Bonnie 'Prince' Billie (& Papa M)
The Shelter, Dublin, Jan 20th 2001
Papa M, alias David Pajo, former Tortoise moonlighter and Slint main man. The posters point out the unexpected heresy to those who know this artist's form. Papa M sings. Dressed down in his army fatigues, a soldier gone AWOL from the American Civil War, picking and sliding the strings of his bepedalled guitar to create phased loops and interlaced melodic motifs. For maybe five minutes and then some songs. Stark, wry and betimes macabre, with a certain economic candour. Closing an all too brief set with 'Pissin' in the Wind', that simultaneously parodies Dylan and crooks a finger at record company Domino with the spoken interjection: 'C'mon Domino. I don't want to be a millionaire. I just wanna' make a little money. I've got a band to feed.'
Bonnie 'Prince' Billie, alias Will Oldham/ Palace/ Palace Brothers. Sidles onstage and removes hat and several coat layers to reveal a woollen singlet. Another survivor of war, this time the shell-shocked seersayer: the bearded prophet on the battlefield with the hypnotic thousand yard stare. There are old favourites - 'New Partner', 'Ohio River Boat Song' - but the highlight of any Oldham gig is the old rogue himself. And that voice that came down from the (Appalachian) mountains, waded the creek, wrestled with 'gators, swam the Atlantic, sang with the Sean N? and keened at the wake. Brokeback songs of fear and lust, and lately love.
Will Oldham and David Pajo. 'There is blood on my hands from the murder of men.' Thirty-something veterans with two hundred year old voices, twining in communion. This is timeless. Music made as medicine and words offered as prayer.
Then the bonny prince sings 'Sometimes I see a darkness...' and we here in this small and overcrowded venue see the light at the end of the tunnel.