Back at the Boudoir
Apparently the last two times they've been there, Gilbert and George have been there too, eating their tea. So Shirley, Ana, Gina and myself tucked into delicious meze and baklava in an anonymous Turkish restaurant, next to an empty place setting; three strikes and you're out, I thought, because they didn't turn up.
I imagined them peeking round the corner and thinking 'It's them again', and scuttling down the road to another cafe to wait till later!
Back at the Boudoir, a voice called out to me. Worried that it was one of my very own stalkers, I peered into the gloom- it was old friend Stephen Mahoney, looking absolutely splendid in a pair of fabulous green pleated trousers and sporting a very natty little fitted tweed hat. His style was 'oblique country gentleman', executed with a similar sense of humorous style to that of McDad. I was delighted to see him and to meet his accomplice, the typewriiter artist Keira, a neat and petite young woman dressed in fifties garb (as I was too last night) with a tiny portable orange typewriter, on which she was typing pictures throughout the evening.
Well, the first act had been deported so i was first on. The sound man got a wonderful clear sound and I was in a terrifically good mood, partly because I hadn't seen Stephen for such a long time, and partly because I was looking forward to seeing Christy and Emily play, and also Gina. I'd chosen all positive songs (well almost all) and songs that people had told me they liked in the past. Once I'd got rid of my stupidly-uncomfortable-but aesthetically-beautiful shoes, I was away and I really sang and played my heart out. The promoter did what all promoters everywhere ought to do for their warm up act- she shouted, 'Come on everyone, come and watch Helen play', and of course, everyone did. I finished with Loverman whci I intruduced as a rockabetty song (that's rockabilly with no drums or double bass).
The audience was a real mixture of people, very interesting, and it seemed as though they enjoyed my set.
Then Christy and Emily took to the stage and played fantastically well.
Live, they are much heavier than their recordings (a little too loud at times I thought) but they move gracefully between instruments to create catchy soundscapes (yes, it can be done!) with an unusual electronica feel. Sometimes they sounded a little bit like A Bird and a Bee, but they have a more direct and gutsy sound, and that Wurlitzer is to die for. The interaction between guitar and Wurlitzer is amazingly successful and the vocal arrangements slip from being icing on the cake to vital components of the overall sound, which means the songs develop in a really interesting way, like listening to a sound-version of a Grimms fairy tale in which you can not ever guess the ending. They use drums wisely and sparsely, never cluttering the sound. They also have humour- their game with the glitterball was a real icebraker and took some of the cooler members of the audience by surprise. And you know what else? the songs are not too long, they are not self indulgent, thus throwing them into the welcome arena of pop (although they did a very successful and well-received Eels cover).
What's more they had good manners- thanking the promoter and the other acts was a good thing to do!
(and they liked my guitar playing- wahey!)
This morning I have been listening to their CDs and they are now on my rotating home jukebox: the songwriting is lovely and I have a lot to learn from them, I think.
Gina had been worried about headlining, but her material is so different she had no need to. Last time I saw her it was with Robert Lloyd (who sadly wasn't there last night) and it was a bit raggedy and unrehearsed although her voice sounded good; tonight, she had new songs and films and perhaps had upped her ante, following Christy and Emily's brilliant show. She had a new air of passion and commitment and tore through her set, whacking sounds out of her guitar and linking in with her films in a way I haven't seen her do since we went on tour together. I wish she did more gigs! At the end, Ana got on stage and they did a version of Lola that got Keira out from behind her typewriter and into the audience to smile and tap her feet along with everyone else.
What a night! It had been worth trailing the world's slowest learner driver down the Holloway Road (bless!) and zigzagging across Kingsland High Street several times trying to turn right... and then left... and then right...
I never stop counting my blessing about this late chance to revive my career as a musician, never.
And I sold some CDs to boot!
I wish Christy and Emily lots of luck on their 20-date tour of Germany (Akiko, if you still read this, do go and see them in Berlin!) and I'm looking forward to seeing Gina play again. It was a truly enjoyable night, for lots of reasons.