The Best of Times (Part III)

Bowlie recap, continued…

Saturday Night

6.45 p.m. then, and it was time for Dirty Projectors. Highly tipped, though with a mixed critical reception for their stage show, I was still really excited to hear them for the first time live. I was a little bit sceptical because of all the fawning, but in fact this turned out to be probably the best show (in purely musical terms) of the weekend. I was just blown away by the ease with which they knitted Steve Reich-esque vocal parts to afrobeat and latin rhythms, all the while keeping it a lot more Pavement than Weather Report. Just brilliant. The two- and three-part all-female harmonies were at times mindblowing (especially in ‘Gimme Gimme Gimme‘ and the cover of Dylan’s ‘As I Went Out One Morning‘, my favourite track), while lead vocalist and guitarist Dave Longstreth shuffled in and out of phase, sometimes with rambling vocals, at other times with intricate picked guitar parts.

Dirty Projectors

I then decided to stay put while the others went to catch a bit of The New Pornographers as I wanted to be right up the front for Belle and Sebastian. I’m torn about what to write about this show. I’m such a huge fan of the band and I feel like their first three albums are among the very, very best. On the other hand, they didn’t play a lot of that material (though the songs from the new album do sound really good). Worst of all, Stuart Murdoch really infuriated me with all his prancing, pontificating and preening. It was a really cringe-inducing display, but it was lapped up completely by the devout audience so it didn’t seem to detract at all from the great atmosphere. He came on stage dressed as some sort of left bank intellectual from the 1950s, did some running on the spot (to enormous cheers), flitted about the stage contributing bits and bobs here and there on the instruments, and then we had a long, drawn-out and embarrassing segment where he picked out a few young girls (and on the next song, some men) to dance on stage and then be presented with sports day-type medals. All a bit daft, sometimes a bit tawdry. And god, the tuneless duet with the Those Dancing Days teenybopper was excruciating.

However, the joy I got from hearing the classic songs they did play was undimmed – ‘Stars of Track and Field’, ‘Judy and the Dream of Horses’ and ‘Dirty Dream Number Two’ were all perfect. New tracks ‘I’m Not Living In the Real World‘ and ‘I Want the World To Stop‘ are already crowd favourites, and very enjoyable. Overall the performance wasn’t as good as the NPR-streamed Glasgow gig on the 21st, but it was wonderful to finally see them play live after more than a decade of fanship.

Belle and Sebastian

Upstairs then, after grabbing some more of the splendid real ale on offer, for Jenny and Johnny. This is the latest incarnation of Jenny Lewis’ musical career, though I must say I prefer Rilo Kiley. The J&J material is cutesy, sometimes surf-ish punk-pop, and while it’s much more quirky and knowing than (say) Avril Lavigne, it’s not a million miles away musically. Though you wouldn’t get Avril Lavigne grooving around in a 1950s bathing costume. I was keen to stay near the front though because up next was the secret band…

Jenny and Johnny

… except thanks to NME it hadn’t been a secret for a while that Franz Ferdinand would be playing. A very good choice mind – perfect for most of the varied audiences who had coalesced at this thematically-consistent yet generically-eclectic festival. And what a set they played! Dispensing with many of the better-known hits, they threw in delightful old treats like ‘Van Tango’, ‘Tell Her Tonight’ and ‘Shopping For Blood’. I think in many years of seeing Franz I have never heard ‘Tell Her Tonight’ live and it was just beautiful – it’s one of the most perfect expressions of boundless enthusiasm. They even chucked in a Sonics cover (as did Belle and Sebastian on that NPR-streamed gig linked above) and came out for a brutal stomp through ‘Jacqueline’ for the encore. I always feel bad when I see them because for the first few years of their existence I really took them for granted. I’ve always thought the first album was great but not really given it the recognition it deserves, but in truth it is probably one of the formative albums of our generation. Great stuff.

(last bit will probably be tomorrow depending on how veggie peeling goes…)

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Published in: on December 23, 2010 at 4:30 pm  Leave a Comment  

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