review archive

Pow! To The People 6 – The Barfly, Camden, 1st May 2005

Stock up on ‘special’ coca cola, grab your complementary Tompaulin single on the door and hide inside from the first warm sunny day in weeks ‘cos once again it’s time for the sparkling pop parade that is Pow! To The People, now in its sixth magnificent year! courtesy of Track and Field.

Wintergreen are first up and by way of keepin’ it real inna indie stylee they manage to reach levels of shambolicness previously unseen even here in NW1. To be fair the first few songs are breezy and bleepy and trundle intriguingly. Jona on bass does a great ‘Thurston Moore’s confused young nephew’ act, whilst centre stage skinny indie boy and wholesome indie girl hunch side by side prodding at keyboards to create pleasing noises. Single ‘Clockwork Mice’ charms despite some exceedingly dodgy backing vocals and then it all goes pear-shaped. Maybe the band is being over-ambitious, technology overload. There is much lap-top fiddling as technical hitches abound and onstage tempers fray, band members getting snappy with one another.

New levels of shambolicness being reached, yesterday
It’s a shame ‘cos there are obviously plenty of ideas flying about up there and what they’re trying to do could be interesting. There is head-shaking and wincing as bum notes are hit, too much fiddling and not enough flying. Happily redemption shines down at the eleventh hour for ‘The Magic Road’ which is marvy, driven and thundering with an appearance from that obligatory indie instrument, the melodica. See, who needs a laptop anyway?
Look out there's a token hairy behind you. Topping up our glasses we watch bemused as approximately 4000 guitars are set up for Goldrush. I’ve always found this band kinda tedious, but this afternoon their straight-forward country jangle sounds right, sparkling and swooning in all the proper places. All those guitars and the band’s serious-faced rocking suggest Goldrush are trying to be all manly, but really that’s not going to happen with the baby-faced doe-eyed Bennett brothers leading them. Mind you, there are two token band hairies (one on groovily swirling organ) for that authentic kickin’ back on the West Coast circa ’68 look. There’s delicious Rickenbacker spangling and a nice boomy kick-drum that makes your heartbeat thrum in time to the music.
Then, grrrr, Goldrush get all feisty with an anti-war song which tumbles into a feedbacky ending as singer Robin er, forgets a verse. There’s some nice slide-guitar action for the pattering ‘24’ about ‘being up drinking for twenty-four hours’ apparently. And then, just to ensure you know where Goldrush are coming from, a cover of The Byrds’ fabby ‘100 Years From Now’ (the Gibson is needed for this, guitar-watchers) complete with cack-handed reworking of the guitar solo. Cheers.
Next up, it’s The Eighteenth Day Of May whose line up is a veritable who’s who (no really, who??) of shmindie. There’s a Kicker on guitar, a Saloon on viola, two Of Arrowe Hills (drums and bass), er a bloke from a certain record shop (guitar/vocals) and a Southern Belle singing. The latter is quite odd, as The Eighteenth Day Of May mix up a very English style of folk with their jangle-psyche sound. Think of The Pentangle and their crystal harmonies and exploratory hippy-jazz takes on traditional folk-songs (hey, I grew up listening to ‘Basket Of Light’ it’s no bad thing). Actually, the first time I saw EDOM they covered Bert Jansch’s ‘Deed I Do’, so they’re obviously thinking the same thing. (Also, is it just coincidence that there’s a nice display of Pentangle/ Jansch stuff in the certain record shop?) Pentangletastic!
Anyhow, as the brown vodka kicks in and the band kick off with the chiming ‘18 Days’ a warm blanket of luciousness descends. They sound perfect, not as psychedelic as during their recent Olivia Tremor Control support slot (a mighty performance), but swingingly gorgeous, drowsily droney. ‘The Highest Tree’ kicks its heels in a courtly manner, jangling around singer Alison’s honey-toned vocals and swooping flute. For ‘Cold Early Morning’ Alison takes up a dulcimer, managing to make it look sexy; part Audrey Hepburn singing ‘Moon River’, part insouciant rock cool. But hey, it’s not all ancient old folk stuff round here, EDOM do a swirlingly pastoral version of The Brian Jonestown Massacre’s ‘Dawn’ which will make you (well, me) go back to the original and go ‘Damn, that Anton Newcombe’s good’. Time for some boy vocals courtesy of Richard who twangs out a chewy cover of ‘Codeine’. I love this song, Ultra Vivid Scene did a magnificent Velvety version, it’s a shame EDOM don’t make use of their viola here, it seems to be begging for a bit of lush droneyness, especially as this version goes a bit ‘Black Angel Death Song’ mental at the end. And then, hey, it is all ancient old folk stuff round here as the band ends with the trad. ‘Lady Margaret’ giving it cut glass vocals and a truncated wig-out worthy of Spacemen 3.
dots and loops Blissed out, now would be a good point to go and lie in the sun, but no time, no time for here are The Pipettes (‘the prettiest girls you’ve ever met’) which means we need to shimmy and hand-jive to their candy-striped girl-pop sounds. You must know about The Pipettes by now, how they force-feed you sugar with a glint in their eye until you either succumb and start fizzing round the room or keel over in disgust at their matching polka dots and wobbly-slick dance-routines. There’s ‘One Night Stand’ that sounds like ‘Get Off Of My Cloud’ and there’s ‘Why Did You Stay’ and yes! my heart loops the loop for ‘Judy’ and for ‘It Hurts To See You Dance So Well’ oh, and ‘Dirty Mind’ which sounds like Big Audio Dynamite’s ‘E=MC2’ (a good thing). Backing boy band The Cassette are dressed up in their summer uniform of tank tops and shirtsleeves and its all wonderfully groovy…but what’s this? There’s a new Pipette! Where did she come from? Where’d the old one go? It’s like when Siobhan left Banarama or when er, Siobhan left the Sugababes. Hmmm, still the new girl’s got it all down, and look Simon ‘Gummi Bears’ Tbilissi is kicking it big time down the front with some happening moves. From where I’m standing everyone’s having fun and that’s before they play ‘I Like A Boy In Uniform (School Uniform)’.
Magoo – hmm, I’ve scribbled some interesting looking stuff down about them, but I sure as hell can’t read it and my memory for this part of the day seems to have been erased. Vague recollections involve a man in an orange shirt wanging about the stage alongside a girl on bass and much trip-you-up fizzing guitar noise. I’m pretty sure I enjoyed it all anyhow.
Something tells me we’re not in Kansas (City) any more. KC girl Piney Gir takes to the stage dressed up for the prom in a satin frock and ruby red glitter heels and proceeds to scatter magic dust around this black and sticky hellhole. Swinging her keyboard strap across her shoulder for the stately, twinkling intro of ‘Que Cera Cera’ Piney whips us off to her own private Oz, a world where spaced melodica heartbeat dreampop, country-tweaked electro and bossonova Saint Etiennesque ditties swirl through the skies. In between songs, Piney jokes and charms, sings a birthday song for one of her musicians and gets a Scottish pal up to explain about porridge (or ‘oatmeal’ as Americans call it for some reason) stirring sticks (?). It’s like being at a party hosted by an excitable little girl, especially when she blasts squawkily on a recorder like my kid brother used to when he got fed up with learning to play properly. There’s a special party guest in the form of a slyly smiling Gemma Kaito who duets with Piney on ‘Nightsong’ like they’re a ritzty rinky-dink Casio-toned Frank Sinatra and Doris Day. Finally, there’s the sublime funky space-country blues drone of ‘Greetings, Salutations, Goodbye’ as Piney picks a fine time to leave, vanishing like the good fairy of electro indie. Rinky-dink disco
Okay, time for a sublime/ridiculous interface. It’s Misty’s Big Adventure cranking out their parpy, alarming monster mash of sounds; punky, funky, jazzy, spazzy. I stick around long enough to note that their blue meanie dancer has got a new outfit – the gloves look like they’re made of fuzzy fabric – none of yer cheap Marigold shit like he used to have. Is this the big time for Misty’s? I don’t know, time for a sit down.
melancholy parps Refreshed by our sojourn to the bar downstairs, we return primed for some Tompaulin action (having handily accidentally missed The Broken Family Band Rolling Revue). This evening Tompaulin are a mighty force of stubborn splendour, playing beautifully constructed songs riddled with bitterness. Singer Stacey, clad in cut-off denim skirt and clutching a can of Stella, is a folk singer for these concrete coloured times of desperate drinking and hard faces in the street. Simon is master of artfully controlled feedback. Tompaulin present a front of defiance, disappointment and disgust and at the same time swooningly break your heart.
“There are no diamonds under ground/ There is no silver in this cloud” goes ‘Promised Land’ over banjo and melancholy parps of melodica, whilst the country-tinged ‘This Desire’ feels like rolling on the ocean. There are old faves like ‘Slender’ and the sly made-in-Britain-pop of ‘Give Me A Riot In The Summertime’ and there are moments of pure wonder. ‘The Boy Hairdresser’ slyly rips what’s left of your heart out, rising and falling around Jamie’s plaintive vocals and sadly fuzzing guitar noise. As the song ends, it feels like a respectful silence has fallen on the crowd and Tompaulin must know they’ve effortlessly stolen the day.
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