Eggstock, Phoenix Arts Theatre, Leicester
This was the second annual showcase of the weird and wonderful talents put out by Leicester's Pickled Egg Records. Nine bands and two films graced the two floors of the Phoenix.
The day opened with a 30 minute film, The Seance, which told the story of a travelling freakshow and the joys and woes of their enigmatic bandleader. This was all soundtracked by the quite wonderful pastoral psychedelic pop of Oddfellows Casino. The film was beautifully surreal in its monochromatic blood coloured simplicity.
First on upstairs were Black Carrot, an improv trio comprising the distinctive bass and vocals of Dragon Or Emperor's Stewart Brackley with drums, tenor sax, and harmonium (amongst other things). This works splendidly in a krautjazz kind of way, and sets the tone for the day; fiercely creative, smile inducing, engaging, and highly watchable.
Downstairs saw James Green take to the stage, joined sporadically by other Big Eyes Family Band players. Solo acoustic opener 'Donkeys Disturbed By Meteor Shower' is wonderful, mixing tempos and possessing a dynamism and energy lacking in other parts of the set. Generally the most interesting parts were those where loops and additional instrumentation (clarinet, harmonium, drums) gave the sound a bit more depth, although this may have been down to the Phoenix's acoustics than James Green's.
From the relatively sombre, we went upstairs, for the Super Bompers Band, comprising Tookie Sherman of Need New Body plus on this occasion a couple of Leicester's own Fabulous Foxes on percussive duties. The show starts with the band wrapping up the stage and various pillars and suchlike with foil, before Bob and Euan take to their drums and pound out hypnotic beats. Tookie wanders the stage, pounding occasionally at a battered gold spray-painted Casio keyboard on the floor, occasionally shouting somewhat randomly. Later on he picks up what appears to be a two string prehistoric guitar and strums at this. It is unclear whether it is audible or not. For the first 20 minutes, this was awesome, but towards the end it all went to pieces somewhat.
After that chaos, the moving documentary The Devil and Daniel Johnston is a welcome counterbalance. Absolutely heartbreaking, but totally awe-inspiring.
At this point, some old friend arrive for the evening sets, and I accidentally miss the excellent Dragon Or Emperor and am by then a little too beered up to appreciate the delicate low-key torch song laments of George. Upstairs Zukanican are an interesting mix of krautmotorik percussion and free jazz. When they take wholesale the drums from Can's 'Oh Yeah' it's a little too obvious though, and the free jazz element isn't quite to my taste so I listen to the rest of the set as background from the outside whilst continuing reacquainting with people.
Next up were the superb Nalle, a Glasgow-based trio who are also part of the excellent Scatter. A bowed bouzouki provides the haunting drone, while Hanna Tuulikki's Newsomesque warble sings of things of nature and man. Occasionally the three harmonise, and it's perfect. Three voices, one manly and deeper, one feminine and midrange, and Tuulikki's icing to the cake..it's spellbinding.
Unfortunately the lure of booze kept me from going upstairs to witness Now, although I heard positive murmurs from several people. Ooops. And so, lastly but not leastly, it was into the theatre to experience Volcano the Bear. And what an experience it is. Commencing with a teatowel being tossed between the various members as they trade chants before assuming their positions. Which naturally fluctuate frequently. here's such a fantastic humour in what they do, the whole feel of it being a theatrical perfomance as much as a gig; the communication between the group, the whole feeling of it. Drummer Aaron Moore marches about the stage, spinning cymbals around, hugging bandmates, whilst other members fritter around between instruments. They're always engaging, always interesting, they always sound good, and they make you laugh out loud. And that's what Eggstock is all about, the joy of creativity, the joy of spontaneity. The pureness of a natural reaction to not always knowing what's coming next. There's talk of the festival expanding to a 2-dayer next year, and after this, I can't wait.
Review: Craig Wood.
The following track is taken from Volcano the Bear's latest opus: Class Eramus Fusion. Their best yet? I think so - although i'm no authority on their back catalogue. It's defiantly original, as always; and I very much doubt you will hear a stranger record this year. All in all: Spiritual, surreal and totally mind-blowing. Give up the Nurse with a Wound comparisons people.
Volcano the Bear- Did You Ever Feel Like Jesus?
[BUY THE ALBUM FROM BETA LACTUM RING RECORDS]
Volcano the Bear
Pickled Egg Records