Sunday, June 30, 2013

DiddleLeigh DiddleLeigh Dee

Level of conviction in own genius: 7
Amount of creative activity achieved in last 24 hours: 4
Reading /Watching and Listening: Vera Brittain / Glasto telly, which has picked up after a disappointing start. Highlights: Lianne Le Havas, surprisingly quite liked the honky-tonk-meets-Jeff Buckley-meets-small-child Tom Odell, but Public Enemy blew all competition out of the water and had me throwing shapes around the living room rather than working this morning... they know how to do a proper show! The Mumfords are currently doing their usual Burton-man-goes-barn-dancing-shtick.
Hair day: lightly pink; large blue bird atop.

Another year, another Laurie Anderson show at the Barbican, this time with the Kronos Quartet in tow, to perform 'Landfall', a song cycle using Hurricane Sandy as a starting point. I have to say, as of the last show I saw, I was pretty disappointed. Laurie has settled into a default setting of late, entailing some electric viola playing, storytelling - some in a creepy, but unintelligible, low pitch shifter - and some keyboard/synth stuff. The Kronos material, arranged by someone else, added a beautiful bit of depth, but it was still the same show I've seen several times running. There was a lot of text being projected, and I enjoyed the relationship between spoken and visual text; the best moment was the second violinist apparently triggering words through some energetic pizzicato stabs, but it still looked like an A-Level Powerpoint presentation. I don't mean to be harsh - a recent Guardo interview affirmed my faith in her general vibes and being (lack of kids, love of New York, striving for art and new technology), but I was hoping for more. It still made me want to create my own big swimming-themed show (prediction: all my pieces for the next two years will be swimming-related)! And she has enabled me to refresh my uncanny Laurie impression, where I talk about extremely mundane things like what was on special offer in the veg section at Sainsbury's in a sing-song, low American-accented voice, Very Slowly and with odd. Pauses. It's a winner!
Whilst Andy was enjoying the mild sunshine at Glastonbury, painting his face half black and half white to play with Step 13 on the Hell Stage at Shangri-La to a thousand-plus people at 5AM ON SUNDAY MORNING (so proud!!). I was on the other side of the festival coin, with a trip to Leigh Folk Festival for a You Are Wolf set, following up my support of Martin Carthy last year. It felt somehow rather exhilarating and slightly anarchic down in the Old Town. Under the hottest sun of the year, it heaved with splendidly (and not-so-splendidly) tattooed locals all unselfconsciously pinking under the high sun, queuing for chips and sloshing lager, and serenaded by bands of all descriptions - folk-rock, hurdy gurdies, squeezeboxes, local acoustic cover duos - spilling out of pubs, sheds and truck stages. With the heat and the incessant music coming from all corners, it felt a bit like SXSW had come to Essex, ha ha. There were morris dancers, one man bands and a chap wearing a pink dress and carrying a teddy bear, and all around was festooned with ribbons and bunting. There was a very English, outsider-art, pleasingly traditional bent to the whole thing, but not in a namby-pamby Cambridgey, or hipster, sort of way, but rather more like the old gods rearing their heads.
I played in the lovely New Road Chapel, after Wounded Knee, a swarthy Scotsman who had a highly entertaining wheeze of getting the audience to pick a ball out of a bag which would correlate with his notebook of numbered traditional songs, and then he'd score points as to who could name the tune. He simply belted them out unaccompanied or accompanied only by a shruti box. The best was a yearning, robust one about being in the mountains in Scotland, so damned authentic that I swear there were heather fires burning in his stomach. Following me was the lovely Sharron Kraus and Nancy Wallace, with an Anne Briggs/Gillian Welch sort of delicately reedy voice, with some wonderfully rich songs based on the medieval Welsh Mabinogion.
I was reeaallly hoping for a sea-dip, and had packed my vintage 1950's 'looking' (as opposed to 'swimming', obviously) swimming costume for the very purpose, but alas, upon arriving at Leigh, I found the tide to be at its lowest, a mile away over the mudflats. So I made do with a dreamy sit-down at the quiet western edge of town, squinting at the distant sea with a sort of blissful melancholy, imagining its cool saltiness around my calves, as plovers burbled and the dry grass prickled my legs. It's another sort of Essex, this, with simple themes: seabirds, marshes, reeds, and mud-caked boats that look more ancient than humans; under a dusty late afternoon sun, there was a dryness, and a bite, and a sense of things fading. Except the sea, which edged closer, but never close enough.

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