London Part Two: Bring Your Raincoats 45s

The Windmill is tiny. It’s just a pub really, A small bar section, a few tables, and a little stage. Probably about enough room for fifty people. A cozy venue.

The concert was organised by a London-based magazine, Unpeeled. This had something of an unfortunate side-effect: everybody seems to know each other. Now, going to a concert by yourself is bad enough. Seeing that practically everybody else knows each other - a whole new layer of soul-destruction. Also, the bar doesn’t use Coca-Cola to mix vodka and coke, which I find unforgivable (especially when they have bottles RIGHT BEHIND THEM!).

But, after about ten minutes of wishing the ground would swallow me whole, I headed to the stage section, and waited for the bands to come out on stage.

First up, Strange Idols. They were the only English group of the evening, and sadly, they weren’t up to much, sounding exactly like any random indie band from Sarah Records (i.e. quite twee, a bit jangly, lots of ‘ooh oohs”). But they were pleasant enough, and didn’t stay too long, so I can’t complain too much.

Sweden then makes an appearance in the form of Speedmarket Avenue, proving that every indie band sounds better when a trumpet is involved. Actually, they weren’t bad at all, and the female singer had a lot of fun with the two drunk guys that were in front of me (and to the side, when the alcohol proved too much for them).

Whenever I talk about Saturday Looks Good To Me, I always say that they’re “thift store Motown”. And I don’t mean this in a derogatory way at all. After all, what is a thrift store but a chance to take old things, repackage them, combine them with other things, and make something new, exciting, and unique. That’s how I feel about this band.

Fred Thomas, (the Kevin Rowland of the group) is wearing a Factory t-shirt. That’s a quick way to my heart. Betty Barnes is dressed in a short yellow dress straight from the 1960s, with red leather go-go boots and a ladder in her tights (and that probably tells you how close I am to the band). They start playing Lift Me Up, and the first two rows of the audience go nuts. I find myself dancing with the girl singer of Speedmarket Avenue, which is a plus point for small gigs, I think (okay, so it was more alongside, but hey, let me have my moment). They mostly play songs from the recent two albums, which is fine by me, because I don’t have the first yet. Meet Me By The Water is an transcendent live as it is on record, melting hearts in the first five rows even as the first chords begin to play, then launching into a storming version of Underwater Heart straight afterwards. I want them to play Ultimate Stars, and they do, complete with the Be My Baby drumbeat (when you have something as perfect as that, you might as well use it), and there’s fun boy-girl interplay during The Girl’s Distracted (eye-covering! Mock slaps!).

It’s so much fun. The band plays really well, and they’re loving the crowd’s excited reactions to them. We get dance moves during Ulitmate Stars! Fred delivers an odd version of Dialtone, telling us that some people think the world will end in 2010 (silly Fred, everybody knows it’s 2012), and alters the lyrics to celebrate being in Britain; there’s something charming about the way American’s say “pint”, as if it’s some quaint word from a Shakespeare play. They even swap singers with SpeedMarket Avenue at one point. It’s a shindig. Or a hootenanny. I can never remember the difference.

It ends with a song that I don’t know, but the band says that we should have “a dance party, because that’s what we’re here for”. So we do. I’ve saved the pint of the other singer of SpeedMarket Avenue, am back dancing with them, and a girl is sweeping a XL-1 digital camera across the audience. Meanwhile, on stage, Betty is sticking her microphone into a saxophone and dancing around. It finally comes to an end; they apologise, so that they’ve had a wonderful night, perhaps the best of the tour, but there’s a curfew and they have to stop. But the bar lets them have one more song: Until The World Stops Spinning, with more Be My Baby steals and more dancing from all concerned.

The embarrassing bit of the evening: they’re coming off stage, and I go up to Fred. I first discovered this band two years ago, just before I went to Washington D.C. for a week. While I was away, they played Chapel Hill. And just before I went back this October, they played again. I had been in email contact with him as well; I bought a tour CD, and asked if they were touring Europe soon (that was a year ago). So I went up to him last night, introduced myself, and said how glad I was that they’d made it over. It came out more like “IwasinChapelHillandmissedyoutwicegoodtoseeyouinEurope!” He said that he was glad I finally got to see them, and didn’t run away screaming from the mad fan in front of him. So hurrah!

EDIT: The last-but-one song was most likely Girl of Mine, which, having heard it again tonight, makes me realise why I walked down Brixton last night thinking that I had just seen the American equivalent of Dexy’s Midnight Runners…

currently playing: Saturday Looks Good To Me — Meet Me By The Water