Thursday, May 07, 2009


I was happy in the haze of a drunken hour ... but heaven knows I didn't expect to be involved in a late-night road traffic accident on the way home from a Bishop Allen gig. Review first, accident report second.

Bishop Allen played here about 18 months ago. And in my book that's just too long between gigs even if they do have the excuse of living in Brooklyn. Since that gig Cafe Saki has been renovated/extended/changed and the club venue is now a bar on the ground floor with the band playing in the pool room/conservatory (no really) off the main room. Probably takes about 100 and tonight, a joint promotion from Underachievers Please Try Harder and Football, was decently full if not sold out.

Bishop Allen play an ornate indie-pop with delicate orchestral flourishes and settings. Live they are harder edged but a shiver of excitement did run through me as the xylophone (or was it a glockenspiel?) was set up. Touring Bishop Allen are a five piece - songwriters Justin Rice and Christian Rudd on guitars with Darbie Nowatka on xylophone, melodica, percussion, backing vocals plus drums and bass (sorry no names). Touring to support their third album "Grr...", I knew they wouldn't be playing everything I wanted to hear but seeing the set list before they started I was pleased to see at least some of the favourites there. I only realised the omissions later.

Opener 'Another Wasted Night' from first album "Charm School" set the tone for what followed in the next hour or so: songs delivered in a no-nonsense belt-them-out power-pop style only slowing in pace for the two songs sung by Darbie ('Butterfly Nights' and 'True or False'). There was minimal banter but a palpable warmth and amiability from the band - you get the sense they couldn't be happier anywhere else but playing music live in small, sweaty student bars and clubs.
The set took in songs from all three records (plus one of the 12 'calendar' EPs). Plenty of highlights including 'The Monitor' and 'Rain' but sad not to hear 'Dimmer' and 'Olkahoma' from the new album (picky, picky). Sea-shanty singalong 'Shanghaied' followed by 'Middle Management' worked particularly well to close the main set. They then returned to romp through 'Pentitentiary Bound' and a cover of Fleetwood Mac's 'Second Hand News' (Bishop Allen's songs are better) before finishing with a blinding version of 'Flight 180'. Was it just me or was everyone in the crowd singing along by the end of this? Top stuff. More please and soon.

The Set List:
Another Wasted Night
The Ancient Commonsense of Things
Cue The Elephants
Empire City
The Monitor
Like Castanets
Butterfly Nets
True or False
Click Click Click Click
Busted Heart
The Same Fire
Middle Management
Penitentiary Bound
Second Hand News
Flight 180

Support was from Amida who I missed and Married To The Sea who I would heartily recommend. They are a four-piece from Liverpool playing intelligent, US college rock-influenced indie-pop with great harmonies and a relaxed confidence that was hugely appealing. And they all swapped instruments for one song which always impresses me. They were selling their EP at the end. Now in the past I have been more than happy to part with two pounds for a no-brand CDR with felt-pen scrawl and photostat cover. But Married To The Sea give you three songs on a professionally pressed CD with a very smart full-colour cover for your two pounds. Lead song 'Great, Now I'm In Love' is worth the admission price alone. Ones to investigate immediately.

So I departed Fallowfield happy if a little tipsy. After a short bus journey home I crossed the road that leads to Folly Towers only to be hit by a motorcyclist. On a motorbike. He and his bike went skidding along the road and I went flying into the gutter. Both of us were uninjured but were advised to stay prone by the crowd of passers-by who suddenly appeared. This crowd turned out to be plain clothes police. All of them. What had they been doing?? The initial novelty of appearing in what felt like a scene from "The Wire" was short-lived as we then had to wait for an ambulance and then wait longer to be checked over by paramedics. Luckily we both walked away from this. And I now know what the inside of an ambulance looks like.

Tonight should have been an outing for Mrs A but she was otherwise engaged. Shame because in life she is my ears and my eyes. And tonight she would most certainly have stopped me walking out in front of that motorbike. Remember: stop, look, listen.

Bishop Allen
The Broken String [BUY or BUY]

Bishop Allen
Grrr... [BUY or BUY]

Married to the Sea
Married to the Sea EP [BUY]

Yo La Tengo
Fakebook [BUY]

1 comment:

High Priestess of Punk-chew-ation said...

Mind the staircarpet dear. Remember you're worth more to me dead than alive.