Thursday, May 29, 2008

Small World

I cycled out along the Pilgrims Way (parts of it now rebranded as the North Downs Way) out to the first of this summer's two Small World festivals, on a farm near Headcorn. Saw some excellent stuff: Herbal Love (roots/dub/ska), Planetman and the Internationalz (reggae/afrobeat/funk), Titan System (dub/rock), Moonshine Moonshine (indescribably wonderful Brighton/London trio - a little bit Spiro-like, but with harp and a banjo and an Italian Beatrice with an otherworldly voice), Kangaroo Moon (Mark Robson having evolved his "Celtic Dreaming" sound in a very nice direction these last years - a seamless set of gentle Gong-ish spacerock, Irish tunes, trancey didg jams - I saw one set with Elliet on fiddle, one without), Tragic Roundabout (the original line-up reformed, very amusing).

Kangaroo Moon at Gong Unconvention '06
Kangaroo Moon at the Gong Unconvention '06, Amsterdam

Moonshine Moonshine were followed by some friends of theirs, The Laish Quartet, also from Brighton, a quintet on this occasion. Scribbled in my notebook I find "charity shop Radiohead...quirky English jangly + melancholy, hard to classify...outsider music...clarinet, drummer doubling on trumpet, bittersweet harmonies - sympathetic to US west coast vibe"...the bass/xylophone player looked like he'd just time-travelled in from the scene, circa 1971, and the singer looked a bit like a younger Pok").

The Mordekkers played a sort-of-headline set on the Saturday night (with Henry having moved from bass to drums and trained his brother Charlie up on bass). I also saw half of Kilnaboy, a very sweet duo with a newborn baby (didn't catch their name) who played a cover of Jolie Holland's "Old Fashioned Morphine" and a singer-songwriter called Jont who is just exceptionally talented...almost walked past him on the ultra-tiny "Soapbox Stage" thinking he was just another singer-songwriter with a vaguely Chris Martin/Thom Yorke kind-of voice, but something made me sit down and unforgettable performance. As well as heartfelt love songs, there was "Peace is the New World War Three (Rebranding History)" and something called "(It's So Cool When You're an) Ambulance Driver", which at first I thought seemed a bit twisted, but Jont's a highly complex writer, and by the end of the song I was won over.

On the Friday evening I jammed with Stef on mandola in the dark. We got a few people gathering around, so took it to a fire, where we found a London Rastaman called I Jah Mo singing and playing his guitar. We couldn't find a place to sit, so we stood behind him and joined in. After the song ended, he turned around and said "Man, I thought a host of angels and come down to join me!". We jammed a bit with him and some bits of Planetmanz' band, and he invited us to join him for his gig the next day on the Triban stage.

I Jah Mo, some time earlier
I Jah Mo, some time earlier

Stef had to rehearse the Mordekkers set, so it was just me (plus Charlie and Ewan from the Internationalz on trumpet and sax, respectively, Justin on djembe, another percussionist who's name I didn't catch). It was a lovely, floaty festival-y set we played (including I Jah Mo singing his rewrite of a Psalm, and King Solomon's Song of Songs), and I managed to get a recording...

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