Monday, August 16, 2010


August 13, Highfield House, Hillary

Turn left at the train tracks. Pass the pawnshops, bottle stores and brown paper bags on the corner. Ignore the scary-looking towies revving engines at the petrol station and keep going ‘til you’re officially on the other side. The turnout’s weak. “It’s Durban,” says Steve Fataar at the bar. Car Boot Vendors don’t care. They’re on first, giving it all they’ve got.

The Vendors pick up instruments like hobos at a soup kitchen. This time, they’ve added banjo to their acoustic guitar, acoustic bass, ukulele, harmonica, cowbell and tambourine ensemble. Tonight, they’re fired up, blending Thailand, Durban and Gainesville into another bleeding-heart set of acoustic punk rock.

British songbird Gemma Ray’s up next. She’s like something Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez might have cooked up. “I love you but I hate you” she sings, part ‘50s femme fatale, part serial killer, like a twisted, sexier take on Lily Allen.

Her setup’s intense – a stark comparison to the straight-up, handmade acoustic sound of the Vendors. At one point, she’s playing guitar with a kitchen knife. She drops to her knees, turns the dials on her pedals with a heart-shaped ring and twists a tattooed foot in her ruby red slippers. She swaps microphones and loops herself back ‘til she’s a wailing mess of scorn and heartache.

Like two burning headlights on an abandoned highway, Gemma Ray’s sound’s haunting and eerily beautiful, like she’d smile sweetly at you as she yanked the bloodstained knife from your back – how did she even get that thing through customs?

Ramblin’ Bones has changed a lot since the last time I saw him. He’s lost the neat, smooth sound of his debut album Watching & Waiting and added a much more urgent, ragged-toothed acoustic punk-rock edge that suits him.

His guitar strap’s a piece of old string and his beard looks like a Fisherman’s Friend. And with Baron Von Danger on drums, Bones’ new sound’s much more rough-around-the-edges and ready to rumble, a gritty combination of acoustic folk and his Fuzigish roots.

On my way out I buy a homemade, R20 reboot of Bones’ album, recorded live with “Rusty the dog from the wendy house.” Even the title’s got more bite to it: Drunken Sessions & Silly Demos Vol. 1 (including NOFX and Rancid covers). I leave singing "Down with the bourgeoisie, down with the bourgeoisie..."

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Gemma Ray on MySpace
Rambling Bones on MySpace
Car Boot Vendors on MySpace

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