Reviews: Scott & Charlene’s Wedding, The Woolpack Inn, York; Martha Wainwright, Pocklington Arts Centre

York Press: Martha Wainwright Martha Wainwright

THE diverse joys of going to gigs were encapsulated into two contrasting shows last weekend, one in the bump and bash of a crowded Saturday York pub, the other in the gentle calm of a seated Sunday night in Pocklington.

Saturday’s was billed as the Bad Paintings Summer Party, a free event from seven till late with four bands and DJs and records and T-shirts to buy and a permanently open door.

Organisers Bad Paintings are plain Mike and Jon, who release recordings by “bands that we love” and put on events in various spaces in York.

This one had switched at short notice from the Rook & Gaskill to the Woolpack Inn, in Fawcett Street: compact, amiable and selling shots at prices as retro as Scott & Charlene’s Wedding’s influences.

As the clock passed 10.30pm, Missing Kids, Mike’s band Fawn Spots and H. Grimace had done their turns in the corner, the drinks were kicking in, and Scott & Charlene, a band in the tradition of The Velvet Underground, The Stooges and The Lemonheads, perfectly suited the revelry.

Aussie Craig Dermody, a front man of the Kurt Cobain skinny jeans and blond mop variety, has left Melbourne for a new life and new experiences in New York.

The move has bled into the gloriously ramshackle songs of newly released second album Any Port In A Storm, whose high points dominated a swift nine-number set, that opened deliriously with Junk Shop, peaked with Jackie Boy and Gammy Leg and played a blinder in picking fellow Aussies’ The Go Betweens’ Karen as the rousing, singalong finale.

“Thank you for making this the funnest show ever,” said Dermody, who had stood almost kiss-close to the front row throughout. His band are on their first British trip and Dermody’s songs and Michael Caterer’s guitar should head back this way pronto.

By comparison, Canadian-American singer-songwriter Martha Wainwright, from the remarkable Wainwright-McGarrigle musical family, has long been visiting these shores, although Sunday’s concert was her Pocklington debut.

Martha has spent the summer playing solo in Britain and Europe, just Martha and her guitar, her misbehaving hair and her gift of the gab, as she performs songs from last year’s Come Home to Mama album, this year’s Sing Me The Songs double-disc concert tribute to her late mother, Kate McGarrigle, and more besides.

Like Billy Bragg or Elvis Costello, the patter is worth the admission price as much as the songs. “Water…. so refreshing,” she said, as she took a swig. “But so unsatisfying.”

Whether tapping so loudly that she felt the need to apologise, or swatting away a request to cover Hallelujah, she was fantastically unpredictable company, especially when urging purchases of her unusual “merch”: pants that say MW on the front and Come Home To Mama on the back.

Martha broke through the reserve of a Sunday sit-down show by dint of her freewheeling personality and singing that constantly experimented with tone and volume and mood.

There were unhappy songs, a breakthrough happy song, her best song Factory, and then there was Martha’s beautiful account of her mother’s last song, Proserpina. So personal, yet so universal.

Live music, don’t you just love it.

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