Sunday, 13 June 2010

Fiddler on the roof and under water

There's a quivering wreck in Prettygate this week and his name is Big Swifty. He's up on the summer house roof applying bitumen sealant swishing with a sticky mop, and laying roofing felt slashing around with a Stanley knife. But it's a 30 degree slope and the temperature feels like 30 degrees, so he's sinking into the roofing felt unless he keeps dancing around, continually moving his formerly athletic figure to get the job done, whilst staying rigidly still to avoid falling off the roof. A sweat inducing tense session.

For no apparent reason, one's mind drifts away to appropriate soundtracks to the episodes of one's life, and everyone's favourite "Fiddler on the Roof" seemed appropriate, but "If I were a rich man" I would have paid someone else to do the job.

Then it's Friday night and I'm down the docks for a gig on the Hythe Lightship, where I catch a fiddler underwater. On the bill are five acts, three of them from the individual members of Dead Rat Orchestra. My late arrival meant that I missed two of the three Rats, but still had a splendid evening, with Daniel Merrill and the Flowers of Evil playing an engaging set.

Descending to the ship's engine room, we were confronted with Daniel's own backing recording, and a bunch of people in the audience wondering what was going to happen next. Then Daniel appeared in the spotlight from between items of machinery, pipes and girders. I don't know where Daniel gets his musicial ideas from but it reminded me of an astonishing take on the output of people like Eric Satie, Velvet Underground, Kurt Weill, Stranglers, Paganini, Terry Riley, Bela Bartok and folk, circus and gothic music from eastern Europe and Russia.

Very rich fare indeed, and immensely stimulating and entertaining as Daniel played his violin accompaniment to it all. Again, a wide range of pace and style; sometimes lyrical, sometimes noise, sometimes both at once. Visually interesting, and spiced up by the amazing acoustic of this unusual concert space. Imagine the sound bouncing around in a 7m square steel box, 3m deep; with the tide rising up the outside of the wall of the room, so that Daniel and the audience were underwater by the end of the set.

A fascinating musical set, a dry summerhouse, and the end of a good week. Fiddlers on the roof and underwater rool OK? Catch Daniel when you can.......


  1. Ha - lovely post Mr Swifty.

    Nice to know you're nifty on the roof too even if you're not on the fiddle. As a sometime fellow felt roof mender - and a heftily overweight one at that - I can completely sympathise and empathise with your fears on falling off or through a steeply pitching felt roof.

    Glad you made it ok.


    There are few people who blog as eloquently as Big Swifty (aka Andrew Budd), a thoroughly engaging character I have come across recently through several concerts with the dead rats. He has written a little review of the recent lightship gig in Colchester, an edit of which follows...
    (Big Swifty note: see Daniel's band's Facebook group for more information. And he describes his musical genre as "Neo decadent salon violin". Marvellous.)



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