Leaf, Liverpool, 11 June 2013
We’re in the fast lane all the way with a dashing sculptor at the wheel, his Hawaiian shirt unbuttoned, his hair swept back by the summer breeze. ‘Two Tribes’ blazes from the car stereo: mandatory listening for the drive along the M62 from Manchester to Liverpool. I sit in the back seat with the teenage prodigy Lucy Holt, writer of this sickeningly good review of the forthcoming Ghost Outfit album, I Want You to Destroy Me. We drink cold cans of Polish lager and shout at each other over the music, getting to the bottom of things like exams and betrayal. As we cruise through the hinterland of Liverpool we pass something called the Liverpool Innovation Park that hardly inspires much hope for the future of this desperate city. A soul-destroying wasteland of a place, the centrepiece is a derelict, white-painted monstrosity that resembles an industrial power station designed by Albert Speer. The Führer would no doubt approve. If SWAYS ever takes on Liverpool, this will surely be its home venue.
At some point, I realise, I’m going to have to let the world know that I’m Lucy Holt. Why carry on with this childish charade, this ruse of anonymity, this cowardly device? Why put up with all the frustrating misreadings and misogyny taunts, when I’m XX all the way, sisters? I should just get it out there once and for all: I’m a precocious teenage music reviewer and future Orange Prize winner for the lesbo romp that will be the magnum opus of my twenties. Now that you know this fact, it makes it far more respectable to be writing what is essentially a doe-eyed love letter to a bunch of boys and their errant leader, Jamie Lee, no? Because for once, incredibly, I find myself writing a review that’s motivated solely by the music, born of a show that’s as exciting as any I can remember since, well, probably since seeing MONEY play for the first time at Sacred Trinity Church in the winter of 2011. Or the Marder in Berlin. I’m bereft of the photographic art that I usually enjoy as I wasn’t planning to write a review. But as I casually make it back home at 5.08pm the next day, I find myself drawn straight to my laptop with an urgent need to get this down, to remember what happened, to bear witness. Somebody needs to write a review of this gig and this is not a responsibility I’m prepared to entrust to the people of Liverpool.
I missed the start. I was down an alley being led astray by myself, Lucy Holt, slugging from a bottle of cheap Rosé wine with the charming, baby-faced songwriter Sam Price-Salisbury who’s wearing a yellow jumper that’s brighter than the sun. As we walk back upstairs, flushed and hopefully heading to heaven, we can already hear Jamie Lee yelping, unaccompanied. We get to the top and almost bump into the singer on his hands and knees amongst the crowd, completing the opening song. He looks like he’s lost his mind. I help him to his feet and we kiss on the lips. He smiles like a new-born child. There’s a feint glimmer of recognition but this is a man who is elsewhere.
The band then launch into ‘Solong (God is Dead)’ and I immediately realise that this is going to be a MONEY show unlike any other I’ve seen before. Gone is the usual poise, the quasi-religious aura. I remember the days when Jamie would stand on a chair at the back of the stage and there was something of the sermon about his delivery. Tonight though, he seems either drunk or deranged. He’s all over the place. As he awkwardly pulls his guitar strap over his shoulder like he’s never seen one before in his life, I wonder whether he’s going to be able to play the thing at all. For a minute, I think we might be about to watch a total car crash of a gig. Thankfully, the body, or the musical instinct, seems to have survived whatever devastation has been wrought on his brain, and the song is played tightly; impossibly perfect, in fact. He still sounds angelic, with his vocal swathed in warm reverb, but the performance is like some kind of exorcism. There’s something totally unhinged about him as he writhes about the stage, wiggling his body like there’s not a bone in it, yelling every word as though his life depends on it. It’s utterly demented — but in a powerful and spontaneous way. There’s nothing contrived about it. He’s lost in the moment and it’s spellbinding. As the band runs through an extended, jammy version of their latest single ‘Bluebell Fields’ he sits on the floor and wrestles with his guitar while new member Sam Denniston comes to the fore with eerie samples and synths. Scott Beaman and Charlie Cocksedge are more animated than I’ve ever seen them, feeding off the weird energy that’s in the air, and Billy Byron holds everything together with soft drum rolls and marching beats on the snare, his earphones on, hunched and attentive like a praying mantis.
The set closes with Jamie wobbling off the stage with the microphone stand, plonking it down in front of the spectators at the front, knocking it over, gradually untangling his guitar lead so that it reaches out to his new position, then performing a heart-rending version of ‘Who’s Going To Love You Now’ while continually fucking about with the stand so that the microphone is either absurdly high or absurdly low. He finishes the song and marches off through the crowd and into the night, followed by the band. I wonder if any of them realise quite how special this performance has been.
You’ll notice that this review has been pretty much free of the usual literary pretension, instead fired by a spirit of public-spiritedness; because you need to know that MONEY are playing a show in London tomorrow then another for the sandal-wearing hippies of Hebden Bridge on Friday night and it looks like half of Manchester will be joining them. You should too. Something is happening with this band and it’s happening now. They might never be this good again. It’s certainly hard to see how they can get much better. So come along. We can pay our respects to Sylvia then watch a group who seem possessed of something of her spirit, lost in a certain darkness of the soul but producing the most incredible poetry in the void.
Photograph (of another night, but it kind of works!) © Natalie Curtis at http://www.16apr79.com/