For a start, there's probably no other way I'd have seen Serafina Steer; I don't know where else I'd be likely to come across an electric harpist and her tiny, elfin friend shyly playing a cover of Morrissey's 'Suedehead'. Among other things, such as songs with titles like 'How To Haunt A House Party' and one that was introduced with "...it's about turning into a fish." Of course it is. I loved everything she did, for varying reasons ranging from her overwhelming sweetness to there being a couple of truly great songs - 'Uncomfortable' is a triumph.
And then there was Yacht.
I don't know about you, but when I see two people come on stage, kneel, and begin anointing themselves transportedly with water from plastic bottles, my heart tends to sink. There's an inescapable feeling of 'oh, here we go' that accompanies the dreadful realisation that what you're about to see is probably that greatest of stage horrors - performance art.
I had a good long think about the term 'performance art' on the way into work this morning. I know that I usually use it as a damning insult, a catch-all expression to cover the time I saw a woman in a bloodstained wedding dress miming to Billy Idol's 'White Wedding' like she was possessed, or that unspeakable thing with the zombie, a man dressed as Gary Glitter and a sex toy that one time. If someone says 'performance art' to me, the image I get is a sort of collage of idiocy, glitter, wailing, face masks, and that bit from Spaced. I'd imagine I'm not alone in this.
So listen very carefully when I say this : Yacht are probably the only good performance art band in the world. I am sure that once upon a time those words meant nothing more than what they are - a way to describe something that was a performance of art. And Yacht, however they choose to think of themselves, are definitely performers of art. They were dressed like a sailor and an eccentric mannequin, they expressed their songs with the aid of interpretative dance and my god, yes, they were mad as hell, but I have never (until seeing Patrick, anyway, but more anon) been so uplifted by watching anything in my life. People who write the songs they want, that sound like whatever the hell they want (chiefly a genre that would probably be entitled 'cosmic disco' if I could bring myself to write that down), and then sing them for as long as they want, dancing in a way that makes sense to them - in short, people doing exactly what they goddamn want and doing it well...I've never seen anything like it.
The songs were good. Off-the-wall, yes, but not to the extent that they left us behind - I'd never heard anything they did before and I could probably sing a bit of most of their songs back at you now. So, seriously, really, they are coming back to London to play Cargo in July and if you like to be surprised by things, for the love of god come and see them with me. At the very least, you probably will not believe your eyes; at best, you will be as inspired as I was, or more*. I have joined Team Yacht. Will you?
So, Patrick Wolf. I mean, where do you even start? I'm several years too late to be allowed to talk about him, really; these days he is, whether he likes it or not (and interviews suggest that he often doesn't), a sort of minor superstar. I won't surprise you if I tell you he was amazing. I won't surprise you if I tell you he was beautiful, or that his songs are flawless, or that his stage presence is hypnotic, or that the crowd love him like one of their own and he repays that by declaring himself to be.
I don't know what to tell you. It is insane that this man can exist and that all the bad things in the world don't just reflexively give up and dissolve. He makes you believe that literally anything is possible; that is a rare and valuable talent in the hands, for once, of someone who truly deserves it. I don't even know what to write about it - elsewhere on the internet I'm sure people will be quoting song titles, discussing instruments (violin, keyboard, guitar, dulcimer, ukulele, and, elsewhere, bass, drums, electronics and a double bass, whose presence delighted me) and praising his voice, which is astounding, actually, given for how long and with how much passion he sang - I've seen singers struggle after far less, but it remained true and beautiful throughout. True and beautiful. Those are good words to describe what happened last night - all of it, really. It felt like a universal celebration of honesty, of being exactly who you are and being it as hard as you possibly can.
And now I have to try and do some work. :)
*Usual disclaimers apply. Perhaps they put on this show specifically to tour with Patrick and the rest of the time they are quiet, reserved, staid types who stand still, play the guitar and commune with their shoes. I just doubt it, that's all.