Thursday, April 17, 2008

Five Years Later, Low Still Rock

One of the first gigs I went to when I officially moved to Brighton was Low at St George's Church. Five years and several hundred bands later, it still ranks among my best-ever gigs. As I mentioned in my post about Iron & Wine, St George's is a super-atmospheric and acoustically blessed venue, particularly good for anything mellow or folky. Back then, Low were pretty much the epitome of 'Slowcore', they may have even invented the genre. Apparently the band members don't actually like this term, but it does quite accurately describe their distinctive combination of minimalist arrangements and slow soothing tempos. The last couple of albums have moved away from this format slightly, with the rockier and more upbeat 'The Great Destroyer' and some experimental dirgey electro in the latest offering, 'Drums & Guns'. I was intrigued to see how this evolution would translate into their live shows, so when I saw they were returning to Kemp Town, I knew I couldn't miss it.

For me, what stands Low apart from other similar bands is the amazingly consonant voices of founder members Sparhawk and Parker (pictured above), whose haunting close-harmonies embody the unique intimacy of a married couple, to neck-prickling effect. The audience at St George's last night - packed in right up to the rafters - were absolutely rapt as they were treated to a slick set of old and new material. Even when encouraged by the band, heckles were hesitant - everyone was clearly too awe-struck to articulate their feelings, or too middle class and British perhaps. I'd purposely left my camera at home, so that I could enjoy an undiluted gig experience for once. Sparse lighting in the church makes getting a decent shot without flash virtually impossible anyway. The inevitable encore was passionately demanded and gracefully delivered - I was only disappointed that Sparkhawk didn't make use of the church's baby grand this time. But in every other way, it was the perfect gig, and I came out feeling inspired and becalmed.

A big thank you to Steve for organising the outing, and to him, Michael and Ant for being jolly good gig cohorts as always - Ant's man-flu wobbles notwithstanding. Depending on wireless availability in Hódmezővásárhely, this might be my last blog post for a while - as I'm off to Hungary tomorrow for
the first of my dental trips (wish me luck!). I'm looking forward to experiencing some authentic Hungarian folk music during our stay, as well as the Guinness World record sheep-shearing contest, coach-driving competition, wrangling, horse-gymnastics, dáma horse exhibition, horse games (?!) and pig catching which will all be taking place as part of the annual agricultural festival. The mind boggles.
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