Jackie-O Motherfucker, Vienna Rhiz, 15 July 2009

A very disappointing concert by a group whose studio recordings I’ve been devouring avidly in recent months. A song like “Hey Mr Sky”, from 2005’s Flags of the Sacred Harp, has a kind of resolute wistfulness that I find profoundly affecting, and their more frazzled improv-based excursions have been equally compelling. So I thought I was onto a winner by seeing them in the tight confines of the Rhiz; but the show never really took off.

Partly this was due to sound-related problems. Soundchecks are supposed to take place hours before the group are due to play, but on this occasion and for whatever reason, JOMF were still struggling to get the sound right just before showtime. Mainman Tom Greenwood was clearly not happy with the sound he was getting, but the group, having little alternative, launched into their set in any case. Sadly I found the music rather underwhelming. The pedal steel guitar chimed prettily, and the drummer’s work was uniformly excellent, but the delicious blend of weirdness and pastoral folk that I’ve come to love on the records just never kicked in.

I know little about Greenwood except that he has a reputation for being something of a difficult, temperamental character. If this is true, the problems with getting a decent sound mix can’t have helped matters. His vocals tonight were mumbled and indistinct, and with his vocal mic regularly feeding back, I got the distinct impression he would rather have been elsewhere. Which he eventually was, as after an hour he gave up and abruptly left the stage. The rest of the group remained awkwardly onstage, and the audience were left calling for more; but with Greenwood already having a drink outside, the evening was clearly over.

David Murobi took these fine photos, before Greenwood gestured at him to stop.

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