I was privileged and honoured this week to attend one of the Dingus Khan De-Consecrated Roadshows, a series of gigs in deconsecrated churches across Essex.
Organised by the Manningtree’s finest rabble, Dingus Khan – less of a rock group than a seven-headed noise rock hydra – and their chums at Antigen records, the shows put together a gaggle of local poets, musicians and artists cumulating in a mass Halloween knees up at Colchester Arts Centre.
As a fey metropolitan dilettante, I was of course able to make only one of the shows, the rest of my week being taken up with poetry slams at the British Library and Peruvian nose flute improvisations at Café Oto (ok it was child care and cupcake making but you get the idea).
Oh, but what a show it was. Taking place in the rather bijou Church of St Mary the Virgin in Little Bromley the bill was typically diverse. Poet Tess Gardner laid down the law straight from the pulpit, her dissections of gender politics as precise and cutting as a scalpel. The Medlars gave us impeccable folk tunes on the guitar and violin.
My eyes were well and truly opened at the start of the show by Dingus Khan front man Ben Brown. Leaning out of the church’s mezzanine belfry, battering his acoustic guitar like there was no tomorrow, he howled out the knotty syllables of the band’s fine ‘Milk of Every Mammal’ like a man possessed with holy ecstasy.
I’m told Mr Bown performs live as Mick Squalor. Based on this performance, I’d wager he’s a captivating spectacle.
But the main attraction of this show was the majestic Nathanial Robin Man. One third of the Dead Rat Orchestra, he gave us ukulele-driven ballads, and a macabre, captivating acapella version of the old English traditional song ‘Tam Lin’, all delivered in his typically rich and expressive vocal style, before bringing on his Dead Rat shipmate Daniel Merrill for a brace of wonderfully ragged folk inflected tunes.
Merrill also performed a couple of solo violin numbers and an unexpectedly touching rendition of 90s indie stalwarts Carter USM’s ‘Falling on a Bruise’ – an unexpected treat.
But there was still more. In a classic switcheroo, Mann substituted Merrill for Madrid-based songwriter Sef, aka Christian Fernandez Miron, for a boisterous version of the old Louis Prima double header ‘Just A Gigolo / I ain’t got nobody’, before Miron sent us off into the night with a wistful version of his ‘Favourite Fawn’, with sympathetic backing whistles from Mann.
A great night, in a great venue. And don’t even get me started on the bell ringing…