Last night I came close to seeing something I could never see: Jazz music played wild and free, the pioneer of No-Wave, conducting one of the sharpest rhythm sections I have ever seen and someone trying to embody an iota of the greatness left by the great James Brown. This was James Chance and he fucked up Mile End. There's a plaque on a bridge down the road showing where the first bombs fell in World War II, James Chance's performance implanted a plaque on my mind that I saw the great man and again reminded of how hard performers work and worked in those old days.
My old band mate Victor rang me up after Wake Up Dead practice to tell me he had a spare ticket for ££%$ (I couldn't make it out, hes Portuguese and I had started drinking) however when I understood he meant James Chance and The Contortionists or Les Contortions, I hesitated for a second and confirmed it was fucking on!
So there we waited, in the front, waiting to be schooled in how to be a musician. The cheers began and the man was on stage in a suit and holding what looked like a white russian, taking his time and immediately telling the DJ person:
"Play two more songs"
The "no bullshit" persona was already established and then he classily took his time getting the reeds out, adjusting, getting it all together so when count started, we were off, no hitches.
Then he sat at the keyboard
Glanced at the band .....
A one A two A one two three four...
BOOM!!!!!!!!!!!!! bass, guitar and drums all in together tight but angular jerkin rhythms and fucked up keyboard noises.
This immediately sounds like the write up for some shit D.I.Y.-by-numbers Dalston band but how many bands try this formulae and how many fuck it up. Art school might entitle you to mohair cardigans and skin head bleached fringe haircuts but it won't teach you how to play tight drums and tight bass lines ...... anyway rant aside back to more important things.
After Mr Chance was done blowing minds with backing band fucked rhythms and fucked keyboard sounds he picked up that mother fucking sax and blasted forth a cacophony of notes and sounds. Your legs and body are working hard to the rhythms then that sax makes your brain go FUCK ME THIS RULES !!!!!
My immediate thought ounce I had resuscitated my senses was that this is what it must have been like when you first saw Coltrane or the bird doing do-wop. Then the sugar on top the moves .....Yes he may be older than us but in his suit and sax he saunters up to the mic shouts like a deranged beatnik poet but manages to to also do some spins and leg shakes, not quite MoTown but not embarrassing either, cause making music like that you would be shakin' in a frenzy not looking moody. Third song in he was in the front of the crowd screaming in some girl's face, sounds weird but it worked (hahaha), and she was loving it. Then we got some great Chance marketing spiel i.e. he mumbled about the fact they got a new album out and said
"This will get you started"
Then threw a CD, ninja star style into the roof a big round of laughter ensued hahahaha.
One of the most stand out things with James Chance is his ability to lead the band through swift hand signals. With one flick of his hand the band would be so quiet you could hear the murmur of the crowd. When he went into a James Brown cover "King Heroin" he got the band started off low and started singing so heartful, so soulful.
Problem was the twats in the back where to busy talking about their coked-up weekend and being so wasted etc etc, whilst us in the front hung to on to the mans' words frustrated at the ignorance but the lord giveth.
James Chance yelled:
"SHUT THE FUCK UP! THIS IS IMPORTANT TO ME! I DON'T WANT TO HEAR YOUR CONVERSATION! I'M STARTING AGAIN!!"
And, he did...
a fucking master stroke, I smiled with glee and got transfixed on the cover it was incredible, goosebumps galore and to top it off in the final freak-out outro he shoved the mic in the saxophone (the horn bit where the noise comes out)
WWWWWAAAAAAA WEEEEEEEEEE BBBAAAAA BBBLLLLLLL WWWWWWEEEE WAAAAAAA !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (that's a saxophone freak-out, not a new band name)
He then explained that they would forgo the cliched band on and off stage encore and this was the last one and after one more bout of education the group was gone and my mind was blown. Work today has been filled with flashes from last night and the smile on my face eradicates any possible hangover.
AMEN JAMES CHANCE!
Dop 'N' Jive!