And despite having a whole set of boss songs with incredibly catchy hooks to proffer, the one thing that smacks you right between the eyes is the intense quality of their live sound. It’s all about the sound.
We arrive too early, typically the sign saying “doors at 8” doesn’t mean that the doors will be at 8. Peering through the window, Spilt Milk are still sound-checking and there are flight cases littering the floor. We stand around and chat to Co-Editor Damian who’s going to the main hall to watch Tom McCrae. The Patronaat and its café are suddenly the scene of many a good gig – Swans, Crime & The City Solution, Gallon Drunk… what’s going on?
Once in, we grab a coffee and prepare to watch the bands. The deejay does his best to misinterpret the slightly studious, laid back mood by playing some breezy and “with it” pop tunes. Hell, Spilt Milk deal in a sort of home grown, Velvetsy folk, and Moon Duo won’t be digging all these clean and perky sounds, surely? Soon the Milk shuffle on the stage and begin the evening’s entertainment in somewhat subdued mood: it’s apparent that something’s not clicking. Maybe they are more accustomed to a more carefree, less attentive crowd. They are going down well - it’s not as if the gig is a bad one, it never is as they are competent musicians and a very fine band overall - but there’s no real kick on. They do look unhappy with the sound or something; as things feel a bit frosty between band and audience. Not the best thing to encounter when you’re a band that often relies on playing off the cuff. After a while there’s a shift, a click into a gear: mainly when they drop the tempo and allow Brenda’s rich alto to inform their quieter tracks. Brenda’s now able to start laying down the main sweep of the narrative and Mark, pixie-like as ever, starts to add counterpoints. Mark adds a few jokes, and things seem to thaw out pleasantly. A ringing version of Dylan’s All The Wild Horses does the job and has a number of serious types looking to buy their splendid 10” EP. Finally.
Then a long pause until Moon Duo come out – all two of them - and start unobtrusively, almost studiously, to krank up their noise. They don’t open the gig with any kind of statement of intent; it’s as if they use a few tracks to get them in the mood, and get their flowing locks out of their faces: two of their most infectious tracks, Runaround and Sleepwalker, are curtailed quickly, cast aside almost brutally, like afterthoughts.
And despite having a whole set of boss songs with incredibly catchy hooks to proffer, the one thing that smacks you right between the eyes is the intense quality of their live sound. It’s all about the sound. A sound, presented as a sound: one that’s nigh on impossible to break down. This thick and multi-layered unguent goo of noise, beholden to reverb, fuzz and delay pedals is what we get thr whole gig through: after a while people can’t handle it, going to the back and back again to the front, almost in a relay. The whole thing is overpowering, stuff like I Can See, or I Been Gone are huge sensual drones pulsating with some venal and sapping energy, atmosphere vampires, sucking the vocals low down into the mix. Whilst dancing is attempted the crushing weight of this kind of music means that only a few keep it up.
It’s also a Monday night; somehow gigs always feel that little bit more laid back on a Monday in Holland… and who need s to move when the keyboard throbs darkly, holding down a beat that morphs into some electronic – and stoned - take on the “put-put” sound of a two cylinder car? After a while things get even more wigged out, a couple of brain melting jams that clock in around ten minutes see the audience stand petrified at the assault, staring into the trippy projections on the back wall. Moon Duo are warming up and by contrast the audience is a broken thing, hapless… appreciative for sure, but just whacked out.
My it’s good.
And a quick afterthought. Due to a crushing hangover the day previous (and given it was a school night) I’d decided to stick to the tea. The next day I felt more exhausted and limp than I reckon I would have done if I’d have had a skin full. The power of rock, don’t knock it.