Saturday, April 22, 2006
Saturday 22 April...review of The Akron Family + The Good Anna... The Social, Nottingham...
A preliminary report... just back from Nottingham via the Artists' Quarter... ho hum... perhaps a kebab takeaway was a gesture of bravado too far... the night will tell...
But the gig was excellent - I haven't been to The Social before - hadn't heard good reports but I have no complaints. The gig was crowded but not to the point of discomfort - i.e you could stand at the bar with a good view of the stage and get a drink easily... first rule of gig-going: secure your immediate environment... the photo above of your (well, not very) humble correspondent in the jakes shows a shiny surface - and it was clean (the night was young no doubt, on the piss-splashing stakes... unlike your correspondent... I mean age, not... well, whatever...)
First up: our favourite local band - The Good Anna. Added to with another guitarist - Chris Summelin - who played guitar and table-top guitar. They played a brilliant set, building up on one long piece as they usually do but this time with the added thickening of the extra guitarist who bowed and strummed and struck his instruments with mallets to provide a wild array of sounds that complemented Graham's centre stage guitaring. I have only seen them before in a small space and was impressed by the way that they handled themselves here - unfazed by sharing the bill with the American touring band. Patch, as ever, had a supplemented drum kit - metal bowls, and various other pieces of ironmongery added to be struck, bowed, thumped into polyrhythmic abandon... the theme tonight was even more physical than usual as they started with long bowed and scraped sonorities. They went in and out of stated rhythms as the drums led and followed the guitars, Graham at times wrenching a deep howling out of his instrument as Chris matched him to soar into a musical space beyond the individual sounding of notes - this was a blend of searing rhythms and textures and sounds that was uplifting and spontaneous and followed closely by the crowd. What do you call this? Rock? Hardly - too free. Jazz? Hardly -it doesn't come with the formal structures and sounds of most jazz. Free improvised music that partakes of both - the freedoms of the 'jazz' avant-garde and the electronic sonorities of 'rock?' Maybe they are taking the music somewhere else - after all they are frighteningly young to possess such poise and surefootedness - the future looks wide open. A true group performance - Patch is of course, as I have noted before, an amazing drummer but this time out the guitars were well up in the mix and a democracy of sound was at work.
The Akron Family came on - two guitars, bass and drums. Which sounds almost like a conventional rock format. Except they are not... they encompass a wide cultural range of musics from shitkicker country to -wow, again - free jazz (credentials being laid down by the music playing as they set up and before they started playing - some wailing free jazz trumpet over bass and drums that seemedf familiar but was too blurred to make out - could have been Ornette? Dunno, guv. But it signified a certain commitment to open forms and musical freedoms.
As their set progressed they would go from three/four part high-voiced sweet harmony singing, wild electronic freak-outs, and free interludes where as with The Good Anna, the individual notes disappeared and overall texture took over in a rising wail of sound. As Albert Ayler famously said: 'It's not about the notes anymore, it's about feeling.' Which maybe is the true context of the evening - two different bands, different cultural backgrounds but a shared commitment to playing edgy, possibly difficult at times (but I don't see it - it seems to come and be experienced so naturally) music that although sometimes adhering to almost conventional song structures (The Akron Family) rapidly folds them back into the overall textural overlay - not 'notes' but 'feeling.' This is emotional music. Powerful stuff. The Akron Family would go between old folk forms and the abandon of freestyle musics, laced with harmonica, recorder (yes - but he did use it as a slide on his guitar as well!), melodica and horror of horrors - the swanee whistle! Albeit miked to provide a weird glissando of high wailing. They started with a waltz and halfway through (approximately) went back into a stomping waltz-time, rhythm thumped one two three hard by the drummer - then dissolved the rhythm into freed-up beats. Sometimes when the rhythm was explicit it hinted at the old Bo Diddley 'shave and hair cut two bits' - tribal stomping stuff. Melody, harmony and noise - the classic trio of avant American rock as formulated by - well, who? The Velvets, sure. But the archetypes go further back to slide rattling on acoustic strings in the rough and wildness of the delta blues to be taken further by Chicago blues' amped-up sonorities as exemplified by Muddy Waters. Into rock and roll and buzzing amps and feedback. Link Wray, anyone? Screw the cultural history anyway... These boys are conscious of their antecedents - on the last number falling into slide guitar, in fact, giving a deep swamp blues moan as the bass guitarist manipulated his instrument to provide glitchy-like crackles - a perfect symbol of old and new that can stand for the music of - The Akron Family.