Autumn Antifolk Festival 2007 Saturday / 12 Bar Club, London, 17th November 2007

Saturday 17 Nov

Here I am, back again. My God it’s been a while. People seem to think I’ve moved to Bristol, or Oxford, one person even said Canada! The rumours aren’t true. It’s none of those places, and the important thing is, I’m back at the homestead tonight and it’s great to see everyone for another fest. As I’d been travelling round various UK festivals this past summer I hadn’t done an Afuk marathon since winter. It’s nice to see some things haven’t changed, people are still smoking on stage and off – they must’ve missed the memo about that ‘smoking ban’.

I only just missed John Hudson but typically ended up asking him how he’d sounded, without knowing it was him. ‘Oh brilliant!’ came the assured reply. So I can only take his word for it. There weren’t many people here at 7.30 and we’d all missed out on a ‘brilliant’ first act. (his myspace page says he’s a mix of comedy, acoustic and folk and the songs are quite lovely, witty lines snuck into otherwise harmless sounding songs.)

Most people here early enough for Miss Sills set are in bands, or regulars like myself. Her elegant quiet songs float across the small crowd in such a way that I’m acutely aware of the crackle of my crisp packet, while trying to stay as hushed as possible. It’s a song called ‘Life is Short, but Life is Wide’. Very poetic. King accompanies her on melodica for a bit, and then they trade places when she comes on to play in his band King and the Olive Fields. King and Miss Sills are a musical couple from New Cross and this part of their set is charming and off the cuff – He’s reminding Kidd, who’s wearing an impressive stag mask, of the chords and capo position for the next song. ‘We don’t really rehearse’ he tells us. Then he realises they need the glockenspiel for another song but it’s in the cage in the next room. ‘Shall I get it? she asks. ‘Nah, fuck it’. he says. They sound mellow and lovely as always, ‘I’ll Just Stare at the Sun’ is like hearing the calm before the storm as the evening’s just beginning.

Filthy Pedro and the Carthaginians are reigning over the 9pm slot, and Medders (‘Cigarface’) is looking well Christmasy, wearing a Santa hat, tinsel scarf, and er, giant toy lobster over his shoulders. Disco Stu is on drums and also shares vocal duties on ‘Man I’m Old’, and then there’s ‘Claudius T Skull’ (Tim Tomlinson) ready to do a mean jig for us in his monks robes.They play lots of new songs tonight as well as getting out the black leather mask for ‘Gilgamesh’, and inviting Krakatoa Kate up for ‘I’m Too Good For You’. The new songs include ‘Get Ya Beak On’. This must have been Medders’ idea, I’m thinking, cos not only did he give an amusing rambled introduction to it, but it was also one of his favourite sayings that he often texted to everyone in his address book at 1am. Now it all makes sense! The chorus goes something like ‘Get ya beak on, get ya get ya beak on!’ followed by Cigarface making bird noises and flapping his arms. There’s also a song where Claudius barks and howls like a dog, and shockingly, he keeps moving his robes to ‘show some leg’, and saying things like “I’m not going to get it out, I’ll leave that to the lead singer..ooh I shouldn’t have said that.” Does he mean he’s going to let Filthy fully expose him to the crowd tonight? I can’t believe my ears, he’s certainly come out of his shell. There’s a terrifying moment where he’s left with his robes open and Pedro is actually reaching for the poor man’s boxer shorts! (It doesn’t actually happen though, so don’t worry you didn’t miss it. Lunch was the only one to get naked on stage this weekend.)

’We just wanna say, we’re not Antifolk, we just needed a gig. So we hope you’re okay with that.’ announces Matt from Schwervon. They’re right of course, they play songs with a bit of a bluesy country sound to them. They’re here all the way from New York, and they’re feeling the love and the warmth in the room. We stand and simply nod and smile and dance a bit, cos this is some of that good time American indie rock, with some edgy hooks thrown in (‘Fuzzy Math’) and a nice encore of their theme song, with them singing the words ‘Schwerv!’ and ‘On!!’ in turn. Neat.

The Little Things are a big bright sound from South London. Well, Tooting that is. And there seem to be a fair few newcomers from Tooting here tonight. That could be pure coincidence, but then again it feels as if I’ve walked into a Little Things love-in. I’m surrounded by fans, and I hear some enthusiastic guy next to me say ‘Oh I fuckin love this song!!’ at one point. It’d all be quite sickening if it weren’t for the fact that they instantly won me over with their sweet feelgood poppy sounds, ‘Animal House’ having the customary ‘invite a friend up to join in’ move included. The bass player even has a tiny knitted hat for the end of his guitar. Awww.
David Cronenberg’s Wife – I didn’t get to watch all of this set properly, due to the fact I was filming bits of songs after Tom chucked his camera at me at the last minute. I made sure I stopped to dance and get into it though, and did bloody well not to have my drink spilled by the crazy revellers to my left, bouncing around like lunatics. (DCW always get a moshpit here, even if it’s just three crazy fans) After making us wait during a mysteriously long five minute intro to the first song, I hear one of my faves that goes ‘Once, Twice, Three times’ and it’s all good again. They are sounding tight and edgy as always, and they have a new guy playing bass, who Tom describes as ‘the pretty one’. That’s if you don’t count Rhi standing by her keyboard wearing a cute little black hat with a veil. At times Tom duels with his guitar into the crowd, and he ends by stage diving onto Filthy so they both end up on the floor. I move to rescue the rest of my pint off the stage, but then he accidentally elbows me, and it spills all over our photographer’s shoes. (sorry Dennis!)
Oh and by the way, I am now the proud owner of a new DCW t-shirt, complete with realistic looking bleeding heart on it.

Major Matt Mason is basically the guy from Schwervon back on stage to do some of his own songs. He’s tied his hair up perhaps to make it look like he’s a different guy, or maybe cos it’s hot in here.The songs have the same strong strummed chords and singable melodies to them as his first set, which is a good thing.There’s a touching little speech where he says how much he likes playing at 12 Bar, and how the sound of yourself comes back at you so strongly that it’s like a self indulgent experience. “It’s all me me me!” Yes, apparently that’s how the musos like it. Then he gets his girlfriend on drums back on stage and it’s like Schwervon again, but er, playing different songs. Oh my God that’s like, ‘so Antifolk’. And he tried to say they weren’t. Haha.

Popular Tyre – a suit wearing duo from London were good fun, and I started thinking of them like a pair of Man Like Me’s uncles, the same kind of jokey stylishness about them. The taller balder one (sorry, shaved head) kept stepping over to a mic by a laptop that made his voice sound like a computer. Very nice. They did songs like ‘Johnny Showbiz’, ‘South London, Saarf sarf London’ ‘Jammy Doughnuts in my Ball Sack’, which are all as catchy as they sound. So this is what country-electro-folk rock sounds like. We like it.

I watched a bit of lovely Scottish singer Iona Marshall, and I caught a little bit of the gruffer folk tunes from Brother Clunk. Both were solo acts with guitars, a perfect way to wind down at this time of night. But my time was slightly taken up with dealing with a drunken grump, who had moved on from ‘drunk and belligerent’ to ‘total shutdown’ after misplacing his tobacco. I mostly left him to his girlfriend so I could see hear a few more songs. The alcohol must’ve really taken effect cos when I asked him what he thought of the bands he said ‘I think everyone here tongiht’s shite, and they all need to see psychiatrists!’ I expected us to be making a swift exit at any minute. Needless to say, the cab never arrived and I was still around to see one last act.

Lucy’s Diaries took to the stage at the last minute as Hello Babies had pulled out. Now we were all nicely relaxed from Iona and Brother Clunk’s sets, Lucy Joplin and JJ Crash were here to wake us up again with their rowdy versions of her songs, ending with ‘Rock Kicks’. She looked the part in a devilish red dress, and I heard someone yell ‘Lucifer!’. With JJ providing the loud guitar noise and Lucy delivering her own brand of sultry venom on stage, we ended the night on a high after all.

Thanks again guys, see ya next time!

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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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