27 February 2004

The Broken Family Band

The Broken Family Band and Garlic, the 100 Club, Thursday 12 February

I begin to approach the point of obsession with this band.

Still, that's the great thing about music, isn't it? You ride the wave of your enthusiasm. You go and see a band again and again. You hunt down their records. Then someone else comes along. This time next year, you've got yourself a different favourite band.

At the moment, it's this daft, English, indie country outfit for me. I love the Broken Family Band. Even better, this was the first time I have seen them as a headlining band. Previously they've been in support slots, and suffered that middle of the bill fate of being squeezed between a slack early outfit and the need to give the main band a decent run before the curfew. This gave them room to breath and the confidence that comes from knowing people have paid just to see you. They stretched out and enjoyed that space, playing a wider range of songs than I'd seen them play before: by now firm favourites from Cold Water Songs, older songs from the King Will Build a Disco and new ones from the forthcoming and excellent Jesus Songs.

Before that we had support band Garlic. Rubbish name, decent band. I'd got one or two of their records but hadn't seen them live before. Americana, underpinned by tremendous pedal steel guitar playing from a man who didn't look like he was with the rest of the band. I shall seek out their records.

Of course we were all waiting for the hip, chart-topping sounds of the Broken Family Band. The singer appeared to have brought his dad with him, which was nice. Sitting at the side of the stage, I could see things I hadn't noticed before. Previously I'd seen them head on the Water Rats, and you notice the charismatic singer and his burly henchman on acoustic guitar. There's more to them than that. The drummer and bassist are great too. They keep it all going.

You can't help but smile at the words, you can't help but tap you feet to the tunes and you can't help but watch the singer, who has buckets full of stage presence. You emerge from a Broken Family Band gig happy, and ready to see them again. Particularly good on this night were two of my favourites, the lovely Queen of the Sea and the scary Twelve Eyes of Evil. Because they were headlining they could save their two best known songs for last, so we finished with a rip-roaring Don't Leave That Woman Unattended and I Don't Have The Time To Mess Around. As an ending, it could not be bettered.

I love the 100 Club as well. It's the perfect venue, and shows most indie shitholes up for the toilets they are. It's slap bang in central London, the staff are civilised, you can sit down, you can get a drink without being ignored for ten minutes first and when you get that drink you can get a proper pint of beer in a glass instead of a can of something dubious and expensive with something plastic to drink it in. I recall the days when I pretty much lived in the Duchess of York in Leeds and if the bands were rubbish at least you could drink the beer. The 100 Club's true act of genius is to have the stage down the long side of the room rather than at the end. In so many indie venues the stage is at the end of the room and you all stand together in a sort of corridor trying to get a glimpse of the band. Here, the people who want to get down the front can while miserable gets like me can sit round the side, listen to the music and watch the band. Can't understand why everywhere isn't like this, and it shows what low standards we usually accept. Shame they normally get ropy bands on, mind.

For once, though, it had all come together. It was the perfect band for the perfect venue. We left exhilarated. And to nurture that obsession, I've already bought tickets to see the Broken Family Band again in March.

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