Pickpockets and Rascals @ The Standard, 20/06/2013
This could be the start of something big.
Last Thursday, the second Pickpockets and Rascals event was held at The Standard, which included a bill of 4 acts and a set by an orchestra reinterpreting one song by each of the artists. Quite an ambitious staging, but one that was a complete success.
A high level of quality was maintained from each act’s main set, where a diverse number of influences were on display, ranging from folk to twee to soul, all the while consisting of indie DNA. First up, Olivia Jean and Kay Proudlove shared the stage, playing songs both solo and together. While they were more than capable of engaging the audience by themselves (especially Jean’s a-cappella piece and Proudlove’s spot on “Valentine’s Day”), it was together that they created magic, their voices interlocking to create the type of harmony that make the talentless swoon and seethe in equal proportion.
Ev Jones of Jones Jnr. was next, playing his first ever solo show. He delivered it with ease, and unless you knew beforehand that it was his first show you wouldn’t realise. Indeed, he was so comfortable on stage that I only realised it reading his Facebook afterwards. As well as the prerequisite Jeff Buckley influence that all solo white guys with an electric guitar seem to have, he had some serious affection for early 60’s soul, an affection that culminated in a lovely cover of Ray Charles’ “Drown In My Own Tears”.
Brian Campeau was next, and was a revelation. Hopefully the other acts had the same effect on some of the audience, but I was blown away by Campeau. Blown away by the fact that he does what Fleet Foxes and Grizzly Bear do to unanimous praise the world over on his lonesome just with an acoustic guitar and his yearning voice. Absolutely breathtaking stuff. One to watch.
Iluka was the final act, fresh from her ‘Fresh Break’ competition win, which might be why she delivered such a confident set. She was also the first act with a full band behind her, resulting in the audience starting to move. Her blend of indie-pop paired with her vintage voice reminiscent of Julee Cruise and Duffy was greatly received, indicative of the attention she will no doubt be receiving in the future.
As good as all the acts were, they were but an entrée for the Orchestra of Thieves. With one of each of the act’s songs (and one from Ngaiire, a conspicuous absentee from the rest of the night) set to a new arrangement written by event organiser Michael O’Donnell, it was this portion of the night that was the clear highlight. O’Donnell’s arrangements pushed the artists work to be seen in their best light, offering a new and exciting perspective. The pieces had touches of Sufjan Stevens’ Illinois , Danny Elfman’s Nightmare Before Christmas and later period Talk Talk, and while listening to each of them I was struck by memories of other music so awe-inspiring that I couldn’t fathom how they’d ever been created (namely Sufjan Stevens’ Illinois , Danny Elfman’s Nightmare Before Christmas and later period Talk Talk).
But here I was, listening to a set of such music on a Thursday night at a gig where tickets were the price of two beers (marked-up beers, but still). If I had one complaint, it would be that there wasn’t enough orchestra. Indeed, the way the night was structured could only be anti-climactic: Either you loved the orchestra and wanted much more, or you weren’t into it (though I can’t understand why) and wondered why the night was ending with it.
But this is a mild squabble over an incredibly entertaining night that was host to 4 very promising acts and an orchestra. It seemed the type of night that counter-culture is born out of, and for that alone it should be celebrated. There were promises of another Pickpockets and Rascals event at the end of the year. It couldn’t come soon enough.