With a bit of time to prepare this preview, I’m struck by the realisation that it’s not only easy to take Calvin Johnson‘s continued presence at the far periphery of the indie scene for granted, but it’s seriously difficult to understate the extent of his influence on two or more whole generations of artists, writers, organisers and DIY enthusiasts. Snaking out from a localised Pacific Northwestern enclave in the early 80s across genders, musical styles and, yes, continents, it’s a spirit that endures in several of the Cardiff-bred and Cardiff-dwelling types he’ll rub shoulders with this coming weekend.
Founder of legendary Olympia, WN DIY outpost K Records (at some point home to Make-Up, the Microphones, Bikini Kill, Modest Mouse, Kimya Dawson, Mirah, Thee Headcoats, Love As Laughter, Built To Spill…), owner of Dub Narcotic studios, key organiser of ’91’s International Pop Underground Convention (watershed underground music festival both in terms of demonstrating possibilities and inspiring others, not least the Riot Grrrl movement) and oh yeah, damn fine songwriter (indiepop progenitors Beat Happening, killer Doug Martsch collab Halo Benders, indie-funk hipshakers Dub Narcotic Sound System and his three solo albums to date).
This last bit’s important – he’s still a captivating performer. He’s visited Bristol a couple of times in recent years – a freezing basement in the Here shop, made to feel like the great cool-kid party you never got invited to, and the shabby grandeur of the Cube Cinema, where his trademark unaccompanied baritone rang around the old venue from bar to stage and back. Almost logic-defyingly unselfconscious, his sweet, occasionally creepy hymns to classic teen themes of love, sex and dancing will be sung to sky and ceiling.
The Woodstick mini-festival has stayed under the radar for several reasons; it’s a classically word-of-mouth affair, the sort of thing you stumble across as you cross the bridge near Sophia Gardens and head through the park. The rangers seem affable enough but you can never be sure with gatherings in public. This year they welcome a fine line-up; acoustic singer-songwriter and School guitarist Ivan Moult, the folksy post-rock of Hail! The Planes, the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it return of Rhodri Viney’s early pseudonym Teflon Monkey (don’t miss), the skeletal post-punk aceness of Joy Of Sex, Threatmantics‘ newly fleshed-out viola-led charm and the 60s psych-pop nuggets of the Loves, all adapting to playing electricity-free under the awning of a small tent to a crowd of cake and booze-addled wellwishers and curious passers-by. Calvin Johnson has been snagged for a guest headline slot at 6pm, before he does his thing at Chapter in the tiny upstairs Media Point room – ticket details below, don’t dilly dally.
The following day, Ten Feet Tall host a showing of Heather Rose Dominic’s 2000 biopic of Johnson’s enduring label, The Shield Around The K, with a Q&A session with the man himself and discs spun by Gareth Campesinos! (an avowed fan who’s covered Johnson and referenced both he and K in lyrics), Lisa Cupcake (Bristol DIY mainstay, member of several Johnson-inspired bands and co-organiser of the Cafe Kino events in Grassroots Cafe a decade or so ago) and Gary Twisted. All of whom, like Liz from Loose who’s hosting both events, could be said to have struck out in their fields as a result of the work of people like Calvin. He finishes up the weekend back at the Cube on Monday 9th, with local indiepoppers the Bumblebees and the Middle Ones in support. If any of this tedious waffle has struck a chord, you should be there for at least two of these events. It won’t cost much.
Bute Park, Cardiff
Saturday 7th August 1.00pm – 6.30pm
JOY OF SEX
HAIL! THE PLANES
Compere DC Gates
Free ‘entry’ – donations/snack proceeds to CRY charity for Sudden Adult Death Syndrome
Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff
Saturday 7th August 7.30pm
£5.00 from http://www.wegottickets.com/event/83333 / £6.00 doors
K RECORDS NIGHT
Screening of ‘The Shield Around The K’ – K Records film
Calvin Johnson Q&A
DJs Gareth (Los Campesinos)! / Lisa Cupcake (Bristol) / Gary (Twisted By Design)
Sunday 8th August 8pm
THE MIDDLE ONES
Monday 9th August, Cube Cinema, Bristol 7.30pm
£5.00adv / £6.00 doors