Tuesday 16 February 2010

tUnE-yArDs, Trash Kit, Think About Life at Cargo 15th February 2010

tUnE-yArDs pic by Anika :)

The crowd is nonplussed. This is not in the script. They don’t know how to react.

In front of the uncertain masses, Martin Cesar of Canadian outfit Think About Life is exhorting the band through an energetic set of exhilarating post pop soul. The band are bouncing around, doing silly synchronised dance routines and generally blasting out enough raw funky power to run a funky power station.

I’m bobbing about like a cork in the ocean. This is a truly fantastic performance. Bassist Caila is waving her arms like a toddler wanting to be picked up by its mum. The crowd are clearly enjoying it, but are too scared to move unless they muss their hair. And like, ‘fun’ is soooo uncool.

Think About Life refer to themselves almost throughout as ‘Hootie and the Blowfish’, a reference that eludes many of those present. They end with a song that is if possible even more uproarious and upbeat than before and are joined by Merrill Garbus. It is only when the band thank her as she leaves the stage that the penny drops and the audience wake up and start whooping. I shake my head in sad disbelief. On this evidence, every cliché about Shoreditch crowds is true.

If Think About Life are too confusing for the average scenester, then they are on much safer and familiar ground with Trash Kit. These three girls are liberally daubed with Maori-style face paint and musically do not wander very far from a carefully prescribed area where Point A represents The Slits and Point B is indicated by The Raincoats.

Not that they are any the worse for this. They are hugely enjoyable, and Cargo rings to their infectious afro-beat rhythms and easy banter. Trash Kit don’t move music forward an inch, but they are happy and entertaining, both commodities that are in short supply. The crowd eyes itself and decides that it likes Trash Kit.

And then the main attraction.

With a black stripe painted across her face, a small drum kit and what appears to be a large ukulele, we are treated to a set from Merrill Garbus aka Tune-Yards. Or more correctly tUnE-yArDs, as these things are important.

Accompanied by a dead-pan bassist, Garbus bangs at her drum and scratches at her uke, feeding these elements through a series of electronic loops until it sounds as though there is a whole bunch of players up there.

And then there is her voice, which is as unexpected as it is unique. If you close your eyes you would think that you are variously listening to either an African warrior, the All-Blacks performing a haka, or an old Delta-blues shouter. Occasionally she switches to a more recognisably female voice. It is an incredible range of sound – in other times this glossolalia would have had her burned as a witch.

The audience response is hysterical and indiscriminate. They cry out through the quiet bits, they cat-call, they are so much in love that their outpourings of affection are completely out of synch with events on stage – not because the band are not worthy of the adulation, because they certainly are- but because this reaction is so unfocussed.

There’s no ‘too cool for school’ now. The whole joint is in motion, Garbus roars, hollers, makes noises like a hillbilly calling a pig. Cargo rocks to the sound of the Kalahari and New Orleans and God knows what. It is one of the most impressive and uncategorisable performances that I have ever seen.

What an evening! I scamper off happily with my new Think About Life CD and my head spinning with the sheer gleeful madcap bonkersness of the magnificent Merrill Garbus.

1 comment:

Keith Knight said...

Trash Kittens rather than Trash Kit I think?