Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Syd Barrett Tribute at the Union Chapel

The Mystery Jets are an odd band, and i'm still not convinced what to think of them. When i first saw them on MTV 2 i thought they were kinda annoying, some young dudes prancing around in a vaguely burlesque style apparently trying to be next cool thing, and I didn't get the song. I shouldn't watch so much MTV2, and in fact, i don't anymore, it doesn't always do the bands justice, though there's good stuff on there too occasionally. once you get past all that terrible stuff. So when I later read that they were based in the vaguely mythical location of Eel Pie Island, featured a father and a son, and loved old psych and prog music I thought, hmm who are they? ...Anyway, i'm still not so sure about the music, though it's not as bad as i first thought, but i'll give them full kudos for putting on a lovely Syd tribute on Monday at the wonderful, recently reopened Union Chapel in Islington. Bathed in appropriately psychedelic floating lava lamp lights, but ornate enough even without those, it's a great venue for a night like this, the longer i was there the more i liked being in that room, sitting in the back on church benches, meeting some lovely people back there too, including a real Syd obsessive (I mean, really...). I'm not sure who everyone was but there was a constant stream of acts doing short sets, Lupen Crook, quite driven and manic, Kid Harpoon, good presence, nice clear voice, some awesome syd covers, a very young guy singing two Syd songs in an artfully smudged voice, sounding almost like Scott Walker (!), some guys from Babyshambes doing a surprisingly modest and lovely 'It's no good trying'. there was some very special surprise guest mentioned before the event but i guess the real surprise was that The Television Personalities managed to turn up for once and just about managed to play a set. Dan Treacy is a very volatile performer but his band just about held it together, at times it almost seemed like a rerun of the way some of the later Syd Barrett material must have been recorded, flashes of brilliant, lovely songs then distortion, chaos, ranting etc. He even played 'I know where Syd Barrett lives', but not without making it clear that the Mystery Jets "twisted his arm" to play it. Followed by a very passionate rendition of 'I've got a bike...you can ride it if you like" Fascinating and a bit sad at the same time. the more syd songs got played the better the evening got, these songs are meant to be played live. It wasn't even that sad and sombre, there was a sense of celebration and musical magic in the air, or something like that. And maybe a bit of lofi school production too, mostly in a charming way though. So...the Mystery Jets. In their boat at Eel Pie Island they have a portrait of Syd ringed by a lifebelt, it's hanging from the altar today. They start with an ace cover of Lucifer Sam, goosebumps, really, it sounds so full and overwhelming when played by such an efficient live band. Later they also play the Gnome, another favourite of mine from Piper. Their own material still doesn't grab me too much, i think it's the songs that is the problem but it does sound alright tonight, nice harmonising, maybe if they'd loosen up a bit and got a bit wilder, that could work. They are planning an acoustic tour for October that could be interesting and make people see them in a different light. maybe. Impressive that such a young band (apart from the white haired dad on keyboards who sometimes seems to secretly drive the whole operation) spearheaded this tribute too. Another one please, maybe next year! I want to do that walk in Grantchester Meadows that i was trying to do the other day. . .


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