Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Mojave 3 and Mark Kozelek @ Conway Hall
This was the gig of tuning problems. First up, Mark Kozelek, who had a little mid-set difficulty in tuning his guitar. But unlike most gigs, there wasn't the impatient shuffling and outbreak of loud chatter, just a reverent hush from the true believers who were there, I guess, as much to see the 'support act' as the ostensible headliners. I have to admit, I was really there to see Mojave 3. I'm a bit of a Mark Kozelek novice. OK, I'd heard of the Red House Painters, way back in my student indie days, but that's about it. But I was pretty impressed. None of the songs have stuck in my head, but they were lovely to experience - more a musical texture of acoustic guitars and vocals than something with immediate hooks or melody. But very fine all the same, particularly the last two songs before he went off (and then unexpectedly came back on for an encore). I'll definitely check out more of his stuff.
Kozelek's tuning difficulties were nothing compared with Neil Halstead's. The Mojave 3 main man, sporting a beard which should make us take him seriously as a country music singer, had a bit of a nightmare time, and just couldn't seem to get his tuning right. I'm not sure what was wrong with Neil on Friday, but he seemed a bit flaky, and couldn't seem to get it together (I’m not a musican, but how hard can it be?). On one occasion, the band filled in Neil's 'tuning gap' by enlisting some would-be ‘funny man’ from the audience to tell a dodgy joke. Then, two songs from the end, he gave up and went offstage to retune the guitar in private, leaving Rachel Goswell and the rest of the band to awkwardly apologise for not having rehearsed properly and take what seemed an unplanned exit. But despite sounding a wee bit rough at the start, (and after all they hadn't played a live gig for a couple of years) they sounded fine together, and made a wonderful noise. It was just erratic old Neil and his tuning. One blogger recently claimed that Halstead “will be praised in 20 years as one of the greatest English songwriters of all-time”. Well, maybe that’s overstating it a bit, but he does write a mean tune, and at this gig, the songs brilliantly shone through any irregularities in the performance. So in the end, Thames Valley's finest alt-country band triumphed against adversity and we went home happy.