Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Joe Woodham and Yama Warashi

24th November 2016
secret woodland location near Canterbury

The last in this series of gigs I curated in 2016:

Joe Woodham's the bass player in Brighton psychedelic band Jouis, but also plays guitar (has a lovely fingerpicking style) and writes and sings songs. His thoughtful lyrics are never less than an attempt to express his worldview in song. While not trying to sound like anyone else, he still sounds like part of a tradition. His dog Mucker (featured in "Song For Mucker") joined in with the applause for the first few songs by barking frantically and scurrying around (but staying quiet during the actual songs)! His set included one well chosen cover, Jackson C. Frank's "Blues Run The Game". My favourite song was "Colmer's Hill" (about a distinctive conical hill near Symondsbury in Dorset that Vicky and I once just had to stop and climb while driving nearby...there's a kangaroo buried in the churchyard there too!). He ended on an ominous note with "Plague A-Comin'", but most of the songs dealt with uplifting topics like pilgrimage, ancestral recognition, simple pleasures and the beauty of the natural world. You can here a little instrument saz/guitar jam I recorded with Joe spontaneously at a festival in France the summer before last here.

The main act that night was Yama Warashi, part of Bristol's "Bloom Collective" of interlocking bands, many of whom were at Smugglers Festival some months earlier. This band's fronted by Yoshino Shigihara, an extraordinarily creative and imaginative individual. The band on this occasion consisted of Conrad (Cloudshoes, Evil Usses, Count Bobo, Dubi Dolczek, Tezeta), Graeme (Dubi Dolczek, Tezeta), Dan (Rae, Evil Usses, Count Bobo, Tezeta) and Lewis (Dubi Dolczek). Five of my favourite people all in one band!

Yoshino, as well as singing and playing keyboards contributed some rather dynamic percussion, playing a large floor tom (standing up, kind of Japanese kodo-style). There were a few old songs, their (then) new single "Moon Egg". Graeme got into the spirit of things, spontaneously deciding to mime the opening of a spring bud at the beginning of "Half-Moon Bamboo". Conrad brought the skronk with his electric guitar and effects setup, Graeme the oh-so-soulful saxophone. My strongest memories are of the boys all singing "you have no eyeball" in unison during the ominous "No Face" encore and Yoshino trying to suppress her giggles during the tricky back-and-forth vocal intro to "Tangled Roots"

Yosh had created a comic book to go with the Moon Egg album so that you can follow along with English translations to her Japanese lyrics. This features a host of surreal creatures (not exactly Japanese anime style, but perhaps adjacent to it) based on the band members: Conrad = "3 Eyed Goat Dragon", Graeme = "Tribal Llama Guru"; Lewis = "Thunder Cloud"; Dan = "Mushroomhead Skater". Lorenzo, a.k.a. "Crystal Cat" had to miss this tour, sadly, but I'm sure they'll be back in the area before long.

There's an underlying sweetness to Yama Warashi's music, but it can be abrasive and dissonant at times (someone suggested "a Japanese Gong", which has some truth to it... as well as the Japanese lyrics, certain scales are integrated into some songs too). There was an early 80s Raincoats vibe at times too, never a bad thing!


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