Thursday April 2nd-Saturday 4th, The 229 Venue, London
The 10th anniversary of London’s most happening festival offered up an increasingly eclectic and crowd-pleasing selection of live music and social events.
Shindig! was there to soak up the good vibes.
Wolf People / Purson
Thursday 2nd April
It may be 2015 outside, be here, on the opening night of the annual Le Beat Bespoke weekender, it’s full on 1973 – all double denim, velvet flares and Biba hats – unsurprising as the headlining bands Purson and Wolf People both conjure up their own spirited takes on the more occultish sounds of the ’70s.
Led by the striking Rosalie Cunningham (who seems to have her own coven of Kohl-eyed lookalikes in the audience) Purson offer a dark and seductive trip into heady, patchouli-scented psychedelia. Intoxicating, witchy and most definitely English – a sensual Amicus horror film made flesh – they tear into their 2013 album, The Circle And The Blue Door, with relish and, by the close of their set, the throng around their merch stall suggests they’ve recruited even more fans into their mystikal ranks.
Wolf People are similarly English in their sound, although their noise is a more pastoral and proggy one, evoking the ghosts of Zep and Tull and assorted alumni of the ever-inspirational Vertigo label. Before they start, singer Jack Sharp explains to the audience that the band hasn’t played together recently and will therefore be rusty; it’s a needless apology. Wolf People are on a fantastic form, as tight as tight could be on complex tracks like ‘When The Fire is Dead In The Grate’ and ‘Silbury Sands’. Indeed, if this is them without practice, one can only imagine how good they’ll sound when they head out on a British tour with Mudhoney next month.
An evocative end to a most magickal of evenings.
The Misunderstood / Kaleidoscope / The Loons
Friday April 3rd
Even as a mere concept, the notion of The Misunderstood and Kaleidoscope sharing a bill mines the same giddy principle of logic-circumventing wishfulness as the masterminding of imaginary super-groups – a self-perpetuating obsession for teenage derelicts of this writer’s generation. (“I want Robin Trower on guitar, that bloke from Kenny on bass, and Lassie on Mellotron.”) However, bugger each and every one of us unstintingly if the ostensibly fanciful “Kaleidostood” initiative didn’t actually come to pass, thanks in no small measure to the visionary zeal of Le Beat Bespoké event organiser Rob Bailey. Stir in the galvanic and expeditious presence of The Loons, fronted by Ugly Things magazine avatar Mike Stax, and the evening clearly wasn’t wanting for safe pairs of hands.
Now, it would be disingenuous in the extreme to pretend that your excitable Shindig! representatives hadn’t been to the pub for an extraordinarily dedicated little preparatory sesh beforehand: but when we stumbled downstairs into pulsating, globular darkness to be met by The Loons, absolutely smoking the viscera out of The Pretty Things’ ‘Alexander’, it felt thrillingly like being ushered into the kind of benign afterlife we’ve always hoped for – i.e. one which specifically resembles the Screaming Apple discotheque in What’s Good For The Goose. In almost the same moment, we were introduced to erstwhile Pretty Thing, Shindig! hero and all-round psych paradigm, Twink: and I set a new British record in the “cup runneth over” category.
Tough, committed and focused, The Loons punched forth a set with less slack in it than Frank Cannon’s waistband, and concluded their introductory stint with a valorous version of the Elevators’ ‘You’re Gonna Miss Me’. It was an intimidating marker, but the Kaleidoscope set which followed was beguiling, brave and intoxicating: a reminder, not that any of us needed it, that the band’s all-too-slender but pearlescent recorded oeuvre contained some of the most inexplicably overlooked touchstones of the whole UK psych non-shootin’ match. Original vocalist, co-songwriter and flame-keeper Peter Daltrey appeared wearing the selfsame tunic he sported on the fabric-free-for-all sleeve of Kaleidoscope’s ’67 debut album Tangerine Dream – “and it still fits” – while original drummer Dan Bridgman was warmly received when he joined Daltrey and his storied team of simpatico neophytes on percussion.
We were particularly elated to find ‘The Murder Of Lewis Tollani’ in the set – which always reminds me of ‘Black Angel’s Death Song’ by the Velvets – plus a gratifying cache of other personal faves (‘A Dream For Julie’, ‘In The Room Of Percussion’, ‘Faintly Blowing’). Touchingly, the audience joined in as one on the “nobody knows where we are” refrain from ‘Flight From Ashiya’ – a singularly apposite rallying call for these times.
The Loons, may your nominated deity bless and preserve them, pulled double duty on the evening, reappearing as The Misunderstood behind that august ensemble’s original lap steel guitarist, the genuinely and deservedly legendary Glenn Ross Campbell. With his endearingly self-effacing flat cap, plaid shirt and waistcoat, Campbell looked as though he might only have stopped by to bleed the radiators – but his playing had evidently lost none of its capacity to strip flesh over the years. By the time the band lit into ‘Children Of The Sun’ – only the second song in the set – I was a textbook compendium of gobsmackery symptoms. Jaw on the floor tiles; knees irredeemably buckled; gooseflesh with the texture of anaglypta; all hairs standing on end, like Don King clutching an electric fence. And sufficient steam was coming off my rain-soaked coat to power a turbine.
To hear Campbell’s wailing, scalding lines in a live context was a real privilege: and all credit to The Loons for convincingly filling The Misunderstood’s monumental shoes. Their unconditional love for the music, and their excitement at performing it, fair gushed from their pores. An encore reprise of ‘Who Do You Love’ saw latter-day Misunderstood guitarist Tony Hill and original Juicy Lucy vocalist Ray Owen squeeze onto the stage, with a concomitant ripple of euphoria in the audience that placed my cup-runneth-over record under serious threat.
Fogbound / The Magnetic Mind
Saturday April 4th
With Glenn Ross Campbell’s screaming pedal steel volleys still reverberating around what was left of our inner ears, it was a decidedly more relaxed ambience that greeted revellers in the 229’s smaller club room for LBB’s regular hangover-mollifying Saturday afternoon event.
A modest crowd had gathered to welcome multi-cultural London psych combo The Magnetic Mind, a crowd including none other than former Pretty Thing, Pink Fairy and Tomorrowee Twink, who joined Shindig! in a fizzy water as the Minds – led by former Hidden Masters bassist and towering stage presence, Paul Milne, and sultry vocalist, Ellie Foden – waltzed through a supremely confident set of original tunes that had most of us flicking through our internal “US garage-psych A-Z” record racks, so well-hewn were the Jefferson Blackburn Conspiracy tones of their four (four!)-part harmony arsenal. “Why aren’t there any bands like this in California?” commented a visibly excited Mike Stax of our San Diego parish.
Fogbound arrived on stage in customarily unruffled Spanish style, with something of a fearsome reputation preceeding them. With an eye as keen for authenticity as the Minds before them, but favouring the Carnabetian psych-rock stylings of The Factory, Les Fleur De Lys and, well, pretty much all of those Chocolate Soup legends, they slowly turned up the gas under a dazzling hour of style, songsmithery and dynamic stage moves. Guitarist/vocalist Fabio (hey, who needs a surname when you’re this good?) resembled the young, bowl-haircutted Wilko Johnson, albeit one with the metallic skree of prime ’67 Syd projecting from his Telecaster and a falsetto voice that he isn’t afraid to show off. More singing! What holy voices be here this day! The Fogs even had the tenacity to drop The Attack’s ‘Strange House’ in, just to test us old psych hounds. I won. By the show’s climax, the heat of their psonic attack was so high and just… so damn… right, that we were left with no option other than to buy the T-shirt and start drinking again.
Hurry along with that album, boys. And don’t let some clueless studio engineer screw it up it for you. You have the sound – now keep it.
Photos by Yann Cracker: www.facebook.com/YannCracker
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