Sunday, January 11, 2015

Hookers for Jesus Winter Revue Charity Show with Altres, Pauline M. Hynd, [Box] and Vex at Beat Generator Live!, 10th January

‘I am tired,’ said Miss Havisham. ‘I want diversion, and I have done with men and women. Play.’ (Charles Dickens, Great Expectations, chapter 8)
First, you should know about the stage dressing. Flagged in advance as a ‘Gothic Miss Havisham’s Christmas Day kind of vibe’, Daisy Dundee (who put the show on in collaboration with the Cool Cat Club) kitted the place out to startling effect. A wedding dress was the main prop, hung from the ceiling stage left, accompanied by a cake under a glass dome, an old stick telephone, a clock stopped at twenty minutes to nine, and a dead Christmas tree, still with its (white) lights on. There was also a table lamp and a portable fire with real fake flames. In the middle of all this, one of those mini reproduction Korg MS–20s, vintage from a different era, awaiting the arrival of Vex. Plus much other stage gear, and a screen showing images of John Wayne, Clint Eastwood as the Man with No Name, and some crosses, drawn white on black. Not sure how they tied in exactly. A link between stoic male characters and Miss Havisham, possibly? Or characters with grudges?

For my taste, there was too much noise and not enough melody in the show. It was a shame Rowan Wright of Blood Indians had to pull out, she would have redressed that balance a bit. Returning DJ Duncan did his best, and interlarded the noise with pop and jazz of the sprightliest order (Rodriguez! Nancy and Lee’s ‘Summer Wine’! The, er, James Bond theme!). Vex had the advantage of being the first noise act, and their racket was engagingly bloody minded, delivered from some dumb postures (the MS–20 was low, with no chair, so its player had to bend double for half an hour), and sounding to me like an extended version of Big Star’s ‘Downs’. Towards the end the front man held up his arms like a conductor trying to bring matters to a conclusion, and everyone stopped bar the keyboardist, who made some exaggerated movements as he continued to trigger (or failed to un-trigger) some ugly mechanical sound for a further few minutes. [Box], which is one man with a MacBook, a mixer and an electric guitar, made his usual drones, and William said they might sound good on acid. On beer, though — give me at least one out of rhythm, words, melody; who could care less about texture in their absence? Not that there weren’t some interesting shifts within the texture, but… too Wire magazine for me. It was some consolation to see these two anti-structure performers placed within a scene from Dickens, though.

Pauline M. Hynd, of The Onion Club, had to warm the room up again after [Box]’s freeze-out, and who better? It was strange to see her just get up and play songs on a guitar, with no grand entrance, no piano player, no 1920s schtick. Out with cabaret, in with blues. Candy, black crows flying, vocal acrobatics, and some much-needed momentum. ‘What a gorgeous audience,’ she said. ‘I’d like to lick you all.’ Most compelling was a cover of Nick Drake’s ‘River Man’, given a sinister edge and mixed with PJ Harvey’s couplet ‘Big fish little fish swimming in the water / Come back here and give me my daughter’ as a coda. Altres marked a move back to instrumental music, and… I don’t think I’ve written about them before, but playing music with two of them (but mainly Brian, the guitarist) is how I met S. Live, they can go either way, with their longform songs, digital synthesizer sound and tight arpeggiated riffs. They work best when a rhythm cuts through the texture. You can either get lost in the jam or the jam can lose you. Last night? A bit of both. I enjoyed it, but by the end I was longing for a chord change.

‘You’ll have to write a blog page,’ said Andy at the end of the night, before apologising for seeming to demand it. He’s right, though. It was a fine Hookers for Jesus show. He thought possibly their best, but there are several strong contenders for that crown. From their amazing, ridiculous debut in 2009, to other more accomplished shows, culminating in an Oxjam house gig early last year, acoustic with the addition of Anna on violin, and a beautiful song about a 1980 murder in Templeton Woods, which threatened never to be recorded in the inactivity which followed. Last night was a partial reprise, just in time, as Anna is to return to Canada in a few days’ time, leaving the remaining Hookers to — sound ugly again? They do a fantastic ugly sound, actually (see ‘Cabaret Song’, or ‘The Dead Don’t Dream’, which closed yesterday’s set in fiery fashion), but there has always been a softer undercurrent. Graeme’s introduction of classical / flamenco-inflected guitar was already a civilising strand, and his imagination won’t let them settle on a single sound, in any case. The flamenco style breathes new life into ‘Cindy’s on Fire’, and I wonder if I’m the person who has been listening to them play this song the longest, as I also wonder at its pull now, which wraps in the fondness of familiarity with a lightness it didn’t use to have. There are two new songs, one which passes me by somewhat, but one which is tender and magical, with its chorus of ‘I love you / P.S. fuck you’ and its through-gritted-teeth reflections on learning to accept the place where you live. The theme of the whole set, said Andy afterwards. That’s Dundee for you. And most other places too, which aren’t up their own importance. Miss Havisham could learn a lot from that. Pip, too. At the end, the Hookers join hands and bow like actors at the end of a play. That’s it: the violin phase is over. It sounded great. What next?

The two charities being supported last night were Dundee Young Carers and Dundee Foodbank.

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