Kelley Stoltz – Brudenell Social Club, Leeds, 1st March 2014
It could have been the contents of the whole bottle of wine. Or the side effects of the e-cigarette kindly lent to him half way through the show by someone in the crowd. There again it may well have been the accumulation of an apparently 96 days out on the road. Whatever the reason, there was undoubtedly a point this evening when Kelley Stoltz lost focus. He said as much himself. During a long rambling, surreal yet often hilarious monologue about his having spent time in the state pen for stalking and sexual harassment, a place where he wove strings out of the threads of his bed sheets and upon which he would eventually write the song ‘Marcy’ for last year’s Third Man Records’ release Double Exposure, he did manage to step out of his Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers trance long enough to recognise that things had derailed.
Those moments captured Kelley Stoltz quite perfectly; a man lost in time and place. His music draws from some of the very best reference points of the late ‘60s and into the following decade – Brian Wilson, The Electric Prunes, The 13th Floor Elevators, Nazz, Todd Rundgren himself and Big Star all spring very readily to mind – emerging out of the other side as a sort of warm neo-psychedelic pop cut with the darker strychnine of garage post-punk. Jettisoned by Sub Pop after a five year stay may suggest a career that had stalled, yet his having since found a new home on Jack White’s label points to his enduring credentials and the store in which his music and influence is still held.
Either side of his mid-set asyndesis, there was ample evidence to show why Kelley Stoltz is often revered as the Godfather of the modern San Francisco underground. It is a mantle achieved not without good reason for he is able to pen wonderfully textured, blissed-out pop tunes with a core element of strangeness about them; ‘Ever Thought of Coming Back’ and ‘I Remember, You Were Wild’, drawn respectively from his earlier albums Below The Branches and To Dreamers, are but two prime examples of his ramshackle artistry. Yet this evening it is perhaps his realization of the works of other that impresses even more. The distillation of Roxy Music’s ‘Take A Chance With Me’ is absolutely perfect and the initial encore of Cheap Trick’s ‘Surrender’, after a stuttering false intro of Bob Seger’s ‘Night Moves’, is performed with suitable reckless abandon.
Before playing out with Don Everly’s ‘So Sad (To Watch Good Love Go Bad)’ – a most respectful and moving version of it – and with a rueful smile on his face, Kelley Stoltz invites us all to contemplate death with him before we go. Forty years from now, he tells us, he nor most of us for that matter, won’t be around to either play or listen to these songs. This must be incentive enough to catch this maverick genius whilst you still can.
Further down the bill but surely destined for higher ground are Happyness. On tonight’s showing, the south London trio seem to deal in a soft currency of spirited melancholia into the fabric of which they weave a rather beguiling languorous beauty. Check out their eponymous début EP here:
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