Monday, September 21, 2009
Many take the advice of Chapterfest organiser Guy Blackman and arrive early to catch the opening set from the bizarrely entrancing Bum Creek. Ancient instruments like the Turkish mey and Irish bodhrán combine with Korg synths, percussion pads and a fleet of signal processors to create a kind of shamanic free jazz. Despite the potential for aimless meandering, Bum Creek use dynamics effectively; music for those who think Animal Collective have sold out.
An exodus upstairs finds a packed Cobra Bar digging the sounds of Dick Diver. Clearly loving their job, the band has an edge to their chugging rock that comes from their easy charm and engaging songwriting; ‘I love the way you shook your hips / Please forgive me, I only have your greatest hits’ (Michael Jackson, I Love You). Closing song Keys is from their forthcoming 7-inch and is a highlight of the night.
By now the venue is approaching capacity and entertainment comes in the form of almost ignored no wave pioneers Primitive Calculators. “In my humble opinion this is the greatest punk song ever written,” opines vocalist and guitarist Stuart Grant before bursting into Cunt Life and Do That Dance. The music surges with throbbing violence and gnashing trebly fury, utterly belying the appearance of the band as unflustered greying suburban parents.
The Twerps inadvertently make a convincing case for being the support band of choice for Pavement’s 2010 tour. Guitar malfunctions, inaudible lyrics, gorgeous guitar melodies, slack beats; quite how they manage it all is impossible to say it all coalesces brilliantly, even when floppy-fringed singer M.Dot hails an arriving friend mid-song, it sounds like the perfect hook.
Were Tom Waits to reinterpret KLF’s Chill Out album from Twin Peaks’ Roadhouse bar, the result would sound something like Jeremy Dower Y Las Palmeras de Plástico. MIDI saxophone, slide guitar and found sounds never clutter but provide an expertly textured downtime between the rowdier bands; a real oddity.
Cobra Bar is now approaching 40º but Hit The Jackpot bring even more rawness, energy and volume. There is a thrill of being so close to the moment of their songs’ inspiration. Stuttering drums, charging guitars, plonky bass, strangled screams and warm harmonies; somehow they reinterpret low-fi indie rock and come up trumps. Perhaps it is the lack of filtering, knowing when to best leave something unexplained.
Minimum Chips are the reason many are here tonight; a show of theirs is a rare event indeed. Singer Nicole Thibault as skitterish as Ian Wadley’s drumming but this frailty gives the show a sense of honesty that beautifully serves the songs. Sometimes singing off mic when Thibault’s voice is heard it’s clear the years since they were regularly performing have been very kind to it. Hypnotically melodious and dulcet to the point of languor, the final half of the show is the best, when the nerves settle and songs shine.
Tonight’s headliners, Japanese duo Tenniscoats, may be the only band to ever play at the Tote whose songs are in danger of being drowned out by the squeak of the door to the beer garden. The nylon-stringed guitar of Ueno Takashi and cooing warmth of Saya Takashi’s voice bond so beautifully that the few who don’t join in the closing ‘yippee-yah’ singalong are surely still spellbound from the gloriously selfless performance. A stellar evening.