Whatever it was that Dean Blunt pulled off in Dublin tonight, you can bet the entirety of your future earnings that very few people, if anybody at all, in the Sugar Club either expected or previously witnessed anything like it. It was part tongue-in-cheek performance art, part music, part blinding and deafening partial sensory gang-bang, all genius. What it wasn’t was experimental, this guy knows exactly what he’s doing and any experimentation was most likely from the audience who may or may not have unwittingly rambled into something extraordinary.
Blunt, basically, defies categorisation. For every joker out there who calls what they do art in order to alienate you – the fan, the paying customer, the knowing audience, the sage – from what you might normally perceive as bullshit or brilliance, there is somebody who genuinely tears apart what you previously called musical understanding. And they do it without turning up at awards ceremonies dressed in meat or writhing around in brightly coloured vomit spewed from a young girl under the mistaken notion that it is creativity. And let us be straight here, nobody is suggesting for one second that they’re ‘in the know’ or can see the beauty in the emperor’s new clothes. But when a gig genuinely and profoundly leaves you stunned and stays in your mind for the subsequent days – then you can surely say, regardless of who you actually saw, that you have witnessed something beyond the norm. So when fans of Lady Gaga start talking about game-changers and try to bedazzle you with talk of authenticity, just hum to yourself and let them trail off safely in the knowledge that there is at least a joker like Dean Blunt out there somewhere.
After fifteen minutes of pitch blackness accompanied by the sound of torrential rain, Blunt appears on stage dressed in what can only be described as an all black McDonald’s uniform. He stands there in the half-light twitching and shifting from foot to foot with one arm clasping the other like a child on their first day of school. To his left is a saxophone player who, over the course of the night will try to deafen each and every person in the crowd with death-squeals from his sax. Behind Blunt is an imposing looking man, ostensibly a bouncer, who glares out as if waiting for somebody to make an aggressive move. Eventually, Joanne Robertson joins them all on stage to play the odd guitar lick and contribute astounding vocal parts to Blunt’s rhymes. After three (possibly more, possibly less, it really was hard to tell) songs played without a moment’s space between them, Blunt stands beside his ‘bouncer’ and there is absolute silence from the crowd. This was possibly for applause but none comes. Not because it isn’t warranted (The Redeemer and King James are, in a way, hits), but because nobody quite knows what the fuck is going on. Are you supposed to applaud? Or are you supposed to look away sheepishly because the band are looking at you right in the eye?
The next song is treated with genuine applause by way of appreciation (rather than intimidation) and it seems to rattle Blunt. He turns his back and whispers something to his band before starting ‘The Narcissist’. Now the fun starts. We are dropped back into complete darkness before the sax player launches a full on assault at deafening levels. This lasts for all of about ten minutes before the deepest, most resonant feedback loops and audio chops imaginable seem to cascade from every possible direction. The effect of these sounds in complete darkness is mesmeric but up next is the full-frontal strobe segment – the legend of which preceded Blunt’s appearance in Dublin. It truly is a thing of wonder and simplistic to the point of parodic. It is just a couple of strobe lights, but the killer element is that it comes straight after the pitch blackness and without any warning. People shield their eyes, some just look away. One gentleman has his head in his hands in apparent agony yet is still moving in time with now ear-piercing sounds coming from the stage. That pretty much sums up this night, beautiful, agonising, intimidating, encompassing, simple and uncompromising. Not every gig should be like this, and thankfully they’re not. But thankfully this one was.
Photo by Kieran Frost