@ The Betsy Trotwood
Words and pics by Captain Stavros
As the days inevitably melt away, the afternoon’s light begins dimming sooner with each passing moment. After work, the darkness gains on me. Sooner than I’d like, I’m bathed in the dusk’s light. Today felt like the kind of day where you just wanted to pick a direction and ride off into it. An excellent way to start a long weekend, to be sure. The horizon might’ve been a sight to behold but in a crowded city that’s ‘back to normal’, when standing on the pavement near Faringdon, you’ve got zero chance of seeing that thin line where the earth meets the sky. You might as well be in a pit. Today felt like a pit day. It was the pits. When this happens from time to time, my mind wanders off. Maybe even mentally rides off into the sunset and imagines what it’d be like to saddle up a steed setting out over New Mexico’s South-Western desert lands.
“The crickets and the rust-beetles scuttled among the nettles of the sage thicket. "Vámonos, amigos,” he whispered, and threw the busted leather flintcraw over the loose weave of the saddlecock. And they rode on in the friscalating dusklight.”- Eli Cash, Old Custer (The Royal Tenenbaums, 2001). There’d be no friscalating into the dusklight for me this evening, friends, because those dusty (and smog filled) winds were blowing this-a-way, back into town. Riding high on them? None other than Lauren and Marissa of Tan Cologne.
It’s my first time in the Trotwood; a seasoned gig space and, take it from me, it's a slide guitar's wet dream (don’t ask me how I know). I make my way upstairs towards the swirling paisley of an oil disc projector. Its splashed patterns across the ceiling reminds me of that time I took mushrooms, far out. Perched on my high stool by a bend of macaroni bar on the second storey of this rickety ole joint, tunes are slung out at us instead of drinks from behind it. A curly haired DJ played jangly ukulele and twangy ditties, half white rabbit and half aloha, from a freshly operated knee connected to some cyborg apparatus. She cross-faded one into the next and, as she did, her shirt sleeve rose just enough to expose a Beavis and Butthead tattoo. As her last song started to fade out, it reminded me of summer going out along with it. It just so happened to be the crispest day in recent memory. Tan Cologne took the stage, and when they did, they blew in like a zephyr.
‘Cerro’ kicks off the set from their debut album Cave Vaults On The Moon In New Mexico. An otherwordly slow-burner, gently keeping pace with the steady tap of a tambourine. It brings you off world by witch-craft rather than a rocket. Nodding, swaying, and chins akimbo, a hushed and captivated audience were led free of those pesky earthly constraints, like gravity. ‘Topaz Wave’, a new one from the soon to be released album was dangled before us. Its gentle guitars were strummed like twinkling stars. It’s a weightless and airy collection of notes.
Gently drifting back towards Earth, one foot still in outer space and the other planted firmly in the desert, ‘Cave Vaults on the Moon in New Mexico’ marks the halfway point of the set. It’s rather difficult to describe such an intimate gig with so many layers, textures, colours and shapes. This must be how people with synesthesia feel talking to us norms. Lauren and Marissa’s maracas play on cautiously like a rattler’s tail, fixing us to their arid New Mexico soundscape.
These desert poets hold our attention onstage where the walls join to make a corner. The half mariachi, half siren band-mates knitt together rockabilly and country guitar in ‘Alien’ with a sound that reminds me of Holy Motors. Collectively, the pair fill the cosy room with Oooooooooooo Aaaaaaaaaa. Their velvety tones wrap around the audience like smoke and, once it cuts out, I realise I’ve been eavesdropping on the conversation at the table in front of me. ‘Really lovely, isn't it?'. It is. I ’m uncertain any longer if I’m catching a dusty lounge act fresh from the sands of outer space or an ASMR podcast because I lost myself by the end of the set somewhere between a ‘Shell Grotto’ and the ‘Floating Gardens’. Both new hits that swirl around their audience in silky whispered vocals, goose-pimple inspiring.
After their set, they each negotiate their way through a hungry audience waiting to feed off them with praise. They’ll lift tiny moments to bring back home to their friends, where they’ll talk about when they met the band and got the CD to prove it. I desperately practice a restraint I never knew myself capable of, for I too wanted to sit down and have a chat with the travelers. An interview where I remained subjective instead of a gushing fan-boy but let’s face it, at this point, that was probably out of the question. So, I left. My last exit towards a destination unseen was London’s monolithic skyline. This time the obstruction midway down the stairs was the band themselves, my own personal horizon. I hear Marissa gleefully and with a chortle say, ‘yeah, where are our bikinis?’. Of course, I have no idea what she’s talking about and really want to interject myself into this conversation’s completely based on its absurdity. Instead, I think, of course you don’t realise the temperature’s no longer swimsuit friendly because you two have just lit this place ablaze. See you next time, space cowgirls.