British Sea Power - British Sea Power at High Rocks Inn
Miss Fliss 02/08/2009
There are many reasons that British Sea Power have raised the bar in providing novel and vivifying experiences for their fans, but halfway through a set in a barn deep in Kent countryside, my admiration for them reached its latest zenith.
An interlude like this has never taken place anywhere, I'm sure of it. Whilst sticksman Woody tends to mending his ailing snaredrum, his bandmates are keen to invite an audibly drunk, ruddy, stout Geordie fan familiar to them to clamber up on stage. After grabbing the mic to loudly tell everyone off for not jumping up and down, he launches into an oompah-style chant of 'Joom oop and down everybody! Jump oop and down!', whilst the band back him with some jaunty improvised guitar. The Geordie guy calls the shots about when to end the song. 'He used to be in Cypress Hill,' announces Noble. This must be seen for the full beauty to take effect - the band's faces were a picture of dropped jaws and wide laughing yet overwhelmed eyes. Personally, I had to wipe away tears of pure laughter. Since the video has been released on the internet by a fan (who has kindly given me permission to link to it in this article), I suggest you click on it to get the full ambience.
View the madness here!
Combine this instance of fan celebration with the scenes earlier in the evening of Yan sitting drinking and talking with fans, and guitarist Noble offering us a sip of his elderflower wine (replete with strawberries bobbing on the surface) while engaging us in a long and idle chinwag, just minutes before he was due on stage and you have a band more genuine and decent than any.
To give this gig more context, BSP had chosen to play at an inn placed next to towering rock monuments, reachable by steam train. It was great fun arriving in old-fashioned style (I loved the sight of people sitting in the steam train with incongruous pints of beer), and spending a sunny afternoon scaling mountainous sandstones set in thick ancient woodland. What other band put on shows in this quaint manner? Also, what other band inspires legions of devotees to make a hobby of travelling to obscure places time and again for the band they love - fans that today gather on a roundabout by the High Rocks Inn to hold an impromptu post-punk party (we valued the strains of The Associates coming from a ghetto blaster as we watched the sun set and the party itself from high atop a mountain - cheers to the DJ!) - a party that is adorned with stuffed herons and owls?
The gig itself was a raucous one. With freshly picked foliage adorning the stage, the sight of bassist Hamilton with a three foot twig strapped to his back, and the abrasive, edgy quality of sound, I was reminded of those early intense gigs of 2001/2002 when the band would go wild. And wild they went tonight. Noble trusting and knowing the moshpit well enough to choose an exact fan to land on as he leapt from the stage during the seismic Atom. And the finale of the gig involving Noble scaling the ceiling in order to hang from the barn's wooden beams. Yan was also seen in similar mania - so much so that he lost a sock (and shoes presumably).
The sound was shaky tonight, so ramshackle is the word. But who needs perfection when atmosphere and experience override so much to create an event, rather than just the dutiful rigmarole of running through a set of songs?
But, if we're talking songs, well, the new one sounds in fine form - crossing into the Chameleons guitar territory there's always been hints of. Childhood Memories made a surprise return (have not heard it in years). And it was tender to hear Yan say: 'This is my brother Neil and he's going to sing some songs now.' And we got the plaintive elegance of Come Wander With Me.
I've loved everything about British Sea Power - from the beauty of the songs, to the self-styled militia/Naval/historical hotchpotch of clothing, to the dalliance with and adoration of nature green or Avian, the strange and wonderful merchandise (BSP beer, BSP hair gel, BSP Kendal cake, and Scouts badges!), to the far flung (in some cases unchartered by bands) territories they've played, the humanity and community therein - and coming up to eight years of devotion down the line, my interest's nowhere near ready to wane.