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Richmond Fontaine and Peter Bruntnell, Tingewick village hall, February 26th 2010

March 2, 2010

Straight from the Festival Hall (see below) I hot-footed it to Euston, to catch a train up to Bletchley to see Richmond Fontaine and Peter Bruntnell. Actually, hot-footed isn’t quite right – I squeezed in a swift pint at the wonderful Bree Louise, a pub right next to Euston that has at least four real ales on tap and six straight from the barrel. Nice.

Tingewick Village Hall


You don’t want to hear the long and painful saga of how The Suit made it to the show, which was in the tiny village hall in Tingewick, near Buckingham, but suffice it to say we made it for most of Peter Bruntnell’s solo set.

If you know me, you’ve possibly been on the end of one of my enthusiastic gushes about Peter, who truly is ‘one of England’s best kept secrets’ as Rolling Stone once put it. If you’ve heard the gush, skip to the next paragraph. If you haven’t, then please read this heavily condensed version: Peter has put out seven great albums in the last fifteen years, covering rock, folk, folk-rock, pub rock, singer-songwriter ballads, space-junk psych rock, Neil Young-style riff-fests and the rest. I can’t think of a dud song he’s written and my high opinion is shared by about eight other people round the world. I exaggerate only slightly. Buy his music! Go to his gigs! That way he’ll be able to keep his family fed, clothed and housed and be able to buy a razor from time to time.

Anyway, back to the show. We helped ourselves to a couple of pints from the pub across the road – the village hall doesn’t have a bar, so the Royal Oak serves that purpose well. Peter was playing solo tonight and we had a mix of new songs (St Christopher, Maryanne) and older ones (Sea Of Japan, False Start, Clothes Of Winter). As usual, his songs are spot-on – beautifully written and brilliantly performed.

Richmond Fontaine, a dusty, narrative-driven country-rock bar band from Portland, Oregon, are not dissimilar from Peter in their relative lack of success. Despite being beloved of Uncut magazine, which greets every new Richmond Fontaine CD with a five-star review, the band barely fills a small venue such as Bush Hall when they play in London.

Perhaps it’s appropriate then that they’re playing this small venue out in the sticks. They certainly seemed to be enjoying themselves, as they opened with an extended instrumental jam, launching straight into The Longer You Wait, an edgy, driving number from their 2004 album Post To Wire, which was their ‘breakthrough’ album in this country – at least in the sense that a few people had now heard of them. They’d been together for ten years before that, and their experience shows in their carefully crafted songs and frontman Willy Vlautin’s mesmerising narratives.

Willy’s stories of desperation, poverty, loneliness, addiction, hope and love poured thick and fast from the band – The Boyfriends, Alison Johnson, Maybe We Were Both Born Blue, Two Broken Hearts, Moving Back Home #2 and more, all of them with that flavour of Raymond Carver’s America. This is a country of rootless ordinary people near the end of their tether and wanting to know why the world has turned out like this. It’s a merciless view and one that you feel is closer to the truth than most of those blue-collar rock stories from Springsteen, Tom Petty and the like. It’s the sound of the real world.

After the show, we hung out with the band, who are unfailingly friendly, as well as with Peter Bruntnell, who told me he’s recording a new album with the Walbourne Brothers, which is fine by me. The Royal Oak over the road happily ignored the licensing laws and the evening continued far longer than it should have done. And the band was staying in our Travelodge – ah, the heady world of rock ‘n’ roll.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Adam permalink
    March 3, 2010 5:54 am

    Great review! Richmond Fontaine’s songs really are ‘mesmerising narratives’ as you say, and the band are very friendly and appreciative. One correction, they didn’t play ‘You can move back here’ at Tingewick, although we were hoping they would. But here is the tracklist in full:

    El Tiradito
    The Longer You Wait
    The Boyfriends
    Laramie, Wyoming
    Living in a Van
    Water Wars
    Allison Johnson
    Moving Back Home #2
    Two Alone
    Two Broken Hearts
    Maybe We Were Both Born Blue
    Post To Wire
    Western Skyline

    All the best,

    • brandnewguy permalink*
      March 3, 2010 10:01 am

      Thanks, Adam – my bad… now corrected. My poorly scrawled notes included ‘MBack’, which, in my enthusiasm to add the Youtube video, I mis-typed as ‘YCMBH’ rather than ‘Moving Back Home #2’. Yes, it would be good to hear ‘YCMBH’ – in some ways it’s quite a different song musically from a lot of their others… quite Beatles-y. Maybe we’ll hear it at Bush Hall on Thursday 🙂


  1. Peter Bruntnell Band, The Grey Horse, Kingston, May 29th 2010 « A Gig's A Gig

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