Richmond Fontaine – The Hare & Hounds – Birmingham Tuesday 19th April 2016

I’m a big fan of Richmond Fontaine. I wrote about how they make me feel here. Over the past weeks, they’ve been playing a farewell tour. I was desperate to see them one last time but, at the last minute, day job responsibilities got in the way. A good friend,Billy Bob Martin, stepped up to the plate and offered to review instead. Another friend, Michael Holmes, took ace photos. 

 

For over 20 years  Richmond Fontaine have been laying the musical soundtrack for Willy Vlautin’s stories of love, despair, lower-limb disfigurement, disappointment and horror. Tonight, they bring their show to town for the very last time and there’s a tangible sadness in the air as the mostly homogenous crowd of bearded 30-50 something-men clearly loves this band and the 3 dimensional characters woven through the melodies. 

Tonight’s set opens with Vlautin in light-hearted mood, well, between songs at least. He thanks the promoters of the show for their long-standing support, before going on to admit that a lot of people have lost a lot of money giving Richmond Fontaine a platform over the years. 

Aside from gentle banter and between song story-telling, tonight, there’s little let up from the bleaker end of the Richmond Fontaine canon. Stripped down to a four-piece, the lack of keyboards , pedal steel, female vocals or trumpet ensure the songs are rendered in good old bass, drums and two guitar format, and while it’s clear the band are enjoying the simplicity of this line-up, the songs lack the beauty historic line-ups delivered – need, this is a a classic rock and roll band we see before us, with all that’s wonderful and limiting about that format.

At times, the band sound like four young men jamming the Velvet Underground’s I Can’t Stand It and having a whale of a time, however, for those of us here to say goodbye to a band that’s soundtracked our middle-age for the past decade or longer, I suspect many were hoping for more ambition- although it’s difficult to chastise Richmond Fontaine for not delivering much mood-lifting relief, as anyone familiar with their back catalogue will attest.

A Night in the City is a stand-out track of the the band’s farewell album, dealing of course with self-loathing, disappointment with ones self and others, but tonight it is removed of any nuance by the limitations of a four-piece. 43, however, was delivered with genuine ferocity, driven by the remarkable drumming of Sean Oldham. 

It’s not until the encore that the band decide to remind us that their songs can lift the spirit – Post to Wire and the anthemic  set-closer Four Walls demonstrate that there is hope, optimism and romance in the songs of Vlautin, tinged with a fear that these feelings are fleeting, but it’s definitely there.

 

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Oscar – Good Things

Sunday is going to be an amazing day at Leicester’s Handmade festival. It could be the best day of our lives.

I first saw Oscar play over a year ago at Hackney Oslo. Since then, their career trajectory has almost grown on a level with Leicester City Football Club.

A win at Old Trafford and this Roy of The Rovers fantasy is cemented. We’ll be champions – and then we’ll sing along so loudly when Oscar play this.

Boom..

 

Joe Buzfuz – Now That I’m The Mayor Of London

During the Easter break, we took advantage of Bank holidays and Airbnb offers to spend a few days in London. I go there a fair bit for work stuff but rarely as a tourist so this was actually quite exciting. To be able to meander aimlessly, investigating curious side streets and the wonderful interiors of Samuel Smith pubs, was a whole host of fun. 

Based out in Bermondsey, we weren’t far from Tower Bridge and City Hall, a place I’ve visited a fair few times in my day job. For the uninitiated, it’s from here, in this modern looking mis-shaped egg, that the Mayor of London directs their operation. From the south side of the Thames, the Mayor issues policies, sets ambition and counts their money. 

Some people living away from London (and probably some living in London) will not realise that there’s a Mayoral election campaign running at the mo. Boris has served his dues and has his eyes on a bigger prize and so now Londoners are getting to vote for a new one. Let’s hope they’ve had enough of the Tories by now. 

In ‘Now That I’m The Mayor Of London’, the fab Joe Buzfuz, who co-runs the Blang label, spells out his Dick Whittington manifesto. Some of what he proposes (growing veg in window boxes and keeping bees) is scarily aligned with the thinking of the present incumbent but other more outlandish suggestions (silence every day between two and three) might never come to pass. All of it is gently delivered on a picked and strummed acoustic guitar with the overall effect landing somewhere between an XTC out-take and a folk protest. 

I don’t live in London so I can’t vote. And I’m pretty sure that Joe is not actually standing to be City Mayor. But, if these pretty big barriers were overcome, I’d be proud to say….

‘I’m voting for Buzfuz’.


The Allergies (featuring Andy Cooper) – Rock Rock

I take no blame. I did warn readers yesterday that the Kinjac video might be a bit gruesome to accompany your breakfast snack – so I consider the complaints received invalid.

“Can’t you just post something a bit more uplifting and cheery?” I was asked. 

“Oh, go on then”, I conceded. 

Bristol based production duo, The Allergies, have teamed up with Andy Cooper from the pretty legendary hip-hop act, Ugly Duckling, to release Rock Rock, an exuberant blast of tongue-twisting, mixed-up madness. Andy only seems to pause for breath when he punches the title  out; for the rest of this energetic extravaganza, he’s juggernauting along at breakneck speed uttering phrases quicker than my head can compute.

It truly makes for an exhiliarating ride. The crisp, soulful funky swagger given to the track by The Allergies’ production would probably be enough to carry this cake as an instrumental but the addition of the lyrical topping gives it a sweeter taste. I see that The Allergies are booked for a fair few festivals this year. It makes a lot of sense. Boomtown will go wild for this sort of thing.

Not only is this a top tune but it has a happy video as well. The puppet show towards the end is delightful. Andy’s clearly quite a character. 

What’s that you’re saying? You’d love to be able to exorcise the demons of yesterday by rapping along to ‘Rock Rock’? As a very special treat – and as long as you promise to watch the main video first – I’ll attach the lyric video as well… Good luck, you’ll need it.

 

 

Kinjac – Possession

When I was a teenager, there were a couple of years when I took a pretty unhealthy interest in the occult. Things like Ouija boards and psychotic possessions both fascinated and terrified me. Impressionable and malleable, I saw weird things. I put it all to the back of my mind.

“These people are consumed with evil spirits”, I was told as I cowered behind a speaking-in-tongues safety net. “Satan, release these people from your grip”, pronounced the Preacher as the congregation frantically offered prayers to their Lord . I kept one eye open to surreptitiously spy on proceedings. Curiosity killed this cat.

If I’m honest, it all still haunts me a bit even though I now suspect that this was little more than an exploitation of poor mental health. 

Though I stopped short of axe attacks, I find much to relate to in this recently released video from Kinjac for his song, Possession. This gnarly grizzle of a tune was first released last year as a single but now gets re-promoted in the build up to the launch later this month of Kinjac’s album, Broken Mirrors. 

Kinjac is the solo project of Michael O’Shea. This song relates to things he experienced whilst living in a (potentially haunted) small house in a woods that he converted to a recording studio. You can almost feel the ghostly chill emit through the fuzz. I am fascinated and terrified once again.

A word of warning – this might not be a video to watch whilst eating your morning toast and strawberry jam. 

 

 

 

French Leave – Tourist

It’s a fantastic time to be a citizen of Leicester. 

I’ve lived here more than a dozen years now and have always raved about its wonders. When Kasabian headlined at Glastonbury, I wore my retro-foxes top all day even though their brand of indie swagger is not exactly my thing.

When King Richard was buried, I was in Yorkshire but should have been on our fab streets. 

Now, we have the football. An amazing thing is happening across this beautiful city. A place so used to not really singing from the rooftops about its wonder now finds itself thrust onto the back pages of national newsprint. I was on a train heading back to Leicester yesterday with tourists who thought they’d visit because ‘it seemed like a vibrant place’.

These are great times. 

It’s a common theme that I keep coming back to both in my blog and in my live reviews for the Mercury. When I went to see the Brandy Thieves (and reviewed it here), I had to state that there was a movement occurring. Earlier this year when I featured Plaudits on this blog (here), I sensed that this was a city dancing to a different drum. 

Now, we have the new single from French Leave. ‘Tourist’ is an absolute belter. Occupying a similar space to Plaudits, French Leave appear to revel in a hard-edged electro-pop thing. I deny you to not think this is brilliant. When they sing ‘Come see me in my town’, it’s an invite to head here and party with us all. Yes, this is a tune that might well become a soundtrack to my summer, blasting from the speakers when the team are transported in their open top bus. 

French Leave are playing at the painstakingly curated Handmade Festival in a couple of weeks. It’s a great festival for this great city and it’s not escaped my attention that this might be the weekend when we’re really under the glare of worldwide media.

We love N’golo Kante. We want the French to Stay. 

French Leave..

  

 

The Van Susans – Seagulls

Regular readers of Sonic Breakfast will know that i’m a sucker for tunes that invoke memories. It’s all the better when they focus upon loss in a romantic, reminiscent, sort of way.

Regular readers of Sonic Breakfast will also know that I open posts with the words ‘regular readers of Sonic Breakfast’ when I can think of no other way to start a piece. But’s that’s irrelevant right now.

 

A couple of days ago, I was sent the video to a new track by The Van Susans. It came my way via one of the best PR people I know. Julia at EvansAbove takes time to get to know the sort of stuff I’m likely to appreciate and, as a result, I’ll always open mail that she sends even when there is inevitably a backlog elsewhere.

This Van Susans track, Seagulls, is no exception to the general strike rate. After last year’s escapades in Brighton for The Great Escape festival (review here), I’ve grown quite partial to the place. And so, any video that features shots, old and new, of the town and the beach is great in my book. In this pretty emotive video, an urn containing ashes is carried around the town as memories of the past are drawn upon; happier times of childhood and adolescence extracted from a collection of old home movies. As the track builds, we realise that the ashes are about to be released to their final resting place – thrown into the sea in cathartic conclusion. 

Loss is inevitably distressing. The way it’s dealt with can also be uplifting. Forgive The Van Susans that the vocal delivery in this powerful track veers a little too close to Frank Turner for comfort (I jest – I hear he’s quite popular) and allow yourself to get carried away in the windswept woe of it all. You’ll be all the happier for it.