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Richmond Fontaine and Peter Bruntnell, Bush Hall, Shepherds Bush, March 4th 2010

March 5, 2010

It’s déjà vu all over again as I troop off with Astral and The Suit to see this lot for the second time in a week, on this occasion in the lovely-looking but deceptive Bush Hall. Deceptive because the sound in there is usually awful – booming vocals, rumbly bass and harsh, piercing trebles.

My fears were reinforced when Peter Bruntnell launched into the wonderful Cold Water Swimmer, accompanied by Dave Little on harmonium and backing vocals. The room was immediately awash with loud echo-ey reverberations, but miraculously, after a stern look from Peter to the sound-desk, the fuzzy noise-cloud gradually dispersed and the song emerged. Astral wasn’t convinced about the addition of the harmonium, but I like it. It adds a certain psych-space-junk edge to the sound.

Next was Domestico, another great song from his most recent album, Peter And The Murder Of Crows. The rest of the set was pretty much the same as in Tingewick, though he finished with a new one, Black Mountain UFO, that makes me look forward to hearing a new album soon.

Richmond Fontaine took the stage and played pretty much the same set as in Tingewick, but, like Peter Bruntnell, they had the benefit of an extra member – long-time collaborator Paul Brainard on trumpet and pedal steel. The former instrument lends some of the songs a more south-western, Calexico-style sound, while the latter makes the dusty narrative songs more country-sounding, which doesn’t always work for me. Many of the narratives demand a sparser sound to fit the desolation of the lyrics.

The band was enjoying itself and even raised some cheers and back-chat from a typically reticent London audience. Willy enjoyed himself so much that he even tripped up on the first verse of Capsized… The sound by this stage was OK, but not great. Despite The Suit’s previous protestations to the band about Bush Hall’s sound, they still seem to like playing this venue, so I guess we’ll put up with it. And they did an admirable job on their ode to Portland, Montgomery Park. All in all, a slightly tempered but impressive performance.

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