The first time I came across Jo Quail was also at the Arts Centre when she opened the night ahead of performances by Boris and Amenra. She rather blew me away on that occasion earlier this year and she did so again this time before sets by A Storm of Light and then Japanese instrumental rockers MONO. Like that gig this one was impressively loud but it also followed a similar path of me being enthralled by Jo Quail’s opening sets but enjoying each subsequent act a bit less.
There were only a few dozen people at the NAC when I arrived in good time at 7:45pm ahead of Jo’s prompt 8pm start but just as she did start the place filled up rapidly and it was pretty much a full house at a pulsating Arts Centre auditorium. I was so absorbed I lost all sense of time but do know Jo only played three songs though they were each of them around ten minute long epics that had the whole audience utterly captivated as she layered sounds, looping the thumped cello to create a pulsing beat which seemed to dictate the rhythm of my own heartbeat as she played her cello over it. I’m used to this happening with dub reggae and my heartbeat but this was something altogether different and faster. It’s fascinating stuff and played with great intensity. It is as gripping to watch her play as it is to listen to the pieces. A real high point to start the evening. Last time here Boris had such a huge backline of amps (and that massive gong) that there was no room on the stage for her and her cello (which looks a bit like a huge pair of scissors!) and so she played down on the floor under a single spotlight, which was incredibly powerful and atmospheric. This time everyone had a clearer view and everyone seemed to love her.
Unfortunately nothing afterwards quite matched up to that for me personally which isn’t to say I didn’t like A Storm of Light or MONO’s sets but I didn’t find them as interesting, engaging or captivating but maybe it isn’t supposed to be. I just like to get lost in the music and the moment. A Storm of Light certainly started impressively but I found my attention wandering after about twenty minutes or so and didn’t last the full set. I quite like some of the recordings I have checked out but I just wasn’t feeling it here.
Alas, this happened also with MONO who I didn’t quite get either. The massive, sludgy riffs are surely what it is all about but it was never going to hold my attention for 100 minutes and I failed to get lost in the music again which I just wasn’t feeling at all. It started off well enough but I wasn’t captivated. Once again, after twenty or so minutes I was painfully aware I wasn’t immersed in the music as I had hoped and started to look around me and although there was definitely a sea of bobbing heads from plenty lost in the music there were also a number of people heading out. When I made my way to the bar I found it was hardly empty. The two bands had the volume but Jo Quail’s solo set had the power.
Another interesting night with a full house at NAC but a bit disappointing. Maybe I just wasn’t close enough to the front or maybe it’s just not my thing but I didn’t particularly want to wear earplugs as I like to feel the music, however, this was one I didn’t really feel as such, other than Jo Quail and her astonishing cello playing which alone was worth coming along for. A Storm of Light and MONO were decent enough and with some Mogwai-esque moments from MONO but overall I was wanting some more variety from the near three hours of stoner, sludge rock, those whose thing it was had a good time though and I love that NAC puts on gigs like this. My next taste of Japanese rock will be the annual visit of the very special Acid Mothers Temple at The Waterfront Studio next month.