Thursday, September 10, 2009
Live at the Mercury Lounge
You probably know that Willy Mason isn't an old-time crooner with a young soul. You probably never got him mixed up with Willie Nelson, or had a couple years time-lag before you discovered the Where the Humans Eat album that your Mum was probably already listening to when it topped the pops. You'd probably not be shocked to hear that he's two years younger, and in every sense a little huskier, than I am. Let's just say he wasn't big in Japan.
"So who are you here to see?"
We nudge each other. We'd like to see all the bands please. That's what we paid our twelve bucks for.
The girl at the door marks two more dashes against his name and stamps us in.
The venue is small. We've seen our friends' band play to bigger rooms and massier crowds. Almost as soon as we arrive a self-depreciating guy with a guitar and too-big shoes comes on. His name, Dave Godowsky, doesn't warrant bold type at the door or on website but he's got a lot of charm and some sweet, twisted tunes called things like "I hate the world, and everyone in it." Despite the Emo pose I catch him smiling when folks clap.
Willy's up next (the space is too small for formalities) and during the change-over we argue about whether it is sad or not sad to play at a gig where they tally the people paying to see you to see if you're worth your stage-time. We both think our arguments are strengthened when Willy thanks the Fung Wah bus service for getting him here in time. We've taken that bus before. Maximum points for gritty authenticity, minimum points for swanky superstardom.
For the record, Willy Mason has a voice like the strongest hot toddy you ever drank - equal parts bitter lemon and whiskey and honey - and each song he played sounded like a story you knew by heart but had somehow forgotten. He didn't play Oxygen, and no-one cared.
But the kids were here to see the dark and lean AA Bondy. Judging from the bodies pressing in for his set his tally chart was looking pretty healthy. His perfectly-formed songs appeared in unexpected clearings in his bands' dense soundscapes.
"Thanks for coming out tonight. You're a good looking crowd. Not that it matters, y'know. But it's nice that you look the way you do."
AA Bondy must have been dazzled by the spotlights, because I can tell you that we were a misshapen draggle of fans: too fat, too thin, too apt to spend our time alone. But we clapped and swayed our sweaty bodies and let ourselves be taken out of ourselves by his sweet-talking and dark strummed fairy tales.