Aidan Moffat and RM Hubbert and John Mouse – Omeara – August 16th 2019

What better way to enjoy a Friday night in London than to spend it with revered Scottish ‘miserabilists’, Aidan Moffat and RM Hubbert? It’s their last ever London show and you’d forgive a few tears yet the reality is that both are pretty chipper and this is an upbeat affair. As upbeat as downbeat can get anyway. 

Hubby sits throughout, sometimes singing,  but mostly adding crisp flamenco rolls over which Aidan offers his trademark Scottish scrawl. Spoken word poetry interspersed with moments of sheer beauty when things resembling choruses kick in. Siobhan Wilson sits behind the pair adding vocal and violin depth. “This is another song about shagging the wrong person”, says Aidan, giving the crowd exactly what they want.

It’s the humour, the banter and the camaraderie that gets Hubby and Aidan through the night. They’re mates from that hidden bar snug you’ve always wanted to discover, jibing with each other to mask their obvious mutual respects. Accidentally and with no ill intent, Hubby comments that the tea-towels at the merch desk might be of more use as a Christmas present for women and Aidan, after revelling in the rightful response such gender stereotyping produces, helps his friend out by being even more of a cunt. “My girlfriend fucking hates me”, he observes before playing “another tune about the breakdown of the family unit.”

“Brexit’s going well”, says Aidan in trademark sarcastic manner before Hubby follows up with “you’re all welcome to visit us when we’ve independence”. Hubby’s only a tad pissed off that his name isn’t there with Aidan’s above the entrance to the Omeara. “I’m not even going to get fucking paid for this show”, he jokes whilst Aidan looks on amused.

“How come you don’t sing our songs back at us?“, shouts Aidan when the beardy and bespectacled crowd (that’s just the women) sing along to the stripped-back reading of Yazoo’s ‘Only You’. The sad longing of the tune comes to the fore under Aidan’s baritone – but let’s face it, he has the ability to make the happiest of texts seem mournful. In the running joke of the night, the crowd try to force a cover of Wonderwall out of the pair but they’re having none of it. We do get a Napalm Death cover, “You Suffer”, though. It’s brief but still a 12 inch remix on the original. 

Welshman, John Mouse, is an entirely appropriate support act for the evening. Those gathered probably know that he’s not the reggae ‘John Mouse’ or the mis-spelt ‘John Maus’ yet John still sees fit to explain. At times he plays a Fender strat; at other times, it’s just John and a backing tape. His largely spoken-word story tales are dark and appear to be about childhood memories of injury or death yet the bright, bossa-nova beats and incongruous dance moves mask the subject matter. I’m reminded that one of his tunes – all about breakdancing to electric boogaloo and other memories of being a youngster in the 1980’s has been recommended to me by Spotify before. I resolve to check out more after being taken aback by his tune about the man down the road who’s bothering him. 

The end is nigh for Aidan Moffat and RM Hubbert. They finish with Car Song, the first tune they ever wrote together. And it sounds as beautiful tonight as it ever has. I’m willing to bet that nobody in the crowd wants this to be over and such is the response I wouldn’t be surprised if Aidan and Hubby aren’t having second thoughts themselves. 

 

Wovoka Gentle, Swimming Girls & Josiah & The Bonnevilles – Omeara – March 25th 2019

Show me a better and more solid live proposition in 2019 than Wovoka Gentle and I’ll be there with bells on. Let’s not beat around the bush here – Wovoka Gentle’s unique approach to live music-making is jaw-dropping; from splodges of sound and harnessed beats emerge the most beautiful of melodies; harmonic juice born out of the most intense of concentrates. This triumvirate astound with their innate electronic folk togetherness. Just see them should you get the chance.

Sonic Breakfast first became aware of their class after randomly walking past the stage they were playing on at the fine Nozstock festival. That’s been documented here previously in this blog. I’d pay to see Wovoka Gentle but their record label, Yucatan, has generously put on a lovely Monday night free show at Omeara. It’s another new London venue for me and it’s no-brainer to head along to the collection of railway arches just down from London Bridge.

Omeara is an ace venue. I’m none too sure where it starts and others begin. Once I’ve got my hand stamped and briefly look at the faux-dungeon crossed with music hall facility of the main venue, I wander through a series of connected rooms to see bars and street food spaces. A more upmarket version of a Budapest ruin bar, I sit eating pizza, drinking beer and waiting for the music to kick off.

 Josiah (from Josiah & The Bonnevilles) is tonight’s special guest. The crowd watch with interest despite his style bearing minimal resemblance for what will follow. He’s got a birthday coming up in the next few hours and gives quick nods to friends and family in the audience who’ll no doubt be celebrating with him. Catch him at the right angle and Josiah could be Brad Pitt’s shorter and younger brother. These tunes from Tennessee, mostly performed on acoustic guitar but with a brief piano break, are classic Americana. He’s Ryan Adams pre-disgrace. There’s a vibration to Josiah’s vocal not dissimilar to the one employed by Conor Oberst. My favourite tune of his that I hear draws influence from George Jones. “It’s about the saddest song on a record, the hidden-away one that you can’t stop listening to because you’re fucked up”, says Josiah.

 

The room gets really busy for Swimming Girls. It’s not surprising given that they’re flavour of the month in some quarters. I confess though that, on tonight’s showing, they pass me by a bit. And that’s despite having a guitar player with a Smiths lyric on his T-shirt. They’ve got a sound that’s not far removed from the excessive soft rock of the 1980’s. My notes suggest Starship or an ideal soundtrack to a recently unearthed, never-seen-before, John Hughes movie. Swimming Girls are fronted by Vanessa, a slinky, confident sort who clearly has good rapport with her crowd. When the rest of the band sit down and Vanessa plays a peeled-back number on her electric guitar, the influence of Cyndi Lauper’s True Colors comes right to the fore. There’s nothing wrong with Swimming Girls; they do what they do well and the kids love them. I guess their influences were never entirely my thing the first time around. There’s a slight exodus for Wovoka Gentle and the crowd demographic gets noticeably older.

 

Wovoka Gentle must surely be a sound technician’s nightmare. They bring trays of gadgets, cluttered desks of wires and mics onto stage with them pre-set. But with striking efficiency and organised calm, the three members find the right holes in which to plug things in. A violin is sound-checked. Six separate mics are given cursory attention. The three desks look inward; wires now flail across the stage; complicated neural pathways of the Wovoka Gentle brain.

The opening segment almost induces tears from this quarter. William strums an electric guitar and launches into the briefest of covers of 30 Century Man whilst Imogen and Ellie accompany with exquisite vocal harmony. “That’s our tribute to Scott Walker. He very much influenced us”, says William (or words to that effect).

As for the rest, the biggest big-up that I can give is that I make no more notes. This is a set of such variety and such pulsating beauty that I can do little more than stand transfixed. With the slightest of nods, Ellie lets Imogen know what William is thinking. It’s that sort of understanding that elevates this set beyond the norms. I think (though can’t be sure) that the beats are continuous and that the songs of highest quality merge into one. I recognise some but not all; there’s a new album out in June that’ll surely push the genius that is Wovoka Gentle further to the fore. I am dazzled again.

This is where it’s at.