Like all decent human beings, Aidan Knight does not like people who talk during gigs. Particularly during his gigs. The Canadian experimental folk musician is supporting Irish folkies Villagers on their UK tour, playing songs from third album, Each Other, and, as he tells me before his show at Oxford’s O2 Academy, opening a show in front of a crowd who aren’t there to see you is hard. It is made even harder when a crowd assembled in front do not listen to you play, but instead talk amongst themselves.
“I have this opinion that people who talk during shows – they just don’t know,” he says, and a small pretentious part of me loves his blatant calling out of the ignorance of many a selï¬ sh gig-goer. “I think they’re actually unaware that when you talk at a show it makes for a bad time for everyone. But here’s the thing: when a show is going really well and no-one is talking, it’s so great that both sides can feel it. The audience and whoever’s performing on stage can feel it. It’s this thing that until you have experienced it, maybe you continue talking.”
If this is the case, no one in the audience will ever talk during a gig again, as, unusually for a support act, Knight’s often harrowing guitar-plucking presence really does leave the audience at a loss for words. On stage, Knight revels in this, his lively banter juxtaposed with his meandering, and much softer, guitar-led tunes. “Does anyone have any questions?” he jovially asks half-way through the set, “I’ve really been hogging the mic up here.” His sardonic charm works even better delivered from a stage in a dimly-lit room than it does when talking to me over a sofa in an equally dimly-lit room backstage.
A kind of talking Knight does enjoy listening to, however, is intelligent musicians talking to one another via podcasts. He names Jesse Cohen’s No Eï¬€ects, saying, “I just like to hear people’s stories and opinions, and how they’re similar to me and diï¬€ erent from me. It helps me to empathise better with other people, which is something that I’m working on. Not just with musicians – with humans in general. It’s not that I’m not doing it at the moment, it’s just that I think it’s an important thing for all people to do – to realise all the similarities and commonalities between everyone. But also to try and understand diï¬€erences.”
Aidan Knight does the whole musician thing very well, happily picking away at his guitar and singing, on ‘Margaret Downe’, “I heard she was a dentist before she fell in love.”
But in his intelligent conversation he happily contemplates his existence as a human being, not just as a touring musician. Bemused at the one-time nature of the event, he ponders, “When you think about it, this is never going to happen again. It has to do with air molecules and physics and shit.”