Ok. If the best night of my life was when I saw REM at Warwick University in about 1983 and Green and Red played at about 2.00 in the morning and I was at the front doing the Woo Woo’s into the microphone that was thrust into the audience as they covered Sympathy for the Devil and Pete Buck played guitar and ignored me when I told him I loved him then the second best was seeing Giant Sand in the Co-operative Hall on the Cowley Road only a few years later.
Giant Sand are one of those bands.
They have been releasing records for more than thirty years one way or other either under the name of Giant Sand or under cover of main man, Howe Gelb, or one of his aliases. There is a sound to all of them – an out of kilter sun blasted sound, stuttering guitar and Howe Gelb’s half singing half talking voice over the top – telling of another shagged dog story. He’s made records with Canadian choirs and Andalusian guitarists and most recently a motley crew of Danes and although each are different they are all anchored down by his voice and the sound.
For the second best night we started the evening off in The Bullingdon Arms drinking Guinness with whiskey chasers and then made our way to the gig. The evening passed in a blur of Newcastle Brown Ale, all that was sold in the venue, and music. For part of the gig Giant Sand were joined on stage by some old timer singer in a black cowboy hat, black leather and a silver eagle belt.
I shouted out for them to play Mountain of Love and although Howe said it was an old one he played it and we danced furiously at the front of the stage and Howe handed me a can of beer to finish off in the heat.
The next day I was walking into Oxford across Magdelen Bridge and Howe Geb was sat on one of the benches looking cool in the sun shine. I was that close to going up and thanking him for the beer but I carried on. He just looked too cool and of himself to be disturbed by me. But I still think that if I had gone up and said hello then my life would have turned out differently.
This evening we have eaten Mexican tinga poblana, which seemed appropriate. The recipe came from Diane Henry’s Food from plenty.
A kilo of good tomatoes were halved and roasted in a hot oven with oil, salt, pepper and sugar for forty-five minutes and four dried chillies were put to soak in warm water.
A chorizo sausage was cut up and cooked in oil until it started to give off its fat. In then went a large oven proof dish and a half shoulder of pork which had been chopped down to manageable chunks was browned off in batches in the same pan. As each batch of pork browned it went into the pot with the chorizo. Once the pork was done some oil was added to the pan and a couple of onions were browned off as well with garlic and chopped marjoram from the garden and ground cumin. The pan was cleaned out with some beer and the pot then went on a low heat for an hour or so.
Twenty or minutes or so before we were due to eat the tomatoes were spooned into the pot and stirred in so they just about held their shape. I should have seeded the chilies but they didn’t seem hot enough so they were chopped and added along with the liquor in which they had been soaking.
For eating it was covered in chopped coriander and soured cream. We ate it with rice listening to burnt out music.