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Last night I went to the Water Rats for the first time in February, to see godlike genius Michael Gira doing one of his acoustic sets that have reduced me to jelly twice. Fortunately I've been to the Water Rats before so I had low expectations.



First up was Joe Gideon and the Shark, who were Bikini Atoll in a previous incarnation and made a favourable impression on me supporting Lydia Lunch a few years ago. I like the new version (simply brother and sister duo Gideon and Viva) better though. Where Bikini Atoll were swiiissssh, swiiiisssh, SWISH, BANG!, SWISH, with possibly a bit too much swiiishh for me, Joe Gideon and the Shark did less swiissshing and a lot more SWISH, BANGing. They were channelling Tom Waits for sure, and Craig reckoned the Birthday Party too, although I didn't hear that myself. The banging was particularly good, Viva is a much better drummer than the guy from Bikini Atoll.

We went to the merchandise table to grab their CDs while some roadies were faffing around setting up for Gira and returned to find that they weren't roadies, they were some godawful second support. I can only imagine they were on second as Joe Gideon and the Shark had more equipment on stage (keyboard, drums, effects units) than the next band (Lush Trees, Lush Elms, something like that) who were two blokes with effects pedals. Well one effect pedal, because they only seemed to have one effect, which was to send Craig and me to sleep. Four identical songs and one slightly more interesting one later they finally buggered off. It's great when you go see a band and the support band really put you in the mood for more, but it's a swine when some clown comes along and dampens the mood again.

Anyway, Gira came on next with a cheery little wave to those of us who had noticed him wandering on quietly. He went through the usual thing of asking for the house lights to be turned up again but they lighting guy was asleep so he had to keep asking. Then he kept asking for the airconditioning to be turned off. Then he couldn't get his guitar properly tuned. Eventually as the audience was getting restless, he started to play, opening with "Goddamn the Sun", which was beautiful. His voice didn't sound quite right though and it turned out that this was the 17th night on tour, and the airconditioning wasn't helping.

It got hot after the aircon went off. Really hot. A few people left. He played "Promise of Water" from the new album, and then "Nations" and at some point during "Nations" the aircon went on again. He insisted it was off again for his voice and more people left. Unfortunately not enough of the really noisy bastards at the back and near me though.

I have a theory. Put people in a seated venue and they will generally behave themselves. It sets up a totally different behavioural expectation. Perhaps it reminds them of church or school assemblies, but from my experience of gigs, seated venues induce quiet and respectful attention and standing gigs, no matter how small and intimate, induce drinks orders shouted over the quiet bits, chattering (I don't care if you are talking about the band on stage, if you like them that much SHUT THE FUCK UP AND LISTEN), and singing along. There's nothing wrong with singing along quietly at a loud gig, or when the band are encouraging it, but when the whole song is building up to one perfect whispered word, it's really, really irritating to have some tuneless arsehole attempting to join in.

Anyway, he played a couple of more songs, it got hotter. Craig gave up and around the same time there was a mass exodus and things got a lot more pleasant. Still very hot, but at least we weren't crammed in like sardines. It got better, but never quite quiet enough or pleasant enough to get swept away the way I was the last couple of times.

He played Goddam the Sun, Promise of Water, Nations, Failure, Lena's Song, My Sister Said, She Lives!, My Brother's Man, Rose of Los Angeles (which is apparently about his mother's deathbed), Destroyer and Blind. Not quite in that order, but something like that.

I hope he comes back soon and plays somewhere better, and hopefully with the full band, because the new CD "We Are Him" is fantastic. It's closer to Swans in some parts than the other Angels of Light albums and I think one song even sounds slightly Birthday Party-ish.

Apologies to Craig for the cut text quote (from "Blind"). Couldn't resist. ;)
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March 2009

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