THE ERSTWHILE packet port, maritime centre and now university hub of Falmouth-Penryn, down on the south Cornish Coast, has been consistently punching above its weight this past decade and a half in terms of really good venues with really eclectic music policies.
The venues may have come and gone, but Falmouth was generally a little … arid for great bands in the Nineties, once the legendary Victor Drago’s, up on the Pendennis headland, was torn down to make way for an all-singing, all-dancing swimming pool and leisure complex.
Then Miss Peapod’s opened on the quay at Penryn and, thanks to the promoting skills of Red River Dialect’s David Morris, hosted acts such as MV & EE, Damon & Naomi, James Blackshaw, The Black Twig Pickers; Jack Rose twice, before his untimely passing; Six Organs of Admittance, others.
After a good run the torch passed to the lovely Beerwolf Books, where one could see Hiss Golden Messenger and William Tyler, Steve Gunn, Johnny Dowd, Nathan Salsburg; a former Irish pub just back off the Prince of Wales Pier flared but briefly as Mono, but brought us Jeffrey Lewis and The Pop Group during its short tenure. Meanwhile, back up creek in Penryn, The Fish Factory arts space has hosted intimate gigs by Penelope Isles and Brigid Mae Power.
Now, everyone who’s anyone makes passage to The Cornish Bank, the new venue housed in a former – c’mon, guess what it was? – but which columnated granite surrounds was actually a Chinese restaurant as long as anyone round these parts can remember.
It’s only been open a day or two shy of seven months, and launched in rather good fashion with twin, consecutive-night appearances from Speedy Wunderground alumnus Squid (and you can read our review of that opening night here), back in the days of socially distanced gigs, as the whole machinery of live music creaked and whirred back into action. On both nights they played to audiences of about 60. Now that won’t happen too often these days.
Since then its opened a little balcony, hosted The Wave Pictures and Sudanese funk scorchers The Scorpios; the Bristolian-Japanese musical expansion of ICHI. And on Friday gone it absolutely blew up when it played host to the amazing Mancunian Paddy Steer.
Paddy’s been there, done that, been at least once around the block as fellow Manc Damon Gough would have it. Beginning as the sticksman in cult acid-jazz funkster combo Yargo, he’s also served with the hearthside jazz break purveyors Homelife, who had a brace of albums on Ninja Tune; even served a stint in Justin Robertson’s Lionrock – if you don’t remember ’em, think Fatboy Slim with Sixties sass.
But it’s as he’s evolved his own vision over four albums in a decade that Paddy has really become someone essential to witness; maybe worship, maybe teleport with. The last two long-players in particular, Bifurcation Arrows Misleading Visuals and Arkipelagon (this latter issued courtesy the splendidly titled Florit Weevil Pronoun label) are boxes of itchy, jerking, meandering, arcade-game jazz-funk delight.
And live, well, something else entirely happens, especially in a venue as intimate and atmospheric and beautifully lit as The Cornish Bank is. And it should be noted that you get two Paddies for your moolah: the first, a kind of Ian McKellen of the sonic asteroid belt, becloaked, bearded, producing a literally irresistible confection of breaks that themselves break iteratively on the on- and the off-beat and in fact any other beat you’d care to mention, with that crisp understanding of a Tony Allen; melody lines that waft around the jazz scales like a gleeful butterfly, alighting on this mode and that, this mode and that, electro bass burbling and chattering in a holding pattern like some retro kids’ TV robot in their relentless, subcutaneous march; melodic fills and vamps and stings of absurd speed and complexity like you’re down the amusements watching the older kids smoke and cuss and attempt to clock the latest import with the insane music and ungovernable ball control system.
And then there’s the other Paddy, who wears an alien’s head with the glowing eyes, with which he contacts us from beyond the Kuiper belt on a further, deeper level; “Shall I communicate with you?” he asks when he dons it. And this Paddy: well, the above, but much, much more so. That, cubed.
By about ooh, three songs in, an audience whose composition tends more towards the eagerly curious in make-up has undergone a conversion, biddi-biddi, biddi-biddi, whooooaaah Buck!, and emerged as creatures given over to the new thing in town, the electro ergot, limbs juddering and eyes glittering and given entirely to the insane dance. There will be no return, not ever, not really, for these souls; Paddy has the charts and he’s busy navigating us towards that moon-orbiting future they bastard well promised us and failed to deliver. He’s cosmic and kosmiche and pretty well up the podium for my gig of the year. See him immediately if you can; hell, book him for your venue. Absolutely wayward, ludicrous and ludicrously funky, you’ll have a well-cut white flare suit, a jetpack, shapeshifting skills and an LED sweatband before you know it. This can be the only way forward.
And in the port where all the happenings from the four corners of the world came ashore by ship during the 19th century? Roll over, Beethoven, tell Buck Rogers the news.