three gigs

1. Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings - Brighton Dome
Two and a half hours of acoustic music from two guitars, voices and the occasional bit of banjo and thighslapping would not normally be high on my list of must-sees. But as any cursory glance over the music section of any broadsheet newspaper over the last couple of weeks will tell you, Welch and Rawlings are the dog's bollocks. And for once they're right. Despite the occasionally embarrassing audience shout-outs, this was one of the best gigs I've seen in a long time. It's rare to see such onstage chemistry between two people - their voices sound like they're coming from the same set of lungs and pipes; close, close harmonies (they like major seconds a lot). Rawlings' solos were quietly revelatory - it's not usual to get spontaneous outbursts of applause at the end of a solo at a not-jazz gig. But he earns them - there's nothing flash or superfluous in his playing, though the occasional quicksilver run might appear and take the breath away (as it did to the bloke sitting next to me at this gig, often alarmingly). Not to take anything away from his partner, of course.

2. Forwindings - Shoreditch Church
I can't be at all objective about this one, but despite a few technical issues and some notable last minute non-appearances, we seemed to pull it off and attracted enough people to make it worthwhile. More here. I really enjoyed the Elvers set - Ian was on great form, and the acoustic suited him down to the ground. The Sonnamble set was problematic for me, but not for anyone else, or so it seemed, and the audience seemed particularly into it. The Fourth Page set was probably our best yet in some ways - it felt really cohesive and focussed. Ed Devane's set was really lovely too. Next time may be less ambitious, but there'll definitely be one.

3. Dafeldecker/Budd, The Necks - Oxford Holywell Music Room
The Necks are less a band than they are some gateway to another universe. I've seen them probably half a dozen times and each time they leave me feeling slightly exhausted and disorientated. Maybe a bit like Yuri Gagarin felt on touchdown. I've tried writing about them before and failed miserably, so I won't attempt it again, other than to say they were fucking wonderful.

In support was the pairing of Harold Budd, whose work has ranged IMHO from the sublime to the insipid, and Werner Dafeldecker, whose double bass has graced some of my favourite records of the last few years. Dafeldecker is a rigorous sort and one of the 'third Viennese school' alongside people like Fennesz and Polwechsel/ It seemed like an odd pairing to me, but potentially fascinating. It wasn't. Harold did his usual thing (ie pretty, mournful long-spaced piano chords) while Werner treated his piano through tape delay and perhaps unintentional feedback, occasionally taking up the bass for some rattling, detuned dromes, thumps and squeaks. I was glad when they stopped. A solo set from each would have been far more rewarding, and I couldn't help wondering what was going through their heads. Certainly neither looked particularly at ease. Perhaps it was a bad night, but my guess it was more of a case of two diametrically opposed approaches not finding any common ground. I wonder whose idea that was....

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