Shimura Curves

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Secret Folk Shame

Last night, Frances and I went to see John & Jon at the Spitz.

Sometimes I feel like folk music is my secret shame, because even my mother begs me "Please don't get into folk music - it was your father's ruin!" However, I spent much of my youth going to the Eighth Step Coffee House and Cafe Lena. This wasn't necessarily by choice - my dad did sound for most of the local folk gigs and festivals, so I'd end up tagging along, sometimes though boredom, more often through wanting a ride home after the local punk rock nightclub had finished.

But still, there was something quite appealing to it, though I'd never have admitted that as a 15 year old Jesus and Mary Chain freak. I loved the participatory nature of the gigs, the DIY aspect - especially at festivals like the Adirondack Folk/Gospel Festival, where a good part of the day would be spent in workshops learning things like shape note harmony. (Lessons which have stayed with me to this day.) I wasn't keen on the "ooh, I'm so sensitive" singer-songwriter type of folkies, but I loved the political ferment, the blood-and-guts sex and death imagery, the "folk tradition" of reinventing meaning of traditional songs for your own generation, and most of all the stomping barndance energy of it.

So it's great to be rediscovering this music as an adult. So I have made a pact with Frances to go and search out more of it, maybe even go to a Morris Dancing Festival!

Anyway, J&J were brilliant. From the records, I was expecting them to be a lot more sparse and minimalist than Bellowhead, but it's amazing the joyful noise that just the two of them manage to kick out. Jon (tall, lanky, somewhat earnest) fiddles his heart out, sings, and stomps on this amazing hollow stomp-box* thing which booms like a bass drum. John (shorter, slightly plump, cheeky grin) whirls about between Melodeon and Concertina and various other squeezeboxes, and adds the spot of harmony vocals.

Despite their exhortations about songs being "reels" and "jigs" and "waltzes" there was nowhere to dance. However, Frances was pleasantly surprised by the body count - we'd had at least three gruesome deaths before we even finished our real ale! There was stomping and singing along - though it turned out that the audience knew the words to "Prickle-Eye Bush" better than the band at this point!

*Yes, you know me, always on about the stomp-boxes!


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