Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Viv Albertine at Boat Ting

Yesterday was a busy day too. Morning was the song circle with Katy Carr, Rowen Bridler and Nadya Ostroff. We have been meeting every two weeks or so and discussing song writing and other things, then deciding on a theme and each writing a song based on something to do with that theme. We started in February and all stumbled a bit at first: yesterday's meeting was time to consolidate three songs and sing them to the group.
It's amazing what a confidence-booster it's been. We do a blog (www.myspace.com/ramblemyrose) and have ongoing talks about lots of things. It's made me write in a really different way, much more loosely I suppose you could say. And because I am older than the others, and although I was defensive about this at first, the sort of lyrics I write are affected by that, because I feel as though I am writing some sort of musical letter to them each time. And I can also see quite clearly in my head the visual stimuli for the songs and if I lose my emotional connection when I'm singing I take myself there in my head and get back there again. Song writing is always therapeutic, but this is a different sort from before, but still the only way I feel I can express these particular ideas.
That probably seemed like a load of navel-gazing crap! It might make sense to someone reading this, anyway...

So on to Boat Ting last night. I met up with Diana and her French friend Gail and we tubed it down to Temple, where Boat Ting has relocated to a shabbier, darker boat with a different atmosphere entirely. The Sybilline Sisters were in full flow as we arrived and it was very funny to see the guys in the audience being alternately terrified and turned on by her poetry. Then there was a duo who made music so scary the room turned into a small pervy club in the small hours. The boat seemed like a dimly lit dungeon and everyone seemed threatening. The vocalist, jerking and gesticulating, made extraordinary noises that were processed and sent out to the audience alongside odd keyboard sounds. The result was the sound of gasping, dying animals, sometimes in space and sometimes underwater. Unnerving!
The posh Notting Hill crowd arrived and started Organising. They had all arrived on bicycles. The men had bicycle hair and the women had a sheen of perspiration instead of foundation. 'How many people could we sit along here?' they asked the space beside me where Diana'd been sitting, in confident and assertive tones. In my head, I pretended that it was me that was French and they went away and sat somewhere else.
We had come to see Viv Albertine play, and there she suddenly was, tall and serene and wearing the best pair of red and black statement boots I've seen in centuries. She had a floral Fender.
"I'm going to tell you something about myself first', she said, and started telling us about herself in song.
Viv has a very confident and deceptively simple guitar style, and it was intriguing to hear her song writing style because all these years later you can still identify what it was she brought to the Slits. At times, and in [particular when Zoe Street Howe joined her on organ, there was a bit of a Young Marble Giants feel, but Viv's lyrics are much more cynical and her delivery is more engaged and pointed than Alison's. 'I Should Have Been a Boy', she sang (I would have been a bad one, she told us). The set really kicked in when she did a song called 'Summer Fairytale', which was a horror story familiar to many women, wrapped in Sesame-street xylophone and organ SFX. Then Zoe swapped to drums, and Viv sang a song about drugs: 'Needles, needles, broken needles, friendly needles, happy needles', fighting her guitar to get chords out of it, having taken us to an entirely different place in her past to where we started.
She was confident, yet delicate and sharp (!) at the same time, and her lyrics articulate feelings that will strike a chord with a lot of women: in 'Confessions of a Milf' she sang ' I chose being an artist over being a wife, now I'm going to lead a very lonely/lovely life'.
I hadn't known what to expect and so I went to this gig with an open mind. Boat Ting was a great place to see Viv, off the normal singer-songwriter circuit. It's a gig people make their own, and it suited Viv's honesty perfectly.
Here's the muso bit! I was really interested in the way she played guitar and had been wondering how this would work solo. She has got a completely unique style, playing little runs in unison and in harmony with her vocal lines and then splashing colour behind parts of the songs that need to have more power. I really liked the deceptive simplicity of this, and could see how much rehearsal had gone in to getting everything exactly right. I am looking forward to hearing more of her music recorded (I'm off to Myspace now!).
Listening to Viv is like eating something really unusual and delicious- you can savour her songs and take the memory of them away with you to think about later. I will definitely go to see her again.

Ari told me that Madonna used to sit in the front row at all the Slits gigs in New York, and yet has never acknowledged her admiration for them and debt to them. And you can see in the early Madonna videos how much she owes to Viv in particular in terms of style.
I have always found Madonna excruciating, and listening to Viv last night, I thought how much more subtly and intelligently she has 'grown up' in comparison to the awful howling, clumping Madge.
I felt proud of our generation, and I felt even prouder of our regeneration.


Blogger chimesey said...

"The men had bicycle hair "

There's the first line...

9:41 AM  

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