Sunday, September 15, 2013

Jamie Dams and Lapis Lazuli acoustic

Friday, 23rd August 2013
secret woodland location near Canterbury

This was a farewell gig for our Brazilian friend Leida. She'd been living in Canterbury for ten years, but for various reasons decided it was time to go back to Brazil (despite loving it here). I'd suggested she choose her favourite local music and we'd try to put something together. She chose Jamie Dams and Lapis Lazuli, and they happily liaised to come up with a date.

It being a Friday night (these events tend to be on Sundays), and a leaving party of sorts, people were in more of a party mood than usual. There was a bit more background chatter than the usual almost-complete-silence, but still an almost unheard-of level of receptivity from the audience.

Jamie played a set in the woods last year, solo acoustic guitar and voice. She's got a band now: Josh Magill (formerly Zoo For You, now Bison Bonasus) on drums, Phil Holmes (Lapis Lazuli) on tenor sax and Toby Allen (recent Lapis recruit) on bass guitar. I hadn't had a chance to see them before this. She's switched to electric guitar, so there was a vocal mic and a bit of amplification for guitar and bass, but Josh was playing light and jazzy, the overall volume being kept at almost-acoustic levels. The borrowed busking amp seemed to be low on battery, distorting very slightly, adding a slightly abrasive edge to the sound, but that somehow worked. "City Walls" was the only song I recognised from her (very strong) solo repertoire. She seems to have written a whole new band set, and really evolved her songwriting in interesting directions (jazzy/proggy in a way that's hard not to compare to Rae — a band with the same instrumentation &mndash; despite sounding very different from them). Phil's a keen follower of my Canterbury Soundwaves podcasts, and I'm sure I could detect flecks of 70's Canterburyness in some of his sax playing.

I got a full audio recording of the whole evening but I don't think there's any visual document. It's difficult by firelight, and I always ask people to switch off their phones, so that rules out a lot of the usual videoclips and photos that tend to surface online after gigs these days. But here's some footage from the band's first gig (I think) at The Ship in Deal, back in July:

Lapis set was utterly unique. Dan was on electic guitar through a small amp (just not an acoustic player), Neil was sounding gorgeous on an acoustic (never heard that before). Toby had been considering bringing his double bass, but stuck with the electric as usual. Dave muted his trumpet and played his usual array of percussion and flutes. Adam played with brushes and had everyone sitting on the edge of their strawbale seat with a massive grin watching his amazing facial expressions and movements. The overall interaction was a joy to watch and just very funny in a way that was hard to explain. They took the whole audience on a sonic trip with them in a way that's so rare these days – about sixty people completely focussed on journeying across this unfolding musical landscape. By removing the "rocking out" element of Lapis, we were left with a jazzy, effervescent, ultra-playful, somehow humorous brew of psychedelic musical weirdness. Phil got his accordion out for a woozy sea-shanty-type moment (our friend Dave commenting on how you could almost imagine Tom Waits appearing out of the shadows and growl along drunkenly for a while).

Best Lapis ever! was the general response. Great dynamics, really responsive, musical telepathy on display. They treated us to some excerpts from the new 38(?)-minute piece "Alien" that they've been collectively writing for the last months (it's live debut). Another new piece starts with a samba rhythm, so they'd asked Leida to join them on tambourine (and not just any tambourine, either, she brought a "BRAZIL" tambourine with a picture of a football on it!). During old favourite "The Void", just as they went into the spacey bit, Dan dropped his plectrum, the band instinctively just extending the jam while he groped about on the ground looking for it, to everyone's amusement. Yianni, the guitarist who recently played for us as half of Magga Tiempo, emerged from the audience to present a whole wallet of them to poor Dan ("Take your pick!" he deadpanned, perfectly timed with the jam). Things got (semi-acoustically) funky during "Pow!". So much to take in, I look forward to revisiting my recording soon...

I couldn't find any recent Lapis footage online, but there's this, from their self-organised European tour last summer, when Cameron was still playing bass with them:

A long set, almost 80 minutes I think (extra respect to Phil and Toby who played with both bands), a real trip, and a great send off for Leida (she's gone now, and taken the summer with her, it seems). The next morning was spent in the very pleasant company of Adam, Kim, Leida and Sarah, more time 'round the fire, tidying up (not much to do), snacking on the leftovers from the communal feast of the night before, tea, rambling tangential conversations and games of backgammon.


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