Last night I saw an amazing gig by Calvin Johnson. He played at Bunkers Hill, Notts with support from Herman Dune, The Chemistry Experiment and Dr. Cocacolamcdonalds. Another fine Damn You! night.
When Calvin first started playing, it was through the vocal PA (as you can see in the initial shots). Although the audience closest to him was loving it, there were a lot of people at the back of the gig just gabbing away and paying no attention at all – ignorant bastards.
Then serendipity lent a hand, his mic stands collapsed with a bad case of whimsy and Calvin was PA-less. A lesser performer would have baulked, walked off or thrown a tantrum. I’ve seen some bands start pissing and moaning just cos of a tiny bit of feedback. Calvin? Well, he calmly unplugged the now redundant, buzzing speaker cabs and focussed everything on the audience. It was quite eerie – the squawking chuntering from before just evaporated and the whole room became centred on Calvin. It was very, very quiet. So quiet that I felt a bit embarrassed at the loudness of my shutter action.
Calvin sang and twanged beautifully. What a voice that man’s got. Like a swinging Paul Robeson, singing songs of badness, madness and hard travellin. He’s undoubtedly one of the best musicians I’ve ever seen perform.
Altogether, I had an excellent night. Dr Cocacolamcdonalds debuted a song about Derby “where the streets are paved with dogshit”, The Chemistry Experiment went down very well (I liked the vocodering myself) and Herman Dune also played a great set. I thought all the bands worked well together as an antithesis to the twiddly widdly jazz prog emo excess that seems to infect every gig I go to.
Of course, Calvin’s set was the perfect foil to that dullness. You can’t get more stripped-down than a bloke just stalking the stage and singing/glaring at a roomful of people, without even playing his acoustic guitar for accompaniment. Not hiding behind bombast, volume, distortion or slabs of guitar, just out there, in your face. Marvellous. The punkest gig I’ve seen in fucking years.