I found myself in London recently, where I hung out with my old friend and quaffing partner "Mad King Ken". We did many exciting things, including paying a visit to the Queen Elizabeth Hall for one of the concerts being organised as part of the Ray Davies*-curated Meltdown Festival. I had timed my trip to London for this, as the concert headliners were the US-Cambodian sensations Dengue Fever. Before talking about them, though, let me regale you with fascinating comments on the two support acts, each of whom played short sets of roughly 20 minutes.
First up were Maria and the Monitors – a threesome comprising one bloke with a funny haircut and two women with big hair, shorts and matching crop tops. The man did something with synthesisers and the like, while the two women drummed (while standing) and made largely non-verbal vocal noises. It was rather loud and pretty uncompromising, causing a flood of concert goers to leave the venue for the comfort of the bar, uttering such complaints as "I did not expect challenging music from a festival curated by a man in his sixties!". My companion, meanwhile, was glad that Mrs "Mad King Ken" had decided not to join us.
But what did I think? Well, "avant garde nonsense" was the phrase that leapt to mind, but I did appreciate getting to see something that was a bit out of the ordinary even if it maybe was not all that. I reckon Maria and the Monitors are the kind of thing that would go down well at ATP or some similar thing.
All that excitement meant that we decided to nip out to the lobby for a quick coffee, partly necessary to cancel out the three ales we had enjoyed earlier. While there, some guy with a little camcorder came along and asked me questions about Dengue Fever and Meltdown. You can see what I said on the Internet at Winkball - search for Dengue Fever and then pick the result that comes up for Meltdown. I think I am on page three or four.
Then we went back into the venue to catch the next support act - Baxter Dury – a band or a person? We did not know. Before he or they came on, I quipped to "Ken" that maybe this would turn out to be Ian Dury's son or something. Then Baxter Dury came on and turned out to be Ian Dury's son playing with a backing band. He did not really break any new ground musically, and if you have a superficial familiarity with Dury senior's work then you would be familiar with what young Master Dury had to offer – a performance focussed on geezer-ish vocals and wry observational lyrics, with the music largely taking a back seat. I thought it was pretty bland, though it went down well with most listeners. I was particularly struck by how the opening track seemed oddly reminiscent of the B-52s' 'Planet Claire' – and then the second song was called 'Claire'. That said, the songs where Master Dury basically spoke his vocals had a certain charm, but nothing I would rush out to listen to again.
Keep your eyes tuned to Inuit Panda for the next episode in this exciting story, in which Dengue Fever themselves take the stage.
* This is Ray Davies of the Kinks, not the parpmeister.