Dedicated to Gareth Pugh
It’s a darker than usual, and even chillier than usual, evening. I’m arriving, not only on the wrong side of the river, but the wrong side of the tracks. Mainly, under the tracks. I’m loitering by the entrance of the Bercial watching Scout (@Scout4Ever) soundcheck. No one seems to mind my presence, or even notice it for that matter, which I take as a silent compliment. Am I supposed to be here? The perfect crime. I actually am on this occasion. I’m meeting up with Charles Prest, by night known as Noon Garden, and on other nights also known as a founding member of Flamingods. I will in about 25 minutes, to his face no less, call the band Flaming-Gods, because I am socially illiterate and have the reading comprehension of a six-year-old.
Charles rolls up with Josefine, Los Bitchos’ (@LosBitchos) bassist, who’ll be plucking bass at Charles’ gig tonight. I lunge (and inadvertently trip) from out of the shadows, half yelling ‘CHARLES!’, which he takes surprisingly in stride, turning to face me, asking how my day’s been. He’s as disarming as he is amiable. We walk through the hanger and out towards the garden, but not before stopping at the bar to grab a couple of suds, we’d need them as our five-minute chat turned to nearly a half an hour of pleasant chatter. I won’t bore you with the specifics here, I’ll do that later with the interview.
Just after eight, Scout, a small three-piece roll up and pump out rich sounds off stage. The moody synth pop trio weave a rich, unhurried set, and really bring it together with ‘Never Fade’ as their finale. Ziyad Al-Samman, formerly of Blackby and full time Frank Zappa impersonator, unveils his new solo project, ejaculating dance moves and ballads onto an unsuspecting crowd below him. Everyone seems to be having a very nice time of it indeed. Between sets, 75% of Los Bitchos churned out some pretty sweet jams, including but not limited to, the latest by Deerhoof, of which I most heartily approve.
By this point, the former train arches are filled (by the looks of it beyond capacity) including everyone who’d come in from Over the Garden Wall to catch Noon Garden’s final show of the year. A tropical storm, both in terms of music and attire, was about to wash over the audience. There’s a lot to unpack on stage and I’m a little irritated that I have to do so if I’m being honest. I’ve got to stay focused and objective. The crowd, unrestrained by such obligation, have all started hurling their bags and coats at the front of the stage and dancing. Reluctantly, perhaps not the best choice of vocabulary, I turned my attention back on stage. It was held there by the subtle metallic twangs of an Oud being plucked, or a feverish scale slipping over the Korg by the hidden tiger. Charles is absolutely murdering a wah pedal by the way, I’m also picking up a thick dollop of math rock and other influenced elements of groups like Animal Collective and Battles coming through. Everyone can see and feel Josefine’s bops coming through the bass, while the drummer, in a loud blazer/shirt combo, relentlessly attacks the high-hat with equally loud zest. It all feels like a studio session that’s had the fourth wall drop. The set rounds off with Sarah of Los Bitchos yelling, churning the air with a clenched fist from the DJ booth.
This gig felt different from most. I hesitate to use words like energy and vibes because their recent appropriation in the parlance of our times has nearly rendered them meaningless. Perhaps it had to do with the location, the people (T.R.C. crew) or a combination of the two. Regardless of the reason it’s my opinion, both from the one-to-one session with Charles and then group therapy with the crowds, that you’ll find yourself in an enjoyable, safe space, and with music that you’ll be able to engage with hassle and ego free. Although this was Noon Garden’s last show, fear not, he’ll be back in the New Year. In February, he’ll be releasing his first full length album and touring with Los Bitchos as support on their UK/EU tour. By the time your dry January’s through, you’ll be ready to whet your appetite on these fine chops.