The Thekla crowd tonight is an almost even split between young lesbians and parents worried about their babysitters. We’re a long way from our usual sticky-floored shitpit Kansas here, and that has its own benefits (and not just hygienic ones). It’s a respectful crowd that hears James Vincent McMorrow‘s attempt to break the world’s quietest gig record. Initially distracting due to an unfortunate resemblance to Hans Klopeck from The ‘Burbs, McMorrow soon releases a series of hushed solo numbers, eyes high in the distance, ghostly falsetto joining barely brushed acoustic guitar. The paradox between sounding like Bon Iver and Jeff Buckley and actually being quite good is a little unsettling, and his final, full-octave-range-unleashed song is bloody awful, but in-between there’s enough moments of fragile beauty to quiver the heart gently.
It’s Joan Wasser rather than Joan As Policewoman who defines tonight. In a slashed leather catsuit, she exudes that quality that makes you want to go out and get shitfaced with her, falling down and licking the floor drunk. Between song patter is giddy with happiness, at odds with some of her more austere recorded material, and more fitting to the easy rolling, tightly coiled jazzsoul numbers that strut from the stage. A typically starry-eyed anecdote about Al Green makes sense: to a JAP novice like myself Wasser seems to be revelling in the same libidinous, slick soft funk. Occasional stark moments have Wasser alone under spotlights, bare guitar or keyboard adding sharp edges, like a shoulder blade seen through a leather slash, to the sometimes dinner party oozing. The tide of bonhomie is too hard to resist though – the backing band may pull orgasmic sexfunk faces but are total dudes, the crowd are nicely vocal, pirate noises and all, and Joan herself is utterly lovable, so full of slanted humour and mad grins she could be barfing into pint glasses and people would still sing along. Yeah, we’re far from badsex indie music here.