The Shelter, Dublin, 3rd March 2001
Having never been to The Shelter before, even though it was just around the corner I was pleasantly surprised by the size and chilledness of the venue. Of course, in my rush in the door I failed to spot the free one-sided seven-inch on offer, but it was quickly picked up by my beduffeled flat mate.
Sonic Boom is an old hero of mine. Going way back to his Spaceman 3 days when he was the most psychedelic and most challenging master of drone rock, to the almost primitive sounds of knackered keyboards and three chords on his Spectrum albums. EAR were, in part, a mystery to me but I knew what road we were going down. Waves of monotone swooshes all evening and maybe the odd lyric about the power of Jesus.
There are about two women here, and my flat-mate's duffel coat is the height of fashion in this candlelit room. I am increasingly beginning to feel like the lead character in High Fidelity, although I don't own enough vinyl. I should have known this gig would be a train-spotters wet dream.
At least I don't go put my toes on the edge of the stage and examine the vintage boxes that line the stage. They look like oversized rejects from a Thunderbirds set, all glowing dials and big switches that would have launched a British Space Programme sometime in the early '60s.
He eventually walks on stage as the machines hum to themselves. Up to this we wonder if in fact this might be the performance and we should pay more attention.
Mr. Boom looks like he's walked the walk. His step haircut reflects the height of career, sometime in about '92. His cheekbones and sunken eyes reflect the narcs that have been floating in the bloodstream since then. Remember that this is the man who famously said 'We take drugs to make music to take drugs to'.
'Thanks for coming' is all he says and the aural waves start to pump out at a relatively low volume. It all sounds very similar to the old Spacemen 3 stuff, but without guitars. He ritually abuses a selection of vintage synthesizers and a specially modified Texas Instruments 'Speak and Spell', yeah you do remember those.
It's blissful mellow music, especially designed to help you get through whatever trip you're on. At times it sounds like trains applying their brakes as you sleep soundly in first class with dribble on your chin. Other parts of it seem to describe a giant sine wave that sends radiation from the sun to burn us all. It all ends up sounding like a oneness though, being hard to decide where one track finishes and another begins. With his back to the audience he moves slowly around the instruments, patching leads and fiddling knobs, punching a synth here and there to make their reverb springs vibrate a little more. Then he's gone and the second lyric of the night is 'I've got some records and some other stuff to sell if anyone's interested'. The Duffel Coat says 'Jesus, don't give that guy any more money than you have to, God knows what he'd do with it'. But it's Sonic Boom and letting my train-spotter tendencies off the leash for once I buy a 'Soul Kiss Glide Divine' poster and get him to sign it.
Talk about starstruck, and not having a girlfriend and wetting yourself over obscure vinyl, I do it all.