tUnE-yArDs now with Live Footage
When a goddess issues a command you tend not to argue. And so it was when Merrill Garbus shouted ‘let’s party’ to the muddy mass in the Mountain arena on Sunday evening. Drawn to the stage like soggy moths to a candle, damp festival goers in their third day of mixed weather fortunes raised their arms in sheer joy as she exploded before their eyes like force of nature. Others started to pour down from the grassy terraces to see exactly how this small presence could bring a seasoned crowd to life in the space of a few seconds.
She plays a combination of drums, violin and ukelele, indeed sometimes she appears to be playing all three at the same time and clearly loves it. This is the last gig for a while, she told us sadly, but what a perfect venue for a short ‘Goodbye’. A fireball dressed in bright red, her presence seemed to have sprung from lava like the hills that stood tall and somewhat proudly behind her.
Her music has equally simple roots, starting life as a series of dictaphone recordings mixed on readily available software. The rhythms are infectious and the lyrics are powerful, exploring femininity, sexuality and violence.
Equally proud and hot were her band, led by bass guitarist Nate Brenner, who raised their arms in a mixture of worship and encouragement, inviting the crowd to do the same. No encouragement was needed. One photographer standing by me completely lost his sense of cool. Far from standing aside with a poised lens, he dumped his equipment on the ground and threw up his arms in adoration to dance and when the set ended rushed to the stage to beg for more with the crowd behind him doing the same. For once in this tightly scheduled festival their prayers were answered and she played an encore. And at that moment it felt as though we could not have lived without it.