Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Despite what I said at the end of my previous post, I don't think I've reached my live-gig saturation point. If I hadn't been sick last weekend, I would have gone to see Black Betty at Pub 340. I didn't even know about this band until a week ago, when I started to see posters for their show. I figured any band with the gumption to align themselves with Leadbelly and Ram Jam might be worth checking out. Then, while home from work and browsing the StonerRock.com album reviews forum, I saw their name again, had a listen at their myspace site, and got all stoked about their show, which happened to be that very night. That kind of coincidence is a good omen. Unfortunately, the future Mrs. Mule provided the necessary sanity check. If I'd gone, my sinuses would have probably imploded as the first power chord was struck.

There would have been power chords, most assuredly. Black Betty are a heavy outfit, especially for a duo. They've got massive guitars, massive drums, and massive singing...yes, actual singing. Righteous [mp3]. I'll have to track them down soon to get the album and maybe do a little reviewage of my own here.

My big thing with attending live shows is avoiding regret, the kind that pierces me when I see old gig posters for bands like Husker Du, who played here in 1985 when I was a full two years away from having a clue, and then it was too late; they were gone. Or the kind of regret that nags me in the present, as it's doing these days as a reformed Van der Graaf Generator tours across Europe and England.

They've pared down to the trio of Hammill, Evans and Banton, having booted out David "Jaxonsax" Jackson at the end of their 2005 tour. The ousting was done with utmost secrecy from the band, which generated a tornado of speculation amongst the fans and making for a fractious few weeks on the PH/VdGG mailing list, let me tell you. For many people, Jaxon's multi-sax attack was VdGG's signature, and so the new "power trio" format was greeted with nervous anticipation. Hardly anyone dismissed them outright, however. And, bless them, they're making it work, with Banton cranking it to the max, keeping himself busier than ever on organ and pedals, and Hammill playing a lot more guitar than he's done in VdGG lineups past. "This is a f***ing brilliant grunge band with unorthodox instrumentation!" gushed a fan after one of their first shows. They've dusted off material like the fearsome "Gog" and personal favourite "Meurglys III (The Songwriter's Guild)," and even added two new songs to the set. While the 2005 reunion was imbued with a lot of nostalgia, this incarnation is something truly new, and they're pushing their playing and their music forward. It's progressive rock, after all.

I've thought about reviewing the whole VdGG catalogue here in an attempt to express how much this music means to me, but I've been finding lately that the more I plan, worry, and think about this blog, the harder it gets to sit down and write. Maybe I'll get down to it; that's the kind of difficult music I originally planned to chronicle here. As I've learned, though, this is no place for planning.

No comments: