Sun Araw, Laraaji, John McGrath, The Royal Wedding: The Kazimier, Liverpool

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Experimental fusionist Sun Araw delivers a rare live outing in Liverpool, Getintothis’ Laurie Cheeseman finds little to amuse in the Playzone.


It’s a tempestuous night. All the students are filtering off home and festival season is beginning in earnest. As happens every summer, all the gigs and other performance events we are showered with are beginning to dry up (well, somewhat, anyways), and looking our immediate schedule the only thing really worth checking out is Sun Araw and Laraaji.
Tonight at the Kazimier, they have combined for what is one of Sun Araw‘s frequent collaborations (his hook up with the seminal reggae vocal trio The Congos is well worth a spin).
Their special performance, The Playzone, proves to be a… meditative night, and for meditative, read self-indulgent, which is a massive shame. So often, experimental live music walks a fine line between keeping an audience entranced while playing out sonically and visually whatever is unravelling inside the performers head.
The interaction and tension between these two points can prove fascinating, just watch any video of John Coltrane or Can or Livity Sound in action and the response of the audience to the rhythmic interplay and motifs feed into where the music will progress, which in turn affects the audience’s response. This cycle is ESSENTIAL for experimental, freeform music to work.
And when you ignore it, everything goes to pot.
The night as a whole, from support the Royal Wedding to Sun Araw and Laraaji‘s solo sets and collaborative sections comes off as overly cerebral, willingly awkward and pretentious. They refuse to give the audience a hook to bite on (the fishing kind, not the melodic kind, although that would not have gone amiss either), and there is a pervading sense of boredom throughout the evening. Which coming from a fan of all concerned is doubly disappointing.
The most frustrating thing is, John McGrath is a genuinely great performer. His experimental, drone laden folk is haunting and a clear stand out of the night. And why is that? His music has soul, he responds to his environment and most importantly, no matter how elaborate or complex the music may be it still functions as music. McGrath’s music has the power to envelop the listener and his performance is as beguiling as it is wrapped up in deeper musicianship than your run-of-the-mill guitarist.
And what is even more frustrating, things look up again when Sun Araw returns to his drubby, dubby drone, given texture by jangled guitar as the soundscapes become more three dimensional. Sadly, proceedings quickly return to the vapid almost empty space which has pervaded throughout and the audience begins drifting away. A missed opportunity indeed.
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The Royal Wedding live at the Kazimier
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John McGrath live at the Kazimier

Pictures by Getintothis’ Jack Thompson.
Further reading on Getintothis:
Real Estate head for Liverpool this Autumn.
SOHN readies UK tour including Kazimier date in September.
Getintothis on new electronic Mersey duo Adronite‘s debut EP.
By The Sea return with I See A Crystal Sky ahead of summer second album release.
Dan Croll, Dave McCabe and Silent Sleep set for Brazil World Cup 2014 Expo
Twilight Sad to play cult debut album in full in Liverpool
The Magnet is back again – Hardman Street bar promising live music and late night parties

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