Last Night's Songbird
This is a picture of Diana introducing the Bardos Band, two women who sang and played ancient instruments- a giant pale wood viola-type thing. It was lovely to hear such music- normally I give it a wide berth but it seemed to fit the warm atmosphere- somehow, Visions had transformed from its shebeen/strip joint aura into a proper nightclub.
It was full of teenagers selfconscious in their first statement hats (never been to Dalston before) mixed with stout square-set ladies in crimplene and k-skips; a very typical Diana-mixture of people. There were beautiful projections that looked like shards of home-made toffee. I sat and drew people for a while, then Diana moved my chair closer to the music. People were chatting loudly; she suggested they suck their thumbs if they couldn't stop, and that soon shut them up. Next up were two guys from Manchester, one of whom was called David Jaycock. They had forgotten their CD, which was a shame. Their songs were all short, like little Russian film themes in a nutshell, with a whisper of Robert Wyatt in there too; one played a Spanish guitar with a very unusual sound, and the other guy alternated between a harmonium, a lap steel guitar and a banjo. Very laid-back and and mellow fellows, but just right.
As the Gentle Mystics climbed onstage, all the teenagers flooded to the front possessively. Diana introduced the band, one by one: Orlando, Merlin, Cosmo, Naomi.... 'Hampstead!', whispered J, who was sitting next to me. They were indeed Hampstead, but they were also very good- at least the first two or three songs. The singer, Naomi, has a fabulous voice and I absolutely loved the melodies of their songs; the arrangements were very well thought out, the drummer was brilliant and had a stylishly distinctive way of playing. Naomi even played the saw blade too, something I haven't heard since the Wylam Folk Club. They had an awful white rapper for one song, though, and after the first few songs there was too much oom-pah which made everything seem comedic instead of beautifully-crafted (which is what it was, really). But they were very impressive. Hats off to Merlin, too, for some nifty accordion playing.
I'd spent part of the evening gazing at the onstage tuba, wondering if it was two tubas, or one tuba reflected in the mirror.
It was the guilty source of the oom-pah, and should have been left in the tuba cupboard at home.