Live: The Woods in Spring @ Komedia, Brighton

ffs for folk's sake tree black and whiteAs we arrived at Komedia and went upstairs to their biggest room for the first of a series of four events running throughout the year, it became clear that The Woods was not your ordinary gig. Through a magical door lined with fur coats, serenaded by a clown playing the saw and his guitarist friend, we entered a Narnia of theatre, storytelling, music, puppetry and beautiful woodland projections.

First up was Colossal Crumb, a grotesquely obese man-sized puppet creature who ate, excreted, danced and scratched his derriere while the audience sat on the floor and watched. Gross, erotic, strangely huggable, Colossal Crumb reappeared at several intervals throughout the evening. Speculation abounded regarding his composition – was he made of sausages? Loaves of bread? Intestines? Thankfully this reviewer got in a cheeky squeeze and can confirm, rather more prosaically, it was tights.

Our host for the evening, the loveable Daniel Marcus Clark, took over Colossal Crumb’s armchair to deliver his strange spoken song-stories featuring lonely women in love with their postmen, and musical robots rebelling against their totalitarian leaders.

Jennifer Left was the first musician to take to the stage with her dark swing-folk. She looks like a shy Snow White, sings like Snow White’s wildchild sister, and her backing group of bass, drums, guitars as well as Korg and cornet were amazingly tight considering this was their first outing as a band.

Moulettes, who are spoken of most highly on the Brighton alt-folk scene, did not disappoint. They tore through their alliterative folk-prog songs with a stroppy-stompy panache, stamping and cat-calling. The string players were locked in a staring contest for the most memorable moments of the set, ripping insanely fast jigs out of their instruments, perhaps to the detriment of the rest of the band who seemed a little incidental.

It was, then, such a pity that they took so incredibly long to faff around between songs, as it meant their set was cut short. Seriously guys, what were you doing up there? Nonetheless, their music was rich and beautiful and full of wonderful influences: Balkan circus music, gypsy swing, spanish folk and prog rock, and the audience lapped it up.

The last band of the night had a tough act to follow, and I wonder whether Moulettes should have headlined. Despite getting Moulettes’ cellist/vocalist up on one of the songs, The Muel seemed stuck sometime in the 90s. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing – their music was tight, they had great stage presence and people were clearly enjoying themselves – but they perhaps lacked the freshness and energy that made Moulettes so hypnotic.

Daniel Marcus Clark had wished that “we go away better as people” after the evening’s entertainment. I can’t say that happened, but I certainly was really impressed by the gig’s unique combination of art forms, and came away with much to think about in terms of the crossing places between the arts, and a new respect for my hosiery.

Jen Rouse