Sunday, November 25, 2012

Chickfactor: For the Love of Pop!, Part 1: The Pastels, The Aislers Set, Would-Be-Goods and Amor de Dias at Bush Hall, London, 17th November

Saturday didn’t exactly go as planned. It was a long time since S. and I had been in London, so, rather like last time, we tried to fit too much in. This wasn’t helped by a misunderstanding about which Rough Trade to meet Chris at (in his defence I think he did say he was going to Covent Garden; in mine that shop is not there any more), or a replacement bus service for the tube which took nearly an hour and a half to get Brogues to Portobello Road. Where, before he arrived, I overheard an American say to a companion, ‘My mother bought a pet shop here, and turned it into an art gallery. She sold it to Brian Eno.’ That seemed a good Portobello Road moment. A rather frustrating day made the Bush Hall seem all the more welcoming, and I agreed with what Gaylord Fields said during his introduction to Amor de Dias, when he described the relief of turning from the busy Uxbridge Road, ‘with all its... people’, and entering the calm of Bush Hall with its friendly like-minded souls and its beautiful music hall interior. The band continued that effect, reproducing the calm reverie of their Street of the Love of Days album, just the two of them, Alasdair Clientele and Lupe Pipas, sitting down, with almost-matching Spanish guitars. Alasdair’s playing was frighteningly proficient – flamenco-esque finger picking, fluid as you like. They suffered a bit from loud chatterers at the back of the hall, which seemed to annoy Alasdair: ‘Shut it,’ he said, in an exaggerated East End voice. ‘No, please don’t,’ Lupe hastened to say, not wanting to dictate the audience’s behaviour. They didn’t shut it, and it felt a little as though the... people had intruded. There was a guest spot from Pam Berry, singing a sad song about dwindling affection, that was a treat.

The Would-Be-Goods fared better against the chatter, having drums, and went down well. They were new to me, except for a bit of pre-gig listening to their Eventyr album, and I couldn’t quite get over the impression of a second-tier Heavenly, a point brought home immediately after the set, when the DJ played ‘Cool Guitar Boy’ – in acknowledgement, presumably, of their guitarist Peter Momtchiloff, who was so amazing in Heavenly. He was good in the Would-Be-Goods too, and it was a thrill to see him, immaculately turned out in a red wild west shirt and bootlace tie. It seemed as though Jessica Griffin’s lyrical concerns might stretch beyond the Heavenly palette, though – one song was introduced as being a conflation of fairy tales, for instance. More listening needed, I think. In person, they generated such goodwill and bonhomie. Not least through the drummer, in pigtails and with a ‘W’ made of plastic horse shoes around her neck, smiling the whole time and adding zestful backing vocals.

[Going through this piece prior to posting, a week and a few more spins of Eventyr later, I’m a bit uncomfortable with the paragraph above. It is starting to seem very good indeed, and ‘Temporary Best Friend’ – which they played – a solid gold pop classic. Much more listening definitely needed.]

The Aislers Set were downright incredible. All Californian sunshine, thought Chris, compared to a certain depressive quality on record. There is a kind of sullen distance to them, which you can certainly get over (it took me a while at the time – it was Alistair Fitchett’s raving on Tangents and elsewhere that made me make the effort, I think). Then again, by ‘sullen distance’ maybe I mean ‘attitude’, maybe I mean they’re not marketing themselves. Whatever, that distance evaporates in their presence, literally and sonically. Amy looks tiny behind her huge 12-string guitar, hair short-ish but long and curly enough to mostly obscure her eyes, and she has a fast, nervous, slightly geeky way of talking. There were more of them than I’d expected – five, six? Including a trumpet player. And a happy looking bassist, who would rush to the assistance of Lupe’s fallen guitar during Pipas’ set on the following day. The band tore into their catalogue with vicious abandon, almost galvanizing an audience not in the first flush of youth into a mosh pit. Songs? ‘Emotional Levy’, ‘Catherine Says’, ‘The Red Door’, the one the guitarist sings about walking lost in the city... Actually, that’s a recurring theme, the one I mean is ‘The Lonely Side of Town’. The sudden shifts in rhythm carried a weight and a punch I’d never heard in them before, the drummer was whip-cracking sharp. It was a blast, a real triumph, I haven’t enjoyed a band that much in ages. The crowd was rapt, too, which helped.

How would The Pastels follow that? Why, with ‘Charlie’s Theme’, of course. Which worked rather well – a blissed-out come down from a raging high. Stephen announced that their album is now due for release in March, ‘Pastels time... I’m not saying which year’. But they’ve said on Twitter that it’s done, mixed, mastered and has a catalogue number, so unless they decide that 2013’s an unlucky number, it can’t possibly be any longer than that, surely? Katrina seemed to like the acoustics, ‘I can hear everything,’ she said, approvingly. Alison is fairly obviously pregnant, and the future must be bright, you would have thought, for a child formed to this soundtrack. To ‘Secret Music’, ‘Flightpaths to Each Other’, ‘Thru Your Heart’ and ‘Fragile Gang’. There was a new, quite fast Katrina song, ‘Come to the Dance’. ‘Baby Honey’ got its now-traditional set closing outing, Stephen sliding a can of Red Stripe all over the fretboard for maximum rock ’n’ roll. And for an encore – this was wonderful – ‘Comin’ Through’, specially requested by Gail Chickfactor; and then its partner-piece, ‘Over My Shoulder’, slowed and, again, blissful. It’s great to see The Pastels, so long intent on pursuing their own voyage out from the starting point of ’80s indiepop (a sound they’re largely responsible for, of course), check back in with such grace. Roll on March.

Photos, as before, from Chris S.’s Chickfactor 20 set. None of The Aislers Set, curiously, but there are some great videos of their set (and many others’) on anorakhighst’s YouTube channel, as Tweeted / Facebook-ed by Chickfactor themselves over the last week.


Chris said...

Lovely review, Chris.
Assuming that I must just have forgotten to upload them, I just checked my memory card and discovered that I didn't take a single photo of The Aislers Set. How bizarre. I must have been too blissed-out.

Chris said...

Lovely photos, Chris.

You were pretty delighted with them, as was everyone, I think. It's really handy that someone stood at the front videoing it all, but at the same time - sometimes you just want to enjoy the music, don't you?

brogues said...

I think you're being a bit harsh on The Would-be-goods! I don't think they played these but I've always loved them loads:

I think you'll like all the bookishness to be found in their records e.g.

Love the post. Great memories!

Chris said...

Thanks for those - they did play 'The Camera Loves Me' I think, that one rings a bell.

You are almost certainly right that I'm being ridiculously harsh. Didn't mean to be - I look forward to you being proved right, anyway.

brogues said...

Cool. Another cool song that they did play is 'Gigi Geographic'. I don't think it's on YouTube but you can hear an excerpt here:

Mondo is a much more flamboyant, orchestrated record. I like it, too!

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