gin soaked girl

This blog is about me and my adventures in the land of gin. Yes, gin is a country and I've visited it often. In fact I've conducted a passionate love affair with the place. Bought the t-shirt and definitely been to the duty-free. Along the way, I've been to a few gigs and undergone a bit of a personal renaissance. This blog celebrates the art of growing old disgracefully. Roll up. Roll up. Come join the fayre!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

From the pen of a semi-initiate

If the definition of festival is 'having a good time with much revelry, jocularity and possibly hilarity included', then the spring anti-folk jamboree (come 'mutiny on the bounty' style insurrection) did nothing to counter that supposition. From start to chaotic finish the nefarious congregation kept me rapt and entertained like an agitated schoolgirl dropped unceremoniously by parachute into a surreal Alice in Wonderland type landscape for lessons in bohemian excess and abandon. 

So how does the anti-folk festival differ from other festivals? Well for starters there's an almost despotic disapproval of all things sober and restrained. Not that other festivals I've attended have been temples of sobriety but this one in particular holds no boundaries for irregular and exceptional behaviour of all kinds ("that's not very rock and roll" the barman harangued me with when I started off the evening not with my usual gin but with a half pint measure of limited toxicity. "Yes, sorry for that", I replied, chastened).

Another source of singularity is the claustrophobic intensity of the setting; the 12 Bar leaves no place to hide for the introverted initiate or the mouse-like persona. Unlike other recent corporate sponsored festivals, there are no bouncy castles or chill-out spaces to detract form the musical onslaught. Just a subterranean bunker with a loud, shouty, scatological comic comparing a night of drink and debauchery, with some of the most bizarrely named bands you have ever heard of sharing in the scrimmage. 

Alex Newby (ok, not too bizarrely-named to start with)

The appropriately named first act is good looking, quite serious, and a young man with obvious ambition. His songs are kind of interesting (in addition to the afore-mentioned good looks), and I'm sure there's a lot more to be heard and appreciated from him.

Next up comes 'Naomi Hates Humans (with the Insufferable Fucks), who are one of those oddly named bands I previously mentioned, and whose misanthropic monicker is slightly less than enticing and seductive when first apprehended on the festival line-up. However, the titular Naomi has a gravely, throaty, earthy intensity that reminds me more of an authentic torch song icon than an offbeat, irreverent, outcast/insurgent (as do many of the other acts on the bill). Janis Joplin mixed with a smidgen of Alison Moyet and Eartha Kitt perhaps. The real thing, rather than the post-modern equivalent. In any case her tales of social deprivation and injustice indubitably recall another era's zeitgeist, confirming the miscellaneous nature of the acts on offer throughout this festival of lost souls. 

The Big Fibbers are big fun, no lie. Their songs are touching ('Booze, madness and the ghost of love'), relevant ('I want to be normal, why can't I be normal?' - a song that pretty much everyone in the audience can identify with I speculate), and not least, nostalgic ('I scream/You scream/beside the seaside...sorry,  didn't quite catch the full title). The lead singer's t-shirt says it all really; paying homage to the Monster Raving Looney Party, and it occurs to me that the festival itself could be construed as a fundraising enterprise for the aforementioned cult of eccentricity, flippancy and downright recklessness. Great British eccentrics they are indeed; with a medieval, Shakespearian feel to their merrymaking. I went to see King Lear at the Globe recently and some of Tom O Bedlam's rantings and ravings were not totally dissimilar in theme and import. They are the latter day Chas n Dave of anti-folk you could say, and might say, with a liberal dash of Keith Floyd thrown in. 

Malcolm Kakosis

I sort of come a cropper here, with my positivity and upbeat appreciative banter. I'm not really sure what to say about this set; except that I don't somehow think it was aimed at me and my kind (i.e. female). No, I'm not really the right kind of reviewer, being of the XX biological designation, to give a totally unbiased appraisal of good and bad features. What with all the songs about the perils of dating girls with big arses and slovenly personal grooming habits, etc. Not that I object to grittiness and authenticity in song writing you understand, but there's anger, piercing honesty, then downright unpleasant grossness, and the subjects under musical discussion on this occasion seemed to veer strongly towards the bottom end of the scale, excuse the pun.

Scrappy Hood (Milk Kan)

Those in the know; i.e. closer to the anti-folk bone/the heart of darkness, inform me that Milk Kan are one of the shing bright nuclear hopes of antifolk (in the wider commercial universe), so my hopes are high as the proverbial kite before this set. And I'm not disappointed. Luckily, for once, my hopes are not dashed cruelly against a 10 feet brick wall and shattered into a thousand smithereens. In fact I love the set exceedingly. The entire audience seems animated and enlivened and spurred into spring-like action (despite the miserable claggy weather being experienced outside) when Mr Hood arrives. Even Mr Filthy Pedro was seen to be strutting his stuff during the frenetic rendition of 'God with an ipod', a song that epitomizes the eclectic range, literary referencing and astute lyrical maturity on display.

First of all, GSG has to apologise to Filthy Pedro because for about 75% of this enthustiastic and vigorous set a befuddled and perplexed Irishman was quizzing me in quite some depth about the meaning, import and derivation of the term 'anti-folk'. To be honest, it was a bit of a struggle didactically to contain and explain the entire genre in a couple of condensed sentences (especially as I consider myself to be in no way a particular expert on the subject) at the same time as attempting to pay due attention to the music in progress, but I eventually managed to disentangle myself form what was turning into something of a high-brow conversation, just in time to catch the debut of a new song which seems to centre around the joys of Superfoods, broccali, carrots, and the 1980s chronicles of a fugitive antique dealer, Lovejoy.

To the sweetly named Mertle I would like to give a big hug (of purely platonic intent), because by the time that her set got going there seemed to be a bit of a disruptive element in the room that diverted her attention and undermined her confidence to quite an elevated degree. Which is a pity, because her songs, including what seemed to be an audience favourite, 'Splish, splash, splosh', were funny and touching and well worth paying attention to. She started off in a confident vein alright, telling some dirty anecdote about Kings Cross and blowjobs, but then veered off into a cul-de-sac of low self-esteem and aborted intros. Maybe the guy in the audience who said (in quite an unnecessarily loud voice) that "they should have put her on earlier" was right, but I blame the presence of far too many jeering, lairy, bloke-off-the-street types, which turned the atmosphere into something decidedly un anti-folk like. 

My last word

All in all, the bit of the festival I attended (there were four more bands after GSG crawled home in a musical stupour), was the usual whirligig vortex of the sublime and the ridiculous and the moderate entry fee would be more than worth it for anyone else considering sampling future events (they are held every quarter). Just don't come expecting anything in anyway mainstream or ordinary. If you like car crash telly and have what some people call a 'unique' or somewhat 'special' outlook on life, then you'll be more than at home here. 

Definately NOT one for the kiddies.



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