Two-year-olds are generally disgusting balls of drool, soft squidgy bones and inarticulate, piercing screams. A toddler’s birthday party is a backdoor gateway to the inferno, all PTSD parents and desperate damage limitation – as tiny malevolent creatures size each other up and smoosh brightly coloured cake into expensive surfaces.
There are exceptions to the terrible rule, as I can readily attest after attending the second birthday celebrations of the outstanding blog, radio show and general compendium of wonders Dig That Treasure. It took place at the Courtyard Theatre in Hoxton on Wednesday 19 August and like all the best parties it managed to navigate disparate, superficially tangled threads into something odd, rich and compulsively satisfying – qualities that will already be familiar to regular readers and listeners of the blog/show itself.
Will Hall – curator, complier and trenchant enthusiast behind Dig That Treasure – has a highly developed sense and scent for the unheard, unseen gem lying a few inches or meters below the wide-screen vastness of the internet.
My gratitude will always be extended for his unearthing of the mysterious Warfield Spillers and their wonderful – perhaps only – tune: the new wave tinged, crackled soul oddity Daddy’s Little Girl. On the evidence of Wednesday night, Will’s also an adept hand at putting together a compelling live show.
The lineup (headlined by acclaimed Ethiopian group Krar Collective found able support from the frantic ideas-laden prodigy Kiran Leonard and multilayered, densely-looping influence-sponge Jerkcurb) had enough logic to chime together without resting complacently on its elbows.
Every time a music journalist uses ‘eclectic’ as a shorthand for what he/she can’t be arsed to describe, a thousand others throw their laptops into the incinerator. It’s still a bloody useful prop, but I’ll just leave it’s clammy death grip implied and say instead that it’s pretty difficult to describe why South East London artist Jerkcurb (aka Jacob Read), who opens the night, makes my shoulders tingle.
Jerkcurb‘s Vini Reilly reverb and intricate backing tracks invite accusations of ambience, but it’s difficult to make the accusation stick, particularly when he does such a fine line in disarmingly surreal and occasionally sinister lyrical flourishes. The tracks Midnight Snack and Last Night on Earth sound like sleeper hits in a sepia dreamscape of a set brimming with muscular whimsy. Possibly my favourite moment of the evening comes courtesy of the sound guy, whose “He doesn’t even go here!” (crowbarred Mean Girls reference) response to a request to turn down the stage lights: “I’m only the bloody soundman” acts as a fitting ellipsis between songs.
Kiran Leonard has a reputation for being freakishly precocious or, as a Pitchfork review so elegantly put it, “freakishly savantish”. The latter may, or may not, be true and may, or may not, be quite offensive but the range of his ideas and talent are not in dispute. His set was rather more tender, and rather less manic, than I expected. Accompanied just by guitar and breathy, bar-breaking lyrics his performance had Billy Braggish undertones with a hint of an inflamed kidney – though the heart is most definitely in the right place. Working People, a lovely, moving and angry elegy, is a particular standout.
Headliners Krar Collective shifted the evening into a different gear with their rich, highly allusive Ethiopian stylings. After standing for a solid fifteen minutes in slack-jawed silence, I stopped trying to work out how Temesgen Zeleke, the man behind the eponymous Krar (a six stringed Ethiopian lyre), was managing to produce an dauntingly complex array of riffs, melodies and rhythmic phrasing. I instead got on with the proper business of lead-limbed Dad Dancing to the dense percussion and Genet Assefa’s frantic vocals, although my – always diluted – courage levels stopped me from joining other audience members on the stage for a frantic closing dance.
Guest gig review by Francisco Garcia-Ferrera
You can read Will Hall‘s own guest posts for Fresh On The Net here:
An Invitation to Dig That Treasure (Aug 2013)
Ethiopian Popular Music (May 2014)
See Mixcloud for Dig That Treasure’s shows on Resonance FM – and you’ll find updates on obscure releases, lost demos, alternate versions and underrated new releases posted at digthattreasure.blogspot.co.uk