Bardo Pond

October 18, 2003, Manchester, UK
October 21, 2003, Birmingham, UK
October 22, 2003, Bristol, UK
October 23, 2003, London, UK
October 24, 2003, London, UK
Bardo Pond are the greatest heavy psychedelic band in the un-USA. It had been four years since they last played in the un-UK, so I wasn't going to pass up the chance to catch as many dates on their tour as possible. The good news if you missed them this time is that they're going to be back next year, as Foundation have asked them to play at All Tomorrow's Parties and plans are being hatched for a headline tour in the same spring time/space. Mega props go to Mogwai, men of good taste, for inviting the ten-legged Philadelphian artnoise group for a trip around this island. It was such a joy to hear manipulated feedback noises welling up to ear splitting crescendoes from Michael Gibbons' pedal rack as we walked into Manchester Academy that we were straight down the front waving our arms in the air and going crazy at the edge of the Pond much to the bemused consternation of baby Mogwai fans who seemed confused that anyone should react to music anymore positively than standing still balancing a little backpack.

The band played a set mostly comprised of tracks from their awesome On the Ellipse album, but also taking in that old Lapsed favourite "Tommy Gun Angel," a whirlwind elegy to the passing spirit of singer Isobel Sollenberger's dog. Drummer Ed Farnsworth was absent at a friend's wedding so Mogwai's drummer filled in and did a sterling job considering the minimal time he'd spent playing with the Pond. The set grew denser and assumed sunlike gravitational pull with the final slow skullfuck "Night of Frogs." Mogwai were OK too. I missed the Glasgow show so that I could listen to over three hours of hilarious anti-Bush cabal rants from Jello Biafra, who made me realise that the world is even more fucked up than I'd thought. You thought Cheney and Rumsfeld were repulsive motherfuckers? Just wait until the Terminator and the Wolfman decide who lives and who dies!

I hooked up with the Pond outside Birmingham Sanctuary and helped them load in the heavy amps. After a few drinks in a nearby pub it was time to soundcheck in a venue with vastly superior theatrical acoustics to the Manchester student hive. Asked if I had any requests, I went for the faster paced "Again" and the band finished the set with it at about twice the speed they played it last time they toured here. By now they'd revved up eight times faster than the sun and merged all the rainbow colours into one bright mass of energy. I had to shift from the direct trajectory of Clint Takeda's earth moving bass rumble as it seemed initially to be obliterating the rest of the band. Clint and effects happy guitarist John Gibbons seem to form the heavy bedrock under the Pond whilst the other three ripple the water into waves. Isobel pulls off the neat trick of singing and playing violin at the same time, and also blows melodies out of a battered old flute, to float above the sea of churning noise riffs and battering drums. Ed seems to have an ecstatic grin for every skittering beat he hits, like a child opening a gift box. Mogwai seemed a little more intense than in Manchester.

The Birminghum Police Farce must've been having a quiet night. A duty bound jobsworth cooked up a tall tale of the Pond van hitting another vehicle and pulled us over. Accused of "smoking cannabis" we were searched one by one ineffectually. Buying time by being awkward and generally taking the piss out of these clowns, I was asked, "Are you The Joker?" which was hilarious considering I'd just seen Killing Joke eight times. A trip to Stonehenge was aborted due to bad weather and bad timing, and Bristol was damp and dreary. But Bardo Pond effortlessly turned night into day, every heart a star. They could take you there even from the blurred balcony of the Corporate Rugby Player Pisswater Academy. Clearly it was time to head downstairs and hit the whisky! Fade into London Astoria, and the most floor shaking sets from the Pond. Mogwai had assumed monstrous proportions by now and every night seemed to widen their dramatic loud/quiet dynamics, bursting out with strobes. Bardo Pond needed very little light tricks to bring out the senses and flip the trip switch. The surprise finale was "lb" from Dilate which had Isobel animated like some Woodstock biker-rock singer transported through a sugar sci-fi grass vortex, leaning back to sing into a hand held mike. My friends all seemed to be more into Mogwai that night, but what the fuck do they know anyway?