The Necks. Edinburgh, November 2007.

I don’t think I have been to The Lot since the Jazz Festival in July – too long, really. On Wednesday, following on from a rather interesting wine tasting of some delicious wines from Mas de Daumas Gassac, I made up for that and stumbled along to see the Necks. Described by the promoter as “not entirely avant-garde, nor minimalist, nor ambient, nor jazz”, it was a fair bet it would be a quiet night and I’d have no trouble getting in.

So I arrived late, hoping to sit propping up the bar. I was wrong. The gig started late but not late enough for me, and it was busy. Very busy. The promoter – a friend for over twenty years (we once shared a flat) – was at the door, preventing latecomers from getting in: the music was so soft, she didn’t want to disturb the mood.

Through the door, we could hear a gentle repetitive piano figure; other punters moaned, worried that there wouldn’t be a suitable break in the music until the interval. To avert rebellion, we were let in – quietly.

There were no seats; I went upstairs and leant against the wall, unable to see the band, until I noticed a couple of empty seats tucked right down at the end. I snuck down – the music was still quiet.

I had a great view of the Necks. Actually, I had a great view of their necks: from the balcony, that was all I could see.

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Slowly, gently, imperceptibly, the music built up. The repetitious nature of the music reminded me of Steve Reich or Terry Riley; it was hypnotic – like gamelan by a jazz trio. Slowly the music subtly changed, the piano leading, then the bass. It was very effective, growing like thunder rumbling in the distance.

The crescendo built over thirty or forty minutes, reached a climax, a gently faded. In the interval, I chatted to the promoter: I wondered whether they ever got bored, whether the band ever felt like rocking out.

The next set was less abstract than the first – the drummer kept a rhythm on the cymbals; and after forty five minutes, they started to rock out, loudly. I can’t quite remember how they got there (I can’t ignore the possibility that perhaps the repetition lulled me to sleep – there were many people with their eyes closed; listening intensely to the music, I’m sure). The drummer must have needed to free up his wrists.

It was really interesting music: much closer to minimalism than jazz (not a band to swing), but using the standard piano trio format.

And good that it was so busy – I had thought new music (well, newish), improvised music doesn’t have much of an audience: clearly, they were keen to come out on a cold, blustery November evening to see an Australian trio; even if there wasn’t much to see.

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