Saturday, October 29, 2016

Bearded Sphynx at Conquest House

18th October 2016
Conquest House, Palace Street, Canterbury

I found out about this at the last minute. A tiny audience, in a tiny gem of a venue, the undercroft of Conquest House (where the four knights who murdered Thomas Becket in 1170 spent their last night before the deed). There was a surprise support set from Andrew Prowse, who I've seen many times playing bass with Zoo For You, but had never heard sing or play more than fragments of guitar. He did a full set of songs, really imaginative songwriting, impressively intricate guitar playing and a Tim Buckley/Nick Drake kind of voice. He's just moved back here after a period of solitude in Devon, and this was the first time he's sung in public. He claimed afterwards to have been nervous, but it didn't show. Good to see him getting out and doing his thing.

Bearded Sphynx's set was marred for a while by a couple of troublesome drunks who wandered in and were tolerated for a surprisingly long time by the Conquest House people while they cackled and burbled over the top of Harry and Ellen's celestial musicks (with my eyes closed during their cover of the ISB's "The Half-Remarkable Question", I had an image of two low-level demons in a Tibetan thanka painting, trying unsuccessfully to claw their way into a crystal palace). When they were asked to leave it turned into an unfortunate scene, but our musicians kept their composure and carried on with their songs, including some obscure Donovan, Leonard Cohen's "Suzanne" and this one, which I'd totally forgotten about (listening back, 20+ years later, I think I prefer Ellen's reading of the song):


Afterwards I learned that their new Gong-inspired band Gneng have recruited not just Andrew (on bass) and The Boot Lagoon's Pete Edlin (on guitar and keys), but also both of my suggestions for drummers — Irish Richie from Plume and Gorgonzola and Irish Stewy from Cocos Lovers, Lunch Money and a million other bands are both interested in getting involved. They've already got gigs lined up... this happened really fast after I had a chat with Harry about Gong and then he went away and listened to Camembert Electrique.

We then headed over to Bramleys for the fortnightly jazz jam. Most of the usual musos were off sick, leaving the magnificent trio of Dulcie May Moreno (golden voiced singer), Steve B (stupidly gifted guitarist with Jimmy Jones Band, Sharawadji) and Ash (drummer in Luca Afrobeat). They were doing "Spooky", "Heard It Through The Grapevine" and such things. It was only near the end of the set that I realised there was no bass player — Steve was using his formidable skills and array of effects to play the basslines at the same time as his mercurial guitar lines. They should form a trio, it was that good. But then these sorts of things just keep coming together organically, so there's no real need to form anything...


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