King Creosote and Jon Hopkins

When King Creosote and Jon Hopkins enter the Junction2 stage it’s still dinner time but the cosy Cambridge venue is packed.

Cambridge is a folk capital, there’s no debate about that, from the folk festival to the many tiny folk concerts all year round there’s not another British place where popular roots are as adored and followed.

Ticking concerts as ‘folk’ in Cambridge also has a marketing side to take into account. Artists that you wouldn’t probably define as folk elsewhere often become here. To get some boost in ticket sales, I guess. Nevermind.

As my friend advises on organizing a lift (it’s always nice to swap a below zero scooter ride for a car journey) “better we get there early, folk people like early nights”.

King Creosote surely doesn’t play hardcore or doom metal, nor does Jon Hopkins, yet I still found difficult to tag the music we are about to listening as ‘folk’ or ‘alt.folk’ which is even worse. Actually, what’s the music I am expecting tonight?

Their collaboration (excluding Hopkins productions of Creosote material) counts a Mercury Prize nominated album, Diamond Mine, released about a year ago and two further songs in the vinyl-only Honest Words EP released last September. The entire bulk is well below the hour and unlikely to expand into jams and solos.

Consequence is that, even accepting an early finish it’s probable that the audience will be pleased with some extemporaneous treats. I am looking forward to this.

The show opens with Jon Hopkins playing a sweet, very quiet melody on a piano. He reveals it’s classic training despite today he’s renowned for the electronic material and soundtracks.
I bet that, If he was offered to be some great of the past, he would go for Beethoven. His attempt to get into (or the inability to get rid of) Beethoven melodies as the Moonlight sonata is evident and fits better than the dodgy attempt to use the real thing by Glasvegas (remember that?) or some of Patrick Wolf older tunes.

The tune is First Watch, the opener of Diamond Mine, which they’ll play in its entirety. If you heard the album, after that piano which reminds me of Keith Jarrett in search of the inspiration to start his impromptu solo concerts, you know King Creosote arrives to sing next.
The mixture of sweet voice, whispered guitar and Hopkins now on his alternative instrument, a squeezebox (an air pumped hand driven kind of organ, whatever its name is) makes John Taylor’s Month Away one of the most beautiful tunes with one of the most obscure titles of 2011.

Diamond Mine came to the attention of the public, and King Creosote and Jon Hopkins to my attention, because of a Mercury prize nomination.

The richness of Diamond Mine is all in its simplicity. The album where showing less is better than more. Less notes, less instruments.
Jon Hopkins influence is key. He gives the record a quiet, ambient, ‘soundscape’ feel. It translates live to perfections.

One of the consequence is that my shutter becomes the noisier thing in the theatre.
After a couple of gazes at me by both because of my side-stage photo activity, I gave up shooting before the end of the third song (and having jumped the first).
In the end there was not much more to portray, they’re not the Stooges on stage. I always remember a quote by Keith Jarrett. Jarrett idiosyncrasy with photography is well known and once he stopped playing at an Umbria Jazz gig in Italy to tell a ‘tog: “why do you want to stop something that is flowing?”.

The concert indeed flows, uninterrupted and quietly until Your Young Voice, the closing song of Diamond Mine, ends. The pair has been very concentrated so far, the singing and the playing was very intense. The squeezebox and the grand piano (‘baby grand’ to be fair) made the experience dreamy, acoustic, relaxing… not literally folk.

Then things (read: King Creosote) turn upside down.
Kenny Anderson ( this is his real name) begins chatting between songs. He tells about missing the support for a Nando’s snack and more of the funny Scottish humour that makes me want to investigate where the difference between English closeness and Scottish openness starts and resides.

It is now less obvious to identify the tunes. They surely play some covers, test some of their most experimental material live. Whatever it is played everything is laidback and has a totally different feel from the first half. Which is quite refreshing, this would be the moment to get back shooting.

The theatre moment happens when Anderson jokes with Hopkins perfect pitch. He picks a random note on the guitar, Hopkins gets it on the keyboard. Chords included.

I am in admiration, awe and also extremely jealous. I hate people with a perfect pitch. I am so frustrated by my incapability to differentiate between to notes that it sounds impossible that someone can do it. My dream is to listen to a song and get the chords. In my next life, perhaps.

That is why I found interesting to read the five stars review of their Brighton gig by Alexis Petridis on the Guardian. It looks the “perfect pitch” scene happened again. My evil-me pretends they agreed on the notes to play for the tour. After all, perfect pitch doesn’t exist, does it?!

Since King Creosote announces Simon and Garfunkel’s song The Only Living Boy in New York, I can list this. He mentions it as one of the songs that didn’t make to their endless greatest hits and should have done.
The song works great played by the stripped down entity that the duo is tonight.

I wish they played Prince’s Nothing Compares to U as Petridis reports from Brighton but for this kind of curiosity, you know there’s youtube. Damn they did it in London too!

With Creosote catalogue worth about 40 albums  (and counting) recorded in just over 10 years in his Scottish homemade studio it was impossible to know what happened next and, more important, it was irrelevant.
The music was great, the audience was loving it and the night was very entertaining making the overall experience great.

The concert works as a wonderful sweet dessert despite it was too early to have a proper dinner before but, if you want the icing on it, the pair was at the merchandise desk to sign your copy of the album.

You can find more on King Creosote and Jon Hopkins on the [website] [facebook]  [Jon Hopkins on twitter]  and listen to the [album Diamond Mine]

Photo tip

“Why do you want to stop something that is flowing?” (Keith Jarrett)

It makes a nice pair with

“Our job is not to provide photos to photographers” (Efrim Menuck)

Concert photographers aren’t loved by some artists, despite all artists wouldn’t survive a minute without concert pictures

There are some times any motivations are unjustified or pretentious, other they have a reason.

I can’t understand why an artist that becomes bigger changes its policy and starts being demanding. All photos right, ridiculous restrictions on songs, shooting from the mixer desk. Things that just a year before were not in place.

I know controlling your image is essential, nevertheless making professional photographers’ life harder has the only consequence of increasing the number of paparazzi phone shots that will decorate your press. It’s quite obvious to understand, yet…

Different is when the photographer is indeed a nuisance, and we can be. This happens quite often at acoustic gigs in theatres. The balance is difficult. DSLR can’t avoid that mirror to flip and that creates noise. Sometime that noise is louder than the music played.

This is what Keith Jarrett (Robert Fripp and more) hates to the point of leaving the stage if a click is heard.
Some musicians are more tolerant (or just more in need of photos and press) but if you are a photographer and has ever found yourself in that situation it is embarrassing.

There are two ways to avoid it.

One is to not shoot. The other is to make less noise.

The first option doesn’t need a suggestion.

The second I can give a couple of tips.
Wait for the music to become louder and shoot in those instants or wait for the moments between songs. I know it is not be the best frame but it’s your work to compromise and get the best from what you have. Respect for the musicians, first, and the audience, second, it’s paramount.
Move side of the stage or back from the stage, go to the balcony and everywhere you can still take some pictures moving your shutter away from the speakers and other people ears.

~ by Valerio on February 8, 2012.

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