"This next song is 16 minutes long… and about every two minutes it sounds like it’s ending. But it’s not, so please don’t clap. It kind of ruins the momentum." That was pretty much the only thing Euros Childs said all night I understood, apart from some of his lyrics, what with his thick Welsh accent. Actually, for all I know he was speaking in Welsh some of those times. He has never shied away from his native tongue — his former band Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci sang more often than not in his native tongue and one of the two albums Childs released this year, Bore Da, is entirely in Welsh.
The last time I saw Childs was, I think, 1999 when Gorky’s was touring for Spanish Dance Troupe. Though I own every album he’s released — Gorky’s, solo, or otherwise — I would still call myself a casual fan. Watching his excellent set Friday night I realize I’ve been taking him for granted. Childs’ solo material may lack the inventiveness and manic energy that made early records like Bwyd Time fun, but it is also absent of the Renaissance Fair embellishments which made them annoying. He’s still a quirky songwriter (dig that 16-minute title-track to Miracle Inn, also released this year), but these days his songwriting abilities are given more of a spotlight, as are the harmonies and his mellow voice. Playing as a trio with Gorky’s drummer Peter Richardson and Radio Luxembourg’s Meilyr Jones on bass, those qualities were abundantly clear. Great set.
What wasn’t clear is why he was headlining this show. This is not to knock Childs, it’s just obvious that everyone came to see David Kilgour with whom he’s been on tour. Half the room left after Kilgour’s set, which was too bad. But Kilgour is an indie legend of 30 years. His band, the Clean, which he started in 1978 in Dunedin, NZ with his brother Hamish and Robert Scott (who would form his own influential band, The Bats) have influenced loads of bands, perhaps most notably Yo La Tengo, Pavement and Superchunk. (Of the latter, Mac McCaughan’s Merge label put out a Clean compilation, released Bats albums in the ’90s, and has been releasing Kilgour’s solo albums since 2002.) Ira and James of YLT (both of whom stuck around for Childs and were well into it) were in the audience, actually, as were Kilgour’s brother Hamish, and Carl Newman.
Kilgour, who must be nearing 50 but looked much younger than that with a green military cap pulled down over his curly hair, and still sounds great. His new album, The Far Now, is pretty mellow but live, with his band the Heavy 8’s, he’s much more in the Dean Wareham (or Yo La Tengo to mention them again) school of droney, jangly, blissed-out, VU-inspired rock. Full admission: I am a sucker for this sort of thing when it’s done right, as it was Friday. I think it was the second guitarist playing a boxy-looking 12-string that really took it over the edge for me.
Kilgour and Childs were the main draw but the rest of the bill were notable too. Portland’s Pseudosix opened, previously unfamiliar to me, but I left impressed. Breezy and just a touch country-ish in that early-’70s West Coast sort of way, they reminded me of druggy ’90s band Acetone but with more melody and less reverb.
There was also a "special guest" on the bill, a badly-kept secret. (The real surprise came later that night.) Peter Moren of Peter Bjorn & John played a short impromptu set of songs he’s working on for an upcoming solo album, working out arrangements in advance of his "real" solo show at Joe’s Pub on November 19. Stress on "working them out." There were stops and starts, flubbed lyrics… but luckily Moren’s a real charmer so nobody seemed to mind. Actually, I would guess half the people there didn’t even realize this was the guy responsible for "Young Folks." Which is probably just how he wanted it, certainly different than his last appearance at Union Hall. He played maybe five originals plus a cover of Richard Hell’s "Time." I shot video of one of the new ones that Peter said was about his time as a music teacher in Sweden. I knew the name of the song but didn’t write it down and now don’t remember…
Pop Tarts Suck Toasted was there too, but left after Moren’s set, I think.