L.A.W.M. February 27 2009

Remember that scene in High Fidelity where Rob arrives at a gig and hears peter Frampton playing? Well, tonight’s L.A.W.M. was a bit like that for me. I walked in to the sound of probably the least inspiring musical sounds I know. Ukelele and kazoo? No way! Way!
Propelled by some stunning stand-up bass Dr Butler’s Hatstand Medicine Band are one of those bands you discover occasionally who sound exactly how their name suggests. Real enthusiasm and comic timing won the day and their mutant swing melange of Spike Jones and Woody Allen had a few feet tapping.
Men Diamler in contrast didn’t really seem to know who or what he wanted to sound like. Each song could almost have been a different performer from delicate, wide open Palace Brothers to full-throated belters. ‘Ten verses’ tale of a dying man could almost have been an out-take from Leonard Cohen’s Songs Of love & Hate, whilst on ‘Life Is Terrible’ he stepped off stage and away from the mic yet filled the room with his roaring chant-along. Afterwards his friend asked me if I preferred the quiet or the loud songs, echoing my feeling that Men Diamler himself wasn’t sure what worked best.
After succesful previous appearances her many had come to see Nadine Khouri. She’s had to leave her band at home, accompanied tonight only by second guitarist Ruben Byrne. This meant limited opportunities for Nadine to strap on and lay into her telecaster, to the disappointment of many. Nevertheless her slower, sultry semi-blues grooves went down well too. She has an expressive voice which sometimes makes her impassioned lyrics less accessible live but blends with her overall sound to great effect as music.
It was L.A.W.M.’s 3rd birthday (and Nadine’s slightly more than 3rd) so all of Richard’s hard work was commemorated in the best way possible, chocolate cake.
I remembered Starless and Bible Black as being folkier and quieter than tonight. Their Pentangular intricacies giving way to a more Opal-escent rock sound with layered guitars, shimmery psychedelic keyboards and heavier grooves. The one constant is their ace card, the sweet voice of the gorgeous Helene. Wether singing in English or her native French, or just teasing the audience between songs she holds us in her hands. I swear I heard her say ‘Merci! Mercy buckets!’ after one bout of rapturous applause. Truly this band may be bible black but with Helene and guitarist Peter they are far from starless. If there is any justice shows like this one ought to lead to Starless reaching similar levels of acclaim as the likes of Howling Bells. The rockier boogie closer swings hard and an encore is demanded and acceded to.
Later Helene tells me they have two new albums recorded, one due in September. Hopefully Starless And Bible Black will be back in Lancaster soon.
So, just like Nick Hornby’s narrator I was impressed despite initial doubts. Unlike his character I didn’t sleep with any of the bands tonight.


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