad example. Music a luxury? Jeez Chris, buck your ideas up. It’s the rest that’s
The Triptych Geographic day still seemed unmissable though. Television Personalities and Maher Shalal Hash Baz headlining. Alasdair Roberts and Juana Molina waiting in the wings. Bands and DJs in two bars and a theatre from 4 til late, as per previous years. A winning formula. How could it miss?
I saw Maher once before, around the time of ‘Blues de Jour’, and they were unbelievably ace. Where the record is all wafer thin / razor sharp slices from a hyperactive muse, the live MHSB came on like a full throttle ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’ Velvet Underground, crackling with energy and non-sequiturs. The band stood in a line across the stage and Tori Kudo sort-of conducted (‘start’, ‘stop’, ‘louder’, ‘break it down’ gestures) in between singing his just-occurred-to-me-and-ain’t-it-the-truth-isms and playing Sterling Morrison to Katrina Pastel’s
Katrina was on drums again last night, with Tori at the piano. In a more reflective
mood and... I dunno. It sounded nice and all, but the songs meandered on a
bit. It sure didn’t blow your head off like before. This is fine, of course: it wouldn’t
do for MSHB to play
the same show twice. They’re not that kind of band. In a short film about the group shown earlier in the afternoon (from the ‘This Is Our Music’ series) Tori stood on a balcony describing how he might write a song by imagining five horizontal lines across the the hills on the horizon, and playing the tune as though he were reading sheet music. He turned out to be a great subject for following around with a camera, scrabbling around and around in his house looking for the first MSHB LP when the interviewer said he’d never seen a copy, not being terribly convincing at denying those terrorist links (‘this group... we never meet, but they need songs sometimes and... there are bombs...’) and getting his potter’s
wheel to write lyrics for him.
With Maher something of a disappointment and the Television Personalities...
well, I’ll get on to them in due course (it wasn’t pretty), it was left to bands lower down the bill to get things moving. Surprise delight of the day were Dosimat, who made low down laptop grunts and iced them with flutes, melodicas, cellos. Made me think Beefheart, and the cat from ‘Peter and the Wolf’ turned sour. Don’t think they have a record out: a quick Google reveals: ‘The DOSIMAT feeder is an accurate gravimetric proportioning device for bulk materials such as slag, limestone, sand, clay, gypsum and hot cement clinker.’ Which
is actually quite a good description. But, like I say, with flutes.
Alasdair Roberts continues to do what Alasdair Roberts does: increasingly Scottish
folk acoustic tales and evocations. With his deliciously round, strung out
vowels and looking far more like Emo Philips than I’d remembered, he warmed the audience through. Not knowing his recent material at all well it was a treat to hear Appendix Out’s ‘Frozen Blight’ again in all it’s world-slowly-turning glory. In another song he got a laugh for singing in all seriousness about a ‘chastity girdle’; hope he didn’t
mind too much.
Juana Molina, singing in Spanish, didn’t have the same problem. She announced that growing up she’d never understood a word of the English songs on the radio, and that this was her revenge. Her own personal mini-stage was wheeled out for the performance, covered with pedals, wires, synths. They showed a ‘This Is Our Music’ film about Juana too: she used to be on Argentinian TV, apparently, and gave it up to do music. Live, she becomes a one woman band, looping synth and drum parts then singing / finger-picking over the top. Her songs are free and easy and one contains a series of startling barks and howls near the end: it’s about having a neighbour with a noisy dog, she tells us. She seems delightfully batty. For all that, I’m
not quite convinced by the songs.
You wouldn’t think Television Personalities had a lot of convincing left to do. Having scaled the heights on record and (one kinda presumes) plumbed the depths off, their very name on a bill is going to inspire such goodwill that all they have to do to capture hearts is stroll out and reel off the hits. An ‘If I Could Write Poetry’ here, a ‘Stop And Smell The Roses’ there, and everyone’s
happy. How could they miss?
Easy fucking peasy. They played two sets, of which the first was OK. I think.
It might even have seemed sweet at the time. There were mostly new songs, half
a ‘Stop And Smell The Roses’, some chatting to the band, the crowd. Plus: Wow, here we are watching the Television Personalities. They didn’t
play for all that long, saying you wait until the second set.
The second set was just Dan picking fights. With his bass player, who got so
fed up with the turbulent set list that he walked off (Dan: ‘Doesn’t matter: I can play bass’ [does so for five minutes, a one-note jam with the drummer] Audience: ‘Put the bass down Danny! Play a fucking song!’ Dan: ‘Don’t fucking call me Danny. Are you saying I can’t play bass?’) Mostly with the audience though. They were on his side to begin with: a lovely ‘I Know Where Syd Barrett Lives’ prompted a mass ‘Aaaaah’ at the bit where the song does that, and even towards the end someone climbed down from his seat to give him a hug. For the most part though it was like watching an aggressively drunken rehearsal. Playing an impromptu cover of The Who’s ‘Substitute’ like he wanted to prove he could rock. Finishing on a disastrous attempt at The Pastels’ ‘Baby Honey’ (I mean, how do you fuck up ‘Baby Honey?’) in what was either a last-ditch attempt at regaining the C86 vote / getting invited back next year or, given what it sounded like, a final ‘Fuck
The backing singer, clearly embarrassed, made a few attempts at salvaging the
situation: ‘Stop asking for requests! Why don’t we play some new songs?’ and, to the audience, ‘The new album is beautiful’. Perhaps it is. Perhaps Dan just had an off night, or drank too much between the two sets. Perhaps sensitive songwriters get temperamental sometimes. Perhaps he’s
an arse. A shame the night had to end like that though.
© 2005Chris Fox