Sunday, October 16, 2011


Tonight’s support was Sean Flinn and The Royal We who had travelled all the way from Portland, Oregon to accompany Herman Dune on their UK and European jaunt. A good match for the headliner, the four piece combined a downbeat folk-rock not unlike M. Ward (who Sean Flinn passingly resembles physically) with a more edgy, almost new wave rawness. Some of the earlier slower paced songs and then a broken guitar string didn’t help with the continuity but the final two songs – ‘Fossil Radio’ and ‘Patriot Heart’ were particularly impressive.

It’s four years since I’ve seen Herman Dune and they’ve not aged. By which I mean they still inhabit a bohemian midpoint between youth and maturity, between carefree and fucked up, where I find it impossible to put an age on either of the core members David-Ivar Herman Dune on guitar or Néman Herman Dune on drums. The white-washed brickwork and bare stage of Islington Mill suited them to a tee – nothing fancy and a blank canvas for their apparently effortlessly simple songs. But what the intimacy of tonight’s show highlighted was the effort and musical skills behind those songs as well as the deep love and appreciation felt by the crowd for the French band.

Performing here as a trio, the band played a set largely drawn from their last three albums with one foray into 2005’s “Not On Top” - plus a few (older? cover?) songs I didn’t recognise. Whatever era or album they were drawing on, the gig was a series of constant highlights: the infectious chug of ‘Pure Hearts’, Néman’s dexterous drumming or delicately funky bongo playing, the extended intense guitar solos for ‘Your Love is Gold’ or ‘The Long Long Run’ and an acoustic solo rendition of ‘Ah Hears Strange Moosic’ with the crowd providing the backing. From the latter onwards, the communal love for the band was tangible and vocal but it was taken to a higher level a few songs later with a celebratory sing-and-dance-a-long version of ‘I Wish I Could See You Soon’.

David talked of his love of Manchester – buying Northern Soul records or going on a Smiths pilgrimage to Salford Lads Club on previous visits – but the band’s main focus was on playing not talking: a hot and sweaty set that, including encores, was close to an hour and three quarters long. The final song of the main set was a near seven minute version of ‘When The Water Gets Cold And Freezes On The Lake’ – showing even songs about mortality can be life-affirming – then two solo songs performed unplugged on banjolele – a cover of ‘Blue Moon’ and ‘I'd Rather Walk Than Run’. A joy thoroughout – and undoubtedly one of my gigs of the year.

The (Partial) Set List:

Lay Your Head On My Chest
My Home Is Nowhere Without You
Pure Hearts
Tell Me Something I Don’t Know
Your Love Is Gold
Not On Top
Ah Hear Strange Moosic
[Once a Friend Once a Beggar?]
I Wish I Could See You Soon
123 Apple Tree
In The Long Long Run
The Rock
Be A Doll And Take My Hand
When The Water Gets Cold And Freezes On The Lake
Blue Moon
I'd Rather Walk Than Run

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