Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Cocos Lovers at St. Alphege's Church, Canterbury

Monday 25th, part of the Canterbury Festival

This was one of the first musical events I've been to in a long while which actually started exactly at the advertised time. As a consequence, by casually arriving at ten past eight, I missed first the first few minutes of what turned out to be a unique and (it felt) watershed performance by Cocos Lovers. I was later told that this involved Natasha, Nicola and Mary-Anne descending from a balcony to the stage singing "My Husband's Got No Courage In Him" (a song I know from that lovely Silly Sisters album June Tabor did with Maddy Prior) acapella, then being joined by their respective husbands/boyfriends (+ Dave and Bill) to start the set proper with "Lunatic van Rogue" (I could hear some of this as I was locking my bike outside...for a moment I thought that The Boot Lagoon or some kind of psychedelic jazz band had been booked as a last minute support — they keep coming up with interesting new arrangements of older material.)

I was trying to recall the last time I'd seen any music in this place (a deconsecrated church, now a community centre). I think it was some kind of free jazz thing in the late 80's, but my memory is quite vague on that.

The band (full eight piece) got to play two longish sets to a seated, attentive audience (the older Canterbury Festival crowd, probably a lot more culturally conservative that the band are used to, but everyone seemed to really love the music). The first set was nicely mellow and included a beautiful, long version of "Johannes", the "secret track" (and title track) on their debut album. I think that's the first time I've heard them play it, although it did sound vaguely familiar when I first listened to the album, so perhaps once before, when I first started seeing them. There was also a promising new song called "Blackened Shores" (I think), and they ended with a fascinating new thing by Mary-Anne called "People of the Sea" (the girls singing three-part harmony over a simnple bass beat).

The second set started with "Feral and Wild", included a "Drowned Sailor" that made my heart swell and a brought a tear to my eye — a really emotional version — followed by "Door of the Andes" (if these two songs had been played in Jools Holland's TV studio – similar seated audience, comfortable atmosphere, beautiful sound – then half the nation would have woken up the next morning in love with this band...but let's not rush things). Honestly, though, they're starting to touch on the otherworldly beauty of the early Fairport (but think multiple Sandy Denny's and a Richard Thompson who'd travelled and played extensively in Africa).

They finished with yet another rousing "Moonlit Sky", then were called back to do a semi-unplugged "Beggars Land" with half the band in the front part of the audience and James drumming on a wooden stool, great energy. One of the best yet of the many times I've seen these people play over the last couple of years. And Joel from Syd Arthur was there recording it too (he's currently working on recording their second album)!

Unlocking my bike outside, James wandered up to tell me that Late November (the jamming project he and Jamil have started) would be jamming on the 13th of November out at Syd Arthur's rehearsal space in Boughton, and invited me to join in (I jammed a bit with them at the Small World Festival in May &ndash you can hear some of that here).


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