Sunday, November 07, 2010

Robin Robertson and a Thousand Gigs

Hours of creative activity achieved in last 24: 3
Reading: Blake Morrison's South of the River
Hair Day: Snappy
Things I Can See From My Flat Window No. 3: Fireworks! Splendid death stars over to the north-east, lovely rainbowed cloudbursts way west and a few little plucky flares nearer home, south of the river; plus a lot more popping and crackling going on behind our flats...

It's been Big Gig Week here in Kerry Towers!

1) First off: another You Are Wolf trip to the always-supportive Monday Monday folk-ish night up at Camden's Green Note. I was playing with my favourite live band of the hour, the heart-wilting Firefly boys and girl, so managed to rope them in for a couple of trad. folk numbers, re-arranged in ad hoc style for the lot of us.  I tried out a new, supremely dark (quel surprise) version of Tam Lyn which you can see here!

2) On Thursday juice ventured to the unknown wastelands of The West to the very glamorous and posh contemporary gallery Louise Blouin Foundation  for their contemporary concert series. This was juice's first chance to air their long-gestating collaboration with our buddy Damien Harron. Damien is an amazingly theatrical and vocal percussionist; we've wanted to cosy up for ages, blurring our roles in bringing together the primal forces of singing and banging things. It wasn't a wholly successful concert - a stiff-shirted, largely bemused audience for one - though had some lovely moments (I loved rocking the 'Little Drummer Girl' look, and bowing the vibes) and it's at least a good starting point for future voice-percussion-offs.

3) On Saturday night juice glitzed up to the Frozen North to bring the Love Songs to York for their Late Music Concert Series. Though braindead from a hyper-busy two months, we gave it our gusto'd all, and had a lovely time in front of an audience of friendly Yorkie faces, including my Mum beaming away in the front row, whose proud motherly gaze I had to studiously ignore all concert for fear of corpsing. We brought rats, prayers, naughty childrens' deaths, and Sumerian insults (courtesy of our friend Stef Conner) to the wee chapel just near Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma-Gate.

4) Back to Friday: after doing my Dead Poets Society Bit For The Greater Good by kicking off a composition project in a rowdy secondary school near Bellingham, it was off to the Front Room of the QEH for a complicatedly-titled 'Friday Tonic Presents Ladyfest Ten: Girl Fawkes' Night' as part of Poetry International at the South Bank. I had no idea this would turn out to be my most populated You Are Wolf gig ever, singing to 200 or so folks. It would be the night that my throat became an arid dustbowl due to the evil aircon and my nerves kicked in, with my right leg turning into the pale milk jelly Mum used to dish up when she was feeling creative. After me was the totally ace Lulu and the Lampshades, a feisty set of girls and guy with a homemade rock 'n' folk feel; they pounded tin drums and sang harmonies with high-energy gumption, as well as belting through a barnstorming plastic-cup-percussion finale. Brilliant.

As a happy coincidence, my favourite poet Robin Robertson - whose poem/translation 'Fall' I had set for the Joyful Company of Singers (now up for that BASCA award, whoop whoop) was performing up in the gods at the Royal Festival Hall on Bonfire Night, so we went along, hoping to say hello afterwards. It was a much more brow-furrowed affair than the happy-go-lucky feminism of next door (where my favourite phrase of the show was, in promoting next week's Ladyfest anniversary celebrations, 'you could crochet a vagina!' Erk); I wasn't keen on Elisabeth Bletsoe's po-faced impenetrability, much more taken with Kathleen Jamie's prose on visiting the deserted isle of Rona, but most excited to finally see RR in the flesh, since we possess all of his books and I have been in a little correspondence with him. Onstage, he had a quite terrifying presence, all deliberately drawn-out burr and dramatic quiver, and seemed like some sort of Scottish Poetry Godfather who could probably casually slice you into bits with a deftly-enunciated dactyl if you so much as sniffed. His poems were - naturally - great: dark, sensual, wry and mired in the land. Afterwards, I went over, slightly nervously, to say hello, and Robin turned out to be bubbling over with charm and irreverent humour, immediately debunking the stuffy atmosphere and inviting Andy and I into the artists' area. Over free wine, he had us in fits over the demographic of his usual audience ('sitting there in their mobility scooters') and comparison of the approving sounds that poetry audiences to 'whimpering farmyard animals'. Whilst Andy and the terribly earnest intellectual chap who introduced the night gushed over American responses to W.G. Sebald, Robin cheerfully dismissed it all as 'bollocks!' to which Intellectual Chap backtracked slightly, stuttering 'yes, well, indeed there ARE cultural differences...' Tee hee. He told us of a new collaboration with Alasdair Roberts (whilst Andy tried to pimp me as their backing singer), and I rather got the impression that Robin was not keen on my contemporary choral setting of 'Fall'. Eek. It's probably just not his shizzle, but as he suggested that 'the Wolf thing' would be much better suited to his poetry, I think I'd better get onto it pretty sharpish before he whittles those dactyls...

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