The lovely George contacted me last week to say that psychedelic Post-Rock maestros Bardo Pond were playing in Nottingham at The Maze. We duly went to get tickets last weekend: a fabulously cheap £5 (surely some mistake?!).
Now, a little history of The Maze. It's basically a back room of the Forest Tavern on Mansfield Road in Nottingham and has had something of a checkered history of closures and refurbishments. Currently, it is high on the list of favoured venues amongst those working on LeftLion, the free and wonderful thinking-person's guide to cultural life in Nottingham.
You could reasonably guess that this would be a small venue, pretty intimate. And although I guess there are smaller places you can play, given the established name that Bardo Pond have in their field I was pretty surprised by just HOW small the venue was. Imagine the scale of The Social (for those of you who know Nottingham: for those who don't it is "smaller than a volleyball court" - to quote Cloud). Now imagine a stage half the size of that in the Social as a round-edge stage from one corner of the room ("two kingsize beds" said Cloud). That was the size of the space for the gig. Interestingly, both Bardo Pond and the second support act placed some band members off-stage, so small was the space!
Anyway, to the gig itself.
First support act were You Judas, a band from Derby. They were... okay. Not ground-breaking, a bit post-rock cliche by numbers, but enjoyable enough. They had some passion, but didn't come across as really tight. Maybe I was just too psyched for Bardo Pond...
Second support act were Souvaris who were on another level entirely. Perhaps it was the addition of the keyboards/organ sound but they just had so much more well-placed energy. Given the size of the stage it was astonishing to watch how the guitarists still managed to thrash around so well without actually knocking each other out. The vocals were well delivered and the sound spectacularly layered and coherent depite the rising noise levels. The keyboards bust at one point, and one guitarist had to switch to a second guitar: it just didn't diminish them at all. As an indication of how good they were, Cloud sent me to buy their CD before their first track had finished. Very good indeed. They also got a very good reception from the audience, almost to the point where (sadly) some people decided not to stay on for Bardo Pond. Fools. As good as Souvaris were, Bardo Pond raised the bar again.
We have a bit of Bardo Pond stuff, initially some stuff heard from the George, so it was nice to get the chance to buy some more of their work. We picked up Selections: Volumes I-IV, a double CD, and Ticket Crystals, their new CD. Selections comprises a selection from the band's self-releases from their website (also sold at gigs) so is pretty obscure stuff. Also nice was buying the CDs from the band's Clint Takeda, along with a snazzy and stylish poster which Cloud is getting framed for his office (that's the space which is currently the desk dumping ground, formerly known as George's room...)
So what do Bardo Pond sound like? Well, going to this website as well as the one listed above will have given you a clue. Wikipedia describes them as likened to "Pink Floyd, Spacemen 3 and My Bloody Valentine amongst others" (though that seems off beam based on my limited knowledge of the Floyd - fill me in guys). Flautist and vocalist, Isobel Sollenberger is utterly captivating and astonishing to watch as her hair comes down and her music soars. She fought a little with the sound system last night - and a rather inattentive sound and lighting booth guy who forgot to put the lights down to convey to the audience that the 'soundchecking' had shifted into the actual gig itself - but the band seemed enormously touched by the enthusiastic attention of the crowd. They were breathtaking to watch and hear as the layers of sound piled higher and higher, criss-crossing between melody and noise.
We came out at 11.30pm after just under 3 hours of bands: still early compared to north of the border, but a great 'late' night. Am loving listening to Ticket Cystals as I type this...