Sofar #291: Brighton – 26th Febuary 2013

Originally posted on the Sofar Sounds blog on the 4th March 2013.

Words/Editor: Adam Wilson (Website)

Photographers: Tony Jupp (Website) & Chris Poots (Flickr)

Sorry to tell you this, but you missed it. That’s it; the best Sofar Sounds gig to date and you (probably) weren’t there. I bet you’re glad I’ve written as much as I can to convey something of what you missed. (Unless you were there; if so, ignore the first bit and start reading from here).

As I walked in, a rectangular room packed wall to wall with bodies was there to meet me. All super sexy Sofar Sounds bodies of course, but even Sofar people have arms and legs that need to be carefully folded and tessellated to accommodate everyone. It’s funny though, how marking out your territory for the evening seems so important for those first five minutes… Then the music starts.

 

 


Marika Hackman opened up the night with a track called “Retina Television”, from her album “That Iron Taste” (released 25th Feb) stripped of everything save her voice accompanied by her guitar. Appearing before everyone as a loan figure in a packed room, dressed in a sweatshirt and jeans she was at once disarmingly honest and absolutely magnetic.

 

 

As her set progressed, the eerie imagery and lonely delivery of her lyrics began to have an effect on us, catalysed by the Sofar atmosphere. Her music always slightly dodges your expectations, as you listen out for the phrase to end and the section to change, it lasts one more bar, or one less. Using what sound like simple, honest comments on elements of her life, Marika’s almost supernatural aura can completely fill the audience’s collective mind, using words to paint her peculiarly magical portraits across our perception.

 

Anna Phoebe, up next, is already well known for a career including collaborations with Jon Lord (Deep Purple), Roxy music, and being as a member of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. This violinist is a bit different to the rest. No one seems to have told her that they traditionally do as they’re told, suppressing their personality in the name of perfecting the execution of a composer’s manuscript.

 

 

Instead, her music blends her personality with the full range of her band’s influences, utilising the underlying mechanics that first supported the music of Duke Ellington as the rhythm section sets up a smooth bed of warm sonic layers, on top of which the incredibly skilled Anna weaves complicated but beautiful melodic lines, occasionally textured with palm muted guitar. The interspersing and complimentary themes on guitar and violin echo the playing of two other jazz greats, Coltrane and Davis. Despite these comparisons, the music is definitely not jazz. Anna brings her signature blend of the concert hall and the stadium, swapping the heavier, rockier side of what she does for a chance to play something more intimate and intricate.

More than a bit Po-Mo, retaining an ambiguity only occasionally punctured using leitmotifs that anchor your attention. The range of influences and their arrangement in the live set made it feel like a live artistic answer to Sgt. Peppers, perhaps helped by the addition of the distinctive tabla, piercing the musical mix with flurries of triplets that fill out the sound and introduce more ambivalence to any sense of cultural place brought about the traditional line up of guitar, electric bass and drums that make up the rest of her band.

This lady, who narrowly escaped the possibility of becoming a politician early in her career, succinctly demonstrated to us the results of a life’s complete dedication to perfection in all aspects of her chosen artistic craft.

Coming up next and snapping us out of a trance, blowing away all mental cobwebs, were CC Smugglers.

 

 

At Sofar, we can’t help but love bands that break the rules.  Continue reading “Sofar #291: Brighton – 26th Febuary 2013”

Songs from a room: Sofar sounds Brighton

I want to make you aware of Sofar Sounds. The website gives a short, simple description:

“We have created a movement which brings music lovers together in secret living room locations to hear some of the world’s most cutting edge artists. In order to create an intimate and spellbinding atmosphere, we ask that nobody talk during performances.” www.sofarsounds.com

Here’s what it looks like:

 

 

A simple concept, but started in the same spirit that made me want to write this blog. It’s a platform for bringing people and music together in a memorable atmosphere, and by doing so, gives the art a way of recapturing its aura and authenticity. Bringing the quiet respect and reverie that accompanies a poetry reading and applying that to an art form that, at times, appears to be floundering in a miserable state, partly of its own creation.

In the good old days, it was easy to make people pay for music. They simply had to; there wasn’t an option. At first, people were able to sell recorded music in the form of written notation, distributing instructions on how to recreate the sound of the piece in your own home, using nothing more than a simple piano and your own voice. If you wanted to hear music, you had to learn how to play it. Or, you could find a friend who knew how, but you’d have to find someone willing, then sit down together and experience it, most likely with even more people involved. It was a group experience, shared interpretations of a composer’s vision. Otherwise, you’d have to go to a scheduled live performance. Music was impossible without investing either time or money, but most likely both.

Even with the arrival of mechanical reproduction, allowing for most of the 20th Century music industry to happen, the music industry held all the cards. Recording equipment was expensive. If a songwriter wanted to record, they had to find someone with enough money to buy and maintain this equipment, and they’d have to work out an arrangement with them to use their facilities in return for a fee, or a share in the profits of the music. The people who owned the equipment could make as many recordings as they liked, transforming various materials into objects that would recreate a musical performance in people’s homes. Whatever the specifics of the artist/manager/record company relationship, the audiences couldn’t get their mitts on the music of their favourite artist without going through the men who controlled the recording equipment.

Now though, we’re here. Digital reproduction allows any of us to make endless free, perfect copies of any music we own. We can call thousands of songs within a few moments of deciding we’d like to hear something, and all this does something to the power music can have to affect us. With fewer people respecting music as art, and with so many subcultures through the last century co-opted by mainstream companies and used in advertising, songs which may have once poignantly expressed a social injustice or beautiful captured a moment in time are shackled to this week’s special at Burger King or last month’s car insurance deals.

 

Continue reading “Songs from a room: Sofar sounds Brighton”