Saturday, February 17, 2007

Such a nice sight to see your face, in such a scruffy town.

You get some funny looks from people when you say you’re going to see a classic punk band at the weekend.

You get a few standard what-would-you-want-to-do-that-for’s, a couple of Gawd-are-they-still-around’s, and even a “Do we really need any more old punk?”.

So by the time I tripped a little warily over to the Guildhall to see the Buzzcocks last Saturday, some of the gloss had been taken from a gig I’d been quite looking forward to at one point. Nobody else seemed to be similarly effected, however, and there were a few Mohicans in evidence outside the hall (from people who really should have know better, it has to be said). There were a good few student types, there but just as many more mature liggers too (In fact, for me the tone was set by meeting no less than three parents of children I teach or have taught recently, local celebrity, me…)

And at this point it would be good to say that Pete Shelley and Steve Diggle rolled back the years, stuck it to the doubting Thomases and put on a great night, but in truth, they were shocking, really.

I won’t waste your time, suffice to say I expect a bit more from a couple of forty-somethings (speaking as one myself). Something’s gotta have changed in the last thirty years, hasn’t it fellers? (Oh, and playing in front of videos of your younger selves wasn’t a particularly intelligent move either, let’s just say it wasn’t flattering…)

Hoden Lane

But…in true Partly Porpoise fashion, the support band were much better...

Hoden Lane are based in Cheltenham and Evesham and presuming Shelley and Diggle had some input into choosing their support band, it was the best thing they did all night. The Lane (can I say that?) have some bright poppy songs that had an obvious sixties feel to them, sounding at times like the Pretty Things or one of the classic garage punk bands of the time, but as well as that, there was also an eighties guitar band trying to get out too.

On stage they were brisk and business-like to say the least, keeping between-songs banter to an absolute minimum (often just the name of the next song). I don’t mind that, I’m not keen on staged chumminess with the audience and I guess they weren’t expecting a hall full of aging punks to be paying much attention. Actually, they went down pretty well and in the light of the rest of the evening, they undersold themselves a little – I could’ve listened to a whole lot more...

No website, yet but they do have a Myspace page, from which you can snag these two songs and another couple.

Life You Lead

Did You Look Twice

Good work, lads, you saved the evening for me. A damaged eardrum (courtesy of Steve “turn it fookin’ up!" Diggle) seemed a small price to pay…

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Tonight You Will be a Sleepwalker

Not since the days of my youth have I seen a man wring a tune from a household appliance – and, you’ll have to take my word for it that I’m referring here to the great Roy Castle, rather than revealing any painful family secrets.

Friday night, however, brought it all flooding back…

This month’s Acoustica line up at the Guild Hall, included Bristol’s the Wraiths, Swindon’s Chantelle Pike and the afore-mentioned, rather wonderful Thomas Truax, who, if he’s to be believed, hails from Wowtown, USA.

The Wraiths were quite interesting and made a good fist of setting some of their favourite poems by Emily Dickinson, Christina Rosetti and Thomas Lovell Beddoes to a rather folky beat. The Wraiths are Mog who sang vocals and played electric guitar (very prettily) and Jon who played an acoustic guitar, sang and had what can only be described as a manic glare. Believe me, he was a little scary. I liked what they did and can recommend you see them if ever the chance presents itself.

Chantelle Pike was, well, earnest. I’ve seen her before (and maybe even dismissed her on these pages before, I can’t remember), but really she was pretty dull.

Thomas Truax

The reason I’d come, though, was sandwiched between these two acts and was as unconventional as the other two were traditional. In reality, Thomas Truax, comes from New York (rather than Wowtown), but it was immediately obvious that reality wasn’t going to play such a large part in his set this (or any other) evening. Dressed in a tan suit with ill-matching black & white brothel creepers, he already cut a pretty memorable figure but what really set him apart was the instruments he played. As well as playing a fairly conventional dobro resonator guitar, he accompanied himself with a variety of Heath Robinson-esque homemade instruments, which against all the odds seemed to work.

My favourite was the Hornicator, made from the horn of an old gramophone, which he had miked up and could sing into, but which also had strings he could pluck. It was well weird and I cannot do it justice. Watch this:

There were other instruments too, all with names, including a marvellous mechanical drum machine, made from pram wheels and aerials that gave a Tom Waits-style clunky drum pattern and which was called Sister Spinster, and the String-a-ling, which appeared to be made from the tubing from a tumble dryer...)

The songs, well, they were fairly eccentric too, and I’ll put a couple up here that are available on his website, where you can also find details of his two albums (both of which are available on Emusic), but really it was all about the performance. I spent the whole set slack-jawed and then grinning inanely – I loved him.


Escape from the Orphanage

I am about to snap my fingers and when I do this will be over…