Photos: Petr Stary
I arrived some way into Saint Yorda’s set, to be faced with death clown facepaint and a furious cowbell, accompanying goth/electro pop. Beyond this (quite intriguing) first impression, my next thought a few songs in was, where are the tunes? (Mind you, even at this stage, I found myself admiring the fact that the band’s perverse arrangements were making it difficult for the three girls in short skirts and stilettos to get up a head of steam on the dancefloor.)
The answer to my question arrived in the shape of the glorious ‘Deep water’, a simple ballad in waltz time with great reverb guitar stabs and perfectly judged male falsetto that would grace any surf pop collection. The sudden highlighting of the vocal in this way made me think they should try this more, as opposed to sticking with the downbeat template that prevailed through most of the set (‘Death ray’, for example). That said, the rest of the set had plenty to like, including some New Order-esque shapes, and lots of lovely guitar arpeggios. Still, with so many good ideas on show, it struck me that it might be time to pick a few of the best ones and build around those. A band I’ll be keeping an eye on though, for sure.
And so, with the smell of incense wafting incongruously from the bar, the members of Grand Pocket Orchestra took the stage. They had the bearing of gangly, awkward youths (except for the girl on keyboards, of whom more later) with messy hair, and approached the show with a certain good-natured gang mentality, which didn’t seem at all contrived (nothing worse than contriving that kind of thing). More importantly, from the word go, the tunes – and their current album Ronald & Sylma contains several top drawer examples – also glowed in a live setting.
They opened with the irresistible ‘Andy has the power of a million men’, the very amiable, though plainly unhinged, frontman Paddy Hanna rattling out lists as if it’s the end of the world and he’s doing fine. The backing consisted of shimmering guitars (the black Rickenbacker in particular had me humming) and the aforementioned Bronwyn contributing some lovely keyboard and percussion. She also had the temerity to slug from her bottle of Fanta as the first beat kicked in, but managed to fulfil her tambourine duties perfectly, nonetheless.
They continued through ‘Sandra’, ‘Five pairs of fingers’ and the single ‘Wednesday’, all with ramshackle charm intact. Paddy shared keyboards here and there – he also cast off the guitar for a spell and roamed the stage with mikestand for company. Bronwyn laid down recorder, glockenspiel, warm harmonies and all sorts. The whole band gave the impression of people going happily about their work, unselfconsciously enjoying their own performance. It all seemed so effortless to them, this pop music with a no wave (read “couldn’t give a fuck”) inclination.
Mind you, perhaps the couldn’t give a fuck quality rubbed some in the building up the wrong way, as they managed to clear the floor around midway through. Or perhaps it was the very short songs, or their stop start arrangements. Or maybe it was just the burning need to smoke, as The Pavilion’s smoking section did appear to be throbbing. Whatever the reason, it might be something for the band to think about, how to structure a set around such miniature, albeit perfectly formed, material. For me, they were totally engaging and fulfilled their part of the deal – bringing their beautiful pop tunes to life with energy and verve.
My own non-musical highlight of the night – the moment when Bronwyn flung the spit out of her recorder mouthpiece across the stage at the bass player, to his evident disgust. Punk rock how are ya?