Wednesday, 4 August 2010
385 SPARKLEHORSE, Neutral Milk Hotel, Portsmouth Wedgewood Rooms, Sunday 4 October 1998
A happy and packed 2 car convoy hit the road at 5.45 for this one, and despite hold-ups in Newbury got there in good time. Finding the venue was also easy this time - past the railway station, right at the big roundabout and left onto Albert Road. Easy for next time... or famous last words?
Into the venue well in time for the extraordinary Neutral Milk Hotel set at 8 pm. A horrendously be-jumpered beardy vocalist with a seriously loud, shouty and in-your-face vocal style, accompanied by a strange bunch of individuals, including quite the most rubber-limbed drummer I'd seen for a long while, they played a totally oddball, yet intriguing and thoroughly absorbing mix of choppy guitar rhythms, loud and downright weird stuff, with a folksy, almost medieval feel. This "performance" also involved all band members seemingly picking up and putting down selections from a dazzling array of instruments at the stage front - also seemingly at ramdom! Sort of They Might Be Giants from a backward hillbilly town, or even an Amish Weezer!
The venue - a fine old cinema type hall - filled notably for the arrival of the 'Hoss at 9.15. Starting with an almost beefed up "Spirit Ditch", they were on top form, with their fine balance of dusty country - evocative yet never maudlin - and almost savage rock attack sounding excellent. Vocalist Mark Linkous, an uneasy presence onstage, was nevertheless superb, alternating between normal and distorted vocal mics, and the band - changed again and now with original double-bass player Scott Fitzsimmons restored - were eerie and understated where appropriate, and loud where necessary. A brilliant "Happy Man" - beefed up and undistorted, as I'd hoped they'd do it - was the highlight for me of a 1 1/4 hour set (plus 4 encores!) which dashed by.
Oh yeh, I took some stick afterwards for swiping the set-list from under the nose of another punter - she wasn't too happy but them's the breaks. Still, that didn't detract from an exciting, touching, thrilling country rock set from this chameleonic yet splendid band Sparklehorse!