Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Thomas Truax, Birdeatsbaby and The Veloes at the Freebutt

Remember when you were a kid and you used to think that your body was powered by lots of little people inside you, pulling levers to activate your brain or make you move your leg? OK, so maybe that was just me and my strange imagination. But I sometimes still indulge this notion, if only to explain the perpetual soundtrack accompanying my every thought and dream. I'm convinced that there's a tiny band playing inside my head, responding to my day to day actions and emotions like a well punctuated film score.

If ever a real life band came close to recreating the imaginary sound of my psyche, it's Birdeatsbaby, who I discovered at the Freebutt last night supporting Thomas Truax. A gloriously OTT ensemble, the twisted Brighton troubadours describe themselves as a 'dark cabaret band' but that doesn't quite cut it. Imagine a young Kate Bush, instead of signing to EMI and becoming a pop superstar, falls in with a bunch of gypsies and runs away to the circus where her true murderous nature is revealed... and you will be along the right lines.

Despite struggling against a shoddy sound system which clearly didn't do justice to her vocals, the lead singer threw herself wholeheartedly into the Moulin Rouge-meets-Hammer Horror material, while I stood entranced. There was an element of student fancy dress party contrived madness about the whole set up, but that only made it all the more appealing. The previous support act, The Veloes, had played a pleasing but not particularly original mix of jangly indie and 90s Britpop style numbers with the occasional departure into reggae-infused prog, so when Birdeatsbaby appeared in all their bonkers burlesque glory, it was a surprising and welcome contrast and a good warm up for the properly eccentric madness that ensued when Thomas himself took to the stage.

We'd all been speculating as to the nature of a curious contraption (pictured above) which had been lurking at the back throughout the support bands, and appeared to be constructed from several bicycle wheels and an assortment of bric-a-brac. The thing was introduced by Thomas as ' Mother Superior' and turned out to be a rather impressive steam punk drum machine, just one of many Heath Robinson-esque home made instruments to materialise during the set. Using these, a guitar, his voice and a live looping machine, Truax embarked on a surreal and brilliantly baffling voyage of weirdness, which ended with the entire audience howling at the moon. Looking around the venue at a mixture of delighted and bemused faces, it was clear that one needed to posses a certain sense of humour to appreciate this unusual man's equally strange offerings. Having been raised on the absurdist humour of the Bonzos and other such musical comedy acts, I was perfectly in tune, and went home feeling thoroughly tickled.


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