Pioneering anti-folk label Blang Records started out as a monthly club night at the original 12 Bar Club on Denmark Street so to celebrate their 10th anniversary there was only one place to go – the old 12 Bar sign has found a new home on Holloway Road and Blang have followed it for two nights showcasing some of the best talent to have featured on the label over the past decade.
We arrive just in time to catch the final song of Malcolm Kaksois‘ set and are glad that we did – it takes Blang’s fondness for story-telling by taking us on a surreal and at times hilarious adventure in search of somewhere to buy a beer once the shops have shut.
Former Milk Kan frontman Scrappy Hood picks up the baton and runs with it with a set of solo acoustic story-songs peppered with wry witticisms and sarcastic social commentary. Imbued with an engaging stage presence and a sharp turn of phrase, this is undoubtedly music with a message, but doesn’t let that get in the way of a good tune.
Next up is Thomas Truax, an artist of such peculiarity and ingenuity that despite having been a huge fan of his work for years I always struggle to come up with the right words to capture the experience of seeing him live. Truax is an inventor, a raconteur, a showman; a man not afraid to walk the thread-thin line between insanity and genius. And today he fills the 12 Bar Club with a sense of magic and wonder for the lamentably short time that he has on stage. Performing a stripped back set without his mechanical drummer Sister Spinster, we are transported to a world that is at once whimsical and eerie.
Truax begins with ‘The Cannibals Have Taken Our Nicole Kidman’, a track performed on the Hornicator – a strange contraption fashioned from an old gramophone horn – with which he builds a dizzying jungle of loops, whoops and strange noises. Perplexed gawps spread across the faces of the uninitiated, while wide grins stretch across the faces of those returning for more. ‘The Butterfly and The Entomologist’, played using a portable fan and guitar, provides a true highlight – the fable of a wounded creature teaching even those who would protect her about the violent nature of mankind. It’s beautiful, perfectly crafted and very, very odd.
After a bit of crowd participation for ‘Why Dogs Howl At The Moon (Part One)’, Truax closes his set by asking for the stage lights to be dimmed. He then dons a pair of flashing, swirling glasses and launches into the utterly bonkers ‘Beehive Heart’, to the delight of everyone present.
The set ends, leaving us with a feeling somewhat akin to that experienced by Alice when she awakes in the real world after her adventures in Wonderland.
Left with the unenviable task of following that is North-West London songstress Emily Capell & Her Three Pete Suite and she does so with plenty of sass, a little bit of brass (courtesy of her veteran backing band) and a great line in good-time pop tunes. Littered with smart pop culture references and with liberal helpings of blues, jazz and rocksteady thrown into the mix, we’re all soon under her spell.
Ten years down and still putting on some of the best music in London, here’s to another ten years of Blang.
Review & Photography by Paul Maps