This is clearly not a week for gig-going without incident. No road traffic accidents tonight but we arrived as a six and only three saw The Broken Family Band play. This was no way to celebrate Ms L the younger's birthday and we all owe her another night out soon.
Support tonight was Dan Michaelson & The Coastguards. Dan is "the voice of Absentee" and this is his "new project" suggesting Absentee are still a going concern? This project though is a different proposition from that band: the Coastguards play a warm, sedate country, all pedal steel and brushed drums, given a noir-ish feel by Dan's deep, dark grumbling vocals. It's classy if a little unmemorable on first listen (but this might have been because I was impatient for the main attraction). They certainly went down well with the crowd tonight and at the end of the night Dan was doing a roaring trade at the merchandise stall. Their album "Saltwater" is out and available here.
It was raining today in Manchester after a week of sunshine (ahem). Had Cambridge's finest brought the wet fenland weather with them to match their indie melancholia? Well we can't really blame them for the weather. Or for the 10.30pm curfew due to a club night following (but we can blame the promoter for the latter. Shame on them for charging us full price but cheating us on the running time). Live The Broken Family lose the country-tinged melancholia (in the main) and deliver an energetic, hard-edged indie-rock sound. They are phenomenally well drilled: hats off to drummer Mickey Roman for a stunning performance throughout. Tonight started with a few slower numbers before picking up the pace. The set then took in older numbers including the now traditional audience sing-a-long to "John Belushi" - singer Steven Adams caustic comment: "you all bought THAT album didn't you?". If some of the audience are still hooked on "Welcome Home Loser", 'that album' from 2005, the band aren't with plenty of later songs including seven from the new album.
Steven Adams is a wry charmer of a front-man but tonight he was short on banter given the time constraints. One exception: "if there's a disco afterwards and we stay, we want a roped off VIP area". BFB attempt rock-god swagger but their lack of pretension and even vulnerability mean it is nothing more than ironic wise-cracking. But given the quality of their song-writing and playing they really do deserve a metaphoric roped-off area in contemporary music-making.
Live the anger and bitterness of the songs comes out rather than the melancholy - and the band are never less than compelling in their playing. But overall the evening didn't match expectations - nothing to do with the band or their delivery. But something about the muted crowd, the lack of atmosphere in the Ruby Lounge, being reduced in party size and then the race to beat the curfew meant the whole thing felt rushed and over just as it was starting to hit its pace. However this is also comparing tonight against some earlier, exceptionally good shows. If you've never seen BFB live I'd urge you to do so - remaining tour dates are here.
The Set List:
We nearly didn't get "It's All Over" but the band were given a few minutes reprieve. But we definitely lost 'Please' ('Yourself' presumably).