Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Will Sheff at St. Pancras Old Church, 28th March 2011

Last night I went to see Will Sheff of Okkervil River play a solo show at St. Pancras Old Church. I had a spare ticket, and I thought I'd found someone online who wanted it, but he called at the last minute to say he couldn't make it. So I went to one show with two tickets. Both times, it was great.

When I arrived the pews were full of about 100 Okkervil faithful so I leant against the upright church piano at the back against the wall. This turned out to be a pretty great decision in the course of things. Will Sheff played some Okkervil songs, new and old, and was joined by bassist Zach Thomas for a few of them on another guitar and vocals. Their versions of 'Lost Coastlines' and 'Wake and Be Fine' were highlights, as were Will's solo renditions of 'A Stone' and 'The President's Dead'.

For his encore, though, he came out to a wall of applause and whoops and headed straight for the piano I was leaning on. He sat down and started playing 'For Real', as gasps and purrs of recognition came from the audience, who now gathered around in a close circle. His long-limbed body looked too big for the tiny piano, but the song was measured and intense, with squares of light and shadow from a window falling over him in the dim room, and camera phones flashing occasionally, or recording the whole moment. Maybe only a few of us could see his face. Me, and another girl leaning on the other side of the piano, and maybe two people next to me. He had a neat rusty beard and sang with his eyes closed. He matched his strong, tremulant voice with a simple piano figure, and it was very moving.

Afterwards one or two very excited people shook his hand and looked as if they wanted to die for him in some heroic and self-sacrificing way, such as taking a bullet or throwing themselves on top of a grenade. Such is the adoration of the lonely for their poets.

Later I got the train home and I felt happy, thinking it was one of the best performances I'd seen for a very long time.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Quick Courage

Whilst going through some old songs and lyrics I found this one, 'Quick Courage' and recorded it. I think I wrote it when I was about 18 or something.

Here are the lyrics:

You had that quick courage
Your schoolyard grin and your tender heart
I used to wish for courage
I used to wish I could play my part
And our voices clearly rang through the avenue
Where charm-placed footsteps ran
You had that quick courage through it all

You had that quick courage
Your eyes turn grave when the troubles start
You had to fight the knowledge
To be brave in your sceptic heart
And the days grew long and old, in the avenue
Soft-amber streetlights swam
Singing love songs in the cold, all out of tune
Soft words came out of the cans,
When I looked up to your eyes, so invincible,
Inscrutable and sore,
You had that quick courage through it all

You had that quick courage
The schoolyard smile I thought would never bow
Your parents broke their promise
Your parents broke their vow
And your fists went flurrying up down the avenue
Torn skin and broken glass
Yeah your fists went flurrying up, scraping all the walls
Knuckles red and scarred
And when you were fighting yourself in the avenue
The world was still going past
You had that quick knowledge, raw wounds
You had that long redress, home looms,
You had that greyscale shift, towards the truce,
You had that quick courage through it all

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Varsity Acoustic Session / Amnesty Freedom Festival March 12th 2011

We played this:

At one point, this happened:

And so, once more into the breech, dear friends, as The Shadow-Line pulled up in Cambridge for another fine example of musicianary. There was a pretty good lineup at the Freedom Festival, although there were some issues at soundcheck with the soundman wanting to run electric guitars through the PA (Eh???). Even so, it was a pretty quality night, which involved free beer, pasta and bread, and Chinese lion dancers, and some good bands called Dog Is Dead and Tin Roots, among others. We all had a good time and got several notches above crunk-a-doodle-doo at The Maypole -- if you know what I mean son?

Also we recorded an acoustic session for Varsity newspaper, on the staircase at my house. Conrad Steel sat in on Cello. Here are some photos from that, the video will be up soon:

Also we drew some cocks on the otherwise very positive-thinking 'graffiti wall' and a few people got sick tatts:

All in all, it was a very productive day.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

God Is In The TV Review for Scratchcard Winner

I got another review for the EP:

Sombre strings and lightly plucked acoustic guitar gather around the sound of drizzle, bringing to mind early Badly Drawn Boy on Kids on the Corner, before Zygmunt's vocal joins in like a crusty Paul Weller. It's a wonderfully bittersweet tune, elegantly structured to tug at the heart strings and paint peculiar pictures in your mind's eye. One of Zygmunt's greatest skills as a song-writer is knowing how to capture a mood in his music that is like the aural equivalent of Shane Meadows' films.

Things go surprisingly borderline Elton John on the upbeat piano-rock intro of Tommy, it turns into a exuberant spiky little indie number that feels like a distant cousin of A Town Called Malice telling the tale of someone leaving their small town for, hopefully, better things. Alas for all its energy it kind of loses its drive around the four minute mark, and with almost two minutes left to go it sort of chunders towards a so-so finale rather than the rousing climax it seems to aim for.

There's an air of the softly spoken poetic style of Baxter Dury in Zygmunt's occasionally squeaky and delightfully honest delivery on Horoscopes/Morning Rain, and it builds towards wondrous choruses with warm female vocals offsetting the crunch of Zygmunt's voice brilliantly; the refrain of 'Anything' inparticular having a nice contrasting resonance between the sweet and sour voices. There's a rousing cry of 'It don't change!' over twinkling bells, insistent drums and aching strings that has the hairs on the back of your neck standing to attention, and it swells with hope and optimism. Similarly Temporary Saviours has a lively percussion backing up Zygmunt's colourful and wry lyrics; 'I went home that night with an exotic dancer/Man, I wore all her kisses like a plaster.' The track continues hinting at little explosions, it shuffles tentatively and nervously towards exploding, and these denials of release are thrilling, and it's jaunty little asides with shouts of 'Hey!' are both liberating and danceable yet equally cautious and restrained.

The closing title track is a despondent ballad, Zygmunt crying 'Surely luck will come round.' It has layered vocals and a gentle acoustic guitar line, but fails to evoke as strong an atmosphere as the rest of the record, it's got some nice sentiments but they sort of wash by rather than striking chords. It's a slight shrug of the shoulders at the end of a generally lovely and at turns moving and exciting record by an artist with a strong and unique style.

4 Stars

Written by Owain Paciuszko at God Is In The TV. He is a fine gentleman who also wrote a review of This City Has An Echo.

See the original review by clicking this proverb: A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush