Thursday, 22 July 2010

Shaun Sexton

It's been busy around here, and I've been neglecting the blogging, to the disappointment of my many followers and friends. There's always plenty to write about, what with the endlessly funny side of family life, a new part-time dream job, diabetes progress, summer fun and frolics, Tour de France cheats and liars, radical homemaking and urban homesteading, Frank's Unschooling, and the build-up to a possible Big Swifty performance at Colchester Free Festival on Saturday 18 September. All of which, more later.

But for today it was relaxation, and a late trip to town. Strolling down North Hill we saw the lights on in St Peter's Church, the garrison's adopted town centre church. We popped in, and it's always a cool, dark, peaceful haven, especially when there's a hot, brilliant sun, and loads of snarled-up traffic outside.

Glancing at some papers splayed on the desk we found out about a service earlier that day for Shaun Sexton. He had been in the town's 3rd Batallion Parachute Regiment, but had been working in Afghanistan as a private security guard, at the office of aid contractor Development Alternatives. He had died on 2 July during a Taliban raid. The Thanksgiving Service programme had its formal sections, but it was interspersed with music, presumably liked by Shaun. He had Luther Vandross, Snow Patrol and Robbie Williams. I didn't know Shaun, but I made a little silent prayer for him.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Another feast for the ears - Nat and the Doomed

Though a non believer, I love going to church. Especially if it's a rarely open historic church, with live music, and it's hot outside. The food and drink festival in Castle Park (the largest in the UK) was calling, but the sun was roasting hot, and do I really need to eat even more pork pies, however tasty they are? (Rhetorical question, I don't need an answer.)

But the menu at the church was a smorgasbord of musical ideas and traditions that looked promising on the event's facebook page, and was served up to my delectation. First off was Nathaniel Mann, "animateddog sings... songs that will stamp, spit and sweetly weave their way into your body" mainly solo singing, sometimes with a zither (?) accompaniment. His powerful voice filled and reverbated within the ancient stone church. (And they don't get much older - re-used Roman tiles and stonework, possibly a Saxon building, mostly Norman, with lots of 14th century work to replace many of the Norman openings.) His musical themes went way back and deep, his expression pulling at the audience's feelings.

Later in his split set he bowed his instrument, accompanied by a source of white noise, and narrating a text that couldn't be followed but held one's attention with snatches that could be comprehended. It took me back to the Velvet Underground's "Black Angel's Death Song" by Lou Reed and John Cale. And Nathaniel did this all on his own. Marvellous.

The Doomed Bird of Providence were described as "Anglo-Australian folk tales of death, doom and destruction". The band's Aussie leader on vocals and accordian rasped out an array of folk style songs and shanties from the antipodes, and much closer to home (one about the Red Barn murder up the road at Polstead), accompanied by a more local fourpiece. A very engaging set of bloodthirsty tales, with an authenticity that reminded me of the earnest side of The Waterboys, but running on Foster's rather than Guiness.

The final act was Hypnotique, promising "Satire, storytelling and world-class theremin playing - as seen on James May's 20th Century and The Paul O' Grady Show". Given that the spirit of the programme was principally acoustic, it was a challenge for an electronica performer to serve up their dish in a less wired format. A slight looking woman filled the space with massive sound as she built up layers of sonics. A commitment at home meant that I missed much of her set, but I enjoyed what I saw and heard.

Having recently watched the depressing spectacle on BBC4 tv, of Stevie Winwood and Eric Clapton pouring out the same old stuff, it was so refreshing to attend live music played by people looking to challenge themselves and the audience, people who are prepared to explore in different directions rather than settle for the easier paths of popular music. I would love to see any of these artists again. Many thanks to all who put on the show, and performed at St Martins, literally the coolest venue in town. (And to Nat, if you ever read this "Crikey Weekly")


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