Sunday 5 June 2011

Review: Digger Barnes + Purple Eyelid

You may find this hard to believe, and indeed I do so myself, but this was my first gig at bei Roy. Therefore, I wasn't accustomed with how to get into the venue and my way there was fun and exciting. When I got out of the car I could hear really loud Turkish music from a disco next to bei Roy and this followed me until I was at the door of the building that bei Roy resides in. A person was sitting in the dark alley that leads to the building and wasn't sure where exactly bei Roy was but told me to climb the stairs and look for door number 20. He could have just said "follow the candles up the stairs until the top floor". The top floor of this disused factory building is shared by some form of DIY dance club and bei Roy. Instead of Turkish music I was now entertained by electronic music.

Once inside bei Roy, all outside sounds were blocked out and I entered the most relaxed and dream like atmosphere. Purple Eyelid were already playing and the beautiful voice and acoustic guitar, at times reminding me of Spanish guitar, paired with video projections of skies, instantly put me at ease. The audience was seated on sturdy wooden benches, on the windowsill or on the floor and everyone seemed to enjoy this together. Really, Purple Eyelid wouldn't usually be my thing, it's very well done but conventional girl singing to accoustic guitar kind of music. But the situation was perfect: the venue, the people, the performance. I was getting into the mood for more.

OK, stop right there. Here is something I've been meaning to tell you for a while: we are spoiled! People of Berlin are spoiled because so many good performers come through this city, sometimes staying here for weeks or months, and offer us these amazing concerts and events. And we have high standards because of this. But I also sometimes feel that we don't fully appreciate how wonderful and special this is. I have lived in big cities (London) and I have lived in smaller towns (Umeå
-->, Aachen) and nowhere have I been able to watch an array of musical styles being performed at such high quality throughout the year, every year. And really that should mean that my standard is high and really, I think it is. And yet, I have been to some of the most amazing and emotionally touching concerts in recent weeks. We are indeed spoiled.

You may have guessed by now, Digger Barnes fell into the category of "most amazing and emotionally touching concerts" last night. I had missed his concert with Austin Lucas a few weeks ago and didn't really know what to expect apart from folk music in the style of Lee Hazelwood. And musically, that is actually what we were served. If you like the Trouble album by Lee Hazlewood, you are bound to like Digger Barnes. In-between songs, Digger would tell little anecdotes about life on the road, which would always lead to the next song lyrically. It was like listening to someone tell a story with the help of songs. Everything works together well: the way Digger dresses, his middle America accent, the instrumentation (stripped down drums he plays with his feet only, a guitar or banjo according to song, a blue harp), the voice, the stories. You feel transported into the open wide plains of America. And the man is from Hamburg!

But it was the projection show that made this perfomance so special. Digger Barnes had with him Pencil Quincy, together naming themselves The Diamond Road Show. Pencil Quincy is an artist who works with conventional materials like paper and photographs and records and whatnot to create a projection show like none other. The projections are moving with the help of a revolving turntable he uses as part of this set up but there are also still drawings of the people Digger sings about. As far as art performance goes, this is one of the best I have probably ever seen. It will stick in my mind for a very long time. J. took some pictures with his proper camera and I hope to be able to share some of those with you in due course. Because it's hard to explain - you have to see for yourself.

Now the atmosphere was magic. The voice and tunes of Digger, the wonderful projections, a very appreciative audience and the surroundings of bei Roy all added to the most mesmerising concert I have attended in a long time. I don't know how long they performed, it must have been fairly long, but it passed very quickly. When J. asked me afterwards how I felt I was speechless.

1 comment:

  1. I'm still mesmerized, deeply touched by digger barnes' cliché devil-666-on-the-road-for-15-years-lyrics, performance & video. "And really that should mean that my standard is high and really, I think it is.And really that should mean that my standard is high and really, I think it is."