We’ve heard from people time and again over the past year that live streams are no replacement for a proper gig – they’re right of course, but should they be? The best video streams of the many that we’ve seen since the first lockdown have been those where, rather than attempting to recreate the traditional gig experience, the bands and organisers have made the most of the myriad opportunities that the format provides to create a new and vibrant form of presenting music. After Thursday night’s performance we can add Sheffield promoters Buds & Spawn to that list.
The format has been honed over a couple of previous video outings – a combination of live interviews, archive gig footage, pre-recorded ‘as live’ performances and specially created pieces that blur the boundaries between live sessions, music videos and video art, and it’s a perfect fit for the medium.
Kicking off with introductions and an informal chat between Buds & Spawn’s Laura and Aitch (also of these pages), members of the two bands and today’s special guest – promoter and experimental trombonist Sophie Cooper, we’re soon launched into the strange world of space-travelling tropical-funk aliens Captain Avery & The Cosmic Triceratops of Intergalactic Peace through a surreal and hilarious interview in which they share stories of thousands of years of exploring the galaxy, featuring dinosaurs on the moon and pan-galactic gargle blasters, including the bold claim that they invented all music (including whale song).
This is followed by footage of a live session, recorded at Sheffield’s Cafe Deli in the period between the two most recent lockdowns. It showcases their brand of sequin-spangled tropical disco party music perfectly, full of chant-along choruses and brassy skronk shot through with an infectious sense of fun. It’s summed up better than I could manage by viewer Belch 1889 as “King Crimson & The Coconuts”.
Following the live footage, there’s a chance for viewers and other guests to share their questions for Captain Avery and bandmate Celestial Broccoli before attention shifts to special guest Sophie Cooper, who speaks about her Ivor Novello nominated experimental trombone compositions, the Tor Fest psychedelic weekender which she organises and the live stream that she had put together for Dutch festival Outlands’ online show, featuring US band Big Blood, from whom we are treated to some pre-pandemic gig footage.
Tonight’s headline set comes from nine-piece art punk marching band Perhaps Contraption. Long-term Joyzine favourites and a band for whom finding creative ways of performing and presenting their music seems to be second nature. One of my last pre-lockdown live music experiences was watching their half gig, half theatrical extravaganza Nearly Human at Vault Festival, which told the story of the life-cycle of an atom through music, movement, narration and contact juggling.
Given that pedigree, it’s no surprise that the six videos which they present are both a visual and auditory treat. The first sees saxophonist Stephanie Legg and flautist Christo Squier collaborate on a beautiful guitar and vocal rendering of ‘72.8% Water’, which sees four Stephanies harmonise with themselves, each taking a separate vocal part. The next is even more visually impressive, with band members floating in and out of shot as trombonist Mickey Bones sings ‘Bloodhound’ over a dreamy tuba, guitar and cajon piece, joined at various points by French horn and sax. The first half is rounded off by a virtuosic performance of ‘Helium’ from saxophonist Jin Theriault, weaving four separate intricate sax parts around one another – the effect is stunning.
After another opportunity for questions from Aitch and the audience about what we’ve just witnessed, we’re thrown right back into the action with percussionist Catherine Ring’s breathtaking performance of ‘Lay Low’, completely removing the band’s usual brassy bombast to accompany herself on xylophone, melodica, cajon, hi-hat and cowbell.
We’re finally treated to the full-band experience in the last two tracks, the first an hilarious operatic confection about the perils of life on Zoom and social media, complete with floating hearts and dog filters, and the set closer a star-bright kinetic joyride through John Adam’s ‘A Short Ride In a Fast Machine’ that must have had all who were watching out of their seats and moving.
And after that multi-sensory treat and one final chat between the guests, there’s still one more surprise in store with a live clip of the next episode’s special guests The Display Team to whet our appetite for more.
If promoters like Buds & Spawn can continue to make live streams this creative and compelling I look forward to continuing to enjoy them once all of this is over, as a supplement to rather than substitute for the live music that we’ve all been so desperately missing.
Review by Paul Maps