Saturday, January 28, 2017

Vic Godard and A.M. Leka

Leka Mladenovic has an exhibition in Whitechapel of his prints inspired by the lyrics of Vic Godard's songs. It was a glum and dreich Friday evening but I was curious and went along.
I am so glad that I did.
I was expecting readings of the lyrics, perhaps for half an hour or so, then people trooping home for cocoa and cinnamon toast, the only true way to spend Friday nights in January. Instead, a small drum kit and a collection of amplifiers stood in the middle of a white-painted room surrounded by Leka's beautiful multi-layered silkscreen prints with copies of handwritten lyrics beside them.
A colourful, friendly and un-posey crowd began to assemble and so did the band.
But where was Vic?
Time passed, people chatted, and a rumour spread that Vic was having a cup of tea in McDonald's.
He appeared with a carrier bag, a sandwich and a packed of Hobnobs and the gig began. The microphone lead was moody and sometimes the sound was awful- but good-awful, not bad-awful: like 1970s PA systems. If you'd been there you would have recognised it.
The set was the songs from the walls; in Music of a Werewolf with its great grooving bass line, Vic swivelled his hips like a veritable Elvis the Pelvis. A half-eaten hobnob rested on the keyboard for later. Midway through, Vic went downstairs to fetch a t-shirt (printed with the set-list), and draped his jacket and checky shirt on the guitar, which sported a curly lead of indeterminate vintage. Today's young bucks have fabric-covered leads that never crackle, but for some genres of music the crackle is essential to the song and the risk of the sound cutting out altogether (as it did last night from time to time and instrument to instrument) is all part of the fun. Periodically, Vic blew his nose in an enormous hanky. 'Just carry on without me', he instructed the band.
He told us about thinking up tweets on the way to the gig, and about his late-night tweeting and baking sessions with a bit of hoovering on the way between the kitchen and the room with the computer in it. I did wonder whether those tweets might have been song lyrics in hiding before Twitter was invented, but I kept my counsel, because the banter was swift and sharp.
A brilliant and moving version of Beginning to See the Light was followed by the room singing Happy Birthday to Lee, who handed out CDs to us all. The band were all wearing badges with his face on them to celebrate his birthday. Lee picked up the bass, declaring 'This will either be great, or it will grate', and they launched into Ambition, which sadly was the last song of a very entertaining and convivial evening.
Tinnitus refreshed, I went home with a smile on my face.
Vicleka Exhibition for one more week at 48 Ashfield Street, Whitechapel

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