"Come and see the man who bought the shotgun that Kurt Cobain killed himself with play some rock and roll," was the invitation. Who could resist such a morbid offer? Not me...
Dylan Carlson was best friend of the unhappy Cobain, which puts him if not actually in the rock and roll hall of fame, then lurking somewhere in an anteroom nearby. Rock loves a good tragedy and so, if we are completely honest, do most of us so long as it's happening to someone we don't really know. Carlson carries with him a trace of that mortal glamour and, accordingly, his later show sold out so quickly that The Lexington cannily decided to schedule another at 5pm. This also sold out, if I'm not very much mistaken, despite starting at a time when only freelances and students were really likely to make it.
It was quite a show though. Dirty, fuzzy, grungey guitars played by seated musicians - first Thurston Moore and friend, then Carlson accompanied by a really sympatico drummer - in the Lexington's upstairs room with all the windows blocked up, organised in such a way that it was completely mesmerising: it felt like a cross between a rock and roll show and an extended dope-smoking session. Or something that the Barbican might put on as part of a modernist season.
It was great: a mind-altering musical experience.
And then Carlson pulled a cultural rabbit out of the hat. A young female vocalist came on, the drummer departed temporarily, and they proceeded to do the filthiest, weirdest version of Reynardine that you're ever likely to hear. The grunge curled and twisted around the familiar tune as the singer, who went by the name of Teresa Colmonacco, gave it a kind of haunted-house Sandy Denny without overdoing it. It was perfectly judged and fantastically surprising under the circumstances.
It turns out that Carlson is an Anglophile, in a semi-mystical, imagined Albion, renaissance faire kind of a way. His Twitter handle - @drcarlsonalbion - reflects this and when I asked him about Reynardine he said: "Liege and Lief was one of the first albums I ever had. It was given to me by my uncle, so the songs on it are all part of my personal history."
I wonder whether his curiosity has taken him to Cropredy yet? He may be ripe for a crossover project, clearly loves the material and does something darkly enjoyable to it.
* If you were intrigued by the mention of renaissance faires you may also be interested in this, about the Mediaeval Baebes.
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