Quite how this gig gets off the ground is a mystery to all as some of the members of Gul Night Out don’t seem to be able to plug their instruments in. Jacco has particular problems with a toy microphone, and the keyboard player’s mini casio synth is dwarfed by the table it rests on.
It’s very cold in Holland – people were skating on the Prinsengracht in Amsterdam, (where we’ve just returned from, having spent a very pleasant couple of hours in legendary synth pilot Adi Newton’s company at the opening for DVAtion), and Incendiary wasn’t cheered much by the prospect of standing in a squat on Leiden’s Aalmarkt for a few hours or so watching a band that are “famous” for being disliked by pretty much everyone I know. Oh well, the support sound interesting… Drie Dieren (Three Animals) is a new Leiden act. Let’s just pop down for an hour then, see what they’re about. And of course Gul Night Out is always fun.
I get there to see SUB071’s Marcel talking to Leon from the Late, Great Julie Mittens. Turns out that Leon – who seemed unusually excited - is in Drie Dieren so at least there’s going to be some good vibes from this enterprise. After a while the room (an old shop front) fills up considerably. The Mittens always had a good following so Leon’s involvement will have something to do with this but both Marcel and I say to each other that we’ve never seen any of these people before and it’s not as if Leiden’s a metropolis teeming with underground Heads… Who are all these alternative dudes? A slightly glassy eyed Jacco from Gul Night Out approaches. Jacco is endearingly eccentric and (if he will pardon the expression) built like a brick shit house so his offer of the worst beer known to man (Schutters) is accepted. It’s free; I’m not as cold as I thought, I am being proffered free alcohol and Drie Dieren is about to fire up.
The Dutch do have a knack for stating the obvious. Leiden’s members of “Three Animals” came onstage as animals: a giant orange rabbit, leopard and elephant if you must know. I have to say that the spectacle didn’t feel surreal or special or jokey at all. That’s what they were and that’s what you were going to get. The band’s music was instrumental in the main, based on various elements but mostly moulded from a fair dollop of postrock – Tortoise style – also nodding towards the instrumental stuff that’s coming out of Leeds at the moment on Brew Records, sort of solid, patient and structured. Given Leon’s energetic, tessellate drumming style Incendiary imagined there was also an element of the jazzy rock that the Soft Machine played around with on “4”. Someone had also been taking some of Van der Graaf Generator’s work on board too, as there was a marked hippy-dreamy quality to the set at times. And there was even a moment during one of the long, drawn out pieces where they copied almost note for note Amon Düül 2’s Dehypnotised Toothpaste from the 1972 Live In London LP, but there again it was cold and I was drinking the worst beer in the world, a brew that does have strong hallucinogenic properties. I must say that I thought the most effective track was the opener which was built round a sort of “steel guitar” riff that had a very appealing underpowered quality to it, and allowed more space and freedom into the music’s core. At times the other stuff did seem a bit flabby in parts but they were hauled back for three encores and we have to say they sounded pretty damn promising.
After this there is mild confusion as the tiny stage is somehow deconstructed, Jacco getting in everyone’s way (a door behind the stage – which used to lead to the old shop’s stock room is constantly opened by various Gul members as well as harassed looking arty types carrying leads and cups of tea). Jacco keeps appearing with beer or odds and ends like a tambourine. Or he keeps trying to wire his ipod or Walkman or whatever it is up to the amp and failing. There will be very little disco between acts outside of the odd Iggy Pop track. This evening, it seems that Jacco has lost all knowledge of the art of plugging something in. We get the feeling that Jacco is unusually excited…
The next act is a serious looking lad, all dressed up for a night out in 1947 and a bass player wearing a smog mask. We get four or five poems about living in Holland from the serious lad, the bass player adding dolorous phrasing and additional sonic punctuation, care of his instrument. The night starts to feel like some secret gathering not a rock gig, until Jacco appears through the door behind the stage near the end of the set and tries to add background noises. Then it just becomes mildly chaotic. Respectful cheers for the lad and bass player (it does take guts to come on and read poetry just after an anthropomorphic post rock band) and then it’s time for Gul.
Quite how this gig gets off the ground is a mystery to all as some of the members of Gul Night Out don’t seem to be able to plug their instruments in. Jacco has particular problems with a toy microphone, and the keyboard player’s mini casio synth is dwarfed by the table it rests on. No matter, we begin, Gul’s set being kick started by the same routine, a very decorous lady drummer sometimes being told how and when to play the most basic of drum patterns by Jacco, sometimes starting off on her own and waiting for the band to catch up. The songs are the staples of a Gul set; the one about the neighbours (Wij Zijn de Jongens van de Buurtbeheer) the one about the slow death of Robert Jasper Grootveld, the one about the girl being stolen by Satan and dreadful take on Roy Orbison’s Pretty Woman. Tonight Pretty Woman transformed itself into a Ragnarok for all music ever made, Jacco becoming demented in his howlings - cupping his hands and screaming his cartoon lust at the audience. (The toy mic had lasted about a song until Jacco’s destructive tendencies saw him brain the bass player with it, rendering said mic useless and provoking a mini fight mid song, settled only when the bassist stomped off to cool down)…
Looking back you can justifiably say that this was a very, very confrontational night all round, animal costumes included. At the beginning of the set Jacco had greeted the audience with a salute and the statement “this is war”; during the gig he had stripped off, sat down with his fingers in his ears, smashed his tambourine up and lobbed it at the audience… I’ve mentioned the inter- band fights during the set above; at one point Jacco’s provocations nearly started an open mutiny, the timorous hippy keyboard player being the only one who shrank from the human maelstrom that Jacco had started. He also seemed to be engaged in constant warfare with the door behind the stage, finding the urge to slam it shut irresistible. At times he also decided to spray the worst beer in the world on his audience. It was some display. When it was all over, when the bass player and guitarist had returned, when the second guitarist had finally plugged in, when the keyboard player had calmed down, the audience were left to reflect on what they’d just witnessed.
What a night. Oh, and Gul forgot to sell their new single to anyone. Of such things legends are made.