The Old England, Bristol
You know the coda to Julian Cope’s Safesurfer, where the song is eventually overtaken by wave after wave of molten guitars until the whole thing reaches orbit? That’s Chris Forsyth’s starting point I think to myself as, eight minutes or so in, ‘High Castle Rock” reaches yet another explosive climax and momentary wind down only to fire up and away again like an arcing electrical cable.
An hour previously I’d walked into the Old England for the first time. It’s not big. The seventy or so people here fill the room quite comfortably, and you have to get on stage and sidle past the bass player if you want to get to the gents. It has a faded, some might say ragged, glory, the kind of place you didn’t think they made anymore in these days of corporate sponsorship and branded promotions. Forsyth himself looks more professorial than rock star in his suit jacket and owlish glasses, while the Solar Motel rhythm section are unassuming longhairs. They don’t look like the kind of people who are about to kick off the best ninety minutes of my week.
On this first exposure to the live experience after enjoying the records for a few years, the expected highlights are the aforementioned ‘High Castle Rock’ and the frenzied motorik pulse of ‘Dreaming In The Non-Dream’, but really the trick is in the ebb and flow of the whole thing as it changes gear from full on freakouts to slower, more considered, moments. Scorching spiky psychedelic jams and high octane shredding married to a sense of sonic exploration and improvisation, this is a Grateful Dead for punks.
You want to quibble? Maybe it’s record collection rock. It’s certainly easy to trace some antecedents (Neil Young, Television, Jerry Garcia and Sonic Youth straight off the bat) but this music is just so goddamn thrilling it doesn’t matter one bit. It has the effect that the best applications of high volume noise do, to induce a sense of ekstasis, literally feeling like you are leaving your body behind and approaching some transcendent nirvana. Or, like the poet said, losing yourself in the music and the moment.
I nearly didn’t go. I was tired after a day at work, it was bitterly cold that night. I’m so glad I did.
Small but perfectly formed, a mixture of students and the more mature Uncut/Mojo type.
It made me think..
I don’t know how tours like this can work out economically. My advance ticket was four quid (extraordinary how cheap potent music can be, eh?). Even at seven quid on the door, in such a small venue that doesn’t leave a lot of money on the table for a band who have travelled from the States. I mean, all the European dates might have been in stadiums, but I kind of doubt it.