David Thomas Broughton, Cate Le Bon and Nathan Fake among best of Home Game 2011
Highlights from Fence Collective’s annual Fife festival
David Thomas Broughton
David Thomas Broughton dances a thin line between very soulful clowning, and a mesmerising, uncomfortable-to-watch musical performance. Within the first few minutes of his set in Anstruther’s Erskine Hall – bundled under layers of scarves and hoodies, solemnly plucking a guitar – he punctuated his polished, Yorkshire vocals with a few very visible, spasm-like convulsions which jolted unexpectedly through his shoulders and arms. After the song he put his guitar to one side, and gave it a reassuring tap, as if he was checking it was set down ok. Then he tapped it slowly three more times. The suddenly reverent (not to mention, vaguely worried) audience was by then wondering whether these OCD-like tics and fits were a sign that something was up, or just an extension of DTB’s onstage quirks. Pausing to unzip one of his many layers, he hung it on an invisible peg behind him, and the crowd took a very audible laugh of relief when, as planned, it fell to the ground.
The rest of his set continued in an unsettling and affecting mix of near-breakdown and studied vulnerability; playing on the crowd’s nerves like a tightrope-walker deliberately missing a step. His voice is an eerie, pompous, pastoral warble, wandering often into the upper register and bringing shades of Antony Hegarty – a comparison that DTB dislikes enough to have recently recorded a tongue-in-cheek cover of ‘Hope There’s Someone’.
Besides his loop pedals and guitar, DTB also improvised with props pulled out his pockets or borrowed from the merch table. An apple from his dressing room the night before at the Arches, a handful of coins, and a plastic kid’s chair from the front row were worked into his emotional peepshow, and used to build beats and samples as he wandered among the hungover crowd. Truly unique and memorable – not least for turning Leona Lewis’s ‘Bleeding Love’ into an open-veined, avant-folk suicide letter.
Cate Le Bon
Wrapped in a grey poncho, hair balancing obediently on top of her head in a bun, there are strong echoes of Nico when Cardiff’s heavy-fringed Cate Le Bon takes to the stage. The precision enunciation and haughty delivery of her Welsh vowels brings a calm control to her performance, which tonight shows-off a far more muscular sound than her solo set at Fence’s Away Game on Eigg last September. This time she is backed by a band, including Stephen Black, aka Sweet Baboo on keyboard. Roaring through psych-pop and prog-rock versions of her ‘Sad, Sad Feet’ and ‘Eyes So Bright’ off last year’s LP Me Oh My (V2) her voice rings through Anstruther Town Hall like a fork hitting a crystal glass.
Josh T Pearson
A stand-out star of the weekend, Josh T Pearson’s music arrives in waves; fluctuating between weary, slow-release whispers, and tickled guitar solos, then swelling into intense, string-attacking outpourings.
His lyrics about drinking himself quietly to sleep, driving a particular woman out of his mind, or missing people before they’re even gone are wrapped around the bending twang of his Texan consonants. At particularly heavy-hearted points in his singing, some of the softly-sung words seemed like they were going to fade out altogether.
Anyone recently hooked on JTP’s latest LP Last of the Country Gentleman (Mute), knew to expect an emotion-drenched performance from the Texan, as he worked his way through painful confessionals like ‘Sweetheart, I Ain’t Your Christ’ and the 13-minute long ‘Honeymoon’s Great! Wish You Were Her’, but it came as a surprise to hear the wizard-bearded troubadour deadpanning tinder-dry jokes in between his songs. ‘I’ve run out of CDs, but y’all can just download my record, and give me the money. Just don’t tell my label,’ he smiled through a mumble.
As the Legends crowd was to see first-hand later that evening, the charismatic Southerner, dressed in black with a silver Buffalo belt-buckle and looking like a misplaced Coen brothers extra, was an indie-girl magnet, but during his set, he had warned us if we had daughters, they should ‘Run’. After a ripple of laughs from the Town Hall crowd, Pearson leaned into the mic and repeated, straight-faced ‘I’m serious: run.’
To balance out the solemn, tortured souls and the earnest, folk troubadours, Home Game is always a game of two halves, with nightly gatherings for worship at the altar of IDM. Saturday night’s crowd was split between fruit ciders and real ale up at Cellardyke Town Hall - with a live set from Falkirk’s electro-lord Gavin Brown, aka OnTheFly, signed to Fence’s electronic off-shoot, De-Fence Records – or spirits and mixers with a neon straw down the road at Legends nightclub, a throbbing, multi-coloured cave of delights about ten minutes walk from Anstruther’s famous chippy.
Slotted in between DJ sets by Jon Hopkins, London’s Nathan Fake brought a pulsing, purring mix of soft-edged techno and glitchy, chiming house beats. In Fake’s capable hands, a dancefloor of Lycra body-socks, woolly jumpers, moustaches and second-hand heels swayed, lunged and bounced together euphorically until kicking-out time.