Thursday, June 19, 2008

Peggy Sue and The Pirates, Komedia

Since I saw them at the Freebutt supporting Scout Niblett a month or so ago, I've been obsessing over the five songs I own by the marvellous Peggy Sue and The Pirates, but I felt slightly worried before they took to the stage at the Komedia, recalling other times a band blew me away on the first encounter and then failed to make good on those tentative promises. At the Freebutt the band - Rosa and Katy - were engagingly messy, extremely charming and incredibly impressive, their slight, romantic songs soaring courtesy of some stunning harmonizing. Their songs, occasionally acapella but generally accompanied by acoustic guitar and an assortment of toy instruments, seemed to marry a disregard for convention with an innate appreciation of pop, and their unforced style and vocal gymnastics put a new spin on the unmannered anti-folk groups they've been lumped in with. After that show I bought a CD from Katy and she apologised again for their shambolic set. I told her that all my favourite bands are a shambles, which is pretty much true. But I did wonder if they'd turn in a more polished performance the next time round.

And, at the Komedia, they sort of do, although they're every bit as likeable and unpredictable. And - to my relief - they're still comfortably my favourite band at the moment (with the possible exception of The Wave Pictures), their songs just as good as I remembered, their voices just as pretty. They play eight or nine short songs and, buoyed by the first appearance of a new, snake-hipped drummer, a couple which, in their own words, stray into epic territory: in other words they last three of four minutes, rather than two or three.

Of the songs, its hard to pick out a favourite, especially when I hardly know any names, but I love 'New Song', which is heartbreaking and terribly graceful, and one song built on a refrain of "love will save the day, love will save the day, love will save the day" is met with a pay off which ties me up in knots - Katy's baleful, half spoken reply; "if love will only stay". On 'Phone Song' they pull off the same trick, managing to give simple lyrics emphasis and impact. "I hate it when the phone rings and it's not you" is economical and unflowery, but Peggy Sue also make it seem true, which is a nice trick to pull off. Tonight's closer - 'Escargot', if I heard right - is perhaps the evening's most sumptuous moment, where Katy's breathy, staggering voice is underlined, or countered, by Rosa's tilting melodica riff. The pause, the micro-second gap where the latter switches her attention from her instrument to the microphone provokes a in me a shiver and gasp, one of those hair-standing-on-skin moments that make pop music so exciting.

When they finish I turn to my friends and I have that feeling I always have when I encounter a new favourite band; a kind of desperation for my friends to love them too. And I'm pleased that they do, and we argue about whether we like Rosa or Katy best (it comes out two-two), and how great and how pretty they are, and how much fun their set was. When they walk past I kind of shout 'that was great' in Rosa's direction, and she smiles as if they're still a bit surprised that people like them, but they must be getting used to it. I drink another beer and watch people sitting down by the stage, ready for Diane Cluck - who is headlining - and shout to Dan that they're all 'fucking hippies' - just at the moment that Rosa walks by again, and this time she turns and looks at me, surprised, as if I tried to accost her, and I feel embarrassed and stare at my shoes.

The reason I like Peggy Sue so much, I think, is because they make me feel inspired; when I watch them I want to learn new instruments, write songs, draw pictures, make friends, wear new clothes; be generally intuitive, unhurried, open to possibilities, keen. That must be because all those characteristics, all those urges, are captured in their group, and in their songs. And that, in turn, must be why I love them so much.


Anonymous said...

I like the way that you've obscured the real reason you love the band - "we argue about whether we like Rosa or Katy best (it comes out two-two), and how great and how pretty they are, and how much fun their set was" - in a bit of chatty prose :-)

So transparent.

jonathan said...

Ha ha - who wrote that!? Stop undermining me with the truth!

Dan said...

Ha ha.. Yes we enjoyed the music a lot but the conversation did come down to who was the pretiest.

I'd just like to say that I spoke with Rosa at the bar and could'nt remember the name of the Freebut when trying to tell the tale of how my mate J first encountered them and therefore the reason why we were there that night. Needless to say the conversation lasted twice as long as it otherwise would've as she patiently went through several bar names.

Diane Cluck was pretty amazing too though and I am about to post a clip of her on YouTube taken at the gig... stay tunned.

jonathan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jonathan said...

Diane Cluck was good, yeah - I was meaning to write about her separately but not sure I'll get to it; but was very impressed with her stuff, particularly a couple of songs which just sounded amazing, almost like hearing music afresh. Unfortunately I found some of her songs a bit too serious, too, lacking in humour. But that doesn't change the fact that she's a remarkable and intense songwriter.

All those tuning alterations were a bit much, though. What's wrong with one tuning and three chords, eh? eh?

Paul said...

Cool, you've convinced me to check these guys out.

Anonymous said...

me too. just ordered the seven inch from ebay. it better be good, shipley.

Powerful Pierre said...

I think they're in session on Marc Riley's show on BBC 6 Music tonight.