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Midday Pro’s Encounter with Junip @ Le Belmont

In Choice Cuts, Features, Gigs on November 16, 2010 at 12:25 pm

It began amidst a cacophony of 21st century communications. November 4th had been an eventful day. I’d managed to interview Ariel Pink of despite several technological failures, and my academic efforts had been rewarded with a good mark in my literature class. As heavy rain poured down, and the evening darkness closed in on the fatigued inhabitants of  Blackader, it was fairly certain to me that the day’s interesting business was over. An evening of bleary-eyed study lay ahead.

In order to delay the seemingly inevitable, I decided to Skype anyone who seemed game for a bit of gossip. Unfortunately (in the best possible way), I found that only my parents were available, thousands of miles away in the grey UK. As the dialogue between us progressed into a desperately boring ‘oh-is-that-how-Dorris-at-work-is-how-interesting-please-do-tell-me-more’ episode, my phone rang. In order to save what little dignity I still had in the eyes of my parents, I thought it best to reject it. A quick glance at the missed calls list showed me it was Guillermo, the music editor of Leacock’s.

‘The Ariel Pink interview hasn’t been sent in,’ I thought. Best to pretend you don’t have your phone on you. The call with my parents finished, and I began to text Guillermo my excuses. He beat me to the punch, and my phone rang again. As I started to stammer out my apologies he interjected, ‘you’re on the list for Junip tonight.’ After thanking him profusely, I sat down to ponder what this meant. My phone beeped again. ‘You have a plus one as well’ the text read.

I flew out of the library and over to Bar des Arts faster than you can say ‘Sony Bravia.’ A quick scan of the room revealed plenty of people I was sure would jump at the chance to seeJose Gonzalez perform on stage with three other outrageously talented Swedes. Alas, it was full of people who actually care about their 8.30am midterm the next day.

‘But you’re getting drunk on $1 beers,’ I protested. ‘Le Belmont is the logical next step!’

‘Drunk!? Never! This is mental lubrication for the Cybertheque,’ the occupants of the room chorused in reply.

Confused, and with the show starting soon, I drunkenly (don’t try this at home kids), hopped on my bike and pedalled like a mad man towards Le Belmont. The rain sodden sidewalks were deserted, and, after trying to brighten the evenings of the few grumpy looking passers-by with the offer of free music, I realised the show had started, and I would be tackling this one alone.

The show was beautiful. Junip has undoubtedly come to a wider attention after the international acclaim of Jose Gonzalez’s solo efforts; Gonzalez also takes on lead vocal duties here. His soft, gentle, and familiar voice settled the audience, as it delightfully reflected the band’s gentle pysch-folk. Le Belmont is also a great host venue. The stage is low, the sound more than adequate, and when the black cubic dance floor gets filled with wooden tables and chairs, the atmosphere is incredibly intimate for such a large venue. Attractive young couples and bearded folkies sat sipping on cream-ales and oatmeal stouts, listening as Junip’s gentle sound washed over them.

While their music certainly conveys a pop sensibility, Junip’s sound is more interesting than that. Long, single chord drones betray their hardcore and krautrock influences, and these are backed by hypnotic and itchy drum rhythms. At times during the show, it even seemed that Gonzalez’s acoustic guitar was the most important percussive instrument in the band. At the back of the stage, Tobias Winterkorn played ascending riffs on his moog synth, which really anchored the show in the present and stopped the audience from drifting off into a timeless daze. Indeed, so delighted was the audience by the performance that they demanded a second encore, cheering enthusiastically when the band acquiesced. I was therefore filled with not a small amount of sadness as the house lights came up at 11pm.

However, even though the show had ended, my night with Junip had not. I bummed a light from a couple of women, and together we plotted to accost Jose.  I was on a mission to pick his brains for the secrets of his tunings; the women were there for other, less printable reasons. We knocked on their tour bus, only to learn from their driver, Dave, that they were still inside. ‘Go and find them, a couple of cute girls will have no problems meeting them’ he said, sending me a wink.  We talked our way past the bouncers and back into the venue, only to be met by the band’s eager drummer coming out the other way.

‘Do you know where ‘Casa de Polololplo is?’ he asked.

‘Casa del Popolo?’ we suggested.

‘Yes, we’re going there for a drink, come and join us!’

We didn’t need telling twice. The next thing I knew I was striding (or at least I felt I was striding, it was probably more of an excitable dance) down The Main in the rain, listening as Jose Gonzalez proceeded to tell me how he had opened for, or played with, 99% of my musical heroes, often in peculiar circumstances.

‘Ah, I played with Salif Keita in Harare, actually.’

‘We’ve opened for The Knife once or twice.’

‘We met some of the guys from Refused once; Tobias (the synth player) has jammed with them a few times.’

It was lucky we reached Casa just as we did, because I was getting weak at the knees just listening to these stories. Once inside, the conversation and ale flowed freely, as did the discussion. For two hours the band chatted with us about European politics (dangerous Fascist tendencies on the rise) and hardcore punk (‘Bad Brains are good because they came first, but they are not actually that good,’ Jose corrected me). Eventually, the time came for us to leave, (or for the venue to close; I was a little too merry to be fully aware at that point), and we said our goodbyes. The band hopped aboard their tour-bus along with our accomplice, their driver Dave, from earlier in the evening, and I once again drunkenly hopped on my bike. As I proceeded to pedal home in record time, I was fuelled by the knowledge that the 21st century’s great irritant, being contactable twenty-four hours a day, sometimes, just sometimes, pays off.

Junip’s latest release, ‘Fields,’ is out now on Mute.

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