Cat Power & Mac DeMarco
May is an electrifying month in Brighton. Thousands of music appreciators queue for hours for short sets from up-and-coming bands during The Great Escape. Theatre encapsulates the city through the Brighton Fringe, with the Spiegeltent -- a series of marquees -- pulsating as its hub. Sadly I missed most of May's festivities due to my dissertation induced hibernation, but I was lucky enough to be given a free ticket to Cat Power, as part of the Brighton Festival, by a lovely pal. I first heard Cat Power (real name Chan Marshall) way back in 2006, with her album The Greatest forming part of the soundtrack of a 14 year old girl heartbroken to be leaving her hometown. Her velvet voice found me again last year when I stumbled across the video for Manhattan, which follows bleach-blonde Marshall grooving and giggling around an ever-transitional island I too have felt a strong affinity with. "Don't look at the moon tonight," she sings soothingly, "You'll never be, never be, never be Manhattan."
The noble arches of the Brighton Dome welcome us in. First up is Benjamin Clementine, a barefoot figure shrouded in darkness. His voice reminds me somewhat of Sampha, both melancholic and haunting. He's definitely worth checking out if you haven't heard of him already. After a short break between sets, in which my friend has to leave due to falling ill, I settle down solo in my seat unsure of what to expect from the female headliner. A quiet and unassuming woman graces the stage. As she begins to sing, a hush encompasses the audience. We are transported through the beauty of her vocals. It doesn't matter that she's not a Beyonce in terms of hyper-choreographed, raucous stage presence; the music is enough to bring us to the edge of our seats. She mixes old stuff and new stuff with covers, switching between her piano and guitar. Several times she speaks in her sweet, husky voice to those in the crowd, apologising for forgetting verses and for technical problems --- minor hiccups with lyrics subtly smoothed over by gentle charisma. Because of her inherently nervous demeanour, her set seems at times a little scatty. Yet, this only enhances the adoration felt for this enchanting woman. Such is emphasised by repeated screams of "I love you!" from fans in the depths of the Dome. As the gig draws to a close, Marshall takes the bouquet she's been presented with, and throws the flowers one by one into the crowd. To me, this act defines the entire aura of the evening --- a rare musical intimacy. I depart feeling like I've left with a little piece of her.
The very next day I'm at The Old Market with friends about to see Mac DeMarco. At the other end of the spectrum from Cat Power, DeMarco is the crooning buffoon king of low-fi California-vibed rock. We drink Polish beer through the support, Amen Dunes and TONSTARTSSBANDHT, respectively, and wait impatiently for the return of the Mac (couldn't resist). I feel slightly overcome with a variety of emotions... a weird lust for the main man, joy, and a faint bit of heatstroke, due to the humidity of the venue. Now, my memory is a little hazy of the evening due to being extremely bevvied, but I can wholeheartedly say that seeing the Pepperoni Playboy live is a necessity. The audience whips itself into a frenzy; people crowdsurf and hurtle themselves onstage to take selfies with the leading dude; Mac tells a bouncer to fuck off. Sweat drips from the foreheads of the fashionably dressed, dancing ferociously, drunk-on-DeMarco. And the American-dad-dressed guitarist of the band rocks a Jurassic Park cap. It's surreal and euphoric. In the encore, we're told to get down on the floor while the band play Neil Young --- we kneel to Neil. Phones fly in the air to share the show through Snapchat and other social media, but even snaps like the one below fail to capture what it feels like to be in that room, with those people, beheld by the silky-voiced, reigning jester of the court. As the saying goes, I guess you had to be there. I've already bought tickets to see him again in Leeds this November; I'm hooked.
As May comes to a close, the Brighton music scene continues to blaze thanks to the likes of Be Nothing, One Inch Badge, and other people dedicated to bringing the best of the best to our beach-town. May it keep on burning.