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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Testing My Recovery Time With A Brit Invasion

Okay, so last week I had my own mini British Pop Invasion.

First up was Welshman, Jon Langford of punk rocker, The Mekons fame back in 1977. He has a very interesting and varied career which includes story writer, painter and multimedia performance artist. He was playing this odd little club, The Thunderbird Café in the hipster section of Lawrenceville. Apparently I was in major age vs. recovery denial, because I went out on a Tuesday!!?

Yes. A School night.

Madness. Sheer madness.

Not gonna lie, the hours-before-the-butt-crack-of-dawn 2:30am wake up call was bloody brutal. In my defense, the show was billed as 7pm with "no opener", which I took to mean, you know, NO FUCKING OPENER. I admit I'm not that swift with numbers, but that math added up to on by 7-ish and out by 9pm. A much more palatable number of lost hours of sleep.

Again with the numbers thing.

Imagine my confusion, chagrin, ire when a heavy-set, 30-something, Zach Galifinakis look-alike took a seat behind a Yamaha keyboard perched precariously atop four stolen milk crates and proceeded to play baroque melodies under his oddball songs about porn and such, sung in a lounge-singer warble. It was peculiar, yet slightly compelling perhaps because he seemed so uncomfortable with it all.

Moving on...

I became aware of Jon Langford and his cow-punk band, The Waco Brothers when Betty, Barney and I went to SXSW back in 2010. His band was on my short list of acts to see, but as things happen at SX, we never got around to seeing them play. I didn't want to miss him this time around even though I was not at all familiar with his work.

There were four other members in his current band squeezed on the tiny stage, including a lovely Asian violin player named June. Sturdy in stature and looking a bit like Billy Joel (he joked about a critics comparison to Joel) with his short-cropped, grey hair framing his round face, Langford exuded a mighty powerful presence.

He has a BIG personality, and he's not afraid to be himself on stage. He has a great energy reminiscent of Francis Dunnery and Billy Bragg. From the start, he interacted playfully with the audience, some of whom he had played with the last time through Pittsburgh. He's an engaging storyteller, who kept us laughing between songs with crazy tales and observations. There was a recurring bit with him egging June on to tell bad jokes, badly that was super charming.

And man, can he grind a guitar!! His songs are charged with an irresistible punk edge. Even the quieter ones have a contained punk vibe. A lot of his work sounds just like the Clash, his hoarse vocals channeling Joe Strummer. Makes sense since they were contemporaries during the birth of the genre.

(FYI- they kept the covers streak alive with a beefy version of The Go Betweens, Streets of Your Town.)

He was waaaay more fun than I ever expected. So much so, that I really didn't want to leave. In fact, we reluctantly got up to skedaddle after a rousing sing-a-long, when they started playing a Waco Brothers song. Well, SHIT! We were right there on the steps, ready to bolt, but I had to stay, even though it was rounding 10:00, and I was about to turn into a very blurry-eyed, crabby pumpkin in dire need of a couple of Zs.

Stupid livelihood. And bills... And mortgage... And the unending need to eat...

Next time I'm finagling the next day off.

*cough* *cough*

the middle bit of the Waco Brothers song that made us stay for one more

Saturday was a double dose of a young British Pop band, Fanfarlo. This group was also a SXSW find (as posted here from when I could write, even in a drunken stupor a la Rob Ford), only four years ago they looked like they were 15 years old. They don't look very old now either, but clearly they have grown up a bit.

at wyep
when there were five

After taking a wrong bridge and ending up who knows where, they found their way to WYEP (their live session here) for an in-studio where they played four songs off of their new album, sold merch and hung around a bit to talk to fans. There were five members at 2pm.

By 9pm, there were just four.

The bass player fell ill somewhere in between, which threw them off a bit. They sweetly apologized between songs while they debated how to play the next number without a bass or keyboards. They need not have worried, however, because the small but enthusiastic crowd was right there with them. Besides, hellooooo… charming English accent. They get extra leeway just for speaking.

The set was short, roughly only a dozen songs even though they have three albums. I suspect they trimmed it back because of their missing band mate. They have a terrific female drummer who smiled the entire evening. Like The Spring Standards, Fanfarlo are multi instrumentalists, busting out the Power Pop on guitar, keyboard, trumpet, saxophone and … the saw?

Yuuuuuup. A saw.

it's a shitty photo, but that's a saw, dude
I spy with my little eye... a stolen milk crate
these brits have sticky fingers

An amusing note: When lead singer, Simon Balthazar asked if anyone knew who John Cale was prior to performing a cover of his song, there were crickets from the audience until he mentioned the Velvet Underground. He chided the audience's silence with "He's only the greatest Welsh performer ever!" to which some wise ass in the pit yelled, "I thought that was Tom Jones". That incited the entire band to yell "No! No one likes Tom Jones!" Then Balthazar cleverly worked both What's New Pussycat and It's Not Unusual into his next sentence.


(they played my favorite song with the help of a member of the opener on bass)

They came out afterwards to meet fans and sign merch at the table, but Cindy and I left. Quite honestly, I was still recovering from Tuesday night's outing so the early ending was welcomed.

I know. Old-fart alert. The staying awake part isn't a problem, it's the extended recovery part that sucks major ass. I'm up to about three days now.


Whatever. I refuse to be deterred from partaking in late-night activities. That is until my shell of a body crumples in a rain-swept gutter, immobilized by exhaustion and crying out for the sweet release of death .. or a pillow. That curb is hard, yo.

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