To the Prince Albert in Brighton on Tuesday night to see Kiran Leonard. I'd heard one song by him on 6 Music's The Freak Zone and was so intrigued I felt I had to check him out. I'd seen a still-impressive Wire in the tiny upstairs room last year and it's a great pub within a minute's walk of the station, which was handy for catching the last train to Hastings. First up were Let's Eat Grandma, two girls from Norwich who are astonishingly young (15?) and who play a variety of instruments in an endearingly eccentric way with wavering vocals and a bit of rap - I was reminded of another all-girl group (purely instrumental) I saw last year called Haiku Salut. The audience was surprisingly ancient considering the youth of the bands - I'd say at least two thirds were middle-aged, many even older than me!
I was unusually excited at the prospect of seeing Kiran Leonard and he didn't disappoint. He started boldly with the new single Pink Fruit (the track I'd heard on the radio), a 15 minute semi-experimental magnum opus that passes through a number of different moods and modes and is really growing on me (I bought the etched disk version afterwards). His band (conventional apart from the second guitarist playing violin and keyboards) are considerably older than his 20 years and rather than front them he confronts them from the right-hand side of the stage as they look across at him - they probably need to do this because of the number of abrupt tempo changes.
The music is thrilling: a constantly evolving stew of post punk, math rock and post rock; buried deep at the heart - I'd like to think - is the kind of classic early 70s prog of the likes of Genesis. I also thought of The Birthday Party and American groups such as Mission of Burma and Slint. He's an interesting (left-handed) guitarist: not reliant on effects pedals he picks out delicate arpeggios, then thrashes away with the abandon of a Zoot Horn Rollo, or at other times percussively like Andy Gill of the Gang of Four or even Wilko Johnson, detuning and retuning while playing. I suppose he could be lumped in with 'outsider artists' like Daniel Johnston and Jandek, but he's potentially much more listener-friendly. I couldn't help being reminded, as I watched, of witnessing Jeff Buckley's first London show upstairs at The Garage (something I've been meaning to must write up for ages). Definitely worth seeking out. Guardian review here. A slightly less enthusiastic review (although I agree that the bass player was a lookalike for Badly Drawn Boy and Benny out of Crossroads), but with more emphasis on prog from the following night's gig here.
Author of Subterranean City, Beneath the Streets of London, London's Coffee Houses, Decadent London, The Folklore of London, Subterranean City (Revised and Expanded Edition), Netherwood, Last Resort of Aleister Crowley, Lord of Strange Deaths, the Fiendish World of Sax Rohmer; Secret Tunnels in England, Folklore and Fact