Club Anemone – South Coast underground

September 7th, 2009

Where do underground club nights come from?  From a single mind, an idea which is followed through due to conviction, an external confirmation or the simple lack of a barrier?

I haven’t asked Pual Hardsparrow his motivation for starting and maintaining Club Anemone, but assume rightly or wrongly that they involve one or all of the options above.  To run a night in a provincial, seaside town two hours from London – and probably anywhere in the world – you will almost definitely need some blind optimism and self motivation.  I think/hope that Hardsparrow’s motivations involve a desire to show a cultural backwater, ravaged by Lowest Common Denominator, “kiss me quick”-type establishments, what culture, talent, creativity and originality is “out there” and also that a good deal of it exists or originates from the place itself.

Little Boat @ Club Anemone

Over its time, Club Anemone has pitched its caravan up at a pub/venue in the neighbouring town, at the local railway worker’s club, and the last “old school” small live venue in town (now a megachain “fun pub”) and most recently in the basement of a “down on its uppers” bar of the future…a venue which it feels oddly at home.  Or at least seems to allow the music and performances to do the talking without distracting.

The desire to liken one “thing” to another or series of others is only too easy to succumb to when discussing music but Club Anemone defies such logic.  Very often Hardsparrow will begin the evening with his very own brand of anti-folk, neo-ironic, folky and non-ironic tunes – “Jim’ll Fix It”, “Eugene Landy” and one I call “Mr Mushroom Head” which is in no way called that – among them.  With a self-depreciating smile or grimace – mood-dependent – he will finish his acoustic ramblings with news of a raffle, competition or some manner of savoury confection (last time: cherry bakewells).

To follow may often be a local band of troubadours – The Powdered Cows, Language, Timothy!, Little Boat and Yaard among others – angular, challenging, talented, funny and most definitely original.  As the evening progresses the “bijou” audience of loyal and enthusiastic music-lovers are treated to out of town or country performers  – often from the Fence Collective – such as The Pictish Trail – Fence records head honcho, Bristol’s Rozi Plain, Ichi – the stilt-walking Japanese trumpeter and Viking Moses from the US.

Club Anemone Flyer, July 2009

We paying punters stand reverentially and most often smiling with simple joy at the initimate performance unfolding on stage – like a private showing, or like peeking through the curtain at a final rehearsal which is, in fact, the performance itself.  Hyperbole maybe, but this is surely the region’s best-kept secret and most original live music night, hidden away as it is, in a basement like all good underground movements should be.

homegame 6

April 26th, 2009

Anstruther is a small fishing village an hour northeast of Edinburgh, situated in the East of Neuk in Fife, ten miles from St Andrews. It’s also home to Fence Records, home of King Creosote, James Yorkston and The Pictish Trail among many others. A couple of times a year this place comes alive with music lovers from around Scotland, the rest of the UK and, it seems, the world for a weekend of music, mirth, drinking and general joyfulness.

Homegame 6 was held at five or six different venues across the town – the large Town Hall, the VERY yellow Erskine Hall, the Scottish Fisheries Museum and the Hew Scott Hall among them. The Hew Scott is a great little building opposite a shell-covered house holding maybe 150 folk at any one time plus the bar, the food/hot drinks stall and the merch desk as well as many, many fine performances over the weekend.

Animal Magic Tricks

Animal Magic Tricks

We enter around fish & chip time on Friday evening to experience ex-Bournemouth, now-Brighton’s Animal Magic Tricks. A beautifully controlled, poised set over thirty minutes see Frances move between vocal-only songs to electronically-assisted and cello-accompanied joyful tracks bound together by her elegantly fragile and beguiling voice. This set was a real treat, stood in what is a stone community hall with many like-minded, respectful and enthusiastic people. It almost felt like we’d been invited to a secret party, the capacity for the weekend is somewhere around 600, and the atmosphere certainly felt like we were all privileged to be here. Bristol’s Rozi Plain followed, a personal favourite of mine due to the song ‘Stolen Shark’ played at Club Anenome at the Bournemouth Railway Club last September, another beautifully understated performer which Fence seem to specialise in.

Unfortunately, my arrival in Scotland coincided with the onset of what came to be chicken pox and so my Friday night was cut short, however I was regaled with tales of David Thomas Broughton and The Pictish Trail performing, Gummi Bako dj-ing and Hardsparrow break-dancing – just warming up for the weekend, eh?

Fourteen hours of delirious sleep later…Hardsparrow has been in Finland for three months. Now back in Bournemouth and the UK in general, he looked a little worse for wear on Saturday morning but his set – more electronic than not these days – captivated a roomful in the Hew Scott. Joined variously by others on keyboards, ukulele, guitar and “large microphone”, Hardsparrow never fails to entertain with endearing randomness and genuine humour throughout his set. ‘He Is Mushroom Head’ is an undiscovered classic…for now.

David Thomas Broughton

David Thomas Broughton

Having no knowledge of the day’s running order, my joy at finding that David Thomas Broughton was to follow was equalled only by the reality of his performance. A better scribe than I should describe this man’s vocal skills, but coupled with his looping skills – of acoustic guitar, the mic stand(!) and his own voice – he makes for one the very best performers seen in a good while. The embarrassment at leaving mid-set was 10 if there was a scale, as unbeknownst to us the hall – and the hallway adjoining – had become FULL whilst we sat mezmorised at the front! Art Pedro awaited us in the Fisheries Museum – a joyous slice of positivity delivered by guitar, laptop and Pedro – wish I could’ve got into the room for his set but the day was busying up.

“Come to the Erskine Hall”, suggested Hardsparrow. “Ok”, we said. Jake Flowers played in the World’s Yellowest Room™. His self-confessional one-man band (he had a bass drum as well as his acoustic guitar) songs fitted the spare space of the hall. The childrens’ frieze behind the stage juxtaposed against the bluntness of his love-and-loss tunes nicely, well-positioned whoever was in charge of fitting artists with venues.

Jake Flowers

Jake Flowers

A meander down the hill past the main hall brought me back to the Hew Scott for Expedition Guide‘s early evening set. Also known as Lee from Dutch Husband, Expedition Guide set into his thirty minutes technological challenges intact but hidden from the audience. Utilising distorted samples on an mp3 player along with electric guitar and his trademark low vocals, seashanty-esque tunes washing up from the Firth of Forth into our ears. Or something. Good stuff whatever, full of extras on repeated listens.

Expedition Guide

Expedition Guide

Off to the Town Hall to catch as much of The Phantom Band‘s set as decent. Amazing first song, a slow-builder which finally bursts to life for a couple of minutes when it could’ve lasted past May as fas as I’m concerned. The drug intake (Anadin Extra, kids) bolstered with rum & ginger beer, we hiked up the hill to the Waid Academy for an inspired set from James Yorkston & The Athletes – very loose in the best sense of the word, humourous, obviously loving the weekend surrounded by friends and admirers. Then across the road for a PROPERLY original set from Bristol’s OLO Worms at Legends – I imagine “the” nightclub in Anst’er! Really, really original – I can’t be more unoriginal in emphasising the originality of their tunes and accompanying projected film – find them out and make them perform for you. To complete the day? How about squeezing into the Hew Scott for an impromptu set by Kenny, Johnny & James aka King Creosote, The Pictish Trail and James Yorkston. Bonhomie all round as a hushed (literally: SHUSH!) audience experience a set of trad Scottish folk songs, singalongs and general good feeling which is only bettered by Viking Moses‘s finalé and encore whereby the gathered are all singing at the tops of our voices whilst Mr Moses leaves the venue and reappears moments later to garner the accolades awaiting him from a bevvie-up, loved-up Saturday night crowd. A top day. Official, like.

Saturday finished me off. That much is true. Sunday was glorious. Even from the inside of a caravan on a holiday park in Scotland…hey, don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it! So I missed Malcolm Middleton, Men Diamler and King Creosote, I hope I get the chance another time. I also hope I get the chance to experience Fence on their own turf again. It’s a wonderful life, perhaps easier to see when you’re not fully able to enjoy it..! Here’s to Homegame 6.