Sunday, December 30, 2007

Kids and Larks

30 Dec. 07

Independent Armchair Theatre, Cape Town

photo :liam lynch

KID OF DOOM, stripped down. Or, sort of.

They lied. It wasn’t unplugged. But it was naked enough to see the bones of their songs. With two and sometimes three guitars, Kid Of Doom showed us what their glorious melodies sound like in the shower. If you can be in the shower with a voiceless voice, that is. They shamelessly bared their tensile build-ups and steely crescendos, and possibly also bits of their souls. It’s hard to tell with musicians, naked and obscured at the same time as they are. Sometimes the synth snuck in and I don’t think it was lunar powered so that was where their lie lay. In fact, it was just looney in comparison to the atmosphere their strings had been conjuring up. That was when we had our “what the fuck?” moment, me and the sound guy. Not in a good way, or a bad way, just a , well, what the fuck way – the sudden return to Nintendo niceties was a little left of ventser for the bristling, low-key vibe they’d created by sitting down and stripping back, but the crowd seemed to think it was a bit of alright. Alright, granted. The crowd rules, né? Wrong, we’re still learning to be an informed, critical and truly appreciative public, given our historical hangover and persistently myopic and dictatorial media. And to cure that, we all have to be brave enough and stand up and have our say. Eloquently, like here, or unintelligibly, like that blessed, blissed-out, hairy chick who kept bouncing around drunkenly, spilling her drink and her body on me. She, too, knows what resonates, and the Kids were resonating. Light, life and love. Even if she did implicate everyone in her overenthusiastic mirth. A sit-down with candles and strings and things doesn’t leave much room for jungle bunnies. But. There she was, making her statement. We need her. Even if we don’t need the wine stains. We need you. Are you listening? Are you standing up and clapping? Booing? What are you doing? Do something! live music needs you!)

And. To add to the injury, they lied not once, but twice. I’m an honest girl, ek sê, and Kid Of Doom -they’re that über hip band that doesn’t sing, right? Wrong again. They do. And very nicely, too. The final two tracks were covers and they sang in both of them. Here! What is it this season with all these original bands doing covers? Sies! The only time a cover is anything more than a cop-out is when you bring something new to it, and that doesn’t happen often, especially as musicians have a penchant for covering bands more accomplished than them, or from completely unfamiliar genres to the ones they’re fluent in. More’s the surprise then, it happened this night. Kid of Doom’s second copycat track was the hauntingly beautiful Lilac wine by Jeff Buckley. They warned us, and I cringed. Covering a master like Buckley? And Lilac wine? Shooting yourselves in the foot, I thought. But they shot me in the heart instead. The amusing, animated posturing that whatsisname had put into his simple guitar riffs earlier suddenly made sense. He feels every note, and every note feels him. A fine, feathery voice slowly crept into bed with the audience. The crowd, unused to having to actually LISTEN and THINK in a gig without a rhythm section, had been bumbling along with a restless, conversational hum through the set so far and clapping enthusiastically at the end of every track, coz they’re loyal fans, even if they weren’t listening (and obviously illiterate considering the term unplugged escaped them as meaning er.. sort of acoustic. No doubt they were a bit righteously disappointed, too, that they didn’t get their dose of triumphant happy, and couldn’t jump up and down deliriously to the mirthy synth, so at least they were being civil, right? Wrong. An evening like this is like gold. This is when people who think they are – or aren’t– fans find out what’s really going on in the music. When this track began, however, the listeners’ hum hastily hushed to a rapt silence. The unnaturally naked strumming and exposed, swelling melody of a very beautiful song handled by very adept lads got everyone’s attention. I’m not easy to please, and I generally practise diplomacy here in an attempt not to sabotage the fledgling live music scene I so love (and abhor, at times, for its lack of effort, organisation and/or inspiration) because, as my namesake pointed out once, I’m actually very good at being a bad bitch. But this rendition made me cry. I do not think Kid Of Doom are kak. I think Kid Of Doom could grow up to be a Sun Of Hope in their own style, and make Jeff in heaven proud. They certainly did this night.

LARK, unplugged

Oh, ok. You know what I always wonder when I see LARK performing? How many happy (or unhappy) couples go home and fuck better than they have done all week. Or all year. It’s silly to deny that Inge brings a sensuality and intensity to the scene that everyone is silly and post-Victorian enough to always translate into SEX. But it has to be said, and it has to be put into context. I see the clutching couples from the side; the boys, rapt, the girls looking worriedly between the songstress they struggle to admit they love, too, (and would probably sleep with if they were brave enough and lucky enough) and their man (erum, or woman, or drag queen, as it were, in the spirit of MCQP etc) who is lost to the world in all but the fact that he has his hand on her bum, so why is she really worrying about his fantasies of another woman that will make their union more complete, anyway, huh? Go figure. Jealousy is a strange beast. And we’re all prey.

Silliness of the sexy season aside, this was perhaps the most precious gig of theirs I’ve ever had the pleasure of trying not to drool over. Last I saw, LARK were slamming it up at the biscuit mill a few days back (or weeks, it’s all a blur), all metal and madness, in a room with a bad sound rig, harder and heavier than I’ve heard them in a long time. I liked the new look of their new songs. Inge was wired then, and didn’t care, which is the way we know and love her.

This night she was reposed and refined, and my god I never knew she had quite so much control over her voice, or over her audience. Without the beats, the cadence and texture in her vocals shone through as cleanly as cut glass. There are more characters hiding in her throat and lungs than most fairy tales have fairies, trolls and elves, and probably more lightness and darkness, too. She even coped with bass notes that made me think her eyes were going to drop out of their sockets. But of course her royal eyebrows kept them there. she IS beautiful. In the best way, which is her way. It’s possible; also, that this gig was a more challenging one for her as well as it was for the wicked sound man who had all sorts of unusual knobs to fiddle with what with extra fiddles and hearts I mean harps (I mean double bass, actually) on stage. When it’s all acoustic, all ears are on the tongue, and Inge knows how to use hers. (You can interpret that the way I meant it, or you can just be typical). Lick your wounds, ladies. This diva is dark and divine, and she can whip with words as well as she can with a glance. It was nice to see her sitting down for a change and feeling the full force of the melodies she channelled so that we could feel the full force of the music she makes with her body.

So, it was unplugged, right? Right. Unlike the fateful children that preceded them, they were true to their claims - they DID get naked, though not in the way most people would hope. This set hosted a number of other acoustic musicians, including the fresh, (un?)grounded, pouty Kyla-Rose and a pretty boy from Fokof whom somebody in the audience introduced as one of the “best guitarists in the country”. Slow, I know, but me, I’m still getting into Fokof, and its trajectories Van Coke Kartel and A King (so clever that second name – couched Emo – did you get it? are you aching for me to tell you?), so I don’t know if that’s true; this one’s your call - stand up and give your opinion!

The truth of the matter is that the extra strings, guitars, clarinets and such, were beautiful and the rearrangements showed a musical sass that is clearly branching the band out into new audiences. It didn’t matter that there were no head-bopping beats, no Sean Ou Tim (actually, I missed him) – it sounded like a symphony of strangeness, and hearing the songs naked and then redressed like this proved why LARK plugged is on top of the underground – their melodies are sound, their sound is magical, bad, balanced and believable. Some songs were given total overhauls with flourishes of Paul’s Spanish fingering; others were cleaned out and touched up with eastern European effects. The songs sounded new and familiar at once, synonymously homely and heavenly and unearthly. But that’s what you get when a passionate, opera-trained songstress in a tree meets an acoustically accomplished beatmatser at a party and they play together. In other publications their synergy would be called The Eventual Unfolding of LARK. In this one, it’s called the Natural Explorations Of Talented Music Makers. You can choose your publication, but not its slant. The rearrangements resurrected their classic hits in a totally new way, and I have to tell you, it was something like listening to a new band. They could even do their own covers! (btw, how come local bands don’t cover each other? Eh? Where’s the incestuous support we’re so famed for?)

LARK unlplugged was strange, beautiful, accessible and a resounding success with the crowd. (and they didn’t even play Tricksy!) It gives me new hope for the shifts and changes happening in bands across the city, and the country, as we hurtle from Slaapstad to Jozi, from Stillbaai to Plettenbergbaai, towards the new year, making music, making love, breaking it and making (it) up (as we go along). It underlines the importance of sticking and growing with people you know you are making a piece of heaven with. Hell, we all know how badly we need that, Afro-pessimism or none. I think there needs to be much more of this from Lark in 2008, and I think they are going to do much better with this approach than they expected to. Audiences will expand. It’s inevitable. It might even be their uncompromising entry point into mainstream, though we know they’re not doing it for the moolah. Inspiring to see a band taxiing along in their musical evolution without an ounce of inappropriate violence.

Now what would happen if we put Le-Roi and Inge behind mics together? There’s a nice new years’ resolution for the Arch Angel of Live Music. (And no, that’s not Inge, boys and girls; she’s the dark angel)

Bless you all.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the post - sadly I missed this gig so the review was something of a consolation.

    The remarks on audience behavior and their receptivity are insightful. Perhaps future posts will explore the line between their responsibility to listen and that of the artist to enthral?