Gwenno, Village Underground, 20th September
My friends Clare and Paul introduced us to Gwenno a while back. We marvelled at the brilliance of her album, Le Kov, but also the fact that she was Welsh and sings exclusively in Cornish. Her song Eus Keus? (which translates as Is there cheese?) is quite marvellous and I recall sitting in their flat playing this more than once and ordering the record on the way home.
She has released a third album, Tresor, this year, again an all Cornish affair which is electronica, folk, spacey and a fair dollop of pop Cocteau Twins. It’s great stuff, so we are excited to see her live.
We get there in time to see the end of support act Dean Lligwy, who seems to be making noises on a keyboard in a way that is quite beyond me. Mrs JO’B and I both think we are watching some avant-garde version of Ross From Friends (not the dj, but the short-lived musical career of Ross Geller, star of that ubiquitous sitcom). Dean is met with enthusiastic applause but we are baffled. Fair play to him though and obviously we are missing something….
However, there is a Scottish man stood behind us, looking like Frankie Boyle in a baseball cap, who looks irritated, infuriated and very twitchy. We will hear more from him…(and to be clear, it’s NOT Frankie Boyle!).
The support act is followed by a dj set by Stone Club, who play an eclectic mix of Hercules and The Affair, Glass Candy, Confidence Man, ESG, Marcia Griffiths (and her fabulous version of The Beatles’ Don’t Let Me Down), The KLF, Beats International and more…
This heady mix is accompanied by black and white film of stones from around Cornwall, along with the occasional Morris Dancer. It’s all very arty but the music is great. However, it’s just too much for our faux Frankie Boyle. Fake Frankie starts shouting, swearing and beer tin waving, complaining he has had to watch two f***ing hours of f***ing stones, visibly outraged, angry and exasperated…he calms down but within seconds kicks off again. Not sure if he has mental health issues or is just very easily riled, so I lean over and tell him politely to calm down. But he is in full on white rage mode and does not acknowledge my existence. Others head to grab the security people as do I, and one of the bouncers comes to ask him to leave. Fake Frankie is extremely polite and leaves without argument. It’s all such a shame as he will now miss the reason why he came in the first place. Poor chap.
And then within minutes, Gwenno and her band take the stage, backed by strange, swirling images of seas, druids, cheese (obviously). Her voice is fantastic, a former member of The Pipettes, she has taken a very idiosyncratic route with her solo career.
Gwenno is chatty and friendly throughout, a great counterbalance to the more mysterious, ambient music she presents. She asks us if we want the songs explained, which we do.
Hi A Skoellyas Liv A Dhagrow translates as “she shed a flood of tears”, a song by Aphex Twin. Tonnow means waves and is a story of how the sea can seduce you to the very bottom, having a great Massive Attack feel, the guitar played with a violin bow.
Irritatingly, we are distracted by the noise of the incredibly loud hand dryers from the ladies loos (sort it out Village Underground), as Gwenno offers to teach us some Cornish, asking “are there any Cornish speakers here?” – “not yet!” some wag shouts back. She then walks us through the chorus of Eus Keus?, explaining the lyrics in English first, before going through the chorus in Cornish.
“Is there cheese?
Is there or isn’t there?
If there’s cheese, bring cheese
And if there isn’t cheese – bring what’s easy!”
Which is in fact:
Eus po nag eus?
Mars eus keus, dro keus
A po nag eus keus – dro’n pyth eus!”
It’s great fun and this is the liveliest track of the night – we bellow along enthusiastically in our best, recently learnt Cornish. It’s splendid. She's then playing in front of a banner announcing that WALES IS NOT FOR SALE!
A few more manic fast tracks would make this a stronger show, but it’s brilliant all the same. Do check our new album Tresor.