Faultfinder night

Mono, Kings Court, Glasgow

Genaro, Mole Harness, Barbastel, Gareth Dickson

Set list: Roman roads, a present from the future, All Your Memories Return At Once


My first gig in Scotland was a totally amazing experience. Flying up from Bristol and being picked up at the airport almost made me feel like a proper musician, and I was doubly happy when I found my guitar had survived its tenure in the aircraft hold intact (having heard various horror stories of axes snapped in transit I’d put so much bubble wrap around it I almost couldn’t shut the case).
Mono was such a great venue to play at: it’s open all day as a vegan restaurant and record shop, and has a wonderfully spacious high-ceilinged ambience. There is also a large dome-shaped window in the ceiling, and as we were close to the longest day of the year the panels allowed natural light to flood in for most of the duration of the gig. The light echoey atmosphere was perfect for Gareth Dixon’s opening set of minimal acoustic guitar and sparse, hushed vocals. He is a brilliant guitarist, yet it is the space between the flourishes which adds the magic to his sound. His performance brought to mind Eno’s ‘Music For Airports’, Jim O’Rourke’s ‘Bad Timing’ and early Gravenhurst, and his album occasionally hints at Flying Saucer Attack.
Barbastel are apparently named after a giant bat, which meant that for once I wasn’t outnumbered on the bill as an animal monikered act. They are a three piece, with crisp laptop beats and textures giving momentum to the riffs of twin guitarists, who cohere wonderfully and, although overlapping, each have their own defined place in the sound. The driving guitar and drum machine of the last track reminded me of the first Third Eye Foundation album ‘Semtex’, although it leant away from that record’s more visceral noise elements into upliftingly melodic territory which definitely suited the mood.
The light was fading as my set began, and surveying the groups huddled around tables and lit candles I announced my intention to play them some dusk music. Although I hadn’t been able to bring Jon along to do slides, the fact that the atmosphere was perfect in every other way made up for it.
By the time Genaro came onstage it was dark, and they opened with a suitably ominous – and incidentally utterly amazing – song, which they later confessed to have played for the first time in that week’s practice. This was actually the second time I’d heard it (as a soundcheck piece it had instantly drawn me from my browsing in the venue’s record shop) but lost none of its impact on repetition. The beautifully exposed synth lines, driving rhythm and commanding vocals, combined with an overall impression of satisfyingly restrained power, instantly reminded me of lost ‘80s post-punk band The Sound at their best (specifically the end of ‘Fatal Flaw’ from the awesome ‘… Lion’s Mouth’ album – see section on The Sound in my links page for more info). Genaro’s set then moved through some more folky and almost timeless pop sounding moments, before returning to the epic post-punk template for the instrumental closer. What held all these songs together was a sense of effortlessly innate power and stately momentum, giving the impression of a group who completely click together as musicians and contribute equally to a unique sound. Genaro seem to be the kind of band who are constantly moving forward and in many different directions at once, which is what makes them so interesting.
The next day I hung out with Stewart, the laptop man in Barbastel and utterly sound promoter responsible for my being there in the first place, before flying home. On boarding the coach from Bristol Airport to the centre I had only one thing in mind – to find a place near the front (helps with my travelsickness) and listen to the Gareth Dickson album, which I knew would be perfect for the journey down dark country roads and into the sodium zone. The mission soon seemed to be accomplished, and I was just about to curl up into the headphones when I realised that something was horribly wrong with the situation. It dawned on me which element was threatening to undermine my potentially blissful journey: the bus driver had the radio on full blast, and was pumping out Ronan Keating’s audio monstrosity ‘You Say It Best (When You Say Nothing At All)’ unstoppably into the front area of the vehicle. I instantly knew that Gareth’s undulating guitar soundscapes stood no chance against this ultra-compressed pop pollution, and, guessing there would be less speakers in the rear, my only thought was ‘must… get to… back of the bus’. However this repositioning was easier willed than exacted, and in my haste to simultaneously pick up the guitar case, CD player, headphones and rucksack I only succeeded in dropping everything in the aisle, as the CD played popped merrily open and batteries went flying everywhere. By this point I just didn’t care any more what the other passengers thought about my erratic behaviour - I just wanted to get as far away as possible from Ronan’s continuing sonic violation. Someone handed me the batteries, I put them back in the CD player, picked everything up, marched right to the back of the bus, my headphones put on and escaped forever.

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