Pete Um & Damo Suzuki   Leave a comment

Diary written 28-7-04

Right then, Damo Suzuki, since everyone’s asking.

So yeah, can’t recall what I’ve said already, but I’m still freaking out on the day of the gig even though he isn’t staying at my house and blah…
Fuckit, let me cut to the chase, for once. I get to the soundcheck and I walk in to the APU bar like it ain’t no thang, despite the fact that I can hear some sort of acid-in-the-sky guitar approximation scrawling out of the door and into the general campus vicinity where clumps of young Spanishers are yabbering away at each other like it ain’t no thang (note to self: must remember to complete my song “I Wish I Was A Spanish”). I clock Davy the sound-engineer at the desk and nod before peering through the gloom at the stage in order to induce the SPECIAL MOMENT where DAMO SUZUKI and PETE UM are in the same exact historical reference point. I can see various people I don’t know, as well as Simon who I do, including a young lad (who makes me think: “Hey up whippersnapper, what are you doing here?”) but nobody looks one little bit like Damo Suzuki, so I try to pretend that that isn’t what I’m scrutinizing the stage about. After a couple of minutes I feel a sort of eddying in the sands of historical time and I realize that he is sat behind me (BEHIND YOU!) and I look round to see him (HIM) sat in a sort of meditative pose (with his eyes closed and his hands closed in front of his face as if in prayer, or perhaps as though he was desperately trying to deal with all the weed Simon had been feeding him since his “wake and bake” spliff first thing that morning. Immediately I turn round again and start staring at the stage and wondering how the hell those guys know when he’s going to get up there and begin THEE HISTORICAL SOUNDCHECK, because, you have to remember, he’s never met any of these guys before (apart from Simon who he’s met the previous day) and THIS IS IT. Eventually though, after quite a bit of brave yet tentative noodling and tweakery, Damo stretches up to his full height and approaches the stage. I immediately scuttle to the back of the room so as not to seen to be all agog etc. In fact I hide behind a pillar. This bit is quite crucial for me because of all my emails about my professed Damo worship, despite the fact that I haven’t heard a word or non-word he has sung after 1973, so I want to know if he’s still, y’know, got it. Then suddenly he begins to sing very softly, which is my favourite style of his. He’s got this thing where he manages to sound between languages and as though he has started the word at the wrong end. Backwards I suppose, which just makes one feel ever so slightly as though you’re tripping on drugs. When you’re actually tripping of course, it makes you feel as though the boundaries of your poxy self have collapsed with the god-awesome weight of the floodwaters of a million multiple realities, but that’s another story. I was quite decent at drugs at school, y’see. Failed girls, but promising at drugs. Anyway, for about 15 magic seconds, I get my own private Damo Suzuki gig and it’s everything I want it to be. Then I get my DV camera out and start filming my stupid face and the magic slips away unnoticed while I’m fiddling with buttons. It’s still pretty good though, and when they finish, which is a good 20-odd minutes of improvisation later, me and Davy smile and nod to each other as if to say: “He’s still got it, the fucker. Tonight should be good.”
Then diminutive promoter Simon Baker walks in and starts being unnervingly relaxed about being in the presence of old DS and chatting to me about random stuff while I fidget and shift because the man himself is being escorted away to some pre-gig bevies and I’m still waiting for my big moment where I get introduced, which the other Simon and I have discussed by way of preparation. Eventually I kind of sidle over and Simon says (hur hur…Simon says: meet Damo Suzuki) something like “Oh yes, and this is Pete…” and Damo looks at me like “…who is Pete again, and why?” and then says: “You are playing with us tonight…?” as though he’s wondering if I’m in his band, and since I know that I’ve been squeezed on the bill as a favour to Simon D. (since Damo normally plays without supports) because he’s my mate and he knows I’m a fellow Can fan and blah, it’s all a bit awkward (well, of course its fucking awkward, but it’s like New Awkward Ultra-Plus With Wings because Damo is about five feet tall and squattish and I’m billowing around the ceiling with my nerves and my black, ill-fitting, unmatching suit) so I just kind of shake my head then attempt to say something along the lines of “Great soundcheck. Looking forward to tonight’s gig,” but instead all I do is nod like a nodding dog must do as the car in which it is traveling is shunted from behind and say “good…good…goo…” and then we both move ever so slightly further left from where we were before and then peel away in the hateful confusion. Ugh. Horrible.

Then, quite rattled, I do a soundcheck that sounds fine in the PA apart from the original source music, and I feel bad because Adam and Jess have come up for the gig and they are standing at the back of the room so I give up and we go off and have the a rushed couple of pints and then I head back to the SU bar and pretend to be a DJ with one CD deck and about 7 CDs that appear to have been chosen for the occasion by a headless chicken. In fact my John Fahey CD gets left in the machine and gets played in the gaps in the evening’s entertainment, which sounds about as inappropriate as Motorhead or something.

Then I play, and despite everything I’m not too awful, albeit a bit dark and pointless considering I’m meant to be complementing Damo’s spread-the-love mission. Damo and the boys from his band sit in the other bar and drink beer, like you do, but for some reason this isn’t a big deal for me because I haven’t been fantasizing about Damo skanking about during Holy Fire or something – I don’t know why. This is the first night that I’ve got copies of Giraffe and the legendary (now a prosaic reality at £3) 5-track EP for sale, and the brisk business I do of the singles when I come off feels like some sort of minor triumph to me, and perhaps even better to Andrew who is standing nearby with a click-counter. Then Adam pushes me in the direction of Damo and the most awkward photograph of all time is taken. My face reminds me of video footage of hostages when they’re trying to grin for the folks back home. Pete Sutton is looning in the background with a fag in his mouth. Why is he always there when I meet celebrities? Email me for a copy if you haven’t seen it already. It’s pretty funny.

Then Damo and the boys get up and do it to us. I have to say I had pretty low expectations because I demand the transcendental when it comes to rock and roll, and I’m the sort of person who would probably spend the last 20 minutes of a Jimi Hendrix gig getting a beer from the bar. I also almost always believe any band’s second album is a lifeless travesty of the first and that rock groups get progressively more bollocks as a general rule of thumb etc. So basically I’m so sure that it’s going to be a letdown that I’m almost guaranteed a pleasant surprise, which is my basic MO anyway. So, yeah, in the light of all this, it’s pretty good. Damo has a couple of strange new voices that are rather worrisome – one a sort of metal growl and the other a kind of bad Louis Armstrong impression, but generally speaking, however, and given that he’s a 57 year old man improvising vocals for about two hours with a band he’s never met before I’d say he was pretty good, and there were sections where they were all really cooking.

And that’s about it. There was some speculation that even though Damo (I feel like a cunt calling him Damo all the time but what can I put, “Mr. Suzuki”?) wasn’t staying in Cambridge anymore we all might meet up at mine for a post gig session, but as he was only going to get about 3 or 4 hours sleep at the most anywa
y it didn’t happen.

Right, finally I’ve finished this and my blooming website is down for some reason. Can you read this? Hello?

Posted August 16, 2004 by peteum2013 in Uncategorized

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