To the Music And Film Arena, for The Fairey Band, a traditional brass band who appear to have been sucked into a conceptual art project by Jeremy Deller. The gist is that the band play acid house tunes, with euphoniums and tubas filling in the bass frequencies.
The possibility of pastiche looms large, not least when someone plays Paul Anka’s schlocky version of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” as a warm-up. But my worries are unfounded because 1) Brass bands are actually a marvellous and underheard sound, I reckon; and 2) the songs they play aren’t recognisable enough to qualify as pastiche (I spot 808 State’s “Pacific State” in there).
I guess Deller is making a point about the affinities between seemingly incongruous, often devalued working class musics. But that isn’t so important when the sound is as rich and pulsating as this. And when the Fairey Band are blessed with a drummer who can sustain a breakbeat with the rigour of Clyde Stubblefield. Deller is a rare artist who can draw on British folk traditions without seeming patronising or jingoistic, and this just sounds terrific.
Maybe I’d recognise more of the Fairey Band’s tunes if I’d spent the late ‘80s listening to more acid house, and less House Of Love. But here are the latter, improbably reanimated, and playing a stirringly nostalgic set in the Uncut Arena just after the Fairey Band’s gig.
The mix is a bit wobbly, and Guy Chadwick’s thin voice and ropey lyrics are way too high, at the expense of Terry Bickers – who has aged better, incidentally – and his scything, mildly psychedelic guitar playing. But the quality of the songs – and this is an unashamedly backward-thinking set, with “Christine”, “Destroy The Heart”, “Shine On”, “I Don’t Know Why I Love You” and much of the debut album – are still potent.
It strikes me how underrated HOL are these days, how the likes of “Christine” were such a major influence on all those shoegazers we mentioned disparagingly in the wake of the My Bloody Valentine reunion. The House Of Love have musically much better than most of those groups, and they’ve also weathered well in comparison with many of the indie bands with orthodox rock ambitions that they inadvertently ushered in.
If I ranted about Wild Beasts earlier, I may have to rethink my highlight of the day after Elbow’s set. When they play “Newborn”, with Guy Garvey strumming intensely on a stool and his band mapping out Floydian vapour trails around him, the clouds start turning pink and it is one of those rare festival moments where all the corny and sentimental ideas about the epic lock into place.
Garvey is a revelation, owning the stage like a proud, humane crooner. There are strings, mimed trumpet voluntaries from the band, a heartstopping version of “Puncture Repair” and a finale of “On A Day Like This” which made me rethink my feelings about it as a lowpoint in Elbow’s catalogue. As I type, I can hear the galactic whale noises of Sigur Ros on the wind. They’re going to have to pull out all the stops to top Elbow; I’m sure Tom will be along here later to file a report