By Stella Gardiner
Artist: JG Thirlwell
Date / Venue: Friday July 1st, 2016 - Bodega, Wellington
On Friday night I reluctantly stepped away from the gas heater to head out and brave the freezing Welly winter for a sonic spectacle in the form of renowned composer/producer J.G. Thirlwell. As I drove the empty streets I was curious if anyone would actually be brave enough venture out. To my surprise there were quite a few souls out and about, well that was the case for our beloved bar Bodega anyway. And after recent news detailing the venue’s impending closure, who wouldn’t jump at the chance to see the legendary Mr. Thirlwell grace it’s stage for his first ever New Zealand tour.
A surprise solo support act, Jonny Marks, guitarist and “sonic explorer” from New Zealand’s The All Seeing Hand took the stage first. This was a performance to behold and I can only say I feel extremely privileged to have been there to document it. As I understand Jonny once travelled to Inner-Mongolia, during which time he learned the traditional art of Mongolian throat-singing. His performance lasted almost a full half hour and looking around me I know I was not alone in becoming completely entranced. More than once I forgot what I was supposed to be doing and realised I had been standing there staring at the stage for minutes at a time. The chanting sent me into a kind of spiritual stupor. Jonny’s performance ended with a well-deserved round of applause and cheering from the crowd.
J.G Thirlwell slinks onto the stage just after 10pm. totally cool and completely focused; he certainly looks like someone who has been making music in one form or another for 30 odd years. Experience with different instruments and musical genres ranging from cathartic noise-rock to abstract electronics just oozes from the performance, which is full of improvisation and spontaneity. Carefully positioned off-centre in front of night light visuals projected on a screen at the back of the stage, Thirlwell is lit in dark blue light, befitting a man who appears as thought he is secretly performing an imaginary cinema soundtrack. His sounds are both complex and primal, sometimes incorporating recognisable instruments like an old violin bow, a beautiful bell and a triangle. But there are technical elements of which are beyond my comprehension and I feel like a child in some ways, fascinated by this new experience.
The set finishes up. A short pause followed by a graceful yet humble bow, and Thirlwell quietly leaves the stage as the crowd applauds. By all accounts this night is one for the history books.