‘weather to be under’: midwich, the piss superstition, culver, astral social club live at the fox & newt, leeds, february 4th 2012February 10, 2012 at 12:24 pm | Posted in live music, midwich, new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
Tags: astral social club, culver, dddd, drone, julian bradley, lee stokoe, live music, matching head, midwich, neil campbell, new music, no audience underground, noise, shameless self-congratulation, the piss superstition
Heh, heh – that picture is terrifying isn’t it? This is, as far as I know, the sole document of midwich playing live last Saturday. Captured on Joincey-cam it shows my bobbing, balding bonce blurred as if in a Japanese horror film. Cool, eh? Should anyone else have photos/videos/audios of the gig then please get in touch and I will augment this post with them. But I get ahead of myself…
First things first: the snow. Much to everyone’s great annoyance the winter, until then surprisingly mild, made one last effort at inconvenience. The snow started at lunchtime and continued more or less until the gig ended. There has been no more since. If it were possible to book the snow with the intention of disrupting our arrangements it could not have been better timed.
The weather meant that I spent the afternoon fielding txt messages and emails from would-be gig punters now intent on staying in: “sorry, but the snow…” It would be churlish of me to get the hump about this, however, as I am shockingly lazyboned about going to gigs myself and will duck out holding the most pitiable excuse. In their position it is highly likely that I would have done the same. That said, if I did decide to shoot then I would have ammunition: the remarkable Simon H of DDDD/New Luddism/Pyongyang Plastics fame drove all the way from the picturesque hamlet of Minstead (nearest town: SOUTHAMPTON!!) to be there. Chew on that, lightweights. Even more alarmingly, he drove all the way back again straight after. Also worthy of note was the drive from Newcastle made by Lee Stokoe and the journey of Joincey and our friend Pauline who came across from that town on the wrong side of the Pennines. Anyway, I’m sure that the snow added to the buzzy atmosphere as the surprisingly large crowd were united by the adversity faced in getting to the gig. It gave proceedings the feel of an ‘event’. But I get ahead of myself again…
I arrived around 6.30pm to set up and immediately remembered why I hadn’t played live in seven or eight years: the nerves. Despite my set being meticulously planned and thoroughly rehearsed (yes, it bloody was) I could still barely construct a sentence. I cough when I am nervous and on several occasions had to retire to the toilets and splutter and retch like I had tuberculosis. I’ve never been able to quell this embarrassing over-reaction.
Matters were not helped when soundchecking produced no sound. A brief nightmare of lead jiggling ensued until suddenly there was DEAFENING RACKET. Phew. Ironically, the Korg Monotron I was using to control the erratic volume of the MC-303, and thus the gadget I considered made it possible for me to play live again, had to be unplugged and discarded. Fingers crossed.
There then followed the usual hanging about, watch and phone checking, CD-r swapping, aimless walking up and down stairs and eating of chips that anyone who has organised or played at a small gig will be familiar with. We took turns mournfully pulling back the curtains, swearing at the weather and wondering aloud as to the eventual size of the ‘crowd’. Kieron Piercy, the tireless organiser of the show, remained admirably philosophical about matters.
We needn’t have worried. The early-adopters – Pete Cann, Paul Walsh, Kev Sanders (of Hairdryer Excommunication, who presented me with a bunch of interesting new stuff by Petals – watch this space) – were joined by more of the snow-dismissing hardcore. There was much coat-shaking, boot-stomping and pint-buying and by the time I came on the place was pleasingly full. More arrived during my set, notably the party of my wife Anne who had been arguing with an intransigent cab firm about their refusal to honour a booking for the pathetic reason that the roads were now impassably treacherous.
Having delayed things as long as I could in the forlorn hope that Anne would materialise, I had no choice but to kick-off proceedings. I played three tracks over twenty minutes: a bubbling arpeggio called ‘silver lining’ (from sizzlin’ hot new release ‘October in Yorkshire’ on Zanntone), a new, as yet un-named, ten minute drone piece for the purists, then a purist-annoying reward for the patient and receptive crowd: three minutes of stupid disco called ‘this season’s bobble hats’ (Neil Campbell, shouting: “it better be stupid!”, me, from the stage: “oh yeah, it is fucking stupid). Bobble hats is mainly a pre-recorded loop so I was able to leave the keyboard and shake my ass for the edification of the audience. The nerves were a distant memory now as the showman took over. It finishes with the introduction of a pounding 909 kick drum, partly to amuse/shock the dronesters and partly because I just wanted to hear it at thunderous volume. People clapped, there was much grinning, I was very pleased and spent the rest of the night in a hyperactive mood of blissful agitation.
The other three acts were all GENIUS, as expected. Compared to the last time I saw The Piss Superstition I thought Julian and Paul’s set was relatively open and accessible. That is: less disorientating, less claustrophobic and less alien – at least on the surface. The two guitarists aimed semi-circles of pedals, weevils and the like at each other and invited the crowd to lose themselves in the crackling fuzz between them. However, this approachability proved ultimately deceptive and I was left in my usual post-TPS state of speechless discombobulation. They are unique.
Culver’s set involved Lee crouching amongst his keyboards and tape loops whilst the greatest goatee beard in drone music pointed down at one instrument, then the next, as he directed the roar. Reversing the usual flow to be found in his recorded work, Lee started with the conflagration, the great entropic, consuming fire, and gradually crawled out of the abyss. The second phase of the piece was constructed around a mournful, slow and surprisingly fragile guitar loop. Mesmerising, as ever.
Astral Social Club provided a fitting climax. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen Neil pull out the stops with such comprehensive abandon. The gathering, billowing crescendo of thrashed guitar overdrive just refused to plateau out. The build was so relentless that it bordered on panic-inducing, especially when members of the crowd started noticing the distinct smell of burning. The acrid tang of loosening solder or melting plastic was unmistakeable. Nervous glances were exchanged and furtive enquiries as to its source were made. We collectively became aware of just what a flammable environment we were standing in. Neil – back to the audience – was oblivious. Luckily we were saved by the bell: a touch on Neil’s arm from the soundman indicated that 11pm had struck and so all music must cease. Neil took a few minutes bringing us in to land and left us all breathing heavily, eyes bulging, unable to do anything but mumble ‘fucking hell‘ to our neighbours.
There then followed another hour of packing up, tape and CD-r blagging, mutual back-slapping. Those drinking choked down as much as they could before the weary bar staff threatened to throw us out onto the icy pavement. So finally we all joined hands in a big circle, clicked together the heels of our ruby slippers and the gods of rock and roll transported us safely and instantaneously home to our welcoming beds.
Postscript: I think all involved had a great night. Many thanks to Kieron for inviting me out of retirement and for having the imagination to put together this perfect line-up. I wouldn’t at all mind doing this again so, should anyone out there fancy booking a midwich ‘show’, please get in touch.
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