13 May 2008

It *all* needs more cowbell

It has been a music-filled few days, with my audial palate pushed and stretched to extremes, with very mixed results.

Thursday night was iLIKETRAINS in Rosin Dubh in Galaway. Described by the press as 'post-rock' I think the gig can only be described as unfortunate. They started off their Irish tour in a town that is 40% students in the middle of the exam period, so the normally heaving Roisin Dubh's had, at most, twenty-five people in the audience. The music was tight, reminiscent of a slower 65daysofstatic (with whom they also share a Joycean disdain for punctuation), though I was not a fan of the vocals. Wearing matching white shirts and in-mourning-armbands, with a VJ working projectors as a full on-stage band member, they definitely try hard to create a theme for themselves, but the whole thing veered dangerously close to emo for me. While I still do not understand exactly what emo is (I think it has something to do with sulky Mexican kids complaining that its too hot for them to wear make-up and be proper goths), that closeness was still too much. Alas, I am sure that in two years time I will be bragging to my friend's 12 year old that I once saw iLIKETRAINS play to twenty-five people, I even bought a t-shirt to offer as future proof.

Sunday saw a far more eclectic bill in Crawdaddy back in Dublin, A Hawk and a Hacksaw, Wildbirds & Peacedrums, and Chequerboard. Chequerboard was the local support, an interesting guitarist that recorded his own loops live, and then played over them building up a many-layered composition similar to KT Tunstall, but sounding more like Jamie Lidell playing 'The Theme from Deerhunter'. I really enjoyed it both as music and as a concept. Wildbirds & Peacedrums are a drums and female vocal act from Sweden. With an amazing vocal range veering from throaty blues to soaring highs shouted over a vintage mic, while skirting the edges of free-jazz without actually falling into the open abyss, my only disappointment was that they didn't play for longer; Not my usual cup of tea, but surprisingly enjoyable live. The headline act were A Hawk and a Hacksaw, a Hungary gypsy-folk act in a similar vein to Emir Kusturica. I can take gypsy-folk at times, and will admit to being a big fan of klezmer with a few pints in me, but at the end of a long night I couldn't stomach accordions and violins, and made a dignified and graceful early exit.

Last night saw the main event for me, Saul Williams in the Button Factory. I've been a fan of his music and poetry for a few years now, but have never seen him live. Channelling the ghost of George Clinton (and yes, I know he's not dead) by way of Ministry, the live set was loud, fast and raucous, building up faster and faster with stage diving and crashing NIN-inspired beats, only to suddenly stop dead with an audience so quiet you could hear a nose-pin drop as Williams slammed his poetry, bringing together two or three poems, reciting and chanting for ten minutes at a time, before switching the funk back on with the crowd going wild. Hearing words from "She" live, before bringing his wife on stage and proclaiming that he wrote those words for her before he ever even knew her, was a really amazing and moving moment.

The only downside to the evening was a storming rendition of "Sunday, Bloody Sunday", apparently a favourite of William's because of its strong political message. I'm not a fan of the song, partly because it is cheesy and exploitative, but mainly because it always gives a drunken Irish mob an excuse (as if one was needed) to shout out *every*single*word* of the lyrics, drowning out whoever was mistaken enough to offer the initial encouragement. I have come to realise after many years of gig-going that at the end of the day all any Irish person wants is a karaoke sing-along. They couldn't care less who is on stage as long as they think that they know the song and can hear their own voice warble along drunkenly. This is why Robbie Williams plays Ireland so often, its the easiest gig he ever has as he can start the crowd off and then go and have a cup of tea while they do all his work for him.

Even the tuneless shouting of an Irish mob wasn't enough to spoil the gig for me though, an amazing evening from an amazing poet (Saul, not Robbie). Time to take a rest from live music for now and see if I can actually create some of my own tunes, rather than critiquing other peoples.

Wildbirds and Peacedrums
A Hawk and a Hacksaw
Saul Williams


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