Blog of the AMM

Richard Evans: Letter from Wales

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How to make a fun time in hell ... Add the chocolate bunny of criticism to the administered commodity ...

How to make a fun time in hell … Add the chocolate bunny of criticism to the administered commodity …

Hey Ben,

Prepare yourself for another laugh / cry / wank (and let’s hope your plooking and thrashing doesn’t wake Esther!), coz it’s me again, coming atcha straight outta shitsville, a black flower of pain before my tired eyes. I just got back from taking one of my service users (and her sister) to a musical event at the Cardiff St David’s Hall (a not unpleasing stack of late brutalist blocks, dating from just before everything went po-mo aka really cheap-looking) – a performance by a woman from Leicester who apparently won that bastard’s curse The X Factor at some point in its foul history. This foghorn in crap sparkly leggings belted out power ballads for two and a half fucking hours Ben, while the overwhelmingly white audience scarfed it up like it was cheesy chips. Which, of course, it was. She. Was. RANCID. And her band, Jesus Christ, you should have seen the fuckers! The drummer had this dreadful We Are The Mods thing going on, the worst hairdo imaginable, a target t-shirt for chrissake, playing with sub-moonian enthusiasm even though every song’s in a sodden plodding 4/4, and every so often the big white light would hit him from underneath and reveal him to be a pterodactyl. The guitarist was wearing a grey suit jacket with the sleeves rolled up over a plain white shirt, slacks and fucking espadrilles, with this adorable little blond crop with the sides shaved like a Hitler Youth, camp as Christmas, and he played his hot licks on a red Stratocaster (a red Stratocaster being the international recognised visual cue for rock ‘n’ roll baby ROCK ‘N’FUCKEN ROLL), stepping down from his plinth during one or other interminable ballad to join the Foghorn at the front of the stage and be spotlit and adored as he cranks out his rote solo, then gliding back up to his soapbox, to flick the golden curl from his eye and return to teasing out barely audible cliches on his bright red cliche machine. I felt a bit sorry for the bassist, the only black member of the Foghorn’s band, and so clearly yearning for some more uptempo numbers my heart ached – the frustrated, stiff-legged funk poses he kept almost locking into, his body and guitar beginning to sway, only for the momentum to be broken as the song reaches yet another emotional crescendo requiring the band to drop out and allow La Foghorn to hold out that last note for a few histrionic seconds of weightless, bathetic declamation (I Will Always Love You. I Can’t Get Enough Of Your Love. Sometimes I Am Frightened But I’m Ready To Learn About The Power Of Love. And so on) before the band crash in with some unsyncopated thudding cup cakes to let you know the song’s finished and it’s time us to bang our paws together. Poor bassist, looked at least 15 years younger than the others, a tall, lean man with cool hair and a cool jacket, he must have been bored shitless. I kep wondering how he got the gig, and how much it pays. This also in relation to the keyboard player, who really did seem to have wandered in from a different band, a very different band. Difficult, in fact, to imagine the band that would serve as a natural home to this cadaverous skinny malinki all dressed in black, this unsmiling pallid figure in a trilby and long coat, his eyes never straying to audience nor to colleagues, switching between his keys and the middle distance, alone and palely loitering – what ails thee, knight at arms? But the weird thing was the cognitive dissonance in looking at his odd little raven of a man, this corpse-white enigma in a fedora and listening to the sounds he was making on his keyboards, which were the requisite power ballad ingredients – great soupy washes of a pseudo-strings (to ennoble each romantic self-delusion with dirty old bits of classical grandeur they found on an ashtip), celestial synth wash maunderings, sensitive echoey piano intros and outros where the plangent notes hang delicately above the audience like a freeze frame of some snot sneezed into the air by a bloke in the balcony, the particles heading down through the air towards the unsuspecting heads of those in the stalls, but press pause just before the snot hits the fans and see the bubbles hang there – how can a man as weird looking as this be producing this muzak? What’s he even doing there? What are any of them, or us, doing there?

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