The Dirty Three, May 3 at the Town Pump
The Dirty Three have an uncalculated, almost accidental quality that I like. They’re simply a violinist, guitarist and drummer who play the way they want to play, and fortunately they sound really good together. As an instrumental group, The Dirty Three are all about a sound. I find their songs to be fairly interchangeable to be honest, but it’s a privilege just to wallow in their vibe for a while. I enjoy their drummer too. He can extract more from three drums, a high-hat and two cymbals than any drummer I’ve seen. And when his basic kit isn’t enough, he’ll toss a small tambourine or wood block onto his snare and knock that around for a bit.
The Town Pump on Saturday night was much busier than Richards on Richards a couple years ago when I first saw The Dirty Three. To match the larger crowd, the band had grown in number too. They had the bass player from Low on this tour, making them the Dirty Four for about 3/4 of the set.
As you’d probably guess, I’ve got a soft spot for violins in rock music. Bands with violins are uniformly cool: Curved Air, Van der Graaf circa 77/78, Mahavishnu, Boud Deun, Godspeed You Black Emperor, My Dying Bride, etc. The Dirty Three’s Warren Ellis is more of an all-rounder than a fleet fingered prog scientist, combining soloist, conductor, and emcee in one slightly rumpled Aussie. Like his occasional employer Nick Cave, he’s got a black sense of humour that he exercises between songs, outlining the dire scenario that each selection illustrates. I think he’s a great frontman. The belter doesn’t agree. She has serious credibility issues with anyone who wears red pants.
It wasn’t the band’s fault, but the gig was a bit of an endurance test. The club was a sweatbox, so as soon as The Dirty Three finished their encore and waved goodbye, we headed for the exit to air ourselves out on the Water St. sidewalk.