1. There's me posting yesterday about having no gig tickets booked for July and August but then managed to fit this gig in at short notice.
2. The Deaf Institute is now my new favourite venue.
3. This was a bloody brilliant night.
The Deaf Institute is (literally) the building that housed Manchester's Deaf and Dumb Institute. Rescued and renovated by the lovely people who run Trof in the Northern Quarter, it now has three floors: basement bar, ground floor bar and cafe, and first floor Music Hall. The latter is a large high ceiled room with a high stage at one end and a huge alcove opposite it that has tiered wooden pews inside. On the stage left there is a bar down one side and an exit to a rooftop terrace; stage right more seating and a glass and steel balcony. The late Victorian building has period wallpaper on every level but feels light, airy and the contemporary bars and lighting give it a warm, bohemian feel. And the Music Hall has a fabulous and rather large mirror ball. It all felt decadent and welcoming at the same time. And on this night the sound was great too.
First up were Walton Hesse who were new to me. A six piece who play country-rock in a Jayhawks/early Wilco-style; the male vocal lead was very Jeff Tweedy at times (this is a good thing). And despite the checked shirts and facial hair to give that authentic Americana look they are, apparently, "local". More dates coming up in Manchester in August - definitely worth seeing.
Following a short tour of the Deaf Institute's three floors to admire the decor, it was back for more drinks and The Voluntary Butler Scheme. Saw him last here and since then he has supported Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong and confused their Smash Hits (sic) teen audience expecting ROCK with his kazoo- and ukelele-accompanied songs. Floppy of fringe and casual of demeanour, Rob Jones ("a sportsman's name" hence the convoluted 'band' name) is a talented multi-instrumentalist who loops live samples (e.g. tapping back of ukelele or tambourine) to create rhythm tracks he then plays keyboard or guitar over. It's very inventive and great fun to watch but he's got the tunes to back it up too. He included a cover of The Foundation's Build Me Up Buttercup (played for a Radio 2 session recently because they wanted something 'appropriate') and I felt that most of his songs were better.
And then Sweet Baboo. I tend to avoid anything "hotly tipped" as preposterous hype. And it was interesting to note appearances in the relatively small crowd (of about 80?) of radio DJs Marc Riley and Stuart Maconie (sessions ahoy?) plus also poet Simon Armitage(?!). Now good though Sweet Baboo was, he just ain't going to be the huge star this suggests - he's just too plain odd for mass acceptance.
SB performs solo, seated, with only an acoustic guitar. But he is as much an acoustic singer-songwriter as Daniel Johnston is. Or as much a blues singer as Tom Waits. He spins surreal tales involving rabbits, girls, drugs and going to town, mostly at a sedate tempo. As self-deprecating as The Voluntary Butler Scheme between songs, he is also very funny in reflecting on his own short-comings. He confessed to only knowing two covers and played both: 'I'm A Tiger' by Lulu (must get a copy of the original!) and 'True Love Will Find You In The End' by Daniel Johnston. The latter was heart-stoppingly beautiful - particularly with the mirrorball throwing light across him, the room and the audience. He then finshed with a song called 'Jonathan Richman' (a duet for one!) and then 'Tom Waits Rip Off' (a radio session version of this is on his MurdochSpace site).
Three acts in a beautiful setting for £5 (or £3 if you are on the mailing list - here - and get on the Cheapo List). Bargain.
Accompanied tonight by Ms L, I asked her what she made of our two surreal solo performers: although she enjoyed both she did confess "I prefer a lot going on". And we'll leave it there.
The Voluntary Butler Scheme [BUY]
TRUE LOVE WILL FIND YOU IN THE END
Daniel Johnston1990 [BUY]