Friday, 4 September 2015

Aarhus: 5

I'll keep this brief as I've just woken up and am about to miss... lunch.
Yesterday offered up a whole host of musical riches.
I have a confession to make. I was meant to be playing an impromptu cafe concert at local venue Bora Bora alongside Gustaf Llunggren, Tony Garnier, Grant Lee Phillips, Sylvie Simmons, Jim White, M Ward and a lovely nameless Swedish singer. Such was the wealth of talent and so underprepared was I (no guitar for starters) that I bottled it, reducing myself to the role of seat saver for Folmer and babysitter to the Lovely Nameless Swedish singer's 5 year old; a charming little fella apparently named 'Move On'. Anyway, I can't tell you how much of a chump I feel this morning for missing out on the opportunity of sharing the stage with those warm and wonderful folk. I should have taken Boo Hewerdine's early morning mentoring: "What's the worst that could happen". 
The highlights, amongst many, were Gustaf's gorgeously delicate introductory guitar pieces - it was wonderful to see this brilliant accompanist finally taking centre stage - whilst Jim White's two atmospheric contributions conjured up a Wim Wender's world somewhere between Paris, Texas and Florida. Here he was ably vocally assisted by the siren sisters: Sylvie and Jim's fiancé Megan). I also swooned a little at Sylvie's delicate presentation of a future classic, a new tune of hers that I remember only as 'Dancing'. I sat on the front row with Moveon, almost in day job teaching mode; readjusting the bandaid on his forehead and helping him create patterns with sticks and making plasticine hats, whilst a couple of meters away my real calling was calling and falling on my dumb deaf ears: a teacher wearing a misfit singer's hat or vice versa? I'm sure that the irony wasn't lost on Folmer who kept nudging me stageward but whose kind counseling was gracelessly ignored.
Although this was mid afternoon the performers created an intimate, chocolaty midnight mood.
Every picture tells a story:

I had dinner later with Sylvie where she entertained with tales from her colorful rock 'n' roll past. Fascinating first hand stories of interviews with Springsteen, Cohen and the pantheon; her early struggles to establish herself as a credible rock journalist when the debauchers wanted nowt but a rock chick; the struggles that she had getting her Serge Gainsbourg biog published, a biog that she is now so reluctant for Amazon to exclusively host that she's mischievously tweeting the book daily as a riposte. She also talked about her book of short stories 'Too Weird For Iggy', a tome that Iggy Pop forced her to retitle because he thought it 'too weird' to be associated with. Strewth. Too weird for Iggy? Then as she walked me back to the Concert Hall Sylvie quoted verbatim extracts from her new short stories collection that she's hoping Howe Gelb might put to music. I love the lady; she's a coiled spring, affirmatively apologetic, a feisty nugget of benevolent nervous energy who has so many strings to her bow. I'm not surprised that she's chosen to simplify, focus and refine her musicality to the 4 strings of her (not so beloved) uke.

Back at the Concert Hall Stefano Bollani was investing Gershwin with dynamic and emotional Latin intensity. He was later joined by Diego Schissi to help tackle Gershwin's 'Cuban Overture'. And, of course, it being Diego there were inevitable Tango flourishes from his Argentinian homeland.

I then legged it down to the Voxhall where Howe Gelb 'The Godfather of Alt Country' was presenting his own curio, 'Way Too Much Light'. Howe's musical curiosity knows no bounds; he's famous for his cantankerous approach to performance; throwing wild cards and curve balls at his band to see how they pass muster. I was intrigued to see how he would extend this questionable courtesy to his venerable guests: Grant Lee Phillips, Allan Olsen, Sylvie Simmons, Sonic Youth's Steve Shelley, Yasmin Hamdan, Swedish pedal steel supremo Maggie Björklund and M Ward. Howe's house band were his own Giant Sand who also form local band, the brilliant De Soto Caucus. I'd had a drink with the band's leader Anders the previous night after 'rehearsals' for the show. I could see that he was exhausted and just a little frustrated at having to arrange and coordinate a structured day for the performers, overseen by this mischievous master of deconstruction (Mr Howe) who later labelled rehearsal as 'the enemy'.

I'm not going to go into the dirty details of the show - I want lunch - other than to say it was bewilderingly brilliant. I will note that a highlight for me was a mesmeric performance by Tasmine Hamdan of 'Hal', a pulsatingly sensuous song that concludes the beguiling Jim Jarmusch's vampire movie 'Only Lovers Left Alive'. I've posted a clip of that film's moment at the bottom of the page beneath the evening's photos. Please take the time to watch. I also loved Maggie Björklund's pedal steel playing; she took a solo spot that used loops to build sheet upon sheet of swelling luxuriance with not a country riff in sight. Both BJ Cole and Melvin Duffy would have surely tipped their hat.
As the evening unfolded guest performers came and went, willfully throwing themselves to the wanton wiles of a willful man; their giddy surprise at the brilliant resultant cacophony was plain to see. Particular kudos must go to the De Soto boys who gave substance to Howe's conjuring Prospero spirit. The double drum attack of Pete and Steve brought back memories of the Glitter Band, Thoger predictably underpinned things perfectly, Howe and Anders produced some of the most extraordinary guitar sounds I've ever heard ('That's the sound of a texted guitar') whilst Nikolas (pictured above right in a state of full HOWE? bewilderment), a brilliant guitarist in his own right, was moved to keyboard duties where he poked and prodded to glorious effect.
Believing Howe when he promised a late offering as the last of the night I apparently missed the moment of the evening when the whole cast took to the stage for an encore of Leonard Cohen's '1,000 Kisses Deep'.
I'll leave it to Sylvie to sum up the evening:

"What a great night. Looking at the clock, this must have been just before we went onstage for the first half. We ended three hours later at 12.30 am and stayed up another three hours afterwards and yes, there was alcohol, so I have a sore head this morning. 'Bewildering brilliant'? I'd say that was the perfect description. And no-one - no-one! - could top the encore version of 'A Thousand Kisses Deep' in bewildering goodness. How many people were on the stage? I was clamped between a viola and a mandolin and could barely move my head to see who was making those glorious sounds behind and around me. Guess I'll have to wait for the video!"

Here's that mesmeric performance by Tasmine Hamdan of 'Hal', a song that concludes the Jim Jarmusch vampire movie 'Only Lovers Left Alive'. 
Surely worth 4 minutes of your time...

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