Saturday, March 2
Ripley Johnson (guitar/vocals) and Sanae Yamada (keys/vocals) take the stage after a sweet set from locals, Terror of the Deep. I didn’t catch enough of them on this outing (due to having to attend Homegrown earlier in the day – more on that somewhere else some other time) but I’ve seen and heard Terror enough to know they have the goods.
Likewise, Moon Duo has the goods. But sadly – whether due simply to too many other gigs on at the same time or some poor planning/marketing – this was a small audience. A very small audience.
Hey, but no matter, Johnson and Yamada jump straight on in, building a set that rocks out in a subdued, psychedelic way – trippy projections across the band help transport us back to the Velvets doing their thing in front of Andy’s films – and Johnson (his main gig is Wooden Shjips) has his guitar set to phase rather than stun, the lines countering Yamada’s synth vamps. He has a Garcia-esque ripple (pardon the pun) at times.
Spacey jams and a Krautrock feel start to seep into the performance as it continues to build.
Yamada provides the steady hand as Johnson’s guitar dribbles across, weaving, wandering, wobbling and warbling, his vocals mostly another texture rather than a definitive voice – and there’s something of the Flying Nun sound to this too, also the scuzzy stoner-rock shapes of a bunch of fuzzed-out rockers like the Dandy Warhols and BJM and offshoots like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.
I almost want there to be a drummer – not that the absence of a kit is any problem and actually the rhythms are often inventive and interesting even if simple. But I imagine a drummer, playing it simple, would add rather than subtract. Though a name change would have to be on the cards I guess. So too hard perhaps?
Yamada is hypnotic in both her playing and presence – dancing from the shoulders, her shimmy exists as its own music-video for just what she is playing. Johnson , guitar neck angled high, own neck lowered to counter, has his own shadowy, beardy presence. But Yamada is crucial – not just for her look, for the very cool way she has about her, but in that she creates the hypnotic feel by way of the melody becoming the rhythm. That’s the trick to the band. The soft stabs have their own rhythmic punch to them but then the sound combines with the drum-machine patter/n to couch the song, to make a web and Ripley, believe it or not, seems to exist in his own space – his playing circling and falling in and around the keyboard parts. Spiralling, wafting, delayed then a surge. Then a punch.
It was beautiful.
It was mesmerising.
There were fuck-all people there. A tragedy of course for both the band and the promoter – and the venue too, sure.
I get the feeling someone got this gig wrong – the timing, the marketing, the placement – but the duo that is Moon Duo – didn’t put a foot wrong. They nailed it. I loved it.