Tag Archives: Red House Painters

On the road? No thanks

I suspect I am not alone in routinely pondering a new lifestyle, a new place to live, a new job; especially so at this maudlin time of year. Even old dogs need a fresh bone from time to time.

Teetotalism and swimming daily would undoubtedly benefit my health, and I’ve long dreamt of living in continental Europe, where the weather and culture are hard to pick fault with. And work? I came to journalism late after bobbing about gladly but aimlessly in the ocean of bar work, playing music and touring with bands. I’m a jack of all trades, master of none.

Pubs have a tough time of it these days so a return to the licensed trade is a no-no, and fumbling with my ever-growing arsenal of guitars is something I do strictly on a not-for-profit basis. Tour management, though, keeps invading the misty glade of my mind, despite its myriad drawbacks.

The situation isn’t helped when associates from that chapter of my life arrive in town to play a show. Last week it was Mark Kozelek, who was playing Glasgow with his group Sun Kil Moon. Though now in his late 40s and settled down, when I shepherded his band Red House Painters through Europe at the turn of the century he had what you might call a roving eye. Women and music were his exclusive foci, which was exasperating and entertaining in equal measure.

Overall, the tour was a blast. I watched a wonderful band from the side of the stage every night as they played to devoted audiences in Spain, Portugal and Scandinavia; the Oresund bridge from Copenhagen to Malmo blew my mind; and a beguiling esprit de corps grew out of spending what felt like weeks of dead time travelling with kind, creative men who were like me – they would be returning to California to deliver pizzas, drive taxis and sell property to pay the rent. This was their annual holiday. Only Mark earned enough money from music to concentrate on it full time.

It was heartening to catch up with him backstage after a marathon set and find him in good form despite the circumstances. The previous evening they’d played a long show in Dublin and got to bed around 2am. Four hours later Mark emailed to say they were leaving for Glasgow. Then a skilled pilot lifted their plane above the pack of thoroughly hacked-off weather wolves circling Hibernia and Dalriada and deposited them in Scotland on arguably the worst day of the year. Talk about exhausting.

Tour management? I think I’ll pass.

Reproduced with permission of Herald & Times Group.

Review – Sun Kil Moon, SW3, Glasgow (10/12/14)

At the age of 47, Mark Kozelek is having the year of his life. A “hit” album (Benji), bounteous publicity through his ongoing feud with The War On Drugs and the discovery of an apparently bottomless seam of creativity – transcribing the minutiae of his life into diaristic song – have transformed his fortunes.

Not before time, you might say. A friend of and collaborator with Low, Will Oldham and Sonic Youth’s Steve Shelley among others, aside from the tenacity with which Sun Kil Moon’s ringmaster has clung to his craft across two decades of musicmaking, on tonight’s evidence a stout disregard for convention is what elevates the San Francisco-based songwriter above his peers.

Exhibit A: a £25 ticket with no support act. Sounds grim, right? But after three hours of sublime music (much of it accompanied by a drummer plucked from the crowd and handed £200 for his efforts) and wise-guy repartee – Jackie Mason meets Joe Pesci – such a price-tag looks like the deal of the century.

Exhibit B: Sun Kil Moon confound expectation. Kozelek frequently plays a floor tom and snare, delegating the reproduction of his signature chordal mastery to pianist Chris Connolly and guitarist Nick Zubeck, who cope equally well with renditions of The Christmas Song, Little Drummer Boy and I Got You Babe, on which a randomly selected female ticketholder takes on Cher’s role.

Much of Benji is fed through a decelerative filter, monged and drawn out for maximum gravitas. And lo and gadzooks, Kozelek has the temerity to light up a cigarette, as punk rock as live acts get these days.

An exceptional show to cap an exceptional year, all told.

Reproduced with permission of Herald & Times Group.