Monday, April 11, 2011
Rites of Spring Festival featuring Fyfe Dangerfield, Lulu and the Lampshades, Boat to Row, Young Runaways, Timothy Parkes @ Ikon Eastside, Saturday 9t
Spring. A time of rebirth and new growth. How ironic then that this festival is the closing event for Ikon Eastside, one of the first local victims of the public spending cuts. Good to know we’ve still got billions to spend on bailing out bankrupt countries and bombing others to oblivion, but not a few grand for art and culture eh? Happily the mood was anything but glum thanks to a folky, artist packed line up (five in three hours...that’s going some) kicking off with the lovely Timothy Parkes who bravely decreed that he was “the fluffer” for tonight’s other performers. Thankfully we were spared the sight of our Tim blowing Fyfe and co, instead he wisely stuck to a short but bitter sweet set of story inspired tunes ranging from musings on his ex-wife to a night of almost inter species bromance with a white horse...now that’s how you get the party started.
Next up some top notch brassy orchestral folk in the form of The Young Runaways, quickly becoming a bit of a favourite of mine courtesy of their enthusiastic performances and huge great slabs of brass loveliness...boy, I do love a bit of brass. Pick of the set was Morning Rush, a glorious Wonderstuff-ish track that gave the “Wolverhampton Philharmonic Orchestra” as their lead singer dubbed them plenty of chance to shine. Parp, parp, parp perfection.
Continuing with the young and the folky Boat to Row carry on cementing their rep for joyful and jaunty shows with another lesson in the power of boy / girl harmonies and the wonders of the fiddle...or is it a violin...buggered if I know the difference. Sounds good to me though. Bonus points for adding a bit of socio-political spunk into the mix with a track called The Working Class. Impressive shades of both Ewan and Kirsty MacColl in the performance and writing.
Next up folk popsters Lulu and the Lampshades, possibly the only band to ever ask the soundman to mic up a typewriter. They’re probably fed up of being called quirky, but they are. So there. Nowt wrong with that either. Give me quirky over formulaic any day. They’re a fascinating proposition, a little twee one moment, then thrashingly aggressive (as in their best track of the set Meet Up) the next. Complex rhythms nuzzle up next to child like simplicity and tribalistic drumming shares centre stage with the aforementioned typewriter. Despite recently suffering a drive by falafel attack (yes, really...she found a grain of rice under her eyelid just before the set...urgh) lead lampshade Heloise was a delight. If only all drive by incidents were as quirky as this lot the world would be a better place (note to ‘Colonel’ Gaddafi: try dropping stuffed vine leaves on your rebels for a change...).
Last up and festival closer Fyfe Dangerfield’s on something of a roll right now. After that profile boosting ad soundtrack he’s back with a brand new Guillemots album that’s currently getting, as they say in the biz, ‘rave reviews’. It never seems to go to his shaggy old head though bless him and tonight’s set was a wilfully ramshackle as ever. That’s not a criticism of the music by the way, but Fyfe’s got the natural ability to pitch up and play a set without polishing the shit out of the thing and that’s as endearing as a bed full of pink fluffy kittens.
The set began with a mild heckle from Fyfe’s equally talented older bro Al (lead singer of the criminally underrated Courtesy Group). “Get yer coat off” yelled Al. Despite the heat (today was the warmest April day ever, ever, ever...phew what a scorcher, hotter than the sun etc etc) he remained buttoned up in a military style overcoat throughout the set. Maybe he ain’t just one man? Maybe beneath that coat are dozens of tiny musicians all controlling different bits of him eh? Given the sheer talent on display I wouldn’t be surprised. For an hour or so we were treated to something old, something new, something borrowed and er...something blue...that coat. Old stuff came in the form of Fyfe’s solo material including a heartmelting Barricades. New stuff included an unveiling of a clutch of fresh Guillemots tunes, pick of the bunch being the forthcoming album’s title track Walk The River and, finally, the borrowed bit was an encore featuring an inspired cover of Nick Lowe’s The Beast In Me. Grrrrrr. He didn’t do THAT track...but you know what, he didn’t need to. Billy Joel may well have given Fyfe his biggest hit to date but I reckon the best is yet to come. "I've not got much to say" mused Fyfe midway through the set, given the wild applause at the end the night his audience clearly disagreed.