Thurston Moore – The Best Day (Matador Records) 1

Thurston Moore Band/Temples/Real Estate, Hostess Weekender Festival, Bangkok 20 February 2015

Thurston Moore 2

I believe I can say with some confidence that, tonight, I have taken more drugs than anyone else in the venue. Sadly my pharmacological excess is due not to the Bacchanalian impulse but because I’ve been laid low by some horrible flu virus for the last fortnight, and am off me fookin’ napper on a heady cocktail of Lemsip Max, Beecham’s Powders, Tylenol and cough syrup. Throw a couple of modestly-priced pints of Singha into the mix and I’m actually feeling pretty damn good.

The reason I’ve dragged my flu-ravaged carcass out tonight, rather than sensibly staying at home under a blanket, is that Bangkok finally has some decent live bands. Japan’s bizarrely named Hostess Club Weekender festival (bizarre, as there are no hostesses to be seen, and it’s not the weekend) has come to town for two nights, bringing six well-known bands and a most welcome shot in the arm for our moribund live music scene.

I skip the first night, the lineup not being worth the vast quantities of Lemsip that would be required to get me there – I parted ways with Belle & Sebastian after 2003’s embarrassing Dear Catastrophe Waitress; Caribou are essentially Shakatak for hipsters; and the thought of being exposed to the godawful TuneYards for an hour makes staying home with the flu seem positively idyllic in comparison. No, the second night is where the action is, so I keep my (Beechams) powder dry in anticipation.

The festival is taking place on the 8th floor of Central World, one of Bangkok’s biggest and best-loved shopping malls, which was burned to the ground by protesters in 2010. Well, look out Central World, as you’re about to get burned down again AND have your roof blown off for good measure – because first up is the speaker-shredding face-melting rock & roll holocaust that is REAL ESTATE LIVE!!! FUCK yeah. I joke of course. Real Estate’s Fountains-of-Wayne-on-Valium act may be very lovely on record – indeed, on a weekend morning, the Bangkok sun streaming through my window, tea & toast to hand and latest album Atlas jangling mellifluously out of the speakers, even a jaded old cynic such as I might be persuaded that this is indeed the best of all possible worlds – but the live experience is a decidedly damp squib. They look more like the founders of a Silicon Valley tech startup than a band (the stage looks like a TED talk with guitars), and two of their members unforgivably breach the strict Russell dress code for live bands – the bassist is wearing shorts, and the keyboardist, oh my god the horror, is barefoot.

Musically it’s all very pleasant of course, and the aching suburban ennui of ‘Green Aisles’ in particular would be perfect if you were lying in the grass with a cold beer & a jazz Woodbine on a sunny afternoon at an outdoor festival, but on a Friday night in Bangkok, with myriad diversions & perversions available elsewhere, an hour in Real Estate’s company feels like an hour wasted.

At least Temples look like a proper band, though whilst in their heads that band might be T-Rex or early Pink Floyd, there’s a definite whiff of The Mighty Boosh (or in the keyboard player’s case, Mulligan & O’Hare) about them. In fact if someone created a Spinal Tap-style spoof psych band, they’d probably look and sound rather like Temples.

But their live set is enormous fun, from the big dirty stinkin’ keyboard riff of ‘Golden Throne’, via the joyous, participatory ‘A Question is an Answer‘, to the dumb glam stomp of ‘Keep in the Dark’. And the Thai kids go noticeably apeshit for them – singer James Bagshaw wins the battle of the copycat hairdos hands down.

However, psychedelia is best when done by people for whom altered mindstates are a way of life rather than a fashion, and this is where Temples have a credibility gap – they’ve got the clothes, the hair & the sound down pat, but it feels a little too much like a groovy Austin Powers-style pastiche than the sound of four intrepid psychic voyagers on a mission to the heart of the subconscious. It’s telling that the high point of the gig – an extended, Krautrocked-up version of ‘Mesmerise’ – is also the only point when they really lose themselves. If they can do that more often, greatness possibly awaits. Until then, they’re definitely more Julian Barratt than Sid Barrett.

No such credibility issues for tonight’s headliner, alt-rock eminence grise Thurston Moore and an absolutely stellar backing band – Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley (who bears a striking resemblance to actor Timothy Spall these days), Brit guitar genius James Sedwards, and legendary My Bloody Valentine bassist Deb Googe.

And they simply blow everyone else out of the water, with a set mixing moments of fragile beauty with full-on noise. As a rhythm section, Googe & Shelley are just jawdropping – thick as thieves, inches apart, constantly looking and nodding at each other, their relentless, pummelling low end the perfect foundation for Moore & Sedwards whose brilliance, whether it consists of jazzy improvisation or deliberately dumb Stonesy riffage, never lapses into tedious look-at-me virtuosity.

The set is culled largely from Moore’s brilliant 2014 album The Best Day, which means those of us secretly hoping to hear ‘Teenage Riot’ or ‘100%’ are out of luck, but certainly not disappointed – the huge opener ‘Forevermore’, punk rock tribute ‘Germs Burn’ and the simply epic ‘Grace Lake‘, complete with 10-minute MBV “Holocaust”-style interlude, are all every bit as good as anything his former band ever produced.

Sadly it all ends rather shamefully, with some disrespectful jobsworth prick pulling the plug bang on midnight, and thus bringing the best live set I’ve seen in a long, long time to a premature end. Moore shrugs, waves and walks off stage, and we shout and yell and wish all manner of unpleasantness on the person responsible. I wake up the next day with my ears ringing but my flu in remission. Two days later, I’m diagnosed with bronchitis. The drugs don’t work.


God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.