Even before I get onto anything else, this was one of those occasions where a special round of applause should be reserved for those least mentioned of a touring company, the bus driver. How he got that thing there last night must have been little short of miraculous. After my fun, if slightly concerned drive there (I could be heard going “are you sure?” to my Satnav more than once as I was sure was deliberately leading me astray down roads where the provision of a single track would have been a blessed luxury), it was a curious delight to enter the tiny arena of Hebden Bridge’s Trades Club with the rest of a crowd of just shy of 200 people to catch a couple of highly memorable sets.
The last time I witnessed this collaboration of Adam Wiltzie and Dustin O’Halloran play live, it was in Manchester’s Academy 3 – a wonderful gig venue, but wholly weird for the sort of music being performed. So I guess it should feel somewhat more fitting for a performance such as theirs to take place in a more traditional classical concert space? Well, yes. And no, because their music sits happily between the two mediums so that where the former felt like a classical performance in a gig venue, this felt like a gig performed in a classical space.
This otherworldly ambience was helped along by making the atmosphere part of the performance thanks to a light dusting of smoke and a very creative use of lighting – indeed, lighting may well be the wrong word for it as most of the performance was partaken of in darkness, with two tiny fixed spotlights on the two composers and a variety of inventive methods of illuminating the central string quartet (including Stanley Kubrick on Viola, if we are to believe Mr Wiltzie, and I suspect that we shouldn’t) mostly from a position behind and underneath them, with banks of white lights twinkling away behind them, usually in underpowered hues of orange.
There is a reason why this post is ever so slightly late. At the end of his performance of Micheline, Mark Kozelek takes a moment to gather his thoughts before asking his gathered audience “Are you tired of these middle-aged ramblings of mine? ‘Cause I’m gonna go a lot more of them” before going into a short discussion of his recent viewing of True Detective. And as I was only halfway through watching the set at the time, I immediately switched off and vowed not to return until I’d finished watching it for fear that he might say something spoilery. My advice is – if you haven’t done so already – to watch True Detective from start to finish, as it’s incredible. And once you’ve done that, put this on and nod along sagely with his short and highly accurate summarising.
“Bit short-changed there”, said the bloke passing us on the way out of the auditorium at half-past nine, after the set that began at half-past eight had finished. Well, away with you sir, that was great. To paraphrase an old BBC comedy play, never mind the width, feel the quality.
For such a short and early set (presumably with one eye on tonight’s footballing doings ) it wasn’t half packed, and came with a couple of surprises. Not only did the lightbulbs illuminating the stage actually change colour from their traditional red, Mark also took centre stage under a de facto spotlight! Anyway, after a ticket-purchasing farce which saw us perched right at the back (as the following snaps barely illustrate – by the way, I’m not sure if I should feel relieved or wounded that I didn’t feature in the Guardian’s recent “worst gig photos”), we witnessed a rather stunning set as well as a lot of people who couldn’t stay sat down for five minutes at a time without wandering off outside.
To be honest, I wasn’t going to bother doing anything on this show as I’ve done enough of these already this year! The plan was to chill out, hang out with friends who I’d not seen for a while (one of whom was celebrating her birthday) and just soak in the show without having to worry about thinking about it. There’s also the thing about writing about multiple versions of a similar show that requires finding something unique to wrap the whole shebang around that gives each show its character. The fact that I’m sitting here on a train tapping this out on a phone is probably as good an indication of how unique of character last night’s show was.
And that’s without taking into account watching the many people trying to make their way down steps that weren’t there by trying to walk through a metal barrier that was.
Weeks off work tend to be the busiest times, don’t they? After an unexpectedly long walk home from being dumped in slightly the wrong county after Sunday’s Afghan Whigs show, I find myself off down the M6 to a city I’ve been through before but never actually to, in order to see Mark Lanegan and his band yet again, in the company of friends. I should point out that I ran into a couple of these friends in London on Sunday, with only enough time for the briefest of pleasantries and a mutually unsurprised “see you on Wednesday” as if people from cities at either end of the country meeting somewhere in the middle on a weekday evening was completely normal behaviour. I’m rather glad to say that, as far as myself and my friends are concerned, it kind of is.
Just typing that subject header conjures feelings of “that really happened, didn’t it?” in this scribbler’s overheated mind. I still find it hard to believe that 2012 was the first time I got to see The Afghan Whigs in the flesh, after missing so many shows such a long time ago that it almost became a running gag in the ’90s. As time has shown, although the Afghan Whigs were part of the same stable as much of what was so exciting back in the day, they were one step ahead of them all. And I suppose this slightly out-of-phase attitude felt slightly odd when planning the gig-visits of the month. Well, I’ve learned my lesson good and proper.
It wasn’t that long ago that I promised myself that the next time they breezed through anywhere near here, I’d be there. I’d didn’t expect it to be as soon as this. I certainly didn’t expect it to be this good. (more…)
I have spent all day checking my pocket. I have been doing this because all day it has had a ticket for tonight’s show in it and I have been paranoid all day about turning up at the door of the Student Union and producing either a ticket for a different city or – worse – that curious tribute to the surrealist Belgian artist René Magritte’s most famous work The Treachery of Images which is a favourite of all UK ticket vendors, the thing that looks exactly like the ticket I bought but with the words This Is Not A Ticket emblazoned upon its face. There is little hope for me in this regard.
Anyway, onto show number two. And after much messing about finding a car park that remained open after dusk near the venue followed by running into people in turn planned for, unexpected and hastily arranged (Jane, your ticket is here! Thanks to Denise, and sorry for saying to look for someone with longish hair and a dark coat milling about near the merch table as that didn’t really narrow it down at all…)
How time flies when you’re having fun, eh? I’ve seen Mark Lanegan onstage in various guises in recent years whether it be with Soulsavers, Isobel Campbell, the Gutter Twins (as part of a band or just with partner-in-crime Greg Dulli) or just on his own with an acoustic guitar for company, in a host of buildings including a chapel, a cathedral and an Art-Deco seaside public artspace. Yet it’s been over seven years since he’s been through promoting his own new material under his own banner.
This is the first of four such new shows I’ll be taking in over the course of the next week or so, which seems like a bit of a muchness. And it probably is – the Thesaurus is certainly going to get something of a hammering/bashing/awful running gag treatment before next Tuesday’s behind me. Fact is, I’ll be pottering around the country meeting up with friends old and new who I met through a shared appreciation of Lanegan’s varied career, so as with previous multi-show visits, it’s an excuse to get out of the house and hang out with good friends, some of which I’ll be meeting for the first time in three dimensions. It’s rather strange that this first show I’m attending is in the same room as the last time he rolled into town with a full band under his own name back in 2004, perhaps it’s a fondness for the building (more than a couple of times in the intervening period, he’s been found in the cosier environs of the Academy 3 upstairs from here with other acts) as it can’t be due to a struggle to fill larger venues – Manchester has been very supportive of Lanegan’s varied works over the years, and his stock has certainly risen recently despite a mainstream press still unable to neatly place him.
And to think that I nearly didn’t go to this show. For shame.
In fairness, I had a decent enough excuse in that I seem to have had a succession of bad colds from around just after Christmas that pretty much only completely cleared up last night. I had my fellow gig-goers’ best health in mind with this, as well as worrying about how what I thought an ambient, neo-classical show would sound with me unblocking my sinuses in the background. As it turned out, quietness was not something I needed to take into consideration. And my minor ailments paled into insignificance anyway, when it transpired that the headliners’ viola player almost wasn’t let into the country, so if they were going to go the extra mile to make the effort to show up, it would have been rude for me to have stayed at home…