Review #2 of the Winter Antifolk Festival 2007 | 12 Bar Club, London

So here we are again, back at our spiritual home, 12 Bar, ‘where everybody knows your name’. We’re all ready and raring to go on the first night of the first AFUK fest of the year. The times on the running order say the last act’s on at 1am. Bollocks to that! It ended up finishing at around 2.30am, true to form. And, having learnt from experience to pace myself for the array of talent ahead, I’m proud to say I was one of the last ones standing, while various drunks merrily swaggered past me, and others started looking a bit pale and unsteady. We looked a right motley crew by the end…

The evening starts and ends with a girl on a guitar. It’s nice to see we’re making the most of the increasing number of girls on the scene, alongside all the usual suspects.

Poppy is a singer songwriter from Bristol, who comes across sweet, unassuming, talented, and looks cute as a cherub in the black hat she’s wearing tonight. She sings thoughtful reflections of a young girl’s musings on life. One of my favourite lyrics is from ‘Purple Girl’ where she sings “I’m just a little girl, with little hands.” It’s about some fickle boy who met a girl at a party and only liked her for her costume. The philosophical tone of the tune strikes a bittersweet chord with the crowd, who seem quite taken with her set.

Miss Sills looks like a princess as well as a songstress in a white cotton dress and blue trainers. Who cares about the Regina Spektor gig across the road, we’re watching Miss Sills! Her songs weave graceful harmonies and stories, sprinkled with glockenspiel one side, and King’s ukelele on the other. She sits on a stool in the middle, presiding over it all her charming melodies, ending on a song about a Conjurer.

Now that everyone’s feeling suitably settled in, we step things up a smidge with Tim Tomlinson, who our host Moondog introduces as a “musical genius”. He certainly is a prodigy of some kind. In some distant past life, he was more of a recluse, but now, the wonders of Antifolk having dragged him out on stage, he sits before us, basking in the limelight. Well okay, to be fair he plays the bulk of his set with his face entirely hidden behind a music stand holding the largest song sheets possible – as is his style – but he emerges into plain view for the last song. He rifles through many speedy chord changes, and crams in an endless stream of intelligent and quirky lyrics, including a line about every kid these days having a media studies degree and wanting to be like Pete Doherty. Most of us laugh with glee to see him up there, others are slightly nervous for him, but the mumbling and fumbling with his capo to start a song are all part of the eccentric charm. This is not an act. It’s Tim Tomlinson – the unsung hero in the line-up tonight. He’s the new Paul Hawkins minus the cheerful narcissism!
Blanket are next, a four piece from London and Brighton. I watch them from upstairs and get a sense of their lovely day dreamy sound. Their ethereal female singer Vicky Steer sends eerie elegant melodies floating lightly up to my ears. The effect could be likened to a soft invisible blanket of translucent melodies and memories wrapping us up in its mystery.

Filthy Pedro and the Carthaginians are the best I’ve heard them play in a while. As I head in from the bar I think ‘What’s that I hear? Scratching??’ Yep, it’s DJ GS adding some extra hip hop to the mix with a set of digital decks that look like big toy ones (I won’t pretend I know what I’m talking about there!) and dropping in ridiculous, brilliant samples from ‘Just Be Good to Me’. Are they a novelty band now, or a kind of ‘super group’with this new addition to the already star studded line up? They’re definitely good fun, that’s for sure. Jimmy Blade steals the mic and raps from the floor, Penny O croons and cameos beautifully for their Libs tribute/fight on stage song “I’m Too Good For You”. All the other hits come out, from “History Lover” to “Rock n Roll Points”, every song rambling, sprawling and larger than life tonight. I should point out that Medders played really well – not drunk, despite the fact that he’s sipping his beer through a spiral straw tonight!
The Bobby McGees are next. I like them, they crack me up with their wicked sense of humour. Their music and quirky costumed stageshow inspired Source magazine to call them ‘tweecore’, which I think is an apt description of their style. There are some lovely moments as we all sing along quietly to “No Friends” and laugh at the excellently Scottish French accent on that song about a weekend in Paris. (The title eludes me just now..) The clown like face paint and bright costumes are complemented by Jimmy McGee’s forceful wit as he invites us to sing along to the sweet little chorus of “Butterflies”.
“Hands up if you’ve ever been in love? Those of you who haven’t are a bunch of cunts and you can fuck off”. Ah yes, nothing like lovey dovey sentiments balanced nicely with abusive stage banter. A curiously entertaining set as always.
As the McGees bustle off back to Brighton, David Cronenberg’s Wife arrive on stage. Me and a few other keen people get the biggest work out ever, dancing and jumping around like maniacs up the front. “Stretch Out”, “Couldn’t Get Off” and all the stonking crowd pleasers have us bouncing all over the toes of innocent bystanders, as DCW push it to the limit once again. They end on a sweet song called “Their Ain’t No Love Like This” about an older guy being seduced by a fifteen year old. The last thing I remember is Tom and Stu rocking out next to each other like their lives depended on it. Brilliant.

I only watched two songs from this band, and found them a bit scary. Very serious, and intense. I think I may have walked in when they were playing a particularly dark song called ‘Embarrassing’. The guy with the long grey hair stood clutching the mic started to freak me out after a bit, so I had to go. I’m sure this was the desired effect they were going for.

King! plays a nice soothing set to placate the crowd. I’d just been reminded to get my ass back into the room in time to catch most of his set, after becoming absorbed in a deep and meaningful chat with a friend of mine about life, and them being the last single one in their group of friends -while the rest of us wander round in some sort of sickening post Valentines after glow. But the calming tones of King! Standing, strumming, and staring solemnly into the distance, reminds me that even though there’s fuck all I can say to fix things – everything’s gonna be alright. It sounds like homecoming country music, gently nudging us into the wee small hours of the morning.

Fuzzy Brown is the guy in the pirate eye patch, now up on stage playing his guitar. He’s not fuzzy, he’s not brown. He is in fact white with his head shaved. He sings a few clever little rhymes about aardvarks, hamsters, and other interesting choices. Then towards the end of his laidback little set, there’s a lightning quick change in mood, when one slightly drunk audience member stumbles and takes a clumsy swipe a bit too close to Fuzzy’s guitar. He stops immediately, takes a defensive stance, steps up and threatens to punch the guy. I was impressed with his quick reflexes. And I liked the aardvark references too.

Naomi Hates Humans
I like her attitude too. JJ Crash grins and tells me she’s the “Kurt Cobain of Antifolk” and that the ‘Pipedreams’ song is her “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. No he wasn’t drunk, he meant every word! Ok, so maybe if we’re comparing her to that, it’s more ‘All Apologies’, but you get the idea.
“Work Eat Sleep, Work Eat Sleep.. I always thought by 24,.. I’d have some answers..” she sings blithely. Well, some of us know now that ain’t always the case, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I admire her warm rugged vocals, and the nice touch of the little coloured dots spelling out the word ‘Rock’ on her guitar. I stand and take in her huskily sung words of wisdom and leave on a high.

Thanks again Afukers, it’s been real.

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About the Author

Dedee W is a freelance arts writer who spent five years in the UK fully immersing herself in their music festivals and scenes. She arrived in London in 2004, was introduced to the Antifolk Festivals, then started taking photos and reviewing the shows. She's now back in her home-town of Auckland, New Zealand.

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