Credit: David Murphy
The Black Watch + Pat Fish + Anton Barbeau + The New Moon
The New Moon opens proceedings. I'm starting to warm to their acoustic cabaret, which wobbles continually between the sentimental and the cerebral. With songs about 'dark matter' and God's Kodak (possibly), they look and sound like two chemistry teachers who thought up a double act in the desperate attempt to interest the class, then realised they had a real knack for performing and threw the old textbooks and retort stands away.
Am I getting carried away with that image? Well, it's that sort of night. Next up we have US visitor Anton Barbeau. How he survives in laidback California I'll never know ? he'd look excitable at a convention of extreme caffeine abusers in a room with a very hot floor. Bounding around the stage, swinging his tiny guitar and barely getting his words out in a flurry of excitement, he cuts an imposing figure. But despite the slightly overbearing zaniness, his songs actually have an unexpected melodic elegance, recalling of the better pop of the early 70s: the main reference that popped into my head was George Harrison. Oh, and the Grumbleweeds.
Pat Fish used to be The Jazz Butcher, and made about a million albums years ago, most notably for Creation. He's still going strong, knocking up backing tracks in his house & performing songs for us on his guitar (In fact, he only dredges up one Jazz Butcher tune, the others are all new). The rhythms are hardly the height of technology ? in fact, it sounds like he made them on an Amiga ? but the simplicity and homeliness adds to the effect. A few tracks veer close to sounding like muzak versions of New Order, but in general the communicative effect of these well-written songs trumps the paucity of the sonic palette. A warm welcome back.
Finally, one fifth of The Black Watch - a cult band, apparently - takes the stage. Again, 'unpretentious' is probably the best word to describe the show. That's 'unpretentious', but definitely not 'unintelligent' or 'unadventurous'. Perhaps his songs were a little less immediate than anybody else tonight, but they were presented with such humorous (and slightly camp) sincerity that concentration doesn't seem a chore.
All the acts tonight are wrestling something unique from the sparsest of materials, and I can't help but be reminded of the improvised music of the previous night. You know, for all it's limitations, sometimes The Port Mahon seems like the best venue in town.
Oh yes, and The Saw Doctors man enjoyed it in the end, too.