Another strange and striking evening at Slak, last week.
I haven’t been to a Calmer evening for a while, but was drawn to a strong line up featuring Doveman and David Thomas Broughton. I also managed to drag my son along to his first Calmer evening, and am now hoping that it was suitably cool for him.
Actually, I don’t care much – I’m still and always impressed by just how damn groovy the whole Calmer scene is – I tell you I’d’ve been very happy to have had anything as good when I was seventeen. He should be grateful, I reckon.
Sam Amidon is a New York guitarist who came on first and played a series of bluegrass and Appalachian numbers on guitar and banjo. It was really well done, and was added to considerably by the atmospheric keyboards added by Doveman in places. Amidon has two albums available on emusic, here and here, the most recent one being a “Pick”, and also garnishing a 7.9 from Pitchfork. I shall have a listen.
Doveman’s mother actually calls him Thomas Bartlett, and he, it turns out, is a bit of a childhood buddy of Amidon - they played together in a number of bands, but I didn’t really enjoy him as much as his mate, although his songs did build up impressively. I can’t say I really warmed to his voice, it was a bit breathy, a bit, well, girly. And while we’re at it, I didn’t like the silly hand gestures he kept using.
(I’m being unreasonable. I’m listening to his record now, and it’s not half bad…)
Both fellers contribute to this Blog, Speak Peppery, which I shall keep an eye on from now on.
David Thomas Broughton
Until now David Thomas Broughton had confined himself to prowling around on the edge of proceedings, adding the occasional backing vocals from the bar, or sitting on stage fiddling with speakers and mixing things, in order to get his trademark strange noises from them.
I’ve posted about Broughton before (here and here) and have gone on at length about his voice and looping. So I’ll try not to go over any old ground here.
It is, however, a hell of voice he’s got. Words like “haunting” and “keening” spring to your mind when you hear him, and I remember being impressed with this when I saw him at Green Man. Sat a few meters away from him, however, what I hadn’t noticed before is what an odd character he really is. Dressed in the sort of grey tweed trousers I remember having to wear as a child for trips to my nana’s house, he came on stage, guitar strapped on but also carrying a tiny television set. He went on to set it up and tune it off-channel and used the white noise as atmospherics for his songs. He also used a Dictaphone or something from which he coaxed another range of hisses and pops to be used over his songs.
When singing he fidgeted constantly, punctuating his songs with coughs and yawns and at one point went through a routine of compulsive trouser adjustments. At times he was quite funny, at others a little intimidating, and certainly held the attention.
Most of the time his voice and delivery (“keening”, “haunting” etc) overcame all the other distractions; and the narrow line between weirdness and self-indulgence was generally trod quite deftly. (I say “most of the time”, at least one song was completely overwhelmed by feedback and white noise.)
Performers who leave the stage area and start moving around the tables and bar stools are almost de rigueur at Calmer, and Broughton spent a fair amount of time doing this. He also had an intriguing line in dramatic gestures – at one point he took some change from his pocket while singing, banged it on a table and placed an upturned beer glass over it, before moving back onto the stage.
I have no idea… I just know that no one had the nerve to pocket the money....
For my birthday, I bought myself a small video camera, and took this video of a fairly idiosyncratic version of Ambiguity.
(Apologies for the abrupt ending, I’m not really sure how to edit this sort of thing yet…)