Tuesday, March 30, 2010


I had high expectations for tonight’s gig. But those expectations were mixed with concern at how a band who recorded their last album of huge guitar space-rock on Led Zeppelin’s mixing desk and how Danish effect-laden post-rock were going to sound and fit into an upstairs room of a folk bar in Chorlton, Manchester. And that was before I found out there was another band on the bill too.

It was no surprise to find that the performance end of said upstairs room was crammed with more kit, instrument cases and back-packs than I'd seen in that small room before. When the five-piece Alcoholic Faith Mission came on, they and their instruments and effects pedals were literally over-spilling the edges of the carpeted riser stage, on to beer crates taped together to provide some precious extra floor space. (And later they revealed that they had even left some pedals in Cardiff by accident and had to cut short their stay in Manchester to return to collect them. Confirms that life in a touring band is just not fun).

This was a short set – only six songs which a brief seventh acapella number to finish – but maximum marks to the band for effort and for perspiration.

After first song ‘Education’, singer Thorben shouted (to himself? To the crowd?) “that was fucking brilliant” and he was not wrong. The delicacy and atmospheric spookiness of some of the songs on latest album “Let Tonight Be The Last Night We Care” was replaced with a thumping energy and forceful delivery: shouts, howls, emphatic claps and nods accompanied each song. The album is shaping up to be one of my favourites of the year and this confident if swift set was a joy to watch. By the time you are reading this the band will have left the UK for a short European tour. Come back soon Alcoholic Faith Mission – and next time please stay for longer.

The Set List:

My Eyes To See
Season Me Right
Nut In Your Eye
Got Love? Got Shellfish!

I hadn’t listened to Wolf People before tonight and my main reason for attending was the other two bands on the bill so I didn’t give them a fair listen. They clearly weren’t born then but 1972 is a key year for them: the four-piece from London, recently signed to Jagjaguwar, play heavy psyche-rock delivered with impressive precision and concentration. They got a good reception tonight but my attention was elsewhere.

Did someone mention 1972? Because next Mott The Hoople’s Ian Hunter walked on stage. Well clearly not but Jace Lasek, one half of the husband-wife team behind The Besnard Lakes, could play him in a biopic. Striding on to the tiny stage, he is a formidable six-foot-plus presence, dressed in black long-sleeved shirt with embroidered red roses, aviator shades and shoulder length curly hair: “Hi we’re The Besnard Lakes from Montreal... and let’s dim the fuck out of those lights!”. Dulcimer’s exposing orange glare suddenly turned to relative murk – and more murk was to come.

Opening song “Like The Ocean, Like The Innocent” starts quietly so it was several minutes before I realised just how loud and monumental their sound was going to be in this setting. There was a widescreen power and intensity that was surprising from just a four-piece. It was so loud and intense (and Olga Goreas vocals so low in the mix initially) that I didn’t even recognise second song “Devastation” until it was halfway through. And as I did recognise it, the smoke machine kicked in. If it had been murky-dark before now the band and the room was smothered in thick white fog. The Besnard Lakes were playing a small pub room to a sell-out crowd of about120 people but were treating the occasion like they were at Wembley. It was insanely exciting.

I nearly didn’t add this video of ‘Albatross’; it just does not do justice to the song but hopefully gives a flavour of how intense and foggy an experience this was in such an intimate setting (especially compared to the ones above taken in the same spot only an hour earlier).

The Set List:
Like The Ocean, Like The Innocent
For Agent 13
Land of Living Skies
Chicago Train
Glass Printer
And You Lied To Me
Rides The Rails

So two contrasting performances but both with an energy and a confidence that was inspiring with neither band making any concessions to size or limitations of the setting. March has been full of great gigs in special settings - and this was another to add to that list. April just won't be the same.

The Besnard Lakes
The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night [BUY]

Alcoholic Faith Mission
Let This Be The Last Night We Care [BUY]

1 comment:

Catshoe said...

Great review there - saw Alcoholic Faith Mission last night in London and heard all about the forgotten kit - they drove straight from Manchester back to Cardiff to pick it up, had a few hours kip then on to London. Besnard Lakes chap needs much more curly perm to really look like Ian Hunter, but nice reference!