Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Fifteen (x4) minutes of fame.

It's a bit weird to leave a gig when it's still light outside but the Barbican's Exposed:Songs for Unseen Warhol Films concentrated much more on the quality than the quantity.

Needs must. There were fifteen of Warhol's shorts showing. All shot in the sixties. All lasting roughly four minutes. That's not much more than an hour whichever way you slice it. I suppose the participating acts could've come back on at the end and thrown some greatest hits shaped bones out to the audience. But they didn't. Less value for money, perhaps, but clinging firm to the ethos of the event. Swings and roundabouts.

I was happy with the way they did it. It was certainly lovingly put together. Former Galaxie 500 man Dean Wareham has previous when it comes to collaborating with Warhol from beyond the grave. Him and his wife, and Luna co-member, Britta Phillips scored 13 Most Beautiful Songs for Andy Warhol's Screen Tests which was performed at this venue back in 2008.

He spoke quietly, yet enthusiastically, about Warhol, the performers, and the overall concept of the show both at the start and in the short gaps between acts. He certainly wasn't as quiet as Tom Verlaine though. The former Television man didn't so much kick off proceedings as gently roll the ball into touch. His sparse, minimalist guitar work was at times barely there. Later on, when the cast took a well earned bow, he was gone completely.

This spectral approach may've seemed an odd fit for footage of Warhol's boyfriend, John Giorno, washing the dishes in the nude. But it worked. Even if a whole evening of it might've been a bit much.

Martin Rev showed there's more than one way to open a soup can. The contrast with fellow 70s NYC punk icon Verlaine couldn't have been stronger. Even down to the dress sense. Verlaine soberly attired in sensible clothes and Rev decked out in fluorescent shades, ripped sleeveless t-shirt, and PVC keks.The 68 year old Suicide man clearly not one to grow old gracefully.

His music was even more abrasive. At times literally punching the keyboards as a punishing din emanated from his retro looking stack of gear. After a fashion some semblance of a rhythm came through. Even hints of a tune. There was, hidden in there somewhere, some long buried memory of a disco banger. Rev certainly thought so, shaking his leg whilst keeping his rock'n'roll sneer in place at all times. Truth be told it sounded fucking ace and the homoerotic film of a built like a car beefcake slurping down a cool Coke worked a treat with the synth mangling.

Eleanor Friedberger continued the musical theme. That of there being no musical theme. Her 70s hairstyle looking like something that once belonged on Linda Ronstadt's head. Her voice, too, a lovely reminder of simpler times past. This was the first time the band got on stage. The aforementioned Britta Phillips on bass, Noah Hecht on drums, and Jason Quever (from Papercuts who I once wrote a very favourable review of) on guitar.

Friedberger got to score the footage of UK visitor Donovan. His still features made him, cruelly, look a little simple. She also told the story, and sang about the film of, Marisol Escobar. A French sculptor of Venezuelan heritage who found herself, as many did, in Warhol's circle. She lived until fairly recently in the TriBeCa area of New York City and, in fact, only died, aged 85 at the end of last month. This show acting, for me, both as a tribute and an introduction to her.

The band stayed on for host Dean Wareham's appearance. He has the look, and the sound, of a young(er) Lou Reed with a splash of Spaceman 3 on the side. He gave himself some of the plum footage to work with. Nico eating a banana. A dapper Marcel Duchamp in his dotage enjoying a cigar and the company of an Italian model. A leather boot being licked (well, of course) and French-Madagascan protest singer and sailor Antoine. If you've ever enjoyed the dream pop of Galaxie 500 and Luna then you'd have been very comfortable here.

Due to a family bereavement Deerhunter's Bradford Cox was unable to perform. They still had his music though. Rather than it being performed live they played a pre-recording. Cox's work was probably the most soundtracky (yep, that's a word) of the lot. Highly atmospheric glitch infused electronica closed the evening accompanying a couple of films that must've been a perfect storm for Warhol. Homosexuality, cross-dressing, American iconography, fast food, Edie Sedgwick (below) and experimental cinema.

All in all a fitting tribute to one of the last century's most iconic figures. Though it seems unlikely he got home before it was dark very often.

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