We went to a fantastic gig last night : The
Matthew Herbert Big Band
, supported by Mugison.
Both acts were fantastic – pretty strange, but really great nonetheless
: I left the concert in Vicar Street with a very wide smile on my face
and happily ringing ears.

Mugison had arrived just that evening from Iceland, and had lost his
luggage on the way (thanks Aer Lingus), so lacking the electronic box of
tricks he carries about most of the time, he made do with a laptop and
an acoustic guitar, though it didn’t seem to handicap his performance. A
fairly weird set, interspersed with amusing stories and witty anecdotes,
there was enough going on to make (what was just a support
act!) extremely memorable. Kicking off the set with an electronic wall
of noise, generated from a combination of his laptop and some samples
done on the spot of himself wailing into a microphone, things calmed
down a little bit as he got going. Using samples of the audience as part
of the rhythm section on one track, it was an excellent mis-mash of
electronic and acoustic sounds. Mugison’s set ended with a fantastic
song, played with all of the house lights down, with him standing on a
chair, enlisting the help of a poor unfortunate member of the audience
to hold an LCD projector in order to project an mpeg of his girlfriend
singing backing vocals, onto his guitar : absolutely wonderful (and a
good song to boot!)

The main act of course, was why we were there. Being fans of the big
bands in general, myself and the missus have seen quite a few different
bands over the years : Jools
Holland and his band
a number of times, Chris
in the NCH and Tam
White & his band in Edinburgh
– but I can safely say, that none
of them were anything like what we heard last night.

Using various electronic gizmos, Matthew
takes a live big band, and messes about with their sound,
live on stage – sampling, twisting, distorting, sequencing and generally
having a fantastic time of it all.

The set started with Matthew Herbert, alone on the stage in one corner,
holding a mug up to a microphone and tapping it once with a spoon. The
resulting “tink” was sampled, and then resampled,
passed through an array of filters, and then blasted at the audience in
various wild and interesting ways – all wonderful. The band (4 trumpets,
4 saxophones, bass, drums, piano player and conductor) filed onto the
stage to applause from the audience as this coffee-mug-assault was going

Now, I suspect that a lot of people in the audience hadn’t been in the
same room as a big band before, but as usual, there’s nothing like the
thrill (or the volume!) of hearing a big band in full voice : it’s
terrific, go see one sometime if you haven’t.

Apart from the electronic sounds, there were quite a few non-electronic,
but far from conventional instruments used as well. One number, about
the perils of bad-journalism (as far as I could tell) used the band
ripping up copies of the Daily Mail and other Rupert
-publications as the rhythm section, all being sampled and
otherwise mucked-about-with. Another song had the band members using
balloons to screech, blow and whoop along with the music : it would all
have sounded terribly pretentious if this had been mentioned on the
flyer for the concert, but during the performance, the looks of glee on
the musicians faces showed that it was anything but.

The two encores ended with a number, again with the house lights down,
which had the entire band, and any members of the audience who felt like
it, using flash-cameras to add their own light show to the music. All in
all, it was an excellent evening – albeit completely unexpected. Having
no idea what the gig would be like, we went in with an open mind, and
came out with a big grin. What a great way to end the weekend – definitely
want to add both Mugison and the Matthew Herbert Big Band to my CD collection…