This was a night that Quiet Shoes, Dee-Scripter and myself had been looking forward to for some time. In fact Dee-Scripter had introduced me to Aidan Moffat via Arab Strap some 10 years ago and was my point of inception for becoming a fan. During university I managed to slump into some pretty dark times and it was the sweet nihilistic words of Aidan Moffat who played a part in dragging me through those times and out the other side. I drew from him as an influence when writing poetry for the course and am ashamed to admit that some recordings of what I wrote has me attempting a Scottish accent because it unlocked so much in the way of rhyming and it makes being depressed or down sound really good.
We arrived at the venue and waited a good ten minutes in the rain for Dee to turn up, I like to think that the rain was part of the performance, getting you ready for what was ahead with an ashen sky and soggy skin. A stark contrast to the immaculate and brightly lit interior of the Rough Trade shop / venue. It was a good scope out ready for Psych Fest as we didn’t know much about the venue at all.
What I will conclude is that it’s functional. That’s it really, it has a bar, a seated area and a performance area. I don’t know if it’s because it’s relatively new but the venue itself had no atmosphere, it was sterile and clinical. There was a stage with instruments on it, some speakers, a sound desk area, some folded seats, it was a dark room.. the floor wasn’t sticky, there was no smell, no stickers, no posters, no ambience whatsoever, it was totally blank and flat. The single worst aspect of the entire building those is the door into the venue from the bar. What you don’t want during a sublime gig is to be interrupted by a harsh light every 10/30 seconds with someone absent mindedly walking in shouting ‘oh they’ve started’ or ‘is it this way?’ – this is a consensus that the three of us concluded rather quickly and upon our post-gig earwigging ascertained that it was shared with other audience members.
Setting that aside though, the sound was exceptional, I did think I spied the sound lady from The Old England who is always on form but I may have been wrong (I know Aidan Moffat & RM had their own touring sound person there too).
So, setting aside the issue of the door let’s get to it…
Siobhan Wilson tried to kill me. Armed with a guitar and the softest voice I have heard in a long time she was able to breakdown all external barriers that I have painstakingly erected in an attempt to keep emotion on one side and logic on the other and she broke it all up into pieces and danced around in my chest, commanding me to feel. I couldn’t fight it because it felt incredibly natural, the celtic lilt to her voice, the delicate brushing of the guitar strings coming through plain as day with a snow-like purity, making me think of the old road trips we took to Talybont as a kid, seeing the waterfalls and the ancient forests, it was like mother-nature herself had appeared before us as a singer and with a single, effortless stroke of strings and an equally effortless psiren like vocal mist completely destroyed and re-arranged everything that was known, or will be known.
Would there be any essence of us left as people before the next act take to the stage? Was this some form of beautiful punishment, or just a pure reminder of feelings and experience? Did anyone else feel like that or just me?
Sure you could look at it from a ‘top layer’ perspective and say ohh that’s celtic influenced indie folk or some other labels and words like iridescent but until you experience it for yourself with your own ears and your own vulnerabilities there’s nothing on this earth that will do it justice.
AIDAN MOFFAT & RM HUBBERT
On a number of occasions The Shoracle has told me to listen to the album put out by Aidan Moffat and RM Hubbert but I refused on the grounds that I’d see it / hear it and purchase it on the night of the performance and whilst I nailed two of these, I also forgot to take cash monies so haven’t completed the latter.
The only time I have seen Aidan himself is in the video for Afternoon Soaps (Arab Strap) which goes back a number of years and to re-iterate what he said on the night he was carrying the sexy teacher look off really well in the present. Again though, we’re getting hung up on the wrong aspects of the show… what surprised me the most was how funny he was. I guess having only known his work and nothing outside of that it was never likely that I’d paint a picture of someone so dry and witty as was the man stood in front of me now, but he was, highly entertaining and laugh inducing. Often referring to some of the darker songs as happy. If AM or RM were going to give up music then certainly comedy writing would be a realistic goal for them both.
As to be expected their performance was utterly beautiful and (almost) seamless, with the promise of any ‘fucked up’ songs being replayed at the end. At times it baffled me how such sparse guitar, barely existing drums and unsubstantiated bass notes were capable of creating such a full and thick sound on which Mr Moffat could place his words with lullaby precision. RM’s fingers were dancing so delicately over the strings at times it seemed unpossible that sound was happening, but it was. A word that I’ve used a lot lately (because I only have so many of them and I’m trying to find more) is nuanced which certainly applies here what with all the delicate twinkly bits to listen out for.
It was much like being in a taxi that Mr. Moffat was behind the wheels of, he’s telling you tales of people he has met from all walks of life and whilst you’re listening to these tales of ordinary, damaged individuals you’re looking out of the window, the scenery of which is the music and you’re noticing all these innocuous yet delicate events taking place, a couple hugging, someone helping someone else with their bag, two friends seeing each other in the street. Normal, relatable events that are so easily taken for granted but when there is a commentator sat with you on the outside, looking in (or the inside looking out) you’re drawn to these moments, you notice them and you appreciate them.
And that was it really… we left that sublime show feeling a feeling of blissful emptiness, we’d given ourselves over to the music makers and in exchange they sucked everything out and left us only what they had created. As a result, upon meeting Mr. Moffat I just said something along the lines of ‘I love you you’re great’ like a babbling twat. But y’know, it was his fault.