Saturday, May 27, 2006

Garrulous Softheads invading the Supernal Realm,

Once again, I travelled into the city of Edinburgh to see Guillemots play at the Liquid Rooms. The venue is situated in the city centre, on a street branching from the Royal Mile; I don't enjoy driving but I'm the only driver that I trust, and city centre driving is tough so it was more important that I drove. A more experienced driver would head straight for the city centre, but I outflanked the city via the bypass and made towards a suitable car park using an appropriate fissure, it proved easy enough and hassle-free.
We arrived 20 minutes before the support act, it's so difficult to judge when the bands will actually start playing. Joan As Policewoman was playing before Guillemots, she shuffled onto the stage much to the crowd's disinterest and arranged a few crumpled sheets of lyrics on a chair. Joan seemed nervous but needn't have, she has an amazing voice; a fantastic range and a heartfelt delivery. Her opening songs include only gentle and sparse notes from her guitar which would make for very special moments in the right atmospheres, but the crowd seemed indifferent; the Joan As Policewoman features a quote by Marc Riley, "Sophisticated and thoroughly charming...a class act", I overhear a voice in the crowd that angers me "What does this Marc Riley do and what does he know?". Joan was rightly bemused, she tried to rouse the crowd by talking about how she enjoyed visiting "the greatest're meant to whoop then", nevertheless, she premiered the song inspired by her visit and written the evening before, hence the sheets of lyrics, it was a more upbeat number and the crowd finally reacted. This brought some relief to Joan, who went onto tell us about how she ran about the castle, asked by some other tourists what she was running about for, she shrieked "I'm running as far away as possible from my government".
Throughout Joan's set, Fyfe Dangerfield, giant and Guillemots' singer, watched from the front of the crowd.
"Go and speak to him, Leif"
"No, you go and speak to him, what do you even want me to say?"
"Hi, I'm Leif"
"He just wants to watch Joan in peace like me. And I don't even say that."
Fyfe soon joined Joan on stage to play the Wurlitzer organ on one of her songs, he then switched places with Joan; taking up guitar and backing vocals as she played the organ, on her single The Ride. They traded places and sung a fine duet that ended Joan's set. It was a fantastic taster of Joan's talents, she has an incredible voice, which is undoubtedly better than any of other "breathy songstresses" currently doing the rounds.
After a short break, Fyfe Dangerfield reappears and takes his seat, an old, battered chair, missing from the kitchen table, the kind Bargain Hunt's Philip Serrell would go giddy over, and begins an ethereal number, as his song is seemingly drawing to a close, there's clattering of bin lids and hooting of flutes from the balcony and then from the back of the room as the rest of the band parade through the crowd onto the stage in joyous fashion. With a procession like that, the band had set themselves a standard to live up to, and they did. I didn't see the gig as a collection of songs in the conventional manner, it was a layering of noises, often unorthodox, to create a 75 minute-long "Wall of Sound", and although it's quite clear to me that Guillemots have lovingly poured time, energy and imagination into finding a home for all these noises in their set, a sizable portion of the crowd are unenlightened.
The crowd did enjoy the singles, Made Up Love Song #43 and Trains to Brazil, during which the saxophonist and flautist, dressed like stereotypical CIA Men In Black, take the limelight away from Fyfe for a short while. From the mini-album, From the Cliff, Who Left the Lights Off Baby? also seemed to gain approval from the crowd; this song is remarkable for the sudden break in Fyfe's organ playing during which guitarist, MC Lord Magrao, launches into a solo, but, of course, in true Guillemots fashion, rubbing a Black and Decker electric drill up and down the strings; the sound didn't appear to meet Fyfe's standards, he left his seat and put a towel over the Brazilian's head and they resumed the song from where they left off. This was the sole occasion that I really noticed input from the guitarist, his role in the set seemed inconsequential; the set was clearly dominated by Fyfe, Greig Stewart the drummer and the wind section. After another song, the band left the stage, leaving only Fyfe on the stage, he left the organ and microphones, came to the front of the stage and with only a junior keyboard for accompaniment, he sings Blues Will Still Be Blue. Some of the audience struggled to eventually hush the disinterested chatterboxes, this was comical at one point when even minor clinks made by the barstuff were met with irate "sssshhhh"s, singing without amplification seemed quite brave to me and I was quite annoyed with some of the folk who failed to respect the artist, I heard "He's taken it too far now", in spite of this, it was a great moment.
The rest of Guillemots rejoined Fyfe back onto the stage for the final songs before the encore including Cat's Eyes and Go Away, Joan as Policewoman welcomed, in the lukewarm way this crowd had a great adeptness for, back to play violin on a new song. I seriously doubted whether the band would come back for an encore, I wouldn't have blamed them if they didn't, but they did. They played Chosen One and ended with another great new song, it was very upbeat and exuded a sense of resolve against "they", with Fyfe shouting the stinging lyric "They're coming to get us, trying to take my face away".
Guillemots were brilliant, Fyfe Dangerfield was full of energy behind his organ and he has a really piercing voice that grabs attention. In many ways, the lyrics from Made Up Love Song #43 "there's poetry in an empty coke can" and "there's majesty in a burned out caravan" seem to sum up Guillemots ability to detect music in the most inane noises. Unfortunately, I didn't think many of the crowd knew what they were had bought tickets for; to the unappreciative, it may have seemed like a man wailing behind an organ, but not everything can be a plinkety-plonk, diddly-dee anthem. I wonder if there is a difference between Embra and Glasgow crowds. I now regret not speaking to Fyfe Dangerfield to, at least, let him know that not everyone in the crowd was an obnoxious prat; at most, I suppose he might have let me play the electric drill.
The way home was marked by stress caused from not driving home via the city bypass, this nearly led to tension, in-fighting and drugs.
Joan as Policewoman, Guillemots and I were all great, but I was left with a sense of choler after that evening. I've enjoyed all the bands I've seen during this mini-spurt of May gig-going, but I've had enough for the time being, I'm scheduled to come out of retirement in June to see My Latest Novel and Camera Obscura at Glasgow QMU but I might just be tempted to see Jeremy Walmsley before then.


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