Saturday, September 06, 2008

Rose McDowall / Gemma Quarterman @ The Sound Bar, Wednesday 3rd September 2008

It's another dull, damp evening. I'm sitting in Wetherspoon's finishing off a rather delightful pint of Old Rosie (surely trampdom beckons?). It's halfway through the working week. It's officially 'autumn'. I'm 38. I mention all this purely to give you a vague idea of my mood this evening. Not depressed. That never gets you anywhere. Just a little reflective. The kind of 'staring through the window looking at all the people scurrying past trying to get somewhere...anywhere...other than where they are now and wondering what their lives are all about' kind of reflective. It's a perfect Gemma Quarterman mood. I've been watching her now, on and off, for a year or so. She's always had a great voice. At first, some months back, a little nervous perhaps. Not wanting to fully let go. But now...anyone who saw her perform Hush at The Moseley Folk Festival must surely have gone away thinking they'd seen something special. Tonight, despite a few minor sound problems, she did it again. It's that voice, the emotion, the songs (all self penned and three of which you can hear on her My Space - Crosses, Tangerine Sun and Hush)...she's one of the few artists around right now who I could watch over and over and over again. Stuff The Sound Bar (in the very nicest way of course), get Gemma in The Glee Club...the Town Hall...fuck it...The Symphony Hall. She's ready.

Next up Rose McDowall. Being a very old man I remember Rose McDowall in her previous life as 50% of synth pop girl band Strawberry Switchblade. They had a rather fine hit in 1984 entitled Since Yesterday (you can see it here). That, as far as I knew, was that. However it transpires that Rose has been guesting with all manner of folk including Coil, Curent 93, Psychic TV, Nurse With a Wound...that ain't a bad CV. Granted, it's a slightly scary, out there kinda CV...but it ain't bad at all. Aside from Psychic TV I have only a passing knowledge of the other bands but I think it's fair to call them 'experimental'. This is a good thing. Given Rose's origins (pure pop) it's also a little surprising. So, with a limited knowledge of the last quarter century of Rose's life and works I had no real idea of what to expect. The first surprise was the size of her band. I'd kind of expected just Rose and a guitar but there was a violin, one of those skeletol cello thingies, two backing guitarists and a drummer. Musically it's a kind of goth folk, which ticks both boxes for me. Again the sound was a little off in places (I thinks there was a dodgy lead somewhere), which was a tad distracting. Rose has a quite a gentle, faraway voice too that took me a couple of tracks to get into but it gradually crept into my brain and, with the strings doing the biz too, I found myself drifting into a sort of reverie. A sublime take on the Velvet Underground track 'Sunday Morning' and a song with Ice in the title (damn my feeble memory) were particular highlights. Ending the show with a heartbreaking version of Since Yesterday (transformed from its poppy younger self into a more funereal lament) I wished that it could have started all over again. Suffice to say that I'll be investigating that back catalogue now...which, given the her collaborations, could be a long job. Any tips would be welcomed.


Anonymous said...

Now that you know where we are can you add us to your venues list, as we are one of th most active live venues in Brum with around 4 gigs a week for all tastes.

The Baron said...

No problem 'anonymous'. Consider it done.

jão da silva said...

I guess you were very young to actually know a lot about McDoall's artistic career - but be not frightened, because all the "experimental" bands ( as you call them) where Rose has taken part made the (dark) sun shine in western popular music. Here's in memory of Peter "Sleazy" Christopherson and Jeff "Jhonn" "Balance", and all hail Douglas, Boyd and Tibet. Ah, and Sibelius for the Since Yesterday inspiration!

The Baron said...

Cheers for the comment. I've been investigating some of Jhonn and Sleazy's stuff too. Excellent! All fear now banished!