What a super trip out this was. Lovely venue, plenty of chums (shame I missed Russ after I thought I'd seen him arrive though), good sound, top bands.
Both Shady Bard and Modified Toy Orchestra were new to me. I've heard good things from reliable people about them both and can now enhance said people's reliable-ness rating, because I enjoyed them both. Shady Bard, perming six from guitar, piano, cello, another guitar, keyboards, drums, violin, cello, french horn, MacBook, and some other things I missed, to play what my chum Pete might call post-rock-anti-folk, or some such. I can't say I'm whistling any of their tunes right now, but I was very taken with singer's voice. He was quite a skinny chap, but his voice was rich and deep (baritone? somebody with musical training help me here) and he was winningly shy (but professional enough to put over the CDs and t-shirts). He also went bonkers with his guitar a couple of times, which I always like to see. Pleasing.
Modified Toy Orchestra play toys. Children's toys. What they have modified. Sounds like fodder for a sure fire novelty Christmas number 1. If only they weren't so brilliant at it. They range far and wide over the musical spectrum. One or two of their tracks need nothing more than a guitar going crunch about two-thirds of the way through, and they could be front and centre on a Radiohead album. A couple could pass as late-80s New York No-Wave. I'm doing them a disservice to make these comparisons though, because it takes us back to the novelty act thing. In fact, I'm sorry I even mentioned it. This is not pastiche, even the closing cover of Kraftwerk's Pocket Calculator was not a pastiche. It was great. They were great. The next time I see them, I'm going to make sure it's not a seated gig, because I intend to rock-out as hard and heartily in the audience as they did on the stage.
Pram, I had seen before. I'm not sure I was necessarily looking forward to seeing them again, not with excitement anyway, because while they're certainly the most interesting band on the bill, they were never going to be the most fun. Which not to say they aren't enjoyable, because they are, they're just not fun. In the past I've needled Pete for comparing bands you hadn't heard of to ones you had, but I'm going to do that right now anyway. Pram are like a less accessible Portishead. They have a very cool delivery, unconventional instruments (including trombone, theremin, clarinet, marimba, and (get this!) accordian), menacingly dream-like mood, and a high floating vocal. I actually found it very restful and calming, while simultaneously being quite hard work.
The venue, the Town Hall (is it Town Hall, The Town Hall, the Town Hall? not sure about the capitalisation there) was rather lovely, I thought, but I am going to have to award minus points for the overly utilitarian bar, which lacks any of the pleasing theatre atmosphere you get in the lobby. On the other hand, ice cream! During the changeover between bands, a chap (usher? where is my vocabulary?) with a little thing (see what I mean) of tiny tubs of ice cream toured the auditorium selling his frozen wares. Absolutely fantastic. A round of ice cream between acts, what could be more civilised and yet so decadent?