Marnie Stern @ Brudenell Social Club 21/07/09

(A review I wrote last year with the intention of submitting it to some site or other but in true lazy fashion I never got around to it! So here will have to do!)

Marnie Stern, Nisennenmondai, Tartufi, That Fucking Tank, Mucky Sailor

Brudenell Social Club Tuesday 21st July 2009

Some people queue for hours in the rain/sleet/scorching sun (ok, maybe not the latter in this country) to get a ticket to see their stadium band of choice, or they’ll hang on the phone racking up an enormous bill while simultaneously repeatedly pressing F5 on their laptop to try and reserve a £50 ticket for whoever is band of the moment. And I’m sure they’ll enjoy it, even though they’ll probably spend most of the gig watching it through the screen of their mobile phone, but I can’t help feeling a slight tinge of superiority as I walk towards the Brudenell on a sunny evening to watch five bands for less than a tenner!

The first thing I notice as I sit down with my Guinness, is the drum kit and keyboards set up on the floor in front of the stage, have I missed a memo, are Lightning Bolt playing? I then spot a curious ship’s wheel device next to the keyboards (, which makes the place look like a collision between a music shop and a shipwrights! No, this is clearly a space issue, the Brudenell is not the largest of venues and with five bands on the bill, many with rafts of effects pedals, it would clearly take far too long rearranging the stage for each act.

I’ve hardly had chance to take a sup of my pint when Mucky Sailor take their places. This is the first time I’ve heard of this Leeds father/son duo but it doesn’t take a genius to guess who they are with their nautically inspired, disturbingly revealing, Lycra bodystockings! Their set consists of noisy jazz-flecked wig-outs overlaying rather indecipherable vocals. The ship’s wheel emits a stream of bleeps and bloops when spun leading to bemused smiles in the audience who are quite clearly wondering what the hell’s going on!

That Fucking Tank are next, another Leeds duo, also setting up in front of the stage. I have only seen this band once before on the introducing stage at Leeds festival, but I believe the floor based performance is a preferred option (not unlike the aforementioned Lightning Bolt) and drummer James Islip beckons the crowd forward, about twenty people, including myself, obey and surround James and his baritone guitar playing partner in crime Andy Abbot.

They bash out a set of raucous, infectious instrumental jams that really fires the crowd up, leading me to buying their latest album, Tanknology, at the merch stand.

Next up are Tartufi from San Francisco, another band I’m completely unfamiliar with, also another duo, what would they do without loop pedals? On further investigation I find they were a three piece before changing their style and becoming a duo (Lynne Angel and Brian Gorman). They are the first of the night’s acts to use the stage and when I notice the enormous rack of effects pedals and other (to me) unidentifiable gubbins I can see why!

Tartufi’s tracks comprise layers upon layers of guitars, drums and keyboards with haunting vocals provided by Angel that sound a bit like Steeleye Span (in a good way!). Their tracks seem to flow seemlessly into one another (either that or they just did two fifteen minute ones) and form a complex, hypnotic wash of melody and rhythm. The crowd has significantly thinned out at this point, clearly their style is not to everyone’s taste tonight.

After a fair amount of delays and apparent faffing about, Japanese all-girl trio Nisennenmondai finally take to the stage (their name apparently meaning Y2K problem). I had read some intriguing and very praise-worthy appraisals of their krautrock inspired music before coming tonight, so was curious to hear them. For the first five minutes Takada Masako picked a simple three or four note refrain from her guitar and I started to wonder if it was ever going to go anywhere. Right about the point that I was starting to get a little frustrated Zaikawa Yuri started a simple accompanying refrain on the bass, Himeno Sayaka then joined in with a slow gentle drum beat. This gradually built up and up until after about ten minutes Himeno’s flailing arms and swishing ponytail had become a blur, bashing out motorik rhythms that Klaus Dinger would have been proud of, they have clearly been giving their Neu! collection a bit of a hammering, but the crowd became united in happily nodding along to the beat!

After three long tracks that basically followed the exact same formula, they finished with Takada stretching to reach the only mic on the stage to say thankyou and goodbye in endearingly cute broken English. I enjoyed them but, to be honest, was getting a little bored by the end of their set.

It was now getting pretty late and I’m glad I wasn’t having to rely on public transport as Marnie Stern didn’t get on stage until 11:30. When she did though all tardiness was forgiven, and I’m sure that had nothing to do with her and her, frankly gorgeous, bass player Malia James!

I have only recently got to know Marnie’s brand of technically brilliant guitar playing and when I first heard she was a proponent of the finger tapping technique, all I could think of was a female version of Joe Satriani or Steve Vai, which didn’t exactly fill me with desire to hear her! But I was very mistaken, she crafts the sort of disjointed rock songs that remind me of Deerhoof, with the intricate mathy drum riffs (she sometimes plays with Hella drummer Zach Hill, but not tonight) choppy vocals and furious guitar. The crowd is well up for it, throwing themselves around, despite the lateness of the hour. Leading to Malia and Marnie commenting on how good the crowd is in between their now apparently famous ‘vagina talk’! Half way through the set Malia suggests they should get a bus and we should all go on tour together, I think right then the majority of the male audience members hastily mentally rearranged their plans for the next couple of months!

Now of course this is the sort of thing all bands say; “Hey (insert town name)! You’re the best crowd we’ve had this tour!”, but in this case they do seem genuinely pleased and enthusiastic and this only sparks the crowd more into a sweaty heaving mass

After a brief encore the night is over, I finally leave the Brudenell at about quarter past midnight feeling that that was probably the best value evening I’ve had in a long time!

  1. #1 by Sexy Lingerie on April 8, 2014 - 4:13 pm

    Great review, felt like i was almost there with the level of detail. the Japanese all-girl trio Nisennenmondai sound awesome.

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