From deep down in the Coventry canal basin, Martin Longley enjoys an intimate recital by Brooklyn guitarist David Grubbs…
Brooklyn denizen David Grubbs came to light as a member of Bastro and Gastr Del Sol, in the 1980s and ’90s, but this old Chicagoan has since refined a reputation as a solo performer, and an individualist in general.
He turned up at the Canal Basin of Coventry on a quiet Monday night, barely coaxing out ten punters, after around five had already departed, clearly attending as buddies of the opening act. Richard Allen is a local acoustic guitarist and singer, completely indebted to the style of Nick Drake, but sonically amiable despite a lack of originality.
Grubbs sounded like a more evolved representative of the troubadour tradition, emerging from a completely different background of discordant rock contrariness. Still singing, still accompanying himself on guitar, but now it’s electrified, and the vocals are flatter, more narratively inclined. Several tunes were instrumental, allowing Grubbs to expose his soundtrack-shaping techniques, playing with distortion decay, manipulating ends into beginnings, bleeding notes from one phrase into another, bending with control. This was an intimate recital that had its advantages.
Usually, the Tin (previously known as Taylor John’s House, and sadly re-named) pulsates to a bigger crush of bodies, but it remains a homely joint to experience music even when bordering on the empty. It was easier for Grubbs to chat naturally to the gathering, relating the background to some of his songs, particularly with I Started to Live When My Barber Died, which was equally notable for its content and its verbal introduction.