The Perfect Transcription (Live Spacemen 3 & Spiritualized tribute) (feat. Jared Phillips & Band / Courtney / Proof of Ghosts / Panamarama / Hollowphonic / Make Joy Cry / The Auras / Drunk Woman with Hamilton Trading Company)
The Piston. Saturday, December 4, 2010.
Although the immediate draw for this show was a bill stacked deep with talent, this was more than just a tribute show. Recently diagnosed with cancer, Natty Brooker — original drummer for Spacemen 3 and designer of a couple iconic album covers (for S3's Recurring as well as Spiritualized's Lazer Guided Melodies) — was being helped not only with the financial burden of his illness but also with a show of support. And thus this show was being streamed live to him over the internet as the back room of The Piston was crammed full of musicians and crowd in a marathon of a show.
N.B. With sixteen mini-sets on tap, I'm going to try and be as brief as possible here. And with so many bands and songs to keep track of, it's almost certain that I've omitted or mixed something up below. Please feel free to pass along any corrections, or any additional info on any of the acts that I found only limited information about.
Hitting the stage first at about twenty past nine was Jared Phillips & Band. This was, apparently, a new unit with no name yet. I didn't see a lot of info on Phillips — feel free to pass along anything further you have on who these guys were. The quartet lead the night off drawing from Spiritualized's catalogue, starting with "Shine a Light", which segued into a bit of "All Of My Tears" — this fell into the languid side of the musical divide before things picked up for the more aggressive "You Lie You Cheat".
Next up was another possibly-new, seemingly un-named unit. I have Courtney written down, but I'm not sure if that's a mere placeholder, or the name of the vocalist/keyboardist who was flanked by a pair of guitarists.1 It was mentioned this featured members of Hollowphonic and Fjord Rowboat.
With the keyb and laptop, this group brought something different to the table, with a zworping Wendy Carlos-esque synth sound and drum machine beats to back "Big City". That segued into "Walkin' with Jesus" that was more straight-ahead guitar rockin'.
After Steve Heyerdahl (generally a.k.a. Steve Shoe, and known as one of the city's foremost live sound techs) got set up with Proof of Ghosts, the trio launched into "Walkin' with Jesus".2 There was just a single floor tom and tambourine backing Heyerdahl's guitar, giving the set a raw, pummelling vibe — even more so when he kicked in a drum machine on top of that. It took a moment to get the sound right but it was pretty sweet once it got going.
I'm not sure whether Panamarama is an actual band or just something purpose-built for this show to give Matt Collins a chance to get a couple songs in. In a two-guitar plus drums setup, he tackled the genteel Lou Reed tribute "Ode to Street Hassle", then tore it open with a tasty, stretched-out version of "Cop Shoot Cop".
Unlike a lot of the other bands playing, Hollowphonic (formed in the late '90's, and back after a hiatus during the middle of the last decade) didn't need any cheatsheets to help them with chords or lyrics. A basic three-piece, they did a lot with a guit/bass/drums setup, knowing when to build up to a wall of feedback and when to pull back with restraint. They offered up a double-shot of Jason Pierce, playing "Lord Can You Hear Me" and "Sometimes", getting on and off the stage in ten efficient minutes.
Listen to a track from this set here.
Make Joy Cry — vets from Hamilton, as far as I can dig up — were another drummerless trio with two guitars and bass. With one set of pedals not working, the band plowed ahead without them, but this was still no lack of effects on the guitar sounds. Doing a pair from the second side of Lazer Guided Melodies, this was a bit unstructured and drifty, but not unpleasantly so. And not, given the source, inappropriate.
The Auras were the youngest of all the night's bands, looking like a cross between muppet babies and a hippie delegation. Unlike many of the lean-and-mean veteran sides, they came with six members and a whole lot of gear, making for a longer switchover — but we can always admire the youthful refusal to aim lower. Somewhat in line with their necklaces and headbands — a look carefully crafted to declare, "I am a golden god!" — they seemed to be channelling The Doors more than Spacemen 3 as they led off with a boogie-fied version of "Fixin' to Die".
On seeing them set up I was, admittedly, not expecting as much from them, but they were proficient. Or perhaps we could say proficient but not spirited — like a shiny pair of shoes that hasn't been broken in yet. With youthful abandon, they went on a bit beyond what they needed to, their first song going eleven minutes, followed by a more concise take on S3's "Bo Diddley Jam" that hit the nail on the head much more squarely. That closed things out with more promise, and a good reminder not to let myself get bogged down in superficial first impressions.
Drunk Woman came as a deluxe sort of custom-combo group, amalgamated with the Hamilton Trading Company as well as Jay Share-It from The Pow Wows. Keith Hamilton brought six members of his choir along and all the voices were put to use to tackle the elegant waltz of "Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space". Most of the night's bands had taken from the source material the notion of the psych-drenched guitar freakout, but here the band was referencing the more ornate direction that Spiritualized went in. After that, they took it up from those genteel vibes with the more raucous "Come Together", which surged in a nicely menacing way.
Listen to a track from this set here.
And this is just the first half of the night! Part two can be found here.
1 "Can I have more delay on the vocal?" asked the singer to the sound tech — the first of several such requests throughout the night and a reminder of one of my most vivid personal Spacemen 3-related memories: seeing a slightly-surreal set from Spectrum at the 2007 V-Fest, of which — mostly for my own amusement — I reproduce these contemporaneous notes:
A strange experience, as much as a good show. Playing the third stage at V-Fest, up against Interpol and Björk, there were maybe a dozen people lingering around as the 8:20 showtime approached, and then crept by, with no action on stage. (Which was actually against the rule at V-Fest — despite everything else, things were pretty much on schedule this year.) I helped a couple stoner guys move a picnic table to a more optimal viewing area in front of the stage. Figuring that the self-selected handful waiting around must've had something in common against the ten thousand over by the main stage, I attempted conversation with a woman sitting nearby and entirely failed to hit it off. In the background, an angry Limey was in negotiation via cellphone — presumably the tour manager unhappy with some element of how things were going down. Whether this was the cause of the delay or an effect I was unable to ascertain.
Well past nine, the duo hit the stage. Pete Kember, buttoned up with a gleam in his eye to accompany his hale and hearty glow, looked more like a trainspotting highlands hiking enthusiast than a drug-addled rock'n'roller. Flicking on keyboards, the pair brought a serious wall of drone, punctuated by a series of fussy demands to the soundman: "I must have exactly 300 milliseconds of delay on my vocals!" and giving an abbreviated performance of four songs spanning maybe twenty minutes. Far too brief, but what they played was pretty great, and sustained me as we left on the ferry, beating the mainstage crowd off the Island.
2 J., who had joined me for the earlier part of this night, leaned over to ask me, "What's the over/under on that one?" But the back-to-back versions would, in fact, be it for that one for the night.