Tonight was definitely not hifi. Nor was it what I was expecting. But for the beards it was clearly what they were after.
A few hundred gathered together in the sweaty London undercrofts they call Heaven, somewhere in the vicinity of Charing Cross station. That's right, even in October the clubers' favourite can get hot. If you suffer from even the mildest form of claustrophobia, this venue probably isn't for you. Given the matt black walls, dusty ceiling drapes and euro fizz served in plastic glasses, someone's idea to name the place Heaven was either sadly lacking in ambition, has a very different perspective on life compared to Audiophile Musings or just has a great line in ironic naming standards.
Still, its usually the band and the crowd that makes a gig, not the venue. And here there be beards. Its not a very scientific survey, but I reckon about 2/3 of the male audience tonight were sporting the full facial forest. The audience ranged from mid twenties to mid fifties and it was quite an international contingent. Whimsical attire mixed comfortably with jeans n t-shirts. Thankfully, I didn't spot any cheesecloth. All were in amiable mood and when Tunng walked out on stage they received a warm, if fairly muted reception.
For most of the evening Tunng were a 6 piece of acoustic guitar, electic guitar, bass, drums, keyboards/additional percussion and synth. Vocals from most of the band contributed to the harmony style the band carry so well. Only for the encore were they joined by a guest singer.
For me the band got off to a shaky start with some slightly duff harmonies and the occasional missed musical cue. Did they need more gigs under their belts? With music that is as inticate as Tunng's and with song structures that are as quirky and, at the same time, less than intuitive, it would be very easy for less than accurate playing to produce a messy result.
Its difficult for me to describe Tunng's music in traditional genre terms. The best I can say is that its rooted in folk-rock with several twists - sometimes melancholy, sometimes with whimsical overtones, often with dark undertones. Overlay that with a touch of tribal, sprinkle with psychedelia and you probably still won't get the full flavour. Give it a try and see what you think.
Their recorded music, at least on the 3 albums I have, tends heavily towards the folk end in its carefully crafted, beautifully presented ways. Expect the unexpected, don't yearn for verse chorus verse, but instead just let what happens happen and see where the music takes you. Which takes me back to the gig. 3 songs in and we're starting to get somewhere. Perhaps they're on more familiar territory now? Its hard to tell - I don't know their songs that well, but even if I did, I'm fairly sure some of them would still be difficult to spot tonight. For tonight we were definitely at the ROCK end of Tunng's difficult to define spectrum. And by track 4, the beards were starting to rock out too. Songs built, crescendos were reached, guitars were thrashed and kick drum was well and truly kicked. And it worked well too. So well, the set went too quickly. Just about an hour in fact, followed by 2 encores in response to well deserved enthusiastic cheering and applause. Another 15 mins wouldn't have gone amiss.
So a slow start but a quick ramp up into a vibrant and rocking gig. Perhaps I should take a little of my own advice and expect the unexpected.
A word on sound quality of the PA, given this blog's primary purpose. Adequate. Very much a horn based set up, the bass kick was fast and slamming followed by a swampy mass of gloopiness. Vocals indistinct. Top end not too harsh. Probably a 5 out of 10.