Sunday, August 02, 2009


At the far end of Blenheim Gardens SW2, past the row of bay-fronted , genteel Edwardian residencies, lies The Windmill. From the outside The Windmill is a unassuming single storey pub. Inside it is pure rock ‘n’ roll dinginess.

The walls are all peeling paint and crumbling plaster with what appears to be 20-years’ worth of gig posters and band stickers holding them in place. At the far end from the entrance door, behind the irregularly shaped bar, is the small stage: a shabby riser made of MDF, amps on beer crates, scuffed monitors and hand-written running orders and old set-lists blu-tacked to the side of a sound desk. But if you look again at all the rock ‘n’ roll scuzziness, you see that it is actually lovingly preserved and cared for. The whole bar is neat and tidy, those posters of future gigs at The Windmill are meticulously laid out and evenly spaced, it is debonair not squalid. I fell for it instantly.

I’ve been looking forward to seeing My Sad Captains live since End of The Road in 2007. The release of their debut album (a strong contender for my top ten albums of the year) in June raised by hopes but I couldn’t get to the Manchester date of the short tour around that time. Which brought me by happy coincidence to this part of Brixton: my first visit to The Windmill but the twenty-fifth for My Sad Captains. If not a homecoming-with-ticker-tape-parade gig this did have a warm, almost casual, feeling of a band playing mainly to family and friends.

MSC do not look very rock n roll: lead singer Ed (painfully thin, large-rimmed classes, maroon V-necked jumper) comes across as librarian-by-day, poet-by-night; the rest of the band (Jack, Jim, Juliet, Nick) do not appear so ‘bookish’ but they look more like the rest of the audience rather than The Band. Yet the five play together beautifully.

The sound of MSC - 'alt-pop with a hint of Americana' as the poster for tonight says – works really well in this intimate setting. The band bring out the subtlety of slower, more atmospheric numbers like “You Talk All Night”, the delicate harmonies of ”Here and Elsewhere” and the summery pop bounce of final song “All Hat And No Plans”, all with a seemingly casual confidence. This was a short set (nine songs, three of them new) but given the quality of the songs and those gorgeous harmonies, I went away more than satisfied. Only shame was no encore (and no “Bad Decisions”) and the fact My Sad Captains aren’t getting more attention and accolade. Yet?

The Set List:
“My Formative Years”?
Good To Go
You Talk All Night
Ghost Song
New Song
Here and Elsewhere
Great Expectations
A Peg Or Two
All Hat and No Plans

Tonight also saw my first foray into video:

Earlier support had been firstly from Randi Russo and then The Oxygen Ponies. Randi (she could only be American with that name) gives a garage rock twist to the standard singer-songwriter fare: attractive voice, pleasant songs and I would not be adverse to hearing more.

She then returned to partner Paul Megna who is The Oxygen Ponies: Paul sang and strummed electric guitar whilst Randi tapped out rhythms on blocks or tambourine and provided harmonies. The Oxygen Ponies played lit by a candle placed in an empty Jack Daniels bottle. It seemed entirely appropriate - spare, haunting late night tales touching on despair and loneliness. Paul may have looked like a grunge rocker but his voice reminded of E from Eels – deep, gravelly, occasionally bluesy but with a sweet, wounded side. Their six song set included a slowed down version of “Love Vigilantes” by New Order. Both have music to stream on their sites - follow links above.

My Sad Captains
Here and Elsewhere [BUY]

No comments: