Fresh from her performance at the Manchester ‘Fat-out’ festival, Lydia Lunch relished the part of ‘Mistress of Ceremonies’, showcasing various friends and new talents that she had cobbled together for this unusual London event. As is to be expected, she’s a damn fine ‘Mistress of Ceremonies’ too.
Earlier in the day, downstairs at the Lexington, Lunch attempted various shambolic renditions of ‘All Tomorrow’s Parties’ and Sonic Youth‘s ‘Death Valley 69’ with the Tin Tone Army (who play these wee dinky guitar things which look bizarre, sound ok, and are a kind of novelty, but actually have a nasty feedback that may be unhealthy). But the free shots were equally unhealthy, and were already affecting many there by that point. It all just seemed right. What use are ears anyhow?
The first band upstairs was The Amusiacs, who despite Lunch’s enthusiasm for them, played a set that was essentially a repetition of the first two songs … which were initially reasonably amusing, chugging like a heavier version of The Cramps. Then they switched guitars and used those wee Tin-Tone guitars on a couple of songs in their set, which sounded ghastly and lacked any ‘beefiness’ on full-pelt. I overheard one member of the audience saying this band was a bit of a one trick pony , which sums this part up.
Birds of Paradise; a female trio , played a few songs before being joined onstage by Lunch. They comprised of a vioinist , a drummer and keyboardist/vocalist, and were therefore most welcome at that stage to entertain us. The singer’s voice was one of those rare and unique kinds that has a sort of trademark quality. In her case a kind of gritty crackle that spoils (in a really good way) what would have otherwise been a fine, but perhaps straightforward ‘session voice’.
Their set was actually rather good with doomy descending scales galore and general gait of disdain, and worked very well in the Vaudeville setting of the Lexington.
Lunch came back to grace the stage to perform a few numbers with Birds of Paradise announcing what they were about to do as ‘an Experiment in Pussy power’, adding that these girls had sent her some stuff saying ‘”I think you’re gonna like our music”.. well they were right !’. In fact, it would appear Ms Lunch is completely in love with them . It would be great to see some kind of further collaboration between them in recorded form.
Once they were at full speed they were just the thing we came here to see tonight, complementing each other perfectly; Birds of paradise creating just the right sonic backdrop for Lunch’s delightful ‘Goetic’ howlings . They performed only three songs together with Lunch but these three were truly the highlight of the evening.
It was here, supported by a new generation triad of ‘Gal Power’ that Lunch’s full pelt feminist angst came forth. (Not that it takes much to encourage it.)
‘”I think you owe me something …’ and he had the nerve to say “I think you’ve got the wrong man”. And I said “every man is the wrong man” ‘.
At one point Lunch insisted on telling the tale of a man who was petrified of her ‘Hoodoo’ and stated wildly that she was 100 percent born and bred ‘Santaria’. By the look on her face at the moment she screamed out those words, one would be very inclined to believe her. Not many would mess with a look like that.
During this part of the set , the woman that her new-found backing band referred to as ‘Mama Lunch’ also extolled the virtue of doing ‘what the F***k she wanted’, then swiftly also asked for a whiskey to be sent over form the bar. By gad, she was unstoppable. The Oliver Reed of rock? Maybe not.
A big shame then that it was only three numbers that this combination of performers did after what was only a short boozy break (the repeated mentioning the word ‘Boozy’ is the best word evocative of the essence of this event, its audience and its performers). The event was replete with a deep sea diver constantly offering free libations of shots to all and sundry.
It was horrific to see Cypress Grove come onstage next, coming across in both the visual and auditory senses like Dire Straits doing an unplugged set, and just as the threshold of unacceptability reached maximum, Lunch swiftly rescued the situation by taking the stage, lunging into a tribute song to Jeffrey Lee-Pierce and plunged the atmosphere to the deepest gloom.
Lunch (accusing the guitarist of ‘premature ejaculation’ by hastily starting the next song) alleviated the gloom however, and they went out on a lengthy improvisation based on an unrecognisable Van Morrisson song, despite her saying that she hates Van Morrison.
Here it was then, that the chosen auditory backdrop inspired ‘Mama Lunch’ to cast forth the fully inspired poetic-improvisational ‘fire’ we all had been waiting for, rescuing the Cypress Grove part of the show in a tense , loud and satisfactory conclusion.
And her ‘Verbalesque’ parting gift for us all tonight …
‘Now get the fuck out of my sight’
It cannot be left unsaid that ‘Mama Lunch’ is also an essential ‘real deal’ figurehead for a new generation of girls out there who certainly will not have witnessed anything quite like her. There aren’t many authentic experiences like Lydia Lunch in existence on our world’s stages anymore.
Grab it while you can.