They’re far from being a household name, but no history of psychedelic rock in the last three decades would be complete without a significant section dedicated to The Bevis Frond. Since Miasma, his first self-recorded and self-released album under the name, came out in 1986, Nick Saloman has been one of the most prolific musicians out there, having put out a total of 22 regular albums (the most recent being Example 22, released in 2015), not to mention several live records and other releases, as well as working with other artists including Current 93, Country Joe McDonald, and Mary Lou Lord. Many of The Bevis Frond’s records have been hard-to-get collector’s items for years, but a reissue campaign started by Fire Records in 2016 has looked to change that. Last year, Fire hosted a one-day music festival called This Corner of England (named after a song off of the Frond’s 1990 album Any Gas Faster), and this year repeated the event at the 100 Club in London, with the band as the stars of the show.
The band opened their set with a psychedelic jam which led into “Hole Song #2” from 1997’s North Circular. From there the band went back to the beginning with “Maybe” from Miasma before playing the first of two new tracks (“Lead On”), which Saloman said were from the new album that they are currently working on (the other one, “Pheromones,” appeared a bit later in the set). The setlist from there was a tour through the band’s catalog, including two from 1987’s Inner Marshland (“Reflections in a Tall Mirror” and “I’ve Got Eyes in the Back of My Head”), “He’d Be a Diamond” and “High in a Flat” from 1990’s New River Head, and “Pale Blue Blood” from Example 22. Though Saloman recorded the majority of the early albums by himself (playing all of the instruments), his current band – featuring Adrian Shaw on bass, Paul Simmons on guitar, and Dave Pearce on drums – was able to recreate the songs perfectly, striking a good balance between the familiarity of the songs and the spontaneity of live performance.
A hard curfew at 11pm meant that the band ultimately had to cut several songs out of their setlist, but they were able to end the set with “Lights Are Changing” (from 1988’s Triptych) before that without a moment to spare.
An all-too-rare live appearance by The Bevis Frond is enough to get excited for in and of itself, but the openers were equally impressive. Former Swell Maps and Television Personalities member Jowe Head has had numerous projects over the years, and his latest, Jowe Head’s Infernal Contraption, is as eclectic as ever. While the set included several songs that Head released under his previous project Jowe Head and the Demi-Monde (“Waltz for Kurt Schwitters,” “Louise Bourgeois,” and “Felt and Fat”), it also included several as-of-yet unreleased songs, including “Scarab,” “Rotten Wood,” and “Infernal Contraption.”
Also opening were storied indie rockers The Jazz Butcher, performing again as a five-piece (“our third show as a quintet” noted frontman Pat Fish) in a set that was in essence an abbreviated version of their headlining set at the club earlier this year. The band opened with “Mr. Odd” from 1990’s Cult of the Basement, and played a mix of classics (“Living in a Village,” “Southern Mark Smith,” “Shirley Maclaine”), tracks from their most recent release, 2012’s Last of the Gentleman Adventurers (“Black Raoul,” “Solar Core”), and one as-of-yet unreleased track, “Melanie Hargreaves’ Father’s Jaguar.”