Thursday, March 12, 2009

Cafe Oto, Dalston, London, UK 7th March 2009

I play in Vultures. Vultures is: Dan Beattie (guitar/electronics/keys); Matt Chilton (laptop/electronics/bass); Will Connor (percussion/objects/winds); Anthony Donovan (basses/autoharp/electronics/objects/laptop). We played at Cafe Oto last Saturday, joined by legend of experimental music and all-round lovely fella, Steve Beresford.

I'd never been to Cafe Oto before. It's a fantastic, unique, special venue. Annie and I left Northampton at noon-ish; train to Euston; tube to Angel; spending the afternoon in Islington - having an all-you-can-eat curry, for £3.95 I tell you, at the lovely Indian Veg, on Chapel Market, then a bit of shopping; then the 30 bus to Dalston. Cafe Oto is on tiny Ashwin Street, a big-windowed ex-industrial space amongst derelict buildings, like a secret one can only discover by being into the artworks it offers. We arrived 5pm. Will was already knee-deep in floor-managing and running sound. Three other bands were sharing the bill with us. Ampersand were to play last, and were already set up; their amazing, monolithic rusted iron sculptures, which they play upon, were sitting on the stage and being prodded, banged and scraped. The space was so open - when I'd expected the usual claustrophobic bunker; the noise so perfect; the atmosphere so peaceful - food, teas and coffees, glasses of wine, people on laptops, chatting ... like another world away from the busy high streets we'd just left. This is home to me. Familiar faces, too ... introductions, handshakes. Civilisation. Vultures had improvised and recorded with Ampersand a few weeks ago - at Scott Robinson's 'Tower of Music', in Stoke Newington - so we all knew one another. Annie and I parked up on a floppy sofa, supping tea, and looking around. Matt came in sometime afterwards; then Dan and his partner, Veronica. It all felt great, expectant, friendly and fun. Diva Abrasia, based in Edinburgh but from all over the world, sound-checked next. At this point, Annie's and my plan was to leave after our Vultures performance - saving on the expense of a hotel; as we were planning to stay over for several of the many Vultures gigs over the next few months. That all changed, at Annie's suggestion, when, out-of-the-blue, several friends from up North - Ste and Jan, and their two friends, turned-up; plus Martin, from Varispeed Recordings, over from Reading; again a surprise. This was fantastic. We decided we had to stay for the full evening. Annie went off to research hotels; but a friend, Andie, kindly offered us a bed for the night at her place in Finsbury Park. Civilisation again, see; can't beat it. You can keep your mainstream delights, your mainstream culture. They don't work, in my view. One never meets horrible people at events like this; and I've never seen a fight. We're another economy, based on better values. Diva Abrasia sounded fantastic. Two drummers; three guitarists - each of the latter complementing that instrument with add-ons and other instruments, bass-clarinet and trumpet included. What an incredible array of music in-store. The other band, Blistrap, contains two of my own favourite musicians - Mick Beck (sax/reeds/whistles) and Phil Marks (percussion). I'd seen these two years ago, as part of The Grew Trio - with the equally amazing Stephen Grew (keys). Tonight was made even more special because Vultures was playing with Steve Beresford; someone I'd admired for years. Steve joined us on electronics. He opened the evening with an interesting and entertaining talk on aspects of electronic music - feedback, happenstance, use of toy instruments. Vultures played next. Will used an array of objects; Dan played guitar and electronics; Matt played laptop, with contact mic on a drum; I played 4 string bass, into electronics, with contact mics on various objects. We played for about 30 minutes; and we played very well; telling various sound stories; nicely ebbing and flowing, and never unmusical or inattentive; all really listening. Diva Abrasia played next - ferocious at times, fantastic use of twin drummers, and adding to the carpet of noise with wonderful musical embellishments, of guitar and winds. Very intense. One to look out for. Then Blistrap played - similarly intense and ferocious; with, at one point, Mick Beck crying out acoustically over the din. A fantastic moment of emotional verity. Then, to close, Ampersand played - a more even, textured traverse of metal scrapings and clangs; my favourite elements being the electronics and keys of the gentleman stage left. Then, it was over; bus to Finsbury Park; all-night Turkish supermarket; tea and chatting; bed; tea and chatting; goodbyes; bus; train; home. A wonderful time.


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