Saturday, November 26, 2005

Dubblehead and Love Grocer

An enjoyable dub night at The Phoenix yesterday, put on by Future Sound of Exeter.

Dubblehead is the latest project from Nigel Shaw who's been part of Global and other such projects with his partner, the artist Carolyn Hillyer (The Dongas stayed on their land when travelling across Dartmoor in 1997, shortly before I joined up with them in Cornwall). This time he's teamed up with Tom Brooks, formerly of Ozric Tentacles, and Brian "Zero" Abbott.

I've met Brian before, as he used to be part of The Invisible Opera Company of Tibet with my friends Tim and Jim. He's an incredibly versatile guitarist. At first I didn't recogise who it was. Their set started off rather nervously and I really thought it wasn't going to come together - just a guitarist struggling alongside a couple of people fiddling with electronic devices...

But it didn't take him long to loosen up, and then they were away. He can convincingly do the whole UK countercultural guitar spectrum, stylistically, from Steve Hillage to Joe Strummer, with funky bits and glissando bits. It was meshing beautifully with the various dub styles the other two were conjuring up, really very satisfying to the ear.

Once I'd realised it was he, I recalled a conversation with him about his role in Global...I'd asked how much Nigel Shaw was really doing when they played live. I'd seen him "getting into it" behind his console, keeping very busy - but I wasn't entirely sure the same thing couldn't have been achieved by pressing a "start" button and letting the equipment get on with it. But Brian had assured me that it's actually all very spontaneous, with Nigel bringing most of the sounds in manually. So I took that to be the case, and got fully into it. They had the place filled up, skanking and ecstatic, almost screaming out for more after there set finished. Not bad at all.

Love Grocer
Love Grocer on stage on a previous occasion

Love Grocer are basically a very good horn section playing over a dub sound system. They seem to have emerged from the Crispy Horns, Zion Train's horn section. After Dubblehead, I'd been rather hoping for a fully "live" dub band, but this was not to be. The drums and bass were again machine-generated, but Ben(?) operating the machines in question was so completely into it, grooving out unselfconsciously behind his module with his skinhead and huge contagious smile - reminded me of the best aspects of the Hare Krishna vibe. He perhaps overused that ascending siren-like tone so beloved of dub sound systems towards the end of the set, but generally it all seemed to work very well. Once I'd adjusted my head so that I was witnessing "a really good dub sound system plus incredible horn section" rather than "dub band lacking live drums and bass", then I was able to fully appreciate what I was hearing.

One of the other highlights of the evening was DJ Bush Telegraph (Keith Drone's mate Gordon) playing a classic reggae selection - Peter Tosh, Mikey Dread, numerous classics I've been listening to a lot lately, but through a BIG system (as opposed to the hideous little bass-free plastic speakers in my office). Best of all was a dub version of The Clash's "Armagideon Time", which I've never heard before - an awesome record if I've ever heard one. Must track that down...


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