It will be soon a farewell once again fair Britain. A lovely summer to be back was had. I’m glad to see you can still get wet, and your shores still bristle with uncertainty. You have not lost your contradictory approach to your position in the world. Thanks for keeping much the same.
there were a couple of shows I wanted to remind you about. They have already happened by the way. If you were there you have some recollection. I flew into them. They happened. I flew out. But while we were there, the happening, it was something special.
At the Lexington in London we had two Sundays.
Sunday 14th July.
I get there a little later than expected. Flights of Helios are already setting up. Sergio has no idea what is happening. He had been told it was just one guy with acoustic guitar. I explain. As much as I can. I am not sue what I have caused to happen in asking some pals to come and play.
I get a text message from Rob Saint John informing he and RM Hubbert are just into London. A little later I get one saying they pass Archway. Alright, they are nearly here. It is the hottest day of the year so far. They are earning their fee. They have driven from Scotland.
As it nears show time, people start bustling in. Time seems more limited that anticipated, as such there is little time for Gemma Woodpecker Wooliams (auto-corrected to ‘wool imams’) and Anthony Treecreeper Chalmers to deejay. They squeeze in a little.
First up the band Flights of Helios, from Oxford, perform their soaring harmonious drone folk pop. And we’ll received too. With time pushed as it is, Robert Saint John takes stage before the smokers and pissers get back to the room. He pulls out friendly stage presence, joking warmly with the audience, his sultry smirk endearing. Rich undulating vocals underpinned by smooth guitar, with his saw arm swinging, accompanied by the drone ranger Sebastian Reynolds from Frights of Helios. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of Sargasso Sea. Following another quick rearrangement Hubby steps up, in what seems like a dreamy giddiness brought on by the long drive, the tousled scot amuses with banter and softens with tender and emotional music, the room now full with lethargic Sunday gig goers.
Ever so grateful for such talons making their way to play for me, I am getting my money’s worth now. As I take stage Jonny Bridgwood steps up with me, tenderly coaxing accompaniment from his double bass. If you recall, he is all over Outbreeding. Basically making that record. As we trudge through a couple of tracks, others start to step up. Seb slinks across to his keyboard and knobs. Rob strides over and picks up a guitar. Hubby shuffles on with his trusty nylons. Some other Helios boys pick up their axes. And for the crowd comes Mr Fiddle, Sam Amidon. Man, the crowd is digging these jams. I run through a substantial amount of new material.
Sunday 21st July.
Here is a thing. I am suffering from Thursday onwards. Deteriorating it seems. I cough so deeply I seem to removing the insides of my bronchial tubing. My chest is in pain and my sinuses are delivering litres and litres of fluid to my paper tissues. I have considered cancelling.
Sleep and medicine alleviate somewhat. And I decide to invest in a taxi…extravagant I know. Only when I arrive at the Lexington do I receive the sage advice of fellow singers. Alas, the hour has past for me to down apple cider vinegar. I will battle through and loop coughs if needs be.
When I arrive Laura Moody is scraping and yelping, soundhcecking cello and voice. We met long time, back in 2009 perhaps, my first trip to SXSW, the Elysian Quartet were en route the same as I. The tube, at the US embassy visa office and the place itself. Oh, confession. I took her demo CD, I never had much I’ve to listen before it became ensconced in storage for our move overseas. Where it remains. But wow. Her set was energetic and disturbing and engaging.
The second set this eve is Ichi. I already chatted with Rachael, who has to be absent with Shuki for this show. She is nattering with young pal Alessi, long time since, we played the tipi tent at EOTR and some special show down the trendy East London. I see she’s done a few records since and done gone got them on Bella Union. Well done. Anyway back to Ichi. As I must have said to everyone I spoke to during the short tour during June, it is a hard act to follow.
Bishi does come, to my surprise, she was simply unable to bring sitar due to house move. James Mabbet, aka NapoleonIIIrd, has probably been the first to arrive, his guitars and electronics are already assembled at the back. I really have no idea what to expect of this show.
So as it goes, I must perform. I promised people as much. I have gargled salt water, downed medicine and drunk peppermint tea. A brief chat with Bishi about a song I have which she has no idea about. A general ‘you do your thing’ to everyone else. Then go.
So I start trying to remember some new things. And move into the new song ‘beast without you’ jabbing a gaze across to Bishi which is trying to say “this was where I meant for you to come in”. She approaches the mic and amazing vocals spill out. Thanks so much.
After that people start to mount the stage, Moody takes the cello and Mabbett the guitar. Matt ‘MaJiKer‘ Ker takes a microphone next to Kerry and Sarah from Juice. The ensuing bounces of vocal pops and fizzles, squelches and harmonies tumble out perfectly, not that I had any idea how it would work. Electronics buss and scream up. Gentle steel pan trickles in from Ichi for one song.
Two quite different shows. A great opportunity to play with great musicians and performers.
See you all next year perhaps.