I have wanted to see Bellowhead’s famed live act for a while now. But this desire is apparently not mine alone, and normally by the time I’d made my way to the ticket shop there was no more room at the inn. This time I made sure I was bright and early, and had my ticket to clutch. Then what do you know but Colour Out of Space (Brighton’s three-day festival of “exploratory sound”) gets announced the same weekend!
And then what do you know but two other folk/country artists I’m desperate to see get announced on successive dates the same weekend – Gillian Welch and Richard Buckner! There didn’t even seem to be any way to evaluate my choice, as the two styles of music were so completely different as to be incomparable.
When early experiments in devising a cloning method did not work well, I finally decided that Colour Out of Space would contain a whole load of acts I would never see again. The others (with varying degrees of certainty) may show up here again at some point. (Or at least such is my hope!) So I sold back my prized Bellowhead ticket and bought up a Colour Out Of Space pass. (Which I will write about soonishly – promise!)
Then, as is my custom for skipped gigs, I searched YouTube to try and catch snatches of what I missed. At some point along the way, it occurred to me to do a whole post just of unattended gigs. (As a kind of ‘negative space’ version of the normal run of things.) This gathered momentum and, at a further point along the way, became the two-part affair you see before you.
Having embarked on this, I discovered a complete absence of clips of this most recent Bellowhead gig, so I’ve slipped its predecessor into the chronology below. Nor could I find anything of Richard Buckner in Brighton, or for that matter anywhere in Europe. (So this doesn’t fit the schema at all, but having heard this there’s no way I’m not passing it on. Living right up to his “insurgent country” tag...)
People always tell me the fun starts when I’m not around. Let’s see if they’re right...
12th Nov 2011, Brighton Dome
Everybody’s... well mine... favourite Country star sounding typically fatalistic yet fantastically poignant on ’The Way It Will Be.’ (NB: I don’t think she’s singing “I’ve never been so disabused” about my not making the gig.) Someone else uploaded the classic ’Revelator’ but alas the sound is muffled for sections of it. Here’s me getting all excited over that album.)
I seriously hope she comes to Brighton again...
4th Nov 2011, Green Door Store
It’s fantastic the way that Emerson can exploit the sumptuous, cigar-advert sound of the cello yet simultaneously make it sound so strange and out-there just by judiciously incorporating some loops. This clip is perhaps a good indication of how she uses them to build the layers up, until there’s a wall of sound that would knock Phil Spector over.
(Yeah, I know we were all consigned long ago to a soundbite world. If eight-and-a-half minutes seems too long to some, I nearly posted the other number which is twice the length!)
May 12th 2011, Dome
Alas I had to be out of town the weekend that Brighton Festival tickets went on sale and ended up missing out on a couple of things - chiefly a rare UK appearance of this guy! Music composed entirely of samples from what is quite possibly the world’s largest record collection. That weird thing that looks like the Death Star remodelled as an art installation, but still trying to take over the universe, is apparently the ‘Shadowsphere.’
Josh T Pearson
March 29th 2011, The Hanbury Club
Although I was absolutely gutted about not getting into this, the clip does reveal why a small and intimate venue like the Hanbury was needed. It’s about a seismic a shift from Pearson’s old Lift To Experience days - as if Ingmar Bergman took up breakdancing. Back then, tracks would start with the end of the world and work their way up. Now, playing solo, at times both his voice and guitar fall away almost to nothing, but the effect is to make you lean in, desperate to capture each breathy word.
March 2011, Hector’s House
In all honesty I stumbled upon this clip searching for something else. But now I’ve seen it I wish I’d seen Garwood’s blues, even if I’ve never heard of him before!
Show of Hands and The Brighton Taverners
Jan 2011, Brighton Trades and Labour Club
This place was less than five minutes from my house for about seven years without me going into it once, and I had only moved away from there a few weeks before this occurred. Apparently the farewell gig of the Brighton Taverners (who I had never heard of before), for which Show of Hands turned up “all the way from Devon.”
Nov 2010, Brighton Concorde
As said, one of the many times I failed to see the full-on folk outfit do their thing, a group always described by A-list folk blogger Andrew Rilstone “the mighty Bellowhead.” (I always thought that was John Peel and the Fall, but no matter...) So raucous and yet so directed! Hopefully they will stride a Brighton stage sometime again soon.
Micachu perform Cornelius Cardew
Somehow this one slipped me by! Michachu (aka Mica Levy) performing Cornelius Cardew’s ’Treatise’ as part of the Soundwaves festival. Alas the clip is little more than a minute long!
31st May 2010, The Freebutt
I couldn’t make this night at the (now sadly lamented) Free Butt, though I did try and see her more recently. An icy night when the roads had been closed most of the day, I made my way there over treacherous underfootness to find it was unsurprisingly cancelled and not a single punter in the bar. I did see her at the ‘Homefires’ multi-headliner night back in ’07 where she mostly just seemed nervous. But here she’s at the height of her powers. If this version of (not the Beatles’) ’Cry Baby Cry’ doesn’t do for you what it says on the lid, I fear for your heart and suspect you of being a robot in human guise.
15th May 2010, Komedia
I love the slightly twisted psych-folk of Tunng. Yet, though they seem to play down here a bit, beyond a short set at the Loop festival, I always seem to miss them. Not great sound quality on this one, but it is the very track which got me into them. (After I heard it on the Festive Fifty, many moons ago.)
9th May 2010, The Concorde
Time was, I wouldn’t have missed a Fall gig had I been on my deathbed. But, truth to tell, I don’t normally bother going to see them now. Once they were so relentlessly, insistently together it was almost frightening. Later gigs can be strange, hit-and-miss affairs, constantly see-sawing between nailing it and bashing thumbs. (Depending upon the mood and alcohol consumption of the cantankerous Smith. And I’d guess his stated antipathy to Brighton doesn’t help.) From the clips, this night seems no exception. But when they’re on it they’re still on it! This is a rare re-tread of an early number, and virtually Smith’s signature tune. “When I am dead and gone, my vibrations will live on...”
Show of Hands
Komedia, April 2010
More of the above! As even I was able to see, once I’d finally caught up with them, Show of Hands are primarily a live band. The idea that folk music means wan warblings about May Queens, or school-assembly recitals gets unceremonially trampled in this charge-through of ‘Keys of Canterbury.’
Thee Silver Mt. Zion Orchestra 27th March 2010, St. George’s Church
Actually I saw them a few years before in this very venue and they did this very number! But I’d happily have seen them again. Last time they sang a ‘clean’ version and Efrim confessed he’d been worried about swearing the whole time. Maybe there’s now a trendy vicar in charge, because this time they did the unexpurgated version. Be warned, kids!
The band commented “AA meetings and gymnastic classes in the basement, and a picture of jesus hung dangled above the stage, blood from his wrists pouring out on us. too much. we could have done better by them i think, but church-gigs are an awkward thing- uncomfortable as those fucking pews.” But to my ears those harmonies work splendidly in the cavernous Church.
Jerry Dammers’ Spatial AKA Orchestra
10th March 2010, Brighton Dome
Alas I just couldn’t cobble together the cash for this, no matter how many old jeans pockets I rummaged through. But word was that ex-Special Jerry Dammers’ tribute to the “cosmic jazz” of Sun Ra was quite splendid stuff! The band trooped off stage through the audience, playing all the while, then served up this impromptu finale in the bar area afterwards.