Sunday, October 9, 2016

Review: 'Kissing the Shotgun Goodnight' at the Ovalhouse, 8th October 2016

Kissing the Shotgun Goodnight walks into the room swinging its big dick all over the place. The poster features a completely kickass drawing of a horrified person with their guts exploding all over the place (see above). The flyer promises "a 120 decibel suicide note. a linguistic kaleidoscope of caustic cartoons, crackpot fantasies and demented erotica." On your way into the theatre they hand you a pair of earplugs and make sure you pay attention to a warning that:

I'd saw this flyer a couple of months back and figured "yeah, this is the show for me". Lately I've been crushed under a truckload of syrupy theatrical shite - shows about cheerleaders learning to love and anti-drug PSAs masquerading as shitty rock musicals. It all left a bad taste in my mouth, and I was craving something aggressively fucked up  - and Christopher Brett Bailey sounded like he was going to provide.

So I parked myself in the front row centre and prepared myself for not only blown out ear-drums but a blown mind. 

I didn't get either. What Kissing the Shotgun Goodnight turned out to be was an okay post-rock gig. Maybe I should have lowered my expectations given the flyer we were handed on the way in, with the punchy punk advertising copy amended with annotations to point out that all that awesome sounding demented erotica stuff had been deemed "not relevant", the show had been reduced by about a third (from 100 minutes to 70) and that apparently, we were in for a concert "sprinkled with words".

What's more disappointing is that the sprinkling of words we did get were awesome. I'd heard that Bailey was a fantastically lurid poet, and his intro and outro didn't disappoint. It sounded like a fever dream of crushed limbs and unnecessary surgery, like a watching an old David Cronenberg film with a beak full of ketamine. As the lights dimmed, Bailey's voice ominously repeated "This is a helldream. This is a helldream. This is a helldream."

Oh, I wish it was man. I wish it was. What it actually is is a series of fuzzed out guitar, bass and violin led sound pieces layered over with synths and tapping away on smashed up bits of pianos. It was decent post-rock stuff, kind of a sub Godspeed! You Black Emperor pastiche, but nowhere near as musically aggressive or experimental as I was hoping for. 

Perhaps most disappointingly, it wasn't even particularly loud. Sure, there were loud bits, but being handed earplugs gave me the masochistic hope that I was in for something that was going to leave a bruise. But the little cellophane packet remained resolutely unbroken and, despite assurances, I didn't even get to take home a tinnitus whine.

On top of that, the show ran into a major technical problem about mid-way through which took half an hour to fix and necessitated clearing the theatre. Part of the fun of these intense experimental pieces of music is losing yourself in the hallucinogenic lighting and music, sinking into a dreamy trance state and letting it wash over you. Having to retreat to a striplit theatre lobby to awkwardly stand about waiting for the show to get back on its feet is a straight-up atmosphere killer.

Also disappointing is that Kissing the Shotgun Goodnight isn't particularly theatrical. Sure, the triptych of musicians backed by 'piano corpses' is a striking image, especially when they're powerfully backlit through a haze, but everyone remains confined to their little area on stage throughout the night. It makes for a curiously static affair, with a huge unused space in the centre of the stage. If this were actually a concert it wouldn't be so bad as you'd be able to have a dance (well, a dazy sway), but being sat quiet and still, watching musicians posing in front of spotlights isn't the most dynamic experience.

Maybe if I hadn't have been to a tonne of actually ear-drum splitting bonkers 3am concerts I'd have reacted a bit more positively, but Bailey's show just made me fondly remember those other, better, gigs. Not quite theatre and not quite a concert, Kissing the Shotgun Goodnight ends up in some unhappy and awkward no-man's land.

I wanted Bailey to take a fucking hammer to my skull but sadly, it was not to be. Oh well. Better luck next time, eh?


Kissing the Shotgun Goodnight is at the Ovalhouse until 11 October, then on tour. Tickets here.

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