All your demons, all your angels, all on one stage.
Took me fucking ages, but an anagram of Mel Parsons is Ms Porn Seal. So, there’s that. Also, Mel Parsons is from New Zealand and once flipped her truck over four times. There’s also that – a proper country story, and she is proper good country. Massively good onstage banter, weary of something undefinable and upsetting, but grinning in the face of it – like all good country, it’s a little bit of misery delivered with a smile to light up the room. Nice.
Brendan Maclean’s moustache makes me squirm and he’s so bloody chirpy it makes me want to punch him right in it, but holy cow… THAT VOICE. THOSE SONGS. It’s not what you normally get from him on record, where he’s all pumpy and blurpy and chart-tastic, this is him raw and stripped – a ukelele here, some piano there, and sometimes just that throat solo. Every note makes me want to die at how untalented I am, every song is touching and clever and funny as hell, the whole thing knocks me sideways. I could listen to that voice and those songs until the day I died. If this set doesn’t end up in my highlights of the year, someone will need to beat me round the head with a fucking big brick.
Sarah Belkner comes with a mad band, full of both instruments and electronics, including – I kid you not – some kind of of saxophone played through a wah-wah pedal. I mention the band specifically because it is darker than the inside of a cow tonight in the Oxford Art Factory’s Gallery Bar (as per) so I totally fail to get a single usable photo of any of them, so you’ll just have to use your imagination as to what they look like.
But imagination is not something that is in short supply tonight. Despite the awfully modern beats, Belkner is drinking deep from the well of Kate Bush (a good thing), and what could easily descend into art-school tripe soars instead into strange, dreamy, dirty territory, where the brushstrokes are thick and treacly and the nightmares are charming but terrifying. The vaguely demonic vibe isn’t made better when Brendan Maclean joins for the last song (and latest single”) “Time”, and spaffs around with some maracas in the shadows behind the white-clad Belkner like all our bad angels made flesh. This is grand-scale stuff and it strains at the walls of this venue – just wait until she gets a full-sized stage show, it’ll be bonkers.
FULL PHOTO GALLERIES