After two gigs in three days, both on the Kent coast of the UK, proving that live music is really back, I felt the need to share my experiences with you all. I’m here to let you know that finally, the smell of dank, sweaty environments can be enjoyed once again, in the pursuit of musical freedom. Tonight, the first of the two shows, was at the Ramsgate Music Hall for Montreal heavyweights BIG l BRAVE with support from Sweden’s unknown wonder Fågelle.
To set the scene for those of you who don’t know Ramsgate Music Hall it’s an incredible venue, a well-kept secret on the Thanet coast who hosts an absolute array of incredible acts. With everyone from A.A. Williams, to Ohhms, and everyone in between, if they can get them, then they will host them. The venue is over two floors, and has a limited capacity, so it’s always an intimate affair. With the stage downstairs, and bar upstairs, as it states on the walls in the main room, it’s bad for talking, so if you really feel the need to ruin the atmosphere where the good shit is, you can bugger off upstairs for a chat. You can even watch the performance from upstairs, as they live feed shows to a screen, so you don’t miss a thing.
Tonight feels like it always does, a dark room, surrounded by friends you just haven’t met yet.
As Fågelle takes to the stage and sets things going, I feel like I’m not alone in being completely new to the artist. It starts with an electric ambience, and within a couple of minutes, I’m witnessing something so completely profound, that I can’t look away. With a sound very much akin to fellow Swede, and associate Anna Von Hausswolf, and Björk equally, Fågelle takes the chaos, and harnesses it to within an inch of its very being. Its hypnotic, wondrous, and completely otherworldly.
Over the course of the next hour, I become absolutely intoxicated with Fågelle’s work, and I’m dumbstruck by the time she finishes. Completely unassuming, Fagelle creates these chaotic musical dreamscapes, sometimes more like nightmares if I’m honest, where she has complete control.
Nothing is off the table, from samples to throat singing, and multiple different microphones, all set for the precise execution to hit each individual sound exactly. Like watching a painter lay brush strokes, Fågelle makes these intricate little sounds and builds on them until they are beautiful little masterpieces of noise.
Like watching a painter lay brush strokes, Fågelle makes these intricate little sounds and builds on them until they are beautiful little masterpieces…
In an age where alternative female artists are finally getting the recognition they merit, Fågelle deserves every ounce of praise I can give, because she is an incredible force of nature.
By contrast, as BIG l BRAVE take to the stage, the room is filled within a minute, ready for what we all hope is going to be an absolutely intense, impassioned, and emotional outpouring of music and sound. We are not left waiting long before the wall of sound is literally melting faces.
BIG l BRAVE are a three piece, who make noise like a six piece. Every last inch of the air is filled with sound, so much so, that you can feel it pushing you back from the stage. For an hour the soundscapes maneuver from slow-paced wails to breakneck eruptions of noise. It’s so intense to bear witness to, that you literally have to realign at each quieter section, for fear of falling backwards.
While Tasy Hudson beats the drums to within an inch of their very existence, and Robin Wattie viscerally vocalises her demon’s, Mathieu Bernard Ball, like some sort of possessed creature, absolutely tears the place to shreds with his guitar.
Every last inch of the air is filled with sound, so much so, that you can feel it pushing you back from the stage…
To watch the trio make so much sound with the minimum of fuss, is like watching some crazy magic happening right before your eyes. The ingenious ways in which the band bring sound to life, at times, defies logic. Everything from feedback, to crashing piles of broken cymbals, this truly is art being created.
After all of the years of gig going (which is a lot now, I think maybe like thirty-four years), I’m used to standard four- or five-piece bands, and how they work on stage. It’s a tried and tested format, but boy, does it get boring to see. Add to that the price of tickets now, to help pay for elaborate backdrops, and on-stage trickery, it really does get formulaic and dull real quick. Throw a band at me, or a soloist, who innovates, and manipulates to create these more intense, unique sounds, and I’m all over that.
To watch a soloist, such as Fågelle, come to the stage by herself, and conjure up these otherworldly soundscapes, with nothing more than her imagination, and available items, is shear poetry.
To see BIG l BRAVE literally tear the Ramsgate Music Hall a new one sonically, that’s the real deal.
It’s the grass roots venues, and these smaller, more unique bands, who are keeping imaginations striving for more. You can keep your giant arena venues. They are uncomfortable, unappreciative, soulless places, where quality is pushed aside, in favour of quantity, which is killing the scene.
For all of the big names I’ve seen in my time, my best nights have been at small venues, and tonight was one of my best nights out ever. Both acts were absolutely spellbinding, and if you don’t know either, or the venue, then it’s probably time to start looking outside of whatever the mainstream media deems the must see and hear bands and musicians.
These are the must haves, the hard working bands, and incredible venues, who let’s face it, deserve a bloody medal after the last couple of years, for surviving and coming back as strong as ever.
God bless small bands, and small venues, the absolute lifeblood of all creative processes.
Words & Photos by: Lee Beamish