Jay Clarkson is a bit of an underground music legend in New Zealand, a bit like Bill Direen who I saw play live late last year. She started off in a post punk group called The Playthings, who released two fantastic singles in the very early 80s before going on to record EP's and a single with her next two bands, They Were Expendable and The Expendables, who put out some absolutely wonderful uncategorizable haunting pop music in the mid 80's. She then went on to form The Breathing Cage who released one LP before she went off to have a sporadic solo career. Most of these early bands recordings are pretty hard to come by nowadays and as usual I regret selling off the stuff I did have back in the day. I did recently pick up a CD compilation of The Breathing Cage recordings of whom I was not all that familiar. It's is a good CD and the music is slowing growing on me as I get more familiar with it.
The gig was held at another cool venue that I have not been to before, Blue Smoke. A bar attached to The Tannery shopping center in Woolston, Christchurch.
The crowd was not too bad for this musical legend, fairly gray haired and I suspect, like the Bill Direen Gig, pleny of the audience were themselves musicians. It is a quite small venue and I guess there were about 100 people there.
I had an appointment in the City earlier in the evening and with a couple of hours to fill in before doors opened at 8pm, I had dinner and went browsing records in another mall nearby. I arrived at the venue before doors opened and wandered around The Tannery checking out the closed shops while waiting.
After an hour of sipping orange juices the support act mounted the stage. Motte is a lone young lady with a violin and a bunch of effects equipment where she played shot pieces on her violin and set then into playback loops building on each other and then playing on top of the loops. It was quite ambient and haunting and on two pieces she sang some lovely melodies with a very good voice. From reading on her Facebook Page some of it might have been improvised. She created a lovely sounds collage which the audience seem to appreciate well.
Jay hit the stage alone for the first part of her show, armed with an acoustic guitar, she kicked things off with a song off her recent album "Spur" which was released last year. Her current music is quite folky from what I have heard of it. She was having some sound issues with the acoustic and swapped to electric for the rest of her solo slot, playing more recent songs I am not familiar with and a quite grimm Chris Knox song as well.
The next slot She had bass and drums backing her as she played several songs from her earlier material including the fantastic " Boy With The Sad Hands" Which I think was her first Solo single way back. This showed she was going to play some of the other stuff she had done in the 80's, not just The Breathing cage stuff. This set was great, really got my toes tapping and although I don't know all of the material played it was bloody good.
The last set She swapped bassists and added another guitar for what was almost the full Breathing Cage lineup I believe except for the new bassist as the original guy had broken his finger or something. The Breathing cage material sounded fantastic live, better than the CD and I was just lapping it up. Stand outs were "Big Life" and the old Expendables Track " The Man With No Desire" which I was just so chuffed that they played. as well as a couple of others I recognised but don't know the names of.
Jay said they hadn't played this stuff together for 25 years and there was a couple of times things went slightly off the rails but I left the venue with a very big grin on my face and the knowledge that I had just witnessed a very good gig.