Live Review: Moon Duo @ Meltdown Festival, Southbank, London, 20th June
A multi-sensoryacid tripsoundtrack to a forthcoming apocalypse.
Meltdown Festival is an annual arts and music festival that takes place across a range of magnificent spaces on the Southbank in London, curated by different artists, such as Patti Smith, Yoko Ono and Morrissey. Now in its 25th year, Robert Smith of the Cure takes the helm for 2018. Tonight brings Portland-based band Moon Duo to the Southbank. Playing Meltdown as a stand-alone show after a tour at the beginning of the year, demonstrates the pull that the festival, and its curator, has.
Support comes in the guise of Sacred Bones signee Hilary Woods, a multi-instrumentalist songwriter, and - in a former life - bass player in Irish band JJ72. Woods’ twirling and soaring Celtic tales of love, longing and freedom instantly captivate the audience. The theatrical mise-en-scene of the venue, with crystal crisp sound and incredible lighting, adds to the sense of spectacle and is the perfect setting for this ethereal sermon.
After a brief interlude, the suitably hypnotised crowd are ripe for plucking, and Moon Duo (made trio with the addition of a drummer) are more than happy to do so. With a pounding solid rhythm, beautiful sound palette, and searing guitar licks, their soaring wall of psychedelic sound is all-encompassing. The vocals delivered by guitarist Erik "Ripley" Johnson are drawled and sparing, blending into the wash. Fuzz and screeches, and an incessant driving pulse at the heart of their sound is like a locomotive - further enhanced by the backdrop of swirling, shifting visuals and strobe lights - making the experience multi-sensory and, at times, overpowering.
Moon Duo are powerful on record, but made to be witnessed live. Theirs is a sound that is both psychedelic and trippy, yet with a discernibly darker undertone of Krautrock. The soundtrack of a disguised forthcoming apocalypse, one which lulls the listener into a false sense of security and acceptance. Truly this is an onslaught for every sense, where acid tabs should be handed out at the entrance - like 3D glasses - with which to fully capture the experience. The single dancing man at the front of a seated room must have been in the right queue.
Ending with a cover of Iggy Pop’s ‘No Fun’ their mission is complete, we’re left spellbound and high. With a bright moon reflecting in the waters of the dark Thames on a wistful early Summer’s eve, we’re not sure if this is the end or the beginning of the world. But that’s just fine.