We turn a corner at Dalston Junction and see tiny model-railway people standing on the roof of a building. Through a gallery showing large, intricate inky prints of people adorned with feathers and tentacles, we climb the white painted stairwell, which is decorated with dancing fruit, a little gnome, and ‘the grass is greener on the roof’.
Up in the ‘park’, which was set up by the charity Bootstrap Company, the floor is covered in astroturf. There is a proliferation of stripey t-shirts*. We could have bought chorizo baps to complement our ‘can o’pimms’- served in a small purple watering can, which I can’t decide whether made us look like dickheads, or as I’m pretty sure someone said as we passed, ‘magical’. The view was lovely, and London’s expanse glowed in the slowly setting sun.
Under a pearly canopy, seemingly a white upside down bouncy castle, the band played their first song. This was the first of many to include jaunty crescendos and their eponymous melodica, played here with moody grace by their female singer. Next came ‘Hold on’ but before that, the band thankfully got the people sat down, first, to ‘move forward a bit’, and then said ‘maybe it’s better if you all stand up’. That’s good because people sat cross-legged at twee indie gigs are laaaaame. There is tinkling ukulele, and Spanish-y folky guitar, to a shuffling drum beat. The two or three vocal parts interplay and echo each other and are remarkably deep and soulful. The keyboardist’s keys often sound a bit like steel drums and he too plays the melodica in interludes.
Their new song sounded like a hit, and as they played ‘Come outside’ the sky darkened to reveal the background projection; a sun soaked cornfield. The crowd, shining-clean hipsters, are really getting into it; girls are dancing at the front, and I get shushed during a slow song. Sometimes, my issue with indie-folk is I wish that the band would let loose more. The ukulele player is the only one dancing and markedly seeming as though he’s enjoying himself. However, the songs clearly matter to the band, as well as to the audience, especially in the story of ‘Ode to Victor’, which is about Víctor Jara the jailed Chilean director. Here the refrain seemed poignant, ‘alone they’re gentle, together strong’ and the folky melodica refrain oddly beautiful. Now I know who the song’s about, I like it more, just as I felt a kind of smug literariness recognising the inspiration of Auden’s ‘One evening’ in ‘Plunge’, their penultimate song. The music comes in waves and I want a twee hoe-down that doesn’t come. They still haven’t played my favourite song!
It’s their last one, and a stifled joy rises within me, not quashed by synchronised pockets of mistimed claps arising (why would you do that???). Here a boy and a girl sing to one another; she’s heard it all before and is testing his love. They both ask ‘can you read my palm, can you read my mind, can you piece me back together?’ I don’t know if I’d hate it if a song by them got snapped up by some advertising scout, or what it is that makes me think I shouldn’t like this kind of ‘tweeness’, but the amount of times I’ve listened to this song, I’m clearly not fighting it anymore.
Melodica, Melody and Me are a band I’d love to see again, and the roofpark is a very pleasant place to visit.
As for the documentary, we skipped it. After a toilet break, they were ‘still talking about engines’. The idea of a family living isolated in Kentish woods is intriguing to me still, and there’s even a documentary about the documentary. Everyone loves a meta-documentary.