“What’s a snooman?” “Nothing, man, whas’new with you?”
The original plan for Sunday the 18th was to have an alldayer (of sorts) at The Custard Factory. There was a gig and a boxing card (Tom P’s retrospective writings here and here), together with the market. I thought that’d be at least an early-afternoon-till-chucking-out-time worth. The boxing, alas, sold out in advance (combine that with various gigs of late and it appears that we live in a new-found age of lots of things in Birmingham selling lots of tickets. It feels quite novel), so plans were a-scuppered. Just the evening, then.
A couple of pints in The Old Crown, therefore, before popping over to The Custard Factory’s Medicine Bar at a minute or so before eight. And finding a spot sheltered from the rain and snow. And waiting. And staring at those allowed inside before the doors officially opened and the smug looks on their faces. And memorising them for later retribution.
Ah, don’t worry, y’all are alright. I can never remember faces.
This here was the last gig that Jimmy Jazz was due to play with Mothertrucker. It really felt like the end of an era. Even in spite of amp troubles, their world-class instrumental metalisms were just as ripyourfaceofferiffic as usual. Perhaps more so, with some of the widdlier guitar sounds muted. There was no farewell speech from James. The man went out with dignity. The next time I see them will be my twentieth time, although I have to say it’ll be bizarre without the be-gloved posho and his slanty snare.
It was only after they’d finished that I noticed the new scary lights mounted on the beams further back in the room. Well… they may not be brand new, but I’ve never noticed them before. They were like some sort of robotic club equivalent of concentration camp searchlights, swivelling around seemingly of their own intelligence before illuminating some poor unfortunate’s face with a spotlight. I kept expecting a hail of gunfire or the release of dogs. The way they moved was creepy, too. They knew who they were looking for. Very dystopic.
I’d seen Jesu three times before this. On the first two occasions they were incredibly soulful, although on the third time they seemed a bit cowed by having to play out in the daylight on a big stage. I also thought that their self-titled album was one of the best of recent years, but haven’t found any of their subsequent recorded stuff that I’ve heard to be anywhere near as good. People seem to speak frequently of the great memorable songs from their latter days, but (while not actively disliking anything I’ve heard) I’m yet to hear/feel them. What of this live set, then? Although I’m not sure I hold with the expression ‘Jumping The Shark’, on the basis of this gig I think I finally have to give in to the mounting evidence and admit that Jesu have indeed hopped over the angry fishy for me. They just didn’t grab me, at all, even when playing older stuff. I know that you can apply this sort of reductionism to any band, but nothing they did really conveyed any feeling to me other than another clanking quasi-industrial rhythm with loud bass, more ethereal guitar floating over the top, and mournful vocals yet again buried low in the mix. I was bored.
In the interests of fairness, I’ll mention that everyone else there seemed to be as rapturously receptive to them as I once was.
It’s a bit of a shame, this. At one point they seemed likely to turn into one of my all-time favourite bands. Ah well.
I left after Jesu. I’d had warning (while Jesu were playing, lets not go mad with thoughts of the way the world could be) that this was gig was going to run on late, and I thought it best not to start what I couldn’t finish in terms of watching Mono (who I’d never heard before anyway). Those lights were scaring me, too. I walked out of the place straight into a vision from a snowglobe paperweighty thing. There had been sundry attempts at snow throughout the day, but only amongst greater volumes of rain. Now it was white over. Very pretty, but I thought it well that I hadn’t left it until later to leave.
“Can you believe it?” asked a bloke walking the other way down Digbeth High Street, amongst the swirling precipitatory deluge.
“Its presence more-or-less forces me to” I replied.
I like his thinking, though. Keep questioning those perceptions, kidda.