I just arrived home from the second Thrones show of the past week, and feel compelled to express how wonderful I think Joe Preston is. Aside from making solo music that is entirely unique and personal, utilizing primarily a bass guitar and drum machine, Joe exudes a certain intelligence, loveliness and humour that all contribute to his enormous charm as a human being and performer.
I remember when I decided that I really liked this man, and it was several years ago after reading a blog post on his myspace page about the passing of a Portland wrestling icon named Buddy Rose. In the post he had expressed with absolute sincerity his sadness at the loss of someone he associated with his home town, and underneath it someone had thoughtlessly commented “LOL”, presumably because of Buddy’s now-outdated blonde hair. Joe responded with the line: “do you honestly think someone's death is worth laughing about? fuck you”. A small thing perhaps, but in a sleazy world where bands often pander to their fans in an attempt to sell them more albums and merch, I found the integrity of his sentiment rather touching.
Unfortunately both the Thrones shows I was at were woefully under-attended, especially last Saturday’s in Geelong to which approximately 12 people turned up, including the support acts. Despite being visibly saddened by the rotten turnout, Joe proceeded to play one of the most hypnotic and intimate live sets that I have ever seen, opening with the slow and melancholy Ephraim from his album Sperm Whale. His delivery was surprisingly gentle and I found myself mesmerised by his use of string bends and vibrato which I’d never seen played on a bass guitar before. Sadly, he only played a few tracks and the whole show was over in less than half an hour, leaving me hanging for more; but as Shaun remarked at the time - “he’s Joe Preston, he can do whatever the fuck he likes a far as I’m concerned.”
Joe seemed a little more cheerful tonight, and opened the set with Manmtn, a much heavier, dirgier track than Ephraim, and his song choices followed suit for the rest of the show including The Anguish of Bears, Nuts and Berries and Obolus, which was the closing song for both nights. Admittedly I was so blown away by his performance in Geelong that he wasn’t able to top it, but the show was highly enjoyable nonetheless. I especially liked the timing of his pleas for the audience to buy shirts with the repeating Exorcist sample “the power of Christ compels you!”.
The video below shows a live version of Ephraim, although it’s really not the same as being there. People often talk about Joe Preston’s stints in bands like The Melvins, High on Fire and Sunn as if they bring the man some kind of prestige; much as I enjoy those bands -and I really do enjoy those bands - I’d take Thrones over all of them any day.