Monday, June 08, 2009

Cocos Lovers - Oxfam Benefit

Cocos Lovers, rapidly becoming one of my very favourite bands, came up from Deal to headline an Oxfam benefit at Canterbury's Orange Street Music Venue on Saturday night.

The place was pretty much full, although there seemed to be very little interest in the music - people, presumably there for charitable reasons, or just 'cos it was somewhere to go on a Saturday night, just talked through the first couple of acts (grrr!). Cocos had everyone's attention after a couple of songs, tho', I'm glad to report. They had a bit of a struggle with the duff OSMC acoustics (Joel from Syd Arthur doing his best on the desk), especially as there are eight of them, with almost all acoustic instruments (which they sometimes swap in mid-song), and their sound was consequently a bit harsher than suits it, but none of that mattered. Despite the fact they could hardly hear each other (I was later told), it didn't sound like that from where I was, and there were a lot smiles visible onstage – it was evident that both band and audience were enjoying the experience hugely.

Nicola and Will from Cocos Lovers
Nicola and Will from Cocos Lovers, at a gig in Chatham earlier this year

On this occasion, they were like dozens of my favourite bands all compressed into one – six voices singing beautiful harmonies which made me think of the Watersons, the loads-of-people-onstage-making-a-joyous-noise communality of the Blue Aeroplanes in their heyday, the cheerful folkiness of early 70's Fairport Convention, the poetic sensitivity of the Go-Betweens, a glimmer of the Dream Academy's "Life in a Northern Town", even a bit of the energetic spirit of The Clash somewhere there in their battered-but-beautiful musical cauldron. I'm getting quite familiar with their repertoire now, so was happy to hear some interesting new arrangements.

There was an accordion player amongst their ranks who I'd not seen before – she's been away, having a baby, and has just rejoined, we were told (it was hard to hear her accordion, but she sang lead on a beautiful song and joined in on the harmonies throughout).

One song near the end of the set took me by surprise by starting with the chant "Earth my body, water my blood, air my breath and fire my spirit". Unfortunately, I associate this with po-faced, overly solemn German hippies at Rainbow Gatherings (who even inspired a parody version which, I expect, still circulates in that scene: "Earth my socket, water my plants, air my socks and fire my employees"!) But their harmony vocals, overlaid with some mildly dissonant guitar lines, re-invented it for me and I was able to hear these powerful words anew...they then morphed the chant into thundering "Cracks and Boulders" (I think).

As they finished their set, I found myself wishing my arms were a couple of yards longer so I could give them all a big collective hug! Lovely people making lovely music... As I attempted to leave, shuffling past Will and Phillipe from the band, I was very surprised when they simultaneously recognised me (from that tiny picture above) as the author of this blog! They'd been in touch a while back in response to a little piece I wrote after first seeing them, but I didn't expect them to know what I look like. I had a long chat with Will, and even ended up being invited to come down to a festival near Tarragona with them in October! The organisers of this are looking for bands from Spain to fill out the line-up, so there have since been moves to connect Cocos with my (Barcelona-based) friends Gadjo.

And I even got raffle ticket no. 23 (didn't win anything 'though...but I walked home feeling like I'd won a HUGE prize).

There's quite a lot of Cocos Lover clips now up on Youtube, I'm glad to see. Here's a good introduction to a band it would be hard not to love:


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