Last Night at the Imaginary Band Tent

[courtesy of my wife’s nephew, I present to you the following review. See here for context.]

The Imaginary Band Tent is on the furthest field, pitched between two great oaks who’ve seen it all before. Two weeks ago, a solitary bull took morning strolls, afternoon snoozes and evening sulks along this grass. The bovine struts may still be seen, but the cow himself has gone, exiled to some lonely shed, with a couple of burger baps for headphones.

First up: Leopard Number, a new band from northern climes; heavy jowled and fuzzy of beard, playing slow, melodic dirges that erupt, if you wait long enough, into something that goes beyond noise; something that enters your body through the soles of your feet and shakes your internal organs into a soft jelly. You are a vibrating atom. You are the ship’s mast in the centre of an unholy storm. You couldn’t imagine silence, however hard you tried. The rumbling, thudding and thumping is all. And then, almost without noticing, the song is over – and half a dozen lazy-looking men in their thirties take an uncertain bow. You clap with your eyes. You are in no state to judge whether you enjoyed yourself or not.

Next up: Frippery Beads, playing what can’t only (but must) be described as ‘skittish electronic jazz-dance’. How many in the band? I can’t rightly say. Two of the members are so slim they might be halves of the same man, split apart by the the necessity of the music. No one can stay on any instrument for too long: one man  moves from a saxophone to a xylophone, from a sampler to a tin drum, from a pan pipe to a pipe organ. I feel like a thousand hummingbirds are chirping in my ear. It isn’t unpleasant – at least, not until it is.

Thank God, therefore, for Dogless Venus: a rather more languid outfit. They will never erupt into a lava flow of noise, however long you wait. Everyone they do, it seems, is slow: barely even awake at times. The face of Sophie, the singer, is painted like a clown by Picasso. Her dress reminds one of a black labrador come in from a rainstorm. She coughs lazily into the microphone and weaves a morbid, melancholy tale or two, drawing always to the same, wonderfully uncertain close. If she hears the cheers she doesn’t show it. Was she ever there at all?

Headlining this evening’s entertainment are Seven Uncles. Call that rampant irony: the band consists of four women and a  man (who is not, by my reckoning, anyone’s uncle). What do they play? Whatever it is, it always becomes something else. It starts like my worst nightmare: countryfied and bland – fierce as a feather duster. Before I know it I’m singing along. Such is the majesty of Seven Uncles. They have me despite myself. They know the magic of music. They call it a hook, that cruel musical phrase that refuses to take the first exit and lingers, meanly, in the mind for ever more. It is well named. Harmonies from those three girls will never find their way out of my head. They are so many cockles stuck to my rock. Seven Uncles will be with me till I die. Bless their jangly guitars, tinkling pianos and, from what I could tell on the second row, their cotton socks too.

[My wife suggests this should become a series. I’m not sure I approve…]

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