With Arts Council budgets undergoing a series of heavy government cuts in recent years, numerous organisations around the country have had their funding axed, including Brighton’s internationally respected Colour Out Of Space festival. This afternoon’s show aimed to raise funds for COOS’s planned sixth festival of experimental sound and art, with Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore – a long-time COOS ally – headlining.
Unsurprisingly, the chance to see a musician as influential as Moore in such a small space ensured every ticket had been snapped up in a matter of hours and the Green Door was heaving. Fortunately, even the ticketless were able to hang out with Moore and co in the bar for the day, listening in and picking up some limited vinyl.
It’s a busy afternoon, with well attended sets of spoken word, voice and tape experimentation and offhand improv, but there’s an extra push for space as Moore begins setting up. With Sonic Youth on hiatus since 2011, the guitarist can be found gigging in various ad hoc duos and trios currently, and today he’s in a first-time collaboration with Brighton drummer Andy Pyne.
Pyne’s most visible role in recent years has been in soon-to-split indiepop band Shrag, but he indulges his primary interest in experimental music in ensembles such as Medicine And Duty and Kellar and with his excellent Foolproof Projects label. Anyone hoping for a run through ‘Teen Age Riot’ is at the wrong gig.
Moore starts off scraping at his battered Fender with a metal bar, generating peals of searing high tones, as Pyne scatters light taps across his cymbals. This tingling exploration of the guitar has long been a Sonic Youth signifier, with Moore using a screwdriver as an additional bridge, drumming on its neck with his fingers and bending strings with the tremolo arm. The pair gradually pick up speed, Pyne marking out a beat with his bass drum and rumbling all across his kit as Moore begins striking at the guitar more firmly, making foot stabs at a simple four pedal set up.
As the noise builds, Pyne heats up, shedding his jacket and keeping an eye on Moore, his own glances out of sight below that mop of hair. The energy ebbs and flows, but heads always towards higher ground, with ever more layers of feedback, discord and drum smash. Pyne varies his tips from hard to soft to hard, Moore pushing a spare stick through his strings, getting increasingly animated and throwing out rock poses stage front. Hitting 30 minutes on the clock, there’s a nod of acknowledgement and the pair pull to a sudden stop.
It’s been a thrilling and rewarding ride, running the gamut from ear tickling treble to outright cacophony. Topping a full afternoon of experimental performances, here’s hoping that, as well as giving Sonic Youth fans an intimate encounter to remember, Moore’s draw helped raise awareness of COOS’ wider field of interests while raising some of those crucial funds.
Green Door Store, Saturday 26th January 2013