Hermione Johnson w/ Riki Gooch and Anthony Donaldson
Thursday, April 21
Earlier in the week I made sure I bought a ticket to see Hermione Johnson with Riki Gooch and Anthony Donaldson. Because I knew that if I didn’t book it then and there I’d make any excuse at the end of a short week and just flag, stay in, watch Netflix. But why should I do that when three incredible musicians were playing a short stroll from my house. Three incredible players, improvisers all of them. I’ve seen them all before – but in some cases not for a long time. COVID has made it so for everyone. And that’s fine. We wait. You must be patient (pardon the pun).
I’m so glad I went. I was rewarded.
There I was, saying to someone recently – and probably trotting it out as a line – that I had seen enough gigs anyway; didn’t need to see any other ones, pretty much.
Not true. Thursday night’s gig was enough to hook me right in. And all over again.
First up, Gooch and Donaldson took the stage together. Riki sitting at a conventional drumkit, Ant behind a table of bells and blocks, trash and treasure. They tinkered together before finding a groove and from there it rolled and flowed – the unspoken, and often blind communication between the two absolutely mesmerising. This was a dance. A conversation. Donaldson was like a scientist testing elements to contribute to his hypothesis. Meanwhile, Gooch rolled thunder up deep inside bottled lightning.
Hermione Johnson was next. A solo set that saw a percussive approach to the piano – elbows on keys, hands hitting down hard, the piano prepared and tuned to a very high tension; the music effortlessly flowing from the fingers, but of course also from the mind and heart and soul of the performer.
It’s been a long time since I last saw Johnson play. But I was transported back to when I first saw her on a stage. The best music will do that.
It wasn’t so much music as it was a magic trick. Some strange, beautiful alchemy. Gooch and Johnson and Donaldson taking the elements, abstracting them, rebuilding a groove from displaced parts.
You can dance to music and with music, but this – collectively – was a dance of music.
The two drummers joined Johnson for a trio performance to close. Here they hurled the music back and forth across the stage like kittens with balls of wool. Johnson typing the world’s longest, angriest letter on a musical typewriter. But anger has an energy. And this was lyrical and eloquent, this wasn’t quite anger in the end – just passion. All passion.
What a thing to witness. To be there – part of a small crowd, but not that small (particularly for this type of music). Small, as in intimate. Small, as in lucky. Lucky to be there for this in particular. Lucky to be able to partake.
I have been so jaded from so many lacklustre performances and albums, from unpaid invoices, from begging for scraps, from worrying about how to even try to encapsulate something in a few hundred words just a few minutes after seeing it.
What a treat to just be there, and be in that moment, just feeling the music move across the stage and through every part of each of the performers.
This was a subtly spectacular way to return to gig-going as Covid continues, but as we hope – once again – we can schedule and participate in events.
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