I’m sitting on the floor of The Islington, rancid with hangover, sweating old rum through my eyes. It’s hotter than I’m dressed for. In front of me six musicians are making a beautiful song and I’m the only person watching. It’s a soundcheck but they’re enjoying it as much as they’ll enjoy playing the gig. It’s The Amazing Devil. I’ll be on the door because they’re good friends and it saves me buying a ticket. But God I’m hot.
Fronted by Maddy and Joey, it’s an alternative folk punk rock outfit, and they’re brilliant. Their sound soars with violin and bleeds with cello. Maddy’s healing voice wings out above it all, Joey’s gutsy voice cuts in, darkens it and finishes the sound with crunch. They complement each other beautifully, and being actors they bring narrative and charisma to their set. Their lyrics are strange, bright, mystic and emotive. “Give me back my heart you wingless thing.” is the one that always strikes me. For me it talks about my old depressions. A ”wingless thing” is a good image for that bastard black dog. I haven’t felt it on my back for years, but I think it’s definitely wingless and definitely had my heart.
The first time I saw them play, Maddy got an audience member to pour a bucket of water over her head at the top of the set. She performed barefoot, dripping, mascara running. It was electrifying, but not literally despite water and cables and sound equipment. Although that interaction might be why she stopped doing it. Back then, after their ownership of what they were doing, their passion was really striking.
I love people who work with real passion and fire – (and water). Of course I do. And they have it in spades. Ok, I always enjoy things made by my friends, but I think it might be because I’m lucky enough to have friends who are good at making things.
Spending time with Maddy before she plays it’s apparent that she’s nervous. She looks great and I can tell from the soundcheck that she’s in form. But those nerves… they never quite go. The two of us must have improvised The Odyssey 100 times over three years, in utterly uncontrollable and unpredictable circumstances. And yet that frisson was still there the last show we did. It fuels the work. It’s why we love working live. And Maddy doesn’t do things by halves.
And she didn’t. None of them did. By the end of the first song, Maddy’s makeup was all over her face because she’d cried as she sang. Joey had bust a guitar string whilst smashing the shit out of it. Their sound, as evidenced in the soundcheck, was bang on in. So complete. I want to see these guys playing festivals and not just because they’re my friends. Well partly. But they’re utterly composite, powerful and honest musicians and they’re doing it for love over ego. I won’t put my name to something I don’t believe in. Program them. Lots of people need to have the things they can do with sound happen to them.
I like photographs of people getting ready for performance. There’s such a distance between the preparation and the delivery. I snuck this one of Maddy doing the makeup she ended up weeping out. I’m thrilled the gig came over so well. Damn I love having talented friends.