Monday, February 09, 2009

Time travel with Jon Woode and Syd Arthur

Friday 6th February - Rutherford College bar, Kent University, Canterbury

I'd decided that local psych/prog outfit Syd Arthur just didn't do it for me, so very nearly skipped this one. But I thought I'd at least find out who Jon Woode was - checked out his MySpace profile earlier in the day and liked what I heard enough to go along.

The whole experience was quite odd. I lived in this place exactly twenty years ago (my first home after leaving my family home), and hadn't set foot inside it for probably fifteen. Back when I was a student there we were lucky enough to get the Television Personalities, Cardiacs, Galaxie 500, Spacemen 3 and various 'shoegazing' bands playing in the common room. These days, the campus has a nightclub pushing populist Radio 1 style stuff. Back in the late 80's, the members of Syd Arthur (I'm guessing) would have been about the same age I was when the sorts of bands they've modeled themselves on were playing at the University in the early 70's (this happy crew, for example...I've just been checking out what I'm guessing was their magnum opus). On this occasion, I rather enjoyed their set. Still can't make out any of Liam's words, but I could dig the overall sound (I take back my comments below about inappropriate funkiness). Raven's mandolin and fiddle playing through a great bank of effects brings a touch of Ratledge/D. Sinclair Canterbury keyboard sound and it was interesting to watch them in action in a sparsely populated bar (no stage or anything, just set up in a corner...not much of an audience either, but respectable applause). Overall, a cleaner, crisper sound and more relaxed atmosphere. Liam and Raven are playing an acoustic set at Orange Street this week, so I'll drop in and see what that's like.

Syd Arthur/Jon Woode poster

They encored with "Secrets of the Planet Soul", which has really grown on me after a few listens (at first I thought the overt Soft Machine "Hope for Happiness" and Canterbury lyrical references were a bit forced, but I'll forgive them, just cos it's nice to know that there are some people their age 'round here who have even heard of the Softs).

Now I can't resist embedding this (check the insanely brilliant Ratledge organ playing)!

oh, and this (before Daevid Allen left!)...

OK, enough time travel - now back to 2009...

Jon Woode's support set was just gorgeous. I'd heard some of the songs once before (that afternoon) and on second hearing, some sounded remarkably familiar. Nick Drake's the nearest point of reference (he's even got a song called "East from the City", referring both to ND's "Three Hours" and where he lives, out in the country, relative to Canterbury). We had a little chat about yew trees, Nick Drake and Syd Arthur before he started. And he gave me copies of both his CDs (Into the Wildness and Country Roads). Very kind. Thanks Jon!

Very little student interest in such things, it seems, but thanks to the Fine Art Society (!) for at least making the effort to put a decent gig on in what's become something of a cultural desert (at least on a musical front...even the Patti Smith film Dream of Life got cancelled at the last minute the other week).


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