If Good Music Falls in the Forest, Does Anybody Hear?
It's easy to be Jagger when there's 20,000 people in an arena, watching and gushing and fawning. Not so much when you're playing a field of leathered, aged, hippie fossils who only want whatever modernized version of Country Joe and the Fish that the LSD has allowed to remain in their heads. At any rate, when the majority of the audience is sitting at picknic tables not even facing the stage, and the PA system is 30% blown, it's tough to fake a vibe other than apathy. This was the situation faced by Toronto locals, Girl + the Machine last Friday June 17th at the Bradstock Festival in Bradford, Ontario.
But, in a show of unexpected professionalism, the band managed to swagger through a tight set that seemed to transform song by song from a dirge-ish, atmospheric music exercise, to slightly punky, dirty pop that was just a lot of fun. Kind of like the Cure's career in reverse.
Front woman, the mysterious Girl, used her Malaysian cuteness to disarm all the male cynics present. It seems to be accidental, kind of like the stripper that manages to make you think that she really likes you. Either way, when the first song isn't about "yellow sun" and she doesn't move like a Hello Kitty, you find yourself immediately rooting for her.
The first half of the set consisted of longer songs, averaging over four minutes. Girl swayed through some very respectable Art School-style thinker/feelers. It seemed like the type of thing to be played at dinner parties if your friends are really smart. Or if you're a girl that just got dumped by your first girlfriend that you met in sculpting class and still have the bust you made of her (and you were even considering telling your parents about.) The three-piece behind her seemed very comfortable with this style of drone. And, although this type of music generally dares you not to be bored live; the singer's a girl. And you are starting to want to do her...
A couple of little squeaks from our front lady and the band threw itself into a series of I-don't-care-about-anything-but-my-hair pop numbers. Of course, the lyrics could have been about Middle Eastern women being executed for alleged adultery, but it sounded fun. Girl started an adorable bunny hop that Gwen-ed us all. The band kept the energy level up, as the numbers dropped to around three minutes apiece. Even some of the Elders looked up from their Chomsky-talk to take a listen and a look (a couple even danced.)
Goeffoh's alternately heavy, Creep-esque guitar bursts and clean strum/scratch, matched the stable bass of Fred. Both supported the artistic figurine Girl with balance and poise. Predictably, they played before a backdrop of insect file footage and such.
Whether they were trying to win over the room, or they just didn't fucking care, they played and looked good. Not only well worth the zero dollars I spent on the show but, worth the twenty I spent on petrol to get there.
Sources tell me their Saturday set was brilliant. A full audience and a technically perfect experience. The fact that I reviewed a basic soundcheck and liked it says even more about their performing abilities. Go to their website and sample some music at
Also, Terry, the Wavy Gravy character that hosted the festival in his backyard; was pretty cool. In fact, probably a lot cooler than me and my friends. I can't organize my birthday.
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