Archive: July, 2007

dazza in glasgie

drive carefully flier

Popped along to the ever so tiny basement of the 13th Note last Saturday for a very low key gig by Brisbane bred, Melbourne based singer/songwriter Darren Hanlon. The organisers (Drive Carefully Records – a local start-up label) mistook me for him twice (must be a distinctive Aussie look I have going), leading to some confusion but we did manage to have a bit of a chat after the gig.

The performance was fairly raw and low-fi which was nice in a way although I missed his usual babe-liscious drummer Brit, who isn’t travelling on his epic world tour. At least her replacement drummer/accordion player/singer extraordinaire Pikelet was a worthy fill in.

dour: day 4

wilco

Our penultimate day at Dour dawned hotter and grimier, and dragged us complaining out of our tents at an early hour. After depositing Dave in the local town for an epic (and no doubt smelly) trip to Milan, we chanced upon a shady patch of grass and proceeded to stay there for the next 6 hours till the heat relented (all this exposure to Scottish weather has made us wilt in any form of heat!).

Once we made it to the festival proper, the slums clearing to a wasteland as people packed or abandoned tents on the way our energy levels were pretty low, along with most of the crowd, especially the guy below.

sleep

We watched a straight-up set from Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, ducked to catch half of 65daysofstatic’s impressive performance (Battles meets Mogwai) before returning an entertaining show by Wilco. Amon Tobin then put on a massive two hour main stage closing set, including early Autechre to lift the energy levels a little. With a 20 min gap until Clark began, the fourth post-2am night began to catch up with us and despite a crisp fun set we (well Seb & I at least – Chhay was till powering on) caved half way through and headed back to the tent.

Monday was as wearying as expected – with packing up and a long return journey via London stretching the day out until 9 pm. The end to the festival was further soured when Seb had his bag (containing passport & camera) stolen from inside the tent – slightly less seriously one of Chhay’s fantastic fluorescent yellow boxing boots was also nicked – although they were is somewhat poorer condition than on the Thursday when we arrived (below).

chhay;s boots: after

dour: day 3

autechre - dour
In line with the best methods of the internet I’m just going to cut and paste from Seb’s latest group email for our day three description (extensive post length, illicit drug use and deity references warning!);

“A hot Saturday was mainly spent eating, playing 500 (you can’t stop Dave when he gets the cards in his hands), working on my tan in my Stubbies – and conserving energy for a big night. But at this point a note on camp hygiene is necessary.

The most dreaded activity was the water run: when our three or four litres ran out, someone had to make the trek through the slums and up to the nearest water station. There it stood, next to the awful toilets, in the middle of a godforsaken swamp which even the hottest Belgian sun could not begin to dry. People were washing dishes and themselves at the troughs with scant regard for water conservation, and a dark brown film of slime spread ever outwards, coating the nearby tents and rendering the path impassable to those without at least shoes, and preferably gumboots (the night before I had ended up ankle deep in filth on the way home). Undoubtedly the hygiene highlight, however, was the woman washing her hair in the trough downstream from two women cleaning out pots coated with tomato sauce.

That afternoon, I donned the swimming shorts and revelled as Dave slowly poured a 1.5l bottle of water over my head, enabling me to rinse the sweat and dirt coating from most of my body. Dave’s impatience was our most valuable asset in the fight for water; a confusing situation in which some people queued patiently while others pushed in, ensuring the queue rarely progressed.

But the real excitement began as we headed in at around 10pm: the authorities were finally attempting to clear a path through the slums! If only they had stationed just one person in each field to protect the paths on the Wednesday night, the whole ugly situation could have been avoided: confrontations between security and angry campers who had been there for three nights and saw no reason to move now; worse, the poor souls who had already left for the night’s music, and who would have returned in the wee hours to find their tents callously cast aside, and a path where none had been before.

It was great news for those of us in the outer suburbs, though.

OK, I hit enter twice. That’s because Autechre are about to enter our little story.
We warmed up with the Notwist, some nice German electro post-rock; after them, on one stage – La Petite Maison dans la Prairie, it was called! – and for one night only, were Luke Vibert, Autechre and Venetian Snares playing in succession. Vibert came on at 11:45 and was every bit as good as last year’s gig at the Prince of Wales where Avalon doesn’t remember talking to me. He played new acid house, breakbeats, jungle, he mixed in Vogue by Madonna and I didn’t hate it, there was even a hint of Aphex’s Start As You Mean To Go On. I was generally failry chilled, although after he dropped Squarepusher’s My Red Hot Car and everyone went berserk I was forced to join a group of drum and bass nutters on the floor and start some silliness…

… and then, from the ridiculously awesome to the sublime, the lights went down and the cleaniest, crunchiest beat imaginable exploded out of the speakers. For one hour, from 1am to 2am in the middle of a huge party – where they should be programmed – Autechre played easily the most amazingly fluid, unrelenting mix of electronic music I’ve ever heard. It was as hard and shiny as any of their new stuff, but with more regular beats and melodies than they’ve put out in at least a decade. The crowd felt suddenly devoid of the anger and macho energy of so much of the festival. Jaws dropped. Halfway in they hit a real sweet spot with a metallic rhythm being sucked into a blender, held down and then spat back out again; the guy behind me let out an ecstatic shout and whacked me on the shoulder. I turned to see him grinning incredulously at me, and I grinned back.

As the set got darker and faster, you could see some old school moves busted out as little pockets of energy burst out. Through the crowd, hand in hand, a group of desperately familiar feral ravers charged forward to help ignite the floor. It was eerily archetypal. I shivered with deja vu. I felt like I was in The Last Battle (as in Narnia) of raves, after the train wreck and the end of the world; that, if I just hung around long enough, I would hear every favourite track and meet every person I’d ever loved, from my old crews to the guy I smoked a joint with on a misty morning on the Melbourne docks.

In other words, it was a perfect hour. I’ve never had such high expectations, and they’ve never been exceeded like that. When the lights came on, I felt like I’d just heard God. For a moment, I completely forgot where I was or what I was doing. It was seriously disconcerting until I remembered that I’d just seen Autechre – and then I was happy but I still couldn’t speak. I missed most of Venetian Snares but I didn’t care.” (photo of post
author + chhay pre-autechre below).

seb + chhay

A link to a small snippet of totally underwhelming mono videos from Autechre’s set here & here – not that there is anything to see. The only element of that day not covered in Seb’s report, was the final act of the night – a scary German mc called Otto Von Schirach – who, dressed up in a cape with a giant headpiece on shouting intense lyrics into his mike scared us off after about 20 minutes, and Seb not long after that – he returned to camp with a frightened look complaining that the audience for Otto were all dwarves who were singing along to all of his demented lyrics!

dour: day 2

With a downpour overnight – Dour approached real music festival territory rapidly (mud, general filth, mud, crazy people on any number of substances, mud). Luckily the rain held off for the rest of the festival and things started to dry out over the course of the day but it was enough to coat everything in a light layer of stinky brown putrescence.

After escaping to Quievrain a local town far enough way to not have any other festival goers, for some additional supplies, a touch of civilisation and a decent loo, we headed into the main site to catch Hot Chip (above) turning the crowd into monkey’s with miniature cymbals with with same danceable early evening tunes.

After heading back to the tent for some pasta whipped up in true camping style on a trusty trangia we wander back in for Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (below) who played a great twilight set on a beautiful evening – one of my highlights of the festival and a much better performance than when we saw them in Glasgow last year. We then meandered over the a new stage that had opened up to catch a bit of a chilled out Bright Eyes who was a little duller than I had expected although with some great made-on-the-spot low-fi visuals.

clap your hands say yeah - dour

Seb then introduced us to breakbeat with a set from the UK’s Smith & Mighty – catchy if not really my scene. A brief boogie to Simian Mobile Disco marked them for future exploration before we upped the tempo a bit with some dubstep from Skream which again didn’t really catch me – although I am assured that they have performed better sets in different settings. Seb & Dave stayed on for Wiley but Chhay & I were back to the tent reasonably early to be fresh for the Saturday and the prime reason for us ending up in an obscure corner of Belgium in the first place…

hotchip1.jpg, originally uploaded by tarquinis.

dour: day 1

Wu-Tang ClanPart 4 day music extravaganza, part high school catch up, three quarters giant trash mound; Dour festival offered much in southern Belgium last weekend. As it was quite epic in scale I’ll break it down into days to try to avoid curing everyone’s insomnia.

After a fairly straightforward trip there (taxi, train, plane, bus, train, train, bus, walk!) lugging two tents, four sleeping bags and four mats plus just enough room for a change of jocks we caught up with Seb & Dave at the site and proceed to track down a suitable campsite using all of our finest scouting techniques. It took 45 min of trudging – including negotiating a ‘slum’ of tents packed wall to wall with no path except over or through (a bit like the photo below), till we found a choice spot without too many neighbours and settled in.

Le campingThursday’s line-up was predominantly electro and a little disappointing – nothing testing any boundaries. We ducked about the site orientating ourselves catching snippets of Bonobo, Kid 606 and Swayzak before settling in for the cheesiness of the main attraction the Wu-Tang Clan (above).

A solid dumping of rain overnight ensured that the festival got an appropriate mud fix, adding a degree of difficulty to negotiating the route from our camp – Chhay’s awesome fluorescent boxing boot’s pristine condition (below) was not to last for long…

yellow boots

stockholm

stockholm - sodermalm 1

With word on the street that summer might finally arrive in Scotland we instead escaped to Stockholm for grey and drizzle over Scandinavia. It was an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to catch up with some of the unwashed masses of Australians that seem to be floating about the continent this summer, but although we didn’t catch up with the people we intended to it was still a fun weekend (if a little carbon intense).

We had a fairly low key approach spending most of our time in Sodermalm (above) the former working class area now over-run with bars, cafes fancy home ware outlets and trendy kids clothing shops, not to mention full of ‘hipsters’ according to the locals we met.
stockholm crematorium

We kept our architecture addiction under control with a quick visit to Asplund’s world heritage listed crematorium & chapel (above) which were suitable serene in the misty rain, and a peek inside Raphael Moneo’s contemporary art museum which had a fantastic collection (much better though more conventional than Helsinki’s Steven Holl designed Kiasma even if the building was more sedate).

On Saturday night we continued a theme of catching bands missed in Glasgow by squeezing into a show by Deerhoof (below). Packed full of before-mentioned hipsters (Stockholm has a serious thing for skinny jeans and male annorexia!) it was a great gig, and according to a couple of the audience members we bumped into later, the peak of any Stockholm weekend.

stockholm - sodermalm

Having peaked early with Deerhof, on Sunday I dragged Chhay along to learn how not to build a ship in 17th century Sweden, before we spent more time wandering in the rain and absorbing the cafe scene before our flight home.

dancing to the third law of thermodynamics

absolute zero

Local contemporary classical group Paragon Ensemble staged a small history lesson last week, on local 100 year dead luminary Lord Kelvin. Amid an interesting electro/classical score, interpretations of Kelvin life were portrayed with a moving simplicity by a group of individuals with  Down’s Syndrome.

Apart from a show tune with dancing Kelvinator fridges perhaps stretching the history a little far, we learnt that in a canny moment of foresight, when knighted the prosaically named William Thompson chose the name of the local river and surrounding suburbs – Kelvin for his title thus creating the appearance that they had been named after him! It’s a concept that could be applied equally well to all of us – pick your place, object or political party of high repute (oh that’s already been done Mr Left Focus ) and change your name to suit …

boris

boris

On the recommendation (…a kind of Velvet Underground meets Metallica without as many vocals) of one of my my musical docents: Seb, we soundchecked Japanese 3-piece Boris on Tuesday night. A noise band whose output spans at least 8 genres according to Wikipedia (although it is the first time I have heard of sludge rock!) they provided an unforgettable experience.

Their set was an intense ear bleeding cacophony outdone only by the Glasgow subway on the way home, with truly awesome moments of sheer noise, and brilliant guitar playing including a double headed monster (below). A 20 min extended final piece left very few in the full house demanding an encore however – my ears certainly couldn’t have taken much more.

Takeshi, originally uploaded by xkachoojix.