Tuesday 13 December 2011

Duchess Says, o F F Love and WE at CAMP Basement - 12 December 2011

Duchess Says photo by Tim Griffin

I’m lying flat on my back on the floor of CAMP Basement. A wild-eyed girl, her hair whipping wildly, straddles my chest and pushes my head down into the concrete.
How did it come to this…my mind drifts off…

…it’s a desolate wet and windy night outside. The streets are largely deserted. Down here in the venue a very few intrepid souls are about to be taken on a wild ride. Nothing is straightforward, even from the beginning.

WE are four in number.
WE wear Perspex blocks to mask identity.
WE stand shoulder to shoulder, not on stage but in front of it.
WE are interchangeable, in appearance and in sex.
WE are un-Google-able.
WE prod keyboards and hit drum pads.
WE intone vocals in unison.WE play songs that all start “We…”
“WE can help you.”
“WE want to hold your hand.”
WE just played a robotic Beatles cover.
“WE will always love you.”
WE finish with another brilliant cover version.
“WE kissed a girl and WE liked it.
-WE liked it.”

We like it.

WE are poorly focussed

After WE have gone, things start to get stranger still.

A video projection shows slowed down and silent images of dancers. An audience cheers noiselessly. You can’t tell whether they approve or are angry. A minimal beat starts up.

A figure shambles forward, his face swathed in cloth, like Rorschach from Watchmen. This is o F F Love and he yearns for us.

He sways and sings, his voice eerily and utterly distorted and non-human. It is slow and high and mournful. It is somehow ineffably sad and beautiful.

He moves among the crowd, approaching girls and imploring “Would You Dance If I Asked You To Dance?” They don’t.

Crestfallen, he drifts away, the projection now showing an image of himself, alone and still pleading.

He comes forward again, offering roses. Rejected once more, he moves off, solitary and inconsolable.

It’s like watching a species go extinct in front of you.

Headliners Duchess Says take to the stage and the world goes crazy.

…keyboards and bass pound remorselessly in a whirling ‘Space Ritual’ jam...the room spins…this is the gospel of the Church of Budgerigars, the cult whose acolytes are solely found within the members of this band…

…Out to convert us is saucer-eyed mistress of misrule Annie-Claude Deschênes. She rarely speaks except in a series of staccato yelps and screams. She gesticulates both intricately and weirdly, her eyes often staring into space or rolled back in their sockets completely…

…she fights with the audience, dragging people to the floor. She rips the clothing off anyone who is wearing anything that is still buttoned up. She makes us all sit on the ground and create a human arch of arms and legs through which she crawls…

…a nervous punter offers her one of o F F Love’s roses. Annie-Claude eats it.

The music is as tumultuous and out of control as the performance. Ismael Trembley pressing down on his keyboards as though trying to prevent them from leaving gravity behind. You can’t tell where the band ends and the crowd begins.

Spying the unattended bar at the back of the venue, Annie-Claude runs behind it. The band strike up new anthem ‘Time To Reiterate’, with their singer using the bar as a impromptu pulpit, with her on one side and her disciples on the other. She snaffles a bottle of rum and pours shots for everyone. The barman stands bemused.

We are then led Pied Piper style back across the room for a triumphant and riotous version of ‘Black Flag’.

We’re battered, bruised, amazed, delighted and exulted. WE were great, o F F Love was moving and Duchess Says like Armageddon. What a night!

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