Monday, February 18, 2008

mv&ee on tour

I managed to catch Matt Valentine and Erika Elder's new band The Golden Road twice on their UK tour - or more like 1.2 times: their set at The Luminaire in Kilburn started much later than I'd been told, and after two songs I had to run for a bus to get back to Canterbury. I was rather alarmed by the opening number, having immersed myself in their astral-folk canon - the somewhat turgid country-rock of "Easy Livin'" didn't seem too promising. Sir Robert Bunkum was also present, and had pointed out how MV looks rather like our mutual friend Marcus, with a big beard (he really does), which added to the overall sense of disorientation.

The Golden Road live at The Luminaire, Kilburn
The Golden Road live at The Luminaire, Kilburn

This was Andy's summary of an earlier gig he caught in Cambridge:

"Groovy! In full-on coutnry rock mode with bass, dulcimer(?), drunken drummer and standing up and everything. Or were they like some dodgy old pub rock band?"

It's a fine line. The dulcimer was actually a pedal steel, it turns out. And the drummer did appear to have had a bit too much to drink - but he kept a steady (if heavy) beat, it must be said.

But halfway into the second song I was completely entranced. It was the old gospel song "Get Right Church", sung by EE, the lyrics of which I recognised from a Rasta niyabinghi chant, with MV playing harmonica through loads of delay and the band chugging along in spacerock mode. I hung around for a bit of the third piece and then had to run...

It was worth the trip to London (particularly with £1 National Express "Funfare" tickets) though, just to catch a bit of Cath and Phil Tyler (the first support act) and the whole of Pekko Käppi's set. PK's a long-haired Finnish lyre player who sings epic folksongs, including one which he said was a sort of invocation to avoid hitting oneself with an axe! He had the whole trendy London nu-folk crowd completely enraptured. It took us a while to work out what language he was singing in (or was he making it up?). My first guess was Hungarian - not bad, considering how closely it's related to Finnish. "The Doozer" (one East Anglian and some backing tapes) also played a set - not The Doozer who once MC'd with Exeter's finest hiphop crew Critically Ill - but he failed to make much of an impression on us.

Here's Sir Robert's impression of the Golden Road set:

"That was quite something - yer i had th same experience in cambridge.....seeing mv's contorted marcus-c------gone-to-seed beardy face bawling 'Eaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaasy livin!' made me think th wurst (when i stay in grimsby sometimes its in a cheap room above a pub....on friday nites they have shitty live pub rock bands i've never been down to see one but on many occasions have lain in my bed reading lissening to bad renditions of 'because th night' or 'american idiot' or 'song 2' boomingup thru my bedroom floor)also but by th time they got to that 3rd song 'hammer' (the one introduced as written by leadbelly/ that u had 2 leave halfway thru) was totally spellbound. they rocked on in similar vein throughout in cambridge and at th luminaire, definitely reminded me wot ive haard of th dead, playing th recognisable 'rock' songs from their 2 'proper' records ( on thurston moore's estatuic peace! label) - 'green blues' and 'gettin gone' but joined up//intersperced with totally different jammed/improvised sections...........they finished with a very long 'canned happiness' which takes th riff from 'on th road again' off into forever. starts off sounding like th canned heat orig...then it takes off into canned heat covered by spaceritual era hawkwind and then just goes th whole hog and sounds like orgone accumulator.........there were a couple of grey-longhairs boogying away at th back...........and finished in with mv and samara th bassist rocking out together while erika stood in th middle (she seems to have to play th same 3 notes all th way thru this one) looking faintly bored whch was a shame cos when she's in th centre light singing it seems th whole band are her backing players, a long cry frum th meek little voice intoning "when i'm dead and in my grave, no more good times will i crave.....""

There was a Children of the Drone session in Exeter that night, which I would have been at, had it not been for MV&EE being in London. I was on my way down there the next day, and ended up having a fascinating conversation on the coach with Chris Dowding, the trumpet player from Natural Causes, about the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival (he studied up there), Supersilent, John Zorn, Robert Wyatt, Evan Parker, the New York jazz scene, The Wire, The Vortex club in East London, cLOUDDEAD, etc., etc. This is what happens when you carry an oddly-shaped instrument case (he asked me about my saz). The Causes were playing at The Blue Walnut in Torquay (Britain's smallest cinema!) to accompany some films the next evening, and I hoped to go, but unfortunately (and unsurprisingly) it had sold out.

A week later, I caught the Golden Road at The Croft in Bristol. The Doozer supported again - he seems to be a friend of the band, cos he was up on stage playing harmonica for "Canned Happiness" (their mighty reworking/deconstruction of Canned Heat's "On The Road Again" which went into a heavy trance-krautrock groove) and the remainder of the set, which ended with "East Mountain Joint" going into a ten-minute feedback coda. The mix and acoustics of the space were pretty hideous - everything sounded too loud, and generally too trebly/distorted/indistinct. But my MiniDisc recording (MV&EE encourage audience taping, in the tradition of the Grateful Dead) came out sounding really quite OK. I've since been in touch with MV and he's keen to get a copy, so one has been dispatched to East Mountain Road, Guilford, Vermont to await their return.

I had a little chat with Erika at the merchandise table, handed over COTD, ATW and Ail Fionn compilation discs so that they can experience some lo-fi free-folk sounds from this side of the Atlantic. Sir Robert had mentioned at The Luminaire that the rest of the band had to go back to the States (he presumably heard this in Cambridge), so I'd been expecting to witness the two-piece MV&EE set he caught on the previous tour. I asked Erika about this, but she explained that it was only the bass player who'd had to leave, and that they'd found a new one. He appeared to be English - they introduced him as "Sir Michael Flowers", but later refered to him as "Chris". He did a fine job in any case. Still, I was slightly disappointed, as I'd have loved to see just Matt and Erika doing their thing.

Philip from COTD got in touch a week later, having recently discovered MV&EE via YouTube, suggesting we might take something over for a future Brattleboro Free Folk Festival. I'm not sure how likely that is, but it's a nice idea...

"The Yellow Moon Band" also played a support set of mostly heavy rock instrumentals - really quite incongruous (the sort of band who should be supporting Wishbone Ash, as someone put it). Their web profile said something about "folk" and "psychedelic" - the guitarist got a mandolin out at one point, so I suppose that was the "folk" bit, but it just made me think of the Stonehenge scene in This is Spinal Tap.


Blogger test said...

Hey. Good to read your review of the croft. I googled it on the offchance that anybody there might be talking about it and there you were!

The sound wasn't fantastic was it - did you see the sound man? I don't know if you've seen an old Hammer horror about a race of inbred mutants who live in the london underground? If you have you'll know what I mean.

I agree the yellow moon band were sort of incongruous but I really enjoyed them - more psyche rock than heavy rock - which is my thing so much appreciated - and the mando came out for more than one track ;)

9:51 PM  

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