Friday, May 18, 2012

Jon Langford & Skull Orchard; May 18, 2012; Kiki’s House of Righteous Music

It may seem a little deceptive to call it “& Skull Orchard” when the only skull on stage other than Langford’s was violinist Jean Cook, but only if you don’t know Cook. She lives in New York and usually when I see her playing with Langford it’s at SXSW or last year’s massive Hideout Block Party for which Skull Orchard was joined by the Burlington Welsh Men’s Choir. But there she was in my basement, playing the straight (or maybe I should say sober) man to Langford’s antics. She looks slightly bored most of the time, but her playing is always enthusiastic and she gamely tolerates Langford’s antics.

The last time Langford played the basement two years ago it was pretty amazing, but this seemed even better. At that time the songs which made up the first Skull Orchard record were hard to find, and I didn’t know many of those tunes which he had just re-recorded with the choir. When I did finally hear it, I’ll admit that what I pictured when he described the choir was not what the record ended up sounding like. It was much less choir-y. The record, appropriately dubbed Skull Orchard Revisited, comes packaged in a coffee table worthy book featuring Langford’s artwork about growing up in Wales, fitting, as that is what many of the songs were about.

The night started with a bang, or should I say a snap. In a case of serious déjà vu, he broke a string just as he had last time, however this time it was on the very first song. Everyone talked amongst themselves until he was ready to resume “1, 2, 3, Forever.” Every song got an introduction, and every story was as good as the song, and sometimes a lengthy one. “We’re only going to get through five songs at this rate,” he joked after a particularly lengthy intro. The ones about his hometown of Newport were the best, even though they were seldom complimentary, “while the rest of Britain has become gentrified, Newport is still a shithole. I like that about it.” The song “Youghal” (sounds like Yawl), one of my favorites, is about the town where Moby Dick was filmed in the 50’s, and arguably that was the last thing that had happened there. Signed photos of Gregory Peck and John Huston decorate the walls of the neighborhood pub, and when the bartender asks if you want to watch “the video” he isn’t talking about anything X rated, he’s talking about Moby Dick. Some of my favorite songs, like the terrific “Nashville Radio” and the cautionary tale “Are You an Entertainer,” are a part of every Skull Orchard and solo set, but it was a definite treat to hear the infectious murder ballad “Delilah” as a sing-along in the basement.

Langford is a cider drinker, and I had bought him two kinds, the British Magner’s and the Minneapolis brew Crispin. However he got a better offer from the audience when one of them handed him her own home-brewed cider. Since he already had a Crispin opened, he claimed that one bottle made him bigger while the other made him small. “I better take a sip of this one,” he theorized, picking up the Crispin because I feel like I am getting big enough to fill the whole room.” As usual there was lots of silliness, mock-sexy dancing and standing on chairs, but thankfully he didn’t make good on his threat earlier in the night to “take off all his clothes and eat his guitar, piece by piece.” Actually, I’m not even sure why he had threatened it.

Last time he brought some of his prints with him and at the end of the night I was the only one who had bought one. Tonight however, whether it was the amazing show or the fact that I could run credit cards (thanks Square) he sold four (!). I think it is safe to say he will do it again sometime.

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