Thursday, 16 June 2011


Norwegian Church, Cardiff Bay 
June 5th  
Francesca's Word Salad
The Victorian English Gentleman's Club 
Thomas Truax

Cardiff Bay's Norwegian Church was the setting for what transpired to be the strangest, yet most entertaining evening of my gigging history. Undoubtedly the prettiest venue in the city, the multitude of encircling windows provide a lovely panorama over surrounding waters while a tiny room and high ceilings make for great acoustics and an intimate feel. A close to perfect beginning to the night hosted by Cardiff promoters Swn. So what was weird? Let me share... 

Francesca of Word Salad fame is more entertainer than musical act. Guitar is played but songs aren't sung, her style is one of musical spoken word, and the words spoken are odd. Macabre tales of zombie firemen and missing body parts mingle with visual accompaniments of DIY props and hand made hats – a jarring mix as the overall style befits a slot on Cbeebies, yet the content is more Victorian Gothic. My quiet discomfit contrasted other peoples' obvious enjoyment however, as many audience members clapped along, seemingly revelling in Francesca's comedic children's presenter persona with delivery akin to conversation with a small child. If not musical satisfaction, watching Francesca's Word Salad provided at least a talking topic.

The Victorian English Gentleman's Club scored a different sort of bizarre points. Eccentric and whimsical in medieval fancy dress outfits and funeral parlour styled stage, they are captivating and enchanting. Their third album is an indie pop treat, opening with the title track which describes taking a leaking bag of meat on the bus. And there the alternate reality begins. Pistol Whipped sounds like a horror film set in a fairground; a warped pop ballad tinged with a feeling of expectant doom as if you're one of just two people left on the waltzers at dusk, the other being a serial killer. My Imagination Can't Save Me Now has a jagged sound; cracked death-breath vocals layer upon spiky decisive guitar punctuated by melodious bursts. The track is laden with drama and gloriously opposing notes. Lost My Face in a Fast Car Race is mesmerising, luring you in with tribal-like dreamy chants, before electronic jangles intermingle to make you dance. A live offering from TVEGC is even better than this excellent album, their romantic indie pop rock with a grotesque twist is both energising and engaging.


I recall thinking that Thomas Truax is a genuinely talented musician and songwriter. And then he sprinted around the perimeter of the building, flashes of black hair and Hornicator visible through the 360 degree windows while the crowd looked on in bemusement. His performance had this sort of distracting, captivating effect throughout. Thomas Truax came to Cardiff from New York via Wowtown. Where's Wowtown you may well ask. Well it's sort of his imaginary – slash – online world. Once seen live, you can believe that Truax lives in Wowtown most of the time. His energy knows no bounds, and his collection of musical instruments hold a similar lack of limitations. Have you heard of a Hornicator? Neither had I, but Truax has made and plays such a thing, in addition to a collection of other curiosities, even sounds made from a taut, plucked bungee rope. He is inventive, infinitely likeable, and hugely entertaining. A character straight from a Tim Burton film, Truax must be experienced, particularly when sporting light-up swirly glasses. Since the gig, I have subscribed to e-mails from Wowtown, and upon listening to his music sans performance can verify my initial thought was correct. He does a great cover of Wicked Game, and his Hornicator sounds wonderful in the backing track.

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