Photos by Rena Kosnett
Taking 4 late night buses from Camden down to Brockley, yelling at one stranger who sneezed into my hair, standing for 45 minutes in the rain with a sore throat, and staring helplessly at one of the worst public (drunken) fights I’ve ever seen, are all the unpleasantries I had to endure in order to get home after seeing Billy Childish play tonight. And I'd do it again….. well, I would pay £40 for a cab if I had to do it again, but I would definitely want to see Childish play a second time if given the opportunity.
I’ve been loving my trip to London, but the emphasis on pixilated music here has been drying my eardrums out; so bouncing around at this rough and tumble 60s garage rock palace in North Camden, the Boston Music Room’s Dirty Water Club, made me feel a little homesick. And when Childish and his new band, the Musicians of the British Empire, played the opening chords for The Who’s “A Quick One While He's Away,” I really teared up. Never mind that Childish was in the wrong key and had to start again. I actually enjoyed hearing the beginning exclamations “Bang, Bang, Bang, Bang” more than once.
Childish led his bass player Nurse Julie and his drummer Wolf Howard through garage rock classics (“Lie Detector”), as well as newer material (Nurse Julie sang a tune off their upcoming album that concerns her boyfriend’s adulterous mix tape making, aptly titled “He’s Making A Tape”), but what amazed me the most was Childish’s not one, but TWO a capella performances: Ledbetter’s version of “In The Pines” and Son House’s arrangement of “John the Revelator.” I was told, before making the trek up to Camden, that Childish’s live show has the tendency to disappoint—but I can’t imagine this to be true. After his 100 albums and perhaps as many artistic manifestos, Childish seems to be clearly at home while performing, heckling drunker members of the audience, muttering self-deprecating references to his guitar tuning, and offering a dose of dirty Thee Headcoats brand grit to offset the rest of London’s drum and bass campaign.
Los Angeles' Lily Marlene diggin Billy Childish at the Dirty Water Club