Sunday, March 08, 2009

Fence Records Pre-Season Friendly, Edinburgh, 7th March

The idea of a gig in a church hall made me nervous. Most things to do with Christianity make me nervous. Some I can acclimatise to (there are swathes of vicars in my family, so it’s kinda necessary), others not. The Fence all-day event was held in Old St Paul’s Church Hall, a large room painted as only a church hall can be painted, in pale green and pink. Why, I wondered, waiting for A. to emerge from interviewing The Red Well (for Is This Music?), have I come to a church hall for a day’s worth of protest singing? Was that sensible? But count the pros: Electrelane were playing quietly through the PA, and the Rozi Plain album on Fence written about recently by A jumped-up pantry boy is a lovely and a soothing thing. She didn’t play, though she did apparently supply some mix CDs to be put on between sets. But before the music started, the thing that really made me feel at home was the presence at the merch stall of some 7" singles by Found, on the Aufgeladen und Bereit label. Beautiful looking things, as with all of that labels 7"s: coloured vinyl in clear sleeves, the artwork confined to the record label itself and the sticker which seals the sleeve shut. I ordered some after this gig: one by The Sexual Objects, one by Future Pilot AKA. They arrived on Friday, and the parcel included in addition a single by Found, in bright orange, which I hadn’t ordered. And there it was again, on the merch table in Old St Paul’s Church Hall. Following me.

To begin with there were some solo acoustic sets, and in line with the above mentioned prejudices they mostly washed over me. King Creosote had a nice line in deep repetitive full sounding riffs, though; Little Pebble sounded light in comparison, and though he was alone on stage, synth lines accompanied his choruses, which seemed a little unnecessary. The Red Well were more impressive, with the sight of a double bass and a pedal steel to gladden the heart, and a good solid country / folk sound to... I don’t know, reassure, probably. The Fence site says of their new album that: ‘It doesn’t do any of that “era-defining” crap. But it’s really f**king good. And it rocks like a mother.’ This acoustic set didn’t rock, obviously, but it felt good, friendly, proficient. If that sounds like faint praise, it’s not intended as such, but for me the dry sparkle of it didn’t carry over to their electric set later in the day. They seemed too polite to genuinely rock like mothers. Or motherfuckers, which is presumably what they were too polite to say there.

From there it was back to solo acts and duos, but the acoustic guitar homogeneity I had been slightly dreading never materialised. Animal Magic Tricks were tremulous without being precious, playing small and intimate songs using small home-made samples, love lorn, one with a line about insects which reminded me of The Soft Boys’ ‘Kingdom of Love’, with its ‘You’ve been laying eggs under my skin / Now they’re hatching out under my chin / Now there’s tiny insects showing through / And all the tiny insects look like you.’ But less gleeful. Wee Baby Jesus, apart from invoking the best pun of all time with their name, were convincing with their Walkabouts-like deep south gloom. Which doesn’t explain why they were so fun to watch. Their last song was dedicated to the man in the audience ‘wearing the Johnny Cash / June Carter tour t-shirt from the late ’80s – even though it’s trying a wee bit too hard.’ Meursault, who followed, actually lived up to his moniker, which had seemed like it might be trying a lot too hard. Bald with a trimmed beard, thin as a rake, awkward movements, a wail like Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, it took a few songs to adjust to him, but it was the awkwardness which mesmerised. Attempting banter, he said, ‘This is my last song, it’s been a long day,’ before realising and amending this to ‘No, it’s been a really quick day’, then just giving up and getting on with it. He played my favourite set of the day, in any case.

Which left: the most physical solo acoustic set I have seen in a long time, from this chap (don’t have his name), who went from hushed tones to foot stomping and shouting to finally leaping between spaces in the audience area, narrowly avoiding smashing my little pile of records. He was great. Doug Johnstone was a little too jokey, Player Piano too surly and American, but the last band, Found (they of the mysterious orange single), played an amazing finale. By some margin the most danceable act on the bill, their sound was light, poppy, full of grooves and odd little samples. They were a lot of laid back fun. They are in the process of selling things to fund an imminent trip to SXSW – wisdom, kisses, and hair, according to the singer, going round the band in turn. The one selling the hair was not a pretty sight when he took his woolly hat off, so that part might well have been true. The penultimate song inspired a few folk in the corner to gyrate somewhat, until a few minutes in when two of them strutted across into the area in front of the stage. Two more minutes on, and the whole area was alive with dancing. My preconceptions had been knocked into a cocked hat. A great day.


Andy said...

The rather energetic gentleman went under the moniker of Men Diamler and his album 'Sea Shanties For The Far Inland' is rather lovely. I did get rather a shock when he started running, jumping, singing and twitching among the congregation though the face of the little girl which seemd to convey a look of disbelief and amusement that said 'so this is what adults get up to when left unattended' was one of the highlights of a rather brilliant day.

I'd mainly went to see Found and The Red Well, both of whom were amazing but I also rather adored quite a few of the acts including Wee Baby Jesus, Animal Magic Tricks, the aforementioned Men Diamler and Mersault.

Chris said...

Thanks for identifying Men Diamler. I thought you'd mis-spelt 'Daimler' at first, but no. What is a Diamler?

Thanks too for suggesting we go. It was dead good.

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