Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Thoughts of Chairman Coc re: Recent Urban Narnia


My first SFOTC! Excitement glands were tingling as we made our way over to Chapel Street. Confusion followed when to the untrained eye nothing seemed to be happening - the most low key festival I have ever known. As though the Other City was itself buried underneath the deserted Salford street, like a scruffy, urban Narnia of ginnels and workshops - an All Tomorrow's Pubs.

At The Salford Arms cross-purposes were at work, regulars out for a Sunday afternoon drink sat alongside Your Mama's Cookin' jiveabilly vintage business. It was still early. Over to Golden Lab, where Monopoly Child Star Searchers were playing their “primitive punk avant-thought”, backs turned to us, in a place that felt like an allotment shed - the sound of trees moving in the night; a beautiful Brownian motion of musical mosses and moulds; a slow-paced desert meditative noir; and a very promising start.

Lexie Mountain Boys (from Baltimore) came across like a bus-stop full of drunken Aretha Franklins, a breathless Olympian Village People acapella hybrid with nu-folk head bands and fake beards. All karaoke should be conducted like this. Mazes at the Kings Arms' Lamb & Wolf slot failed to match expectations - a limp White Stripes – so we doubled back for A Middle Sex at the URC. Playing alongside Hitchcock's silent movie, “The Lodger”, they filled the stuffy basement with the sound of a supercharged headache, amplifying the claustrophobic paranoia on the screen with droning loops and yelps and relentless rhythms; duelling Aphex Twins soundtracking Dr Who as a silent movie ghoul. Stone cold highlight.

Wu Lf Wu Lf impressed with pop/start Afro-noise hysterics and Eraserhead hair, their erratic sound scrambling for all available exits. Then, via some very standard indie harmonies from First Time Flyer, that left my right ear feeling as though it was missing a filling, and a plodding set from The Tombots, we failed to get inside The Rovers Return, which won the award for most consistently inaccessible venue of the festival. We could hear Cats In Paris' “Foxes” sparkle out the windows, and we cursed our restless luck before pushing on to The Black Lion.

The Terrorist showcase there seemed more like the promising beginning/exhausted end of a great house party. English Electric pumped out some Orbital-flavoured pop party acid meaty enough to offer a stiff handshake. Then we headed back to the crowded Kings Arms for Banjo or Freakout, who despite their terrible name, delivered an intense set, recreating a human-shaped Animal Collective feel, the sound rolling around and around inside a heartbeat. Bizarre instruments figured throughout, one tune apparently composed of arcade classic Galaxians and thumb pianos.

Finally inside The Kings Arms we witnessed The Invisible's milky/funky, cowbell-bothering, masterful New York space-rock., which got biggest crowd reaction of the day. Then we ate our sandwiches and took in Huw Stephen's visiting Swn system at the Sacred Trinity, where the chattering classes sat on pews, drinking cans of Grunwalder lager under stained glass, with crazy, psychedelic primary school drawings of grey-pencil crucified Christs on the walls.

In this setting, the music was disappointing. Sweet Baboo wasn't exactly twee, but so musically and melodically minimal it felt like a dull, one-handed pub conversation. As for Marina & The Diamonds... for every Kate Bush, there are a hundred Toyahs. Another cadet from the quirky pop drama school, she limped through a weak approximation of eccentric songcraft, further pissing me off by covering Gwen Stefani's self-congratulatory reptilian anti-classic “What You Waitin' For?” Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Your pal,

Coc x

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