Gruff Rhys’s Smorgasbord of Music

Gruff Rhys + Her Space Holiday and Crystal Skulls | Crocodile Cafe | 29 September 2007
Gruff Rhys at the Crocodile Cafe, Seattle

Super Furry Animal, Gruff Rhys and his musical companion Lisa Jen cam out and sat down to a table full of all kinds of nick-nacks, gadgets, and instruments. It kind of looked like they snagged someone’s table from a flea market, I just wanted to go up on stage and wade through all of the funky stuff, and offer him ten bucks for the bird in the cage.
This was a truly delightful show, Rhys played the part of musical chef, grabbing items from his table, sampling and looping them, pushing a few buttons on his bass box and playing acoustic guitar. Jen provided her beautiful voice to his concoctions and the smallish crowd at the Crocodile was entranced.

During one song sung in welsh, which wasn’t familiar to me, he stopped mid song to give us a recap in English and proceeded to create a rainforest sound collage from a the items on his table. He grabbed the bird in the bird cage, one of those whistling tubes, some strange hollow round bowl that made thunder like sounds, and his own voice, sampling and looping each item to create the forest. It was like watching a mad scientist at work. He did the majority of the ace Candylion album including The Court of King Arthur, Candylion, Gyrru, and the Morricone-ish Lonesome Words. He ended the main set with a wrenching version of Cycle of Violence and then came back out for a two song encore asking if we would mind an 18 minute self indulgent song. Me and everyone else were totally up for Skylon! The story of a bomb disposal expert that saves a hijacked flight, and joins the mile high club with the actress he’s sitting next to. This was the song I was hoping all night he would play, but doubted he would. It lived up to my expectations with added props it was even better than. Gruff and Lisa donned flotation devices, gave us flight attendant-like emergency instructions, and used a dog laser gun to stunning effect. Gruff surprised us with his final song, a cover of Kevin Ayers’s Religious Experience that in hindsight made total sense. Last night wasn’t quite spiritual, but Rhys’s kid in a candy store approach to his songs made it a sublime thing.

Seattle’s Crystal Skulls played first and were really good in a Roger McGuinn fronting Steely Dan kind of way. Second band Her Space Holiday were good too, but not anything like I remember them. The last time I saw them, Matt Bianci was all electronics and disco lights, he’s now in a guitar-bass-drums phase, but the songs were still good, given the different delivery.

Gruff and Neil, coming to your town
More pictures from Gruff’s show plus a few of Crystal Skulls and Her Space Holiday at my Flickr page,

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