Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The Bevis Frond and Teenage Fanclub: Ain't That Enough?

London is still so hot, and up until last Monday there was something almost every day or evening keeping me creeping through the soupy hot air for hours, tubes stopping in tunnels, train drivers who sound like they'd rather be stoned, not being able to move out of the wrong pubs, starting far too long walks that otherwise would have been refreshing, last Sunday it took us almost four hours to get to a family barbecue, where everything was already burnt black by the time we arrived. And then last Monday, courtesy of a spare ticket, Vanessa had pulled out again, the hottest gig of the year. And also definitely A Gig Of The Year. Considering that Teenage Fanclub seem to have mostly the sort of fans who will sing along to every line and know every song backwards it was weird to know most of The Bevis Fronds material, and not much of The Fannies. I've seen them quite a few times, mostly at festivals, but I don't own any of their records, and somehow on these occasions they passed me by a bit, they were fine but not that engaging for me. However here, in the sweaty, smokey, blokey, and unbelievably thick air of The Forum, after two hours, two sets, the first being a full playback of their Bandwagonesque album (I need to get that btw!), hands in the air, they gradually morphed into a really great band, with one wonderful song after another, it slowly crept up on me, but by the end, dancing with strangers, sweating like pigs, drunk, riding a time machine to a place I hadn't been to, it dawned on me that this was a really proper legendary gig. It took a while and I almost left, but kept bumping into people, getting another drink, washing my hands, running around, and then towards the end, a revelation. I'm sure my experience of this gig is fairly unique though as the hall was rammed with twenty and thirty somethings reminiscing a particular point in the early 90s (i love early 90s nostalgia too btw, special time for me too) where sunkissed sixties US pop styles caught up with a loved up, raved up UK indie scene and opened a window that apparently still hasn't shut. I loved the way all this crept up on me slowly and didn't hit me over the head, it was very gradual and the greatest hits set in the second half was actually a bit more happening than the playback of that legendary album which most of the fans from near and far who had gathered here had come to see.

But initially me and Gavin were really excited to see The Bevis Frond open up, since they rarely play in London. I own their excellent Live in San Francisco album from 1997, and, having also seen them recently at ATP, seem to know most of the material played for this brief "greatest (non) hits" set ("This is my biggest hit .... that wasn't actually a hit"). Main man and songwriter Nick Solomon is hilarious between songs, like an English middle aged Lou Barlow, very endearing and self deprecating, wearing the same T-shirt in which he is pictured on that 97 live album (!) but just a little bit older, a benevolent obscure stoner rock god floating through his own little universe, friendly, laid back and happy to connect, but not afraid of taking the piss out of himself and everyone around him. The lineup has since explanded to a five piece, and just as at ATP, they sounded really big and made some good expansive guitar noise, starting with an apparently customary jam but then went straight in to the songs. They are big, wonderful, haunting songs and they sound good in a big room on a loud sound system, Maybe, Hole Song No 2, Stoned Train Driver, Lights Are Changing, etc. and seem to gradually connect with the not so teenage fans of the Fannies. I mean there's some puzzled faces too, but it's not hostile. They're playing their annual three hour show at their local beer hall in Walthamstow in October, I hope I can make that one. Beautiful.

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