Wednesday, December 08, 2004


The Cube's website says this about tomorrow night's Sunburned gig:

With DOzY sessions in the bar and films b4hand.
(Thurs 9th Dec / Doors open at 6pm / £6)

They are loose and over here. The hermetic seal around the free folk scene is split wide open and oozing out are all kinds of beguiling and beauteous musical configurations. The MUTANT resistance is on, see it hear in full (reams of musicians) transgressive-colour!

Psych punk energy, Oddball folk, Rusted dark funk, Self pressed esteem, free-jazz, Elemental prog, Arcadian rock, Primal metal, Electronik drone, CD-R heaven, Lord of the Rings, Deliverance.

Two of the giant ensembles meet at the Microplex with a mind-bending set of brass, chimes, guitar, percussion, rpm and spooked vocals . JOMF toured with Godspeed, run the U-Sound imprint and have been released on ATP, they also freak out. SHOTM have been doing this for years, they go with Six Organs of Admittance, put dust on Funkadelic grooves, release on Eclipse and put on wild shows. This is a carnival for the souls.

An almighty q line-up. Your attendance is required early to fit in the magik hours of music.

DRIVING ME BACKWARDS: ""Uuuh-wuh-wuh-uuhhhhh....I'll be there..."

I'm asleep. I say goodnight and switch off the light.

Pans are dumped in the sink to soak after a Black Ops style raid on the fridge to fuel a wheat-free spaghetti-hoops, tomatoes and goats cheese binge. Alan Flint uses the toilet and goes on.

Spike drops me off: Man, you are suuuuuuuch a fucking star for driving us to see The Fall. Cheers, man. (Flinty follows me up the drive)

Driving back at midnight through the milky-white sunken moonscapes of South Somerset, it's like a travelling beneath the sea inside a tooled-up Nemo-esque torpedo that plays early Fall Peel Sessions: "Remember: you are abroad! Remember: the police are armed!" Outside, ruined barns and boarded-up garages flash past my porthole in a submarine blur of opaque halflight. (I wish I could see in UV) Someone has sliced the moon in half and it's bleeding dark clotted-cream coloured light over an entire county. Somewhere on the other side of Shepton Mallet, a sign reads: BRIAN FEAR CARS.

Some confusion driving out of Bristol (Which lane are we supposed to be in?). Poor Spike: everyone's talking at once, loudly offering advice, comparing digital cameras and phones, etc. Or is it just me?

Shaggy pees against the wall of the multi-story car-park (again).

I suddenly realise that I'm really quite pissed.

It's time to go, so we say our goodbyes. I've had a great night and it's been genuinely fantastic meeting everyone: Indie Tyrant DJ Alan Flint takes a picture of Loki, Psychbloke, Gutterbreakz and myself grinning cheesily in front of what appears to be a gift-shop selling plastic joke-shop breasts. "That'll show them blinkin' cockney bloggers," we laugh. Finally, at last, evidence that we exist, that we are part of this universe; and we take comfort in this fact somehow.

The picture never comes out.

I am genuinely sad to say goodbye to Pop Parker. He disappears off into the night and is replaced by memory. Temporary panic: somehow, along the way, we've lost Farmer Glitch. (Two days ahead, becalmed in the quantal Sargasso of FuturePastTime, he rematerialises to email me a story about a random unexpected meeting with an old aquaintance from Hong Kong and his hellish descent into a two-hour brandy binge...)

Gutterbreakz and I talk excitedly about comics, electronic music and all compass-points between. We smoke like a pair of complete maniacs.

Flinty and I grab a cheeky final drink. At the bar, a total stranger excitedly tells me how much he'd enjoyed The Fall. He's from Bristol and he's never seen them before, but he's hooked now. He'll be back next time, he tells us, grinning from ear to ear. I think he means it.

Someone tells me Spencer's been sacked. I look round and find Flinty standing a few feet behind me. "Great stuff," I yell, my ears still ringing. He gives me a thumbs-up.

The Fall play an astonishing 10-minute locked-groove Krautrockabilly version of "Blindness" that should have/could have gone on for another half-hour. The frequencies pile up and threaten to splinter the brittle air around me: I've never encountered that much treble. I look down and my hands are clenched tight into white fists; I'm not dancing, I'm hammering at the space in front of me as if it was an invisible door barring me from...what? I feel strangely elevated, but also aware there is another level I want to reach; a threshold that I have been denied access to. For now, though, it is enough.

The band come on after a worried-looking bouncer disappears through a door at the back of the stage. Everyone at the front of the crowd are chanting: "Rowche! Rumble! Let's....Rumble!" Feet are stamped in a perfect fascimile of the drum-intro to their '79 single of the same name. The bouncers look around, uncomfortably. One of them talks into a headset.

People boo as Eleni shrugs and teeters off stage in high-heels. "We'd really like to play some more for you," she apologises, in Greek-accented English, "But it's a club-night and the management say we have to stop now..." Smith's wife Elini, the keyboard-player, walks on, looking sheepish.

The drummer is completely unfamiliar with the staccato stop-start CnS swagger of "White Lightning", so instead they opt for a foreshortened, straightahead Punk version of the song. To hear an over-familar set-filler so unashamably and unselfconsciously tampered with is more thrilling than I can possibly explain here. Encores complete, the band disappear once more.

A young boy and girl stand at the front, about 3 people away from me. They can only be about 16 or 17. They're laughing and cheering; having the time of their life.

A tremendous version of "Big New Prinz" (again, too short); not as great as Islington last December, but that was heroic, once-in-a-lifetime stuff. Smith dishes out the microphone and stands back smugly, waiting for the inevitable fireworks. And, sure enough, an over-enthusiastic audience member gets too chummy with him, and his wife and a bouncer intervene (unnecessarily, I thought); MES looks on, probably pissed, but seemingly in a psychic-bubble, untouched by anything and everything. But his emotional isolation, his otherness is momentarily palpable.

"Mr. Pharmicist" is also unknown to the drummer and he lumbers on unwittingly (where once, in a previous incarnation of this song, there were tempo-changes and such), crashing obliviously through it like a driverless express-train. Again, to hear a former live 'favourite' (tho' now long-past retirement-age) so ably and unthinkingly trashed and gleefully remoulded into a musical car-crash provides me with another rare and delicious thrill. If I'm bored with this song, then how must MES feel? Maybe he's right to sack and abuse his band, to tinker with their amps and goad them into acts of physical violence; especially if his spite yields results like this.

Behind me, a young guy is taking photos with a digital camera (Later, adrift in PastFutureTime, I will meet him again at the bar for the first time...). I take some photos myself with a disposible analogue camera. I need to know if I was actually there or not.

Smith randomly leans his elbows on his wife's keyboards, creating new, unimaginable chords at odds with, well, everything. It's an old trick, but one that bears ripe musical fruit when it works well, like tonight. She steps daintily to one side, aping the mannerisms of a dutiful '50s sitcom wife; but make-up barely hides her bemusement at hubby's playfully-boorish antics. ("Hi, honey! I'm drunk...!")

(Above: Fall guitarist Ben Pritchard contemplates his sudden and unexpected transformation into ageing action-star Steven Seagal)

A few feet infront of me, Ben Pritchard chuckles to himself and shakes his head in disbelief as he unsuccessfully tries to give the drummer tempo cues. The band lurch off in fabulously unexpected directions.

Jim Watts is back on bass (where's Steve Trafford, then? Has he left? Or been sacked too...? I must ask Conway). Jim's wearing glasses these days. He looks tired.

The Fall play a tremendous version of "What About us?" Fallfans are punching the air and chanting along to it like it was a 15 years old anthem and not just a few months old. An anthem about Harold Shipman. What on earth were they thinking of?

(MES: "That last guitar-solo is coming out of your wages, cock.")

About five songs from the beginning, I realise that Spencer is AWOL from the band and the drummer is a acne-scarred 17 year-old from the Nu-Metal/SK8 support-band. He's formidable on the locked-groove stuff, but totally lost on anything resembling a tempo-change.

The young couple near me are starting to get into it. They're nodding their heads and exchanging glances.

Smith is chewing furiously. He's either speeding, or else his teeth have come loose. I'm so close I can smell the peppermint. Or is it psychosomatic? I look round and the guy behind me is chewing gum. Ah, that explains it...

A pumped-up electro-rock version of "Mod Mock Goth" sends me flying down to the front, whooping like a teenager and elbowing elderly men out of the way. "Take viagra and go to Camber Sands..." sneers Smith at the audience.

A final trio of songs ("The Joke", "Mountain Energei" and "Sparta FC") suddenly sound a bit lethargic. They're lacking something, but I'm not sure what. Maybe it's the drumming; it seems uninspired and slightly out of sync. For a couple minutes, I'm slightly worried. My biggest fear in the world is that The Fall will sound merely competent or (God Forbid!) average. I finish my drink.

The Fall are suddenly on stage and the Idiot's Guide guys charge off down into the crowd, yelling: "It's The Faaaaalllll!" like excitable teenagers. I wander down, extinguishing a cigarette, and quickly find Farmer Glitch and Flinty off to one side of the crowd.

Fags are smoked; drinks are drunk: I completely lose track of time as the conversation veers and wobbles from one topic to another. Girls Aloud get an honourable mention. Dom and Chris Giles would love this lot, I reckon. I inadvertantly tell them about Science-King Shaky Kane peeing himself during a piss-up in Exeter. I'm having a right laff.

Loki is wearing a fabulous shirt with an owl-print pattern. I tell him he ought to scan it in and use it as wallpaper on his blog. We compare notes on our shared Yeovil history. I point out Flinty who his mate Paul almost killed with a pane of glass.

And Psychbloke wasn't kidding: he's a big fella of almost Hank Pym proportions, hopefully his wife didn't trick him into wearing a Yellowjacket costume when they got married. He looms over the proceedings, crushing small buildings and overturning taxis full of American tourists.

A trio of hard-drinking existential dudes approach and ask me if my name is "Kek." I fail to spot Loki's handmade badges, but instantly grok it's The Idiots Guide Cru. "See? I knew it was him," says one of them, possibly Gutterbreakz, laughing.

I track down Mark Barber aka Pop Parker in amongst a group of pool-playing ex-pat Bristol-based Yeovilites and we talk about his band Jukes, amongst other things. They had an iffy review in Uncut and The Times, I think he said. But Dazed and Confused seemed to like them. Go figure. But Mark seems relatively unfazed about it, which I'm glad about.

Farmer Glitch has arrived with his mate Simon. We have a chat. Not sure what he's drinking; Guiness, perhaps. No mushrooms, this time, by the look of it. Thank Christ.

I get a drink in and spark up the first fag of the night.

Inside, the venue is slightly cold. It smells of old stone.

Shaggy pees against the wall of the multi-story car-park.

Flinty beautifully navigates us across Bristol.

On the way up, Amy tells us she's Jewish; I 'fess up that I'm 1/64th Jewish and she asks me how that's possible. I explain that it's arbitary. We talk about James Joyce.

I make my obligatory joke about Pensford (home of Acker Bilk) as we pass through it. (I once told Chris that it was marked on the map with a little clarinet)

We pass through Templecloud where my late Auntie Francis used to live. She was knocking off the village Rector. Spike has one of those cool gadgets that can detect speed-cameras, and a GPS route-master thingy. It's real science-fiction stuff, but then the Shirt family-car is a Metro. (Chris and I have decided that we own the oldest car in Yeovil)

No music is played. Everyone is surprisingly quiet for part of the journey to Bristol, so, as usual, I make up for it by talking far too much. The car's nice and warm. Spike picks me up outside our house: Heyyyy, man. Howzit goin'?

I've remembered my cigarettes, so I go back inside and put them back in the cupboard. I stand outside for a minute, watching the traffic.

Then I go back inside, take my coat off and clean my teeth.