The last time I listened to The Black Rider by Tom Waits I was in a plane over New England, battling a thunderstorm. The music scared the beJesus out of me, especially when the plane got hit by lightning. Tonight, I listen to it on the way to Brighton driving down sunny country roads. It isn’t raining. The car isn’t hit by lightning. I don’t sing along lustily, despite being adept at two of the songs on piano.
I park in Churchill Square. I then realise my mistake. The Rose Hill belongs to the less salubrious part of Brighton, London Rd – the sort of place you’ll see 16-year-old parents walking their families at 11pm. It costs £4 to park in Churchill Square in the evening, duration of time unimportant. It costs nothing to park in London Rd, although you do need to be a little concerned your hub caps will still be there when you return. The Rose Hill is adorned, festooned with trinkets and toys, dolls and fairy lights, a real bell for last orders, comfy broken-down armchairs and a clientele to… I was going to type match but then realised how cruel that reads. All I’m trying to say is that it’s kinda humbling to turn up to a gig when every last punter is clearly way more productive and creative and unheralded than you are: it also feels like a kind of home. It also feels like The Black Rider given physical dimension but minus the plane dropping several thousand feet out of the sky.
L C Pumpkin plays: described on the flyer as an eccentric one-man music machine, he simultaneously sings, blows harmonica and bashes instruments too strange for even Tom Waits to curate, taps out a melody on his xylophone-keyboard-organ contraption with the microphone he uses for singing down, throws in the occasional jarring squelch and bleep, and is quite honestly the pub given aural dimension. He smiles, we smile. He smiles more, we smile more. Psychedelic is not a word that is often correctly used, and I am not convinced I am about to use it correctly here so please blank out the last 30 seconds reading time. This is what L C Pumpkin is most like, but in a decidedly non-linear fashion:
Apologies to Sadie for stealing her line.
This is what he is really like.
Excuse me for a moment, I have just discovered you can download his music for free. HERE! YOU CAN GET IT HERE! Also, I found this in my pocket.
Crayola Lectern plays. I fear I may be in danger of becoming a one-man cheerleading team here with saggy pom-poms and tattered tassels. There are three in Crayola Lectern. All play keys, but only Alistair blows mournful trumpet sounds and watery keyboards and only Chris makes jokes about halitosis and writes songs like a disconsolate diamante child of Neil Innes and Kevin Ayers. (That would be Kevin Ayers I have never heard Kevin Ayers.) Half of Chris’ songs sounds like he’s on a rescue mission in a world of troubled but wronged strangers, and half of them sound like he’s deliciously aware of the beauty contained within a single major piano chord. He plays no G notes tonight. He has no need. He does play the pivotal ‘Slow Down’ – that would be Slow Down, the only song that in seven years of living in Brisbane made me homesick for Brighton, and Chris doesn’t even live in Brighton Slow Down. It is too short, and so a wag in the crowd (OK, me) shouts out “again” in true Teletubbies fashion as it ends. To which Chris retorts, “maybe I should play it fast [and call it] ‘Speed Up’. Nah, it would sound shit.”
Actually, it wouldn’t. Not a quick 20-second burst at the song’s end.
Mostly however Crayola Lectern play songs from their pivotal new album Happy Endings – much as you’d expect, seeing as how the album came out today and tonight is a launch party for its release. To not have done so would have been perverse, even more perverse than many of the songs played tonight which do indeed sound like truncated and elongated and Spectorised and psychedelicised beautifully resonant happy endings. Also, unhappy. After a fashion. I stare at the creative, beautiful, caring people near me and wonder what it would be like to be casually, comfortably happy with them.
Exasperated and odd but still hanging on in there.
Stately is as stately does.