BUSHSTOCK – Oh Burgundy
London, Shepherd’s Bush Ginglik
It sounds like a line from a horror film, but I’m not supposed to be here today (actually, it’s a line from ‘Clerks’, but some might be indifferent to that fact, yeah?). What I’m supposed to be doing is reviewing Field Day festival, but apparently the organisers aren’t down with the giving of passes to important writers who might write something and give it some literary kudos. Not from this fucking pen. In fact, I could even write the world’s quickest review from a non-attendee – organisation: shite; line-up: worse.
Anyway, so instead of that I get a phone call that sounds like it’s coming from inside a brothel. “Do you want to come to Bushfest?”
Wah-wah pedals are going off in my head; “wah-wah” noises from Sid James are joining in. And while it sounds like a bad innuendo from a Carry On film, I’m not having a Field Day today, so I might as well get into some Bush (apologies to my wife-to-be, who is in Boston and will be reading this, with disapproving frown).
Anyway, so I’m not supposed to be here, but then again, most of the best things happen by accident (with the exception of accidents, strangely). And while Bushfest turns out to be about as blue as an orange, I find myself face-to-face with something with an even redder complexion – Oh Burgundy.
Never heard of them before, but I’m not about to forget them. Apart from their heart-stopping performance, they were playing a venue where the gents’ toilet was basically stage right. And, walking in, Mr Journalist, pen in hand, penis close by, I was in desperate need of some backstage wee-wee.
With other bands, perhaps of a less intimate leaning, a shuffling journo with a bursting bladder and knob virtually on the loose, might have been less of an intrusion. But this music just begs your attention. And while Oh Burgundy are rendering their souls to the whole venue, yours truly is rendering himself the most conspicuous pisser on the face of the planet. And while this venue has possibly the friendliest, most courteous staff ever – even the doorman was loving my hat (erm, maybe he was the head bouncer?), I am seriously of the opinion you should not have a toilet next to a performance.
Passing the stage (and virtually passing water) I felt like part of the act. I just thank my lucky arse I didn’t have diarrhoea – I would have been an added, superfluous wind instrument.
Anyway, Oh Burgundy are banging out their stuff, and I’m feeling burgundy coming out after banging out my stuff. I felt like a traffic light on red, but perhaps that was compounded by the fact everyone was absolutely stationary – dumbfounded by what was happening on stage.
Recalling Sigur Ros and Fionn Regan (who plays later, but not next to a toilet), this duo from Belgium have just sheer beauty on their side – their soulful acoustics and close-harmonies rendering adjacent toilets redundant by the fact you cannot take your eyes or ears off of them. It could be their dualistic vocals (imagine if the Pretenders were for real); it could even be the fact that a simple acoustic guitar and a keyboard can feel like two sections of one beating heart. But that’s hyperbolic shite. The simple fact is, Oh Burgundy do simplicity so well it becomes almost complex – simply because you have to work out why it’s so obviously brilliant.
Perhaps it’s because I’m missing my lady, but when a song like ‘Fragile’ strikes up – the track produced by Mr Come-To-Bushfest caller of earlier (referred to as Mr Howie by the band) – there’s a resonance there that lasts long after the final chord is struck. Imagine feeling distraught about feeling elated – a paradox wherein your happiness makes you so aware of yourself that you realise you’re essentially alone. This is music that could soundtrack the happiest time of your life, or the worst. In my case, I’m standing near a toilet, with my wife-to-be missing, and not in favour of the beer on offer.
When this sort of music hits you at that moment, it haunts you for a while. And with a frontman whose voice, regardless of reverb or sound effects, feels like an absolute echo, the acoustics last long into the night – long after the toilet venue has been flushed away.
And if that’s not enough – which, being a sadist, it isn’t – the encore consists of more skeletal harmonies: two voices bouncing off each other that, in the context of performance, sounds like it’s not actually being performed. These voices sound like the world exhaling – like they’ve always existed. And by the final track, a rendering of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata put to a trippy beat and primordial bassline, I’ve forgotten all about everything I was preoccupied with before.
With this kind of music, there are no boundaries. The magic of the performance is all there is. And while Oh Burgundy flourish under the spotlights of a unworthy venue’s red lights, I just blush with astonishment that this sort of music still has the power to obfuscate the presence of toilets, stage right.
By the end, I have to go again. Performance way too stirring.
NB. It was actually Bushstock, but for some reason I had Bushfest in my head.