The Blues is an Alien concept to me. However, being an Alien means Alien Concepts are simply regular concepts, and thus any concept being Alien to me is itself an Alien Concept. Is your nose bleeding yet? Good.
The Blues; Its history, its execution and its emotional evocativeness have largely eluded me. I, Galmorphagorph, felt it therefore prudent to attend the Kingsmead Square Jazz and Blues festival in central Bath to learn more. The dense canopy of Kingsmead Square’s central tree provided adequate cover as I perched on a branch and listened intently to the music below.
As usual, the small square was replete with revellers spending their hard earned bartering credits on Alcohol, presumably to burn away their final day of rest before a willing return to the great render farms of commerce.
It’s a strange and cyclical dance humans do, one in which their means of social escape further necessitates that very thing from which they’re escaping. Its a tidal lunacy, and their ‘sea of tranquility’ is filled with craft ale. Humanity is, of course, Doomed.
Now, back to the Jazz and Blues festival, which was more accurately a Blues festival. Jazz was on the menu, but apparently the refrigerator containing it broke the night before and it spoiled. No matter, because there was more than enough blues to ensure everybody was well fed, along with ‘Po-Boys’ and ‘Cobb salad’, whatever the hell that is. To me, the Blues appears to be a false premise to begin with. Being both an Alien and a Wizard, my eyes are capable of perceiving a great deal more of the electromagnetic spectrum, not to mention one or two additional dimensions, and I can attest that not a single shade of blue light emanated from any of the musical instruments the entire day. I don’t know who came up with that name. Perhaps they were blind.
As for the acts, we began with Hobo Flats. A group of Bristolian men, as all the days performers were, playing blues covers. It was a fine patina of sound to wash over the passers through the square without leaving much of a lingering effect. The musicianship was stiff, the performance functional. Their songs of heartbreak and woe never felt all that much of either. I’m familiar with Woe, more as the causer than the feeler but I get the basic gist.
Following that was The Hucklebucks; an energetic 4 piece who’s tight rhythms and compelling guitar solos made for an enjoyable listening experience. Their tales of heartbreak and woe were delightfully couched in upbeat rhythms and charmingly failed attempts at call and response with an audience that wasn’t quite in the right phase of their ‘lunar interlude’. I enjoyed it, but I, Galmorphagorph, wonder if its merely by contrast. Their jubilant renditions of these blues standards pleased me, but then again it is during the dark night of the soul that I shine brightest.
After that was a young solo artist named Joe Cribb, who played what I am to understand is ‘Slide Guitar’. His raspy vocals weaved in and out of tune, shaping the melody with raw vocal emotion. Paired with the undeliniated note-bleed of the slide guitar it became the tonal equivalent of repeatedly placing traffic cones in front of a drunk person as they walked home.
However it was this style that seemed to best musically reflect the heartbreak and woe he sang of.
It occurs to me now that perhaps the blues is a name not referring to colour, but to an emotional state. One generated by heartbreak and woe. So strange to me that all these men, living in the placid and affluent west of England are so drawn to these hymns of sorrow. I have explored little of this planet beyond the cluster of A-roads that surround Bath, but I can only infer that beneath their shabby-chic attire and immaculately preserved guitars lie the burning, howling fury of a people disenfranchised, broken and forgotten by society. Truly these are men who know real suffering. Remind me not to visit Bristol.
To cap off the day was the curiously named ‘The Most Fabulous Object in the World’. A three piece made up of guitar, drums and a denim clad organist who were certainly the most fabulous act of the day. The organist performed with exemplary feel, laying down groovy baselines with left handed comping, while filling out chords and full solo’s with his right. Such deft independence of hands suggests an extra-dimensional perception such as I am capable. I must keep several close eyes, incase he’s a scout for my intergalactic pursuers and thus not of this world.
Coupled with some soaring blues guitar solos and sturdy and occasionally interesting drum work, it was a delightful end to a pleasant day. As the intermittent light of your young yellow sun speckled through the leaves of the great tree on which I, Galmorphagorph sat, wrapped in fairy lights, I felt a little at peace. Perhaps the blues serves a tertiary function for these people, not to reflect back at them the horrors of their existence, but to remind them that it could always be a hell of a lot worse…
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