“I’ll be your mirror” Festival was part of the great “All Tomorrow’s Parties” events which take place in the UK and in the US a few times a year. The idea is to request to one artist/band to be the curator of the festival and make a list of the bands he would like to invite during these three days. The mood is always very relaxed and the events are held in human-sized and friendly places where fans can have a chat with the musicians or other artists as there aren’t only shows but also movie or other arts events. This spring UK event was curated by the excellent band Mogwai.
It had been ages for me since I had seen a band performing live in the UK and the reformation of one of my favorite bands ever and the fact that they were not playing in France gave me a good reason to cross the Channel. The event was held at Alexandra Palace which is an old and beautiful building located in the middle of a nice park and one has to mention as well that the weather was great : only blues skies and temperature around 27/28 °! Two stages : the West Hall (dark, loud, a bit like the Grande Halle de La Vilette in Paris) and the Panorama Room (with daylight, relaxed and with the audience seated on a carpet floor!).
I only attended Sunday session and arrived mid-afternoon to catch latest track from Thee Oh Sees. All concerts I saw later were all nice to watch either for their nice melodies (Canadian folk band Siskiyou, husband and wife synth band Tennis, late-90’s influenced UK band Yuck) or for their pure punk/rock energy (Archers Of Loaf, The Make-Up).
My excellent surprise came from a band I did not know very well called Sleepy Sun. Five guys on stage, they play a kind of melodic psychedelic stoner rock with great guitar solos. The kind of music to listen when in your car and that makes you imagine you are driving in the desert in the US whereas you are on your way to your local hard-discounter to buy water and milk! Excellent band to catch on stage if you can.
But the real thrill was for The Afghan Whigs. Held by leader Mark Dulli and formed in the late 80’s in Cincinnati , theirs was a never-heard before mix of grunge guitars and melodies with a big Tamla Motown soul influence. The best example is that they were signed on the great Sub Pop label (home of the first Nirvana and Mudhoney records) while recording “My World Is Empty Without You” by The Supremes. Their masterpiece is “Gentlemen” (1993), a record I have been listening to literally hundreds of times and which is characterized by the power of songs, guitars, Greg’s voice and the subtlety of the words describing man-woman relationship. They split in 2001 and since then Greg Dulli has made excellent records with the Twilight Singers or with Mark Lanegan for instance.
Real emotion here then and the crowd was made out of connoisseurs as one can hear from the cheers and the fists held high during the band most famous songs. That was personally one of my most emotional show as I never had thought in seeing them live (I had missed them in their glory days) and one of my best I must say. Arriving very elegantly on stage in their black shirts and playing as if it was the last day on Earth, the show was a fantastic one, covering all periods of their career.
Inclusion of wind instruments in a few songs brought a sensitive side, Greg Dulli’s voice was on top and they even made a medley with the last track from “Gentlemen” and the second part of “Purple Rain” by Prince. For our American reader-friends, go and see them live this summer if you can, as they will play in all big festivals, such as Lollapalooza in Chicago or Austin City Limits in Austin.