Dear reader, in my travels to bring you reports of local performances by various musical acts, I have encountered some strange people. But over the weekend I encountered one of the strangest yet – the Brooklyn Hipster. For those not from the New York area, it’s important to note that Brooklyn is to Hipsters as Mecca is to Muslims or Wal-Mart is to rednecks. It’s the source of their strength and identity, which in this case means lots of bad haircuts, wool caps, and faux vintage clothing. They’re harmless for the most part, but damn are they annoying in large groups.
But sometimes a music lover’s gotta do what he’s gotta do, and so I found myself at the Bell House in Brooklyn to see one of my favorite bands – Field Music. They were supposed to play there in early December but had a last minute illness cancellation. The openers were the Mugs (from Brooklyn) and the Spinto Band (not from Brooklyn). As openers go they were pretty good, each practicing their own brand of tuneful, harmonic pop/rock. The Mugs’ set was short and sweet, and the band was really only held back by some pretty pedestrian drumming.
The Spinto Band, who I gather from the internet have had a taste of success overseas, were a much more polished and professional group. They also had energy to spare, which was great until their set started to drag on and on. They could’ve cut 2 or 3 songs and I would’ve been perfectly happy, but then again I wasn’t there to see them. I did get to ponder, however, just how many guitarists one band can fit on a small stage. The Spinto Band managed 4 or 5 by my count, but the stage didn’t collapse so the Bell House engineers get some kudos there.
So after waiting almost two months to finally see Field Music, they took the stage around 11pm and proceeded to knock this writer’s socks off with a pair of songs from their awesome Tones of Town album – “Give It, Lose It, Take It” and “A House Is Not a Home”. What followed was about an hour-long performance of some of the finest pop music of the last decade. If the jump in musical quality from the Mugs to the Spinto Band was like going from minor league baseball to the majors, then seeing Field Music perform was like watching a Hall of Fame team play. Scratch that – it wasn’t even the same sport.
It was a real joy for this cynic to watch craftsmen like these play one gem after another, with no need for excessive showmanship or weird, spazzy dance moves (the bassist from the Spinto Band looked like he had what one of my friends termed as Hipster St. Vitus’ Dance). As expected the group hit their two albums pretty hard, but also peppered their set with numbers from their soon-to-be-released double album and FM co-founder David Brewis’ excellent School of Language record. Sadly, Peter Brewis’ side project (The Week That Was) got no love.
The new songs sounded great, and revealed a further creative move away from the group’s twee, neo-XTC leanings and more toward the melodic, guitar-heavy crunch of the Brewis’ more recent work. That sound also added some welcome muscle to earlier tunes like “Tell Me Keep Me”, which ended the main set with a hard rock force I didn’t know Field Music was capable of. This is probably helped in no small part by the other half of the quartet, bassist Ian Black and guitarist Kev Dosdale.
In the end, the original postponement may not have been a bad thing. Now that the release of the new album (entitled Field Music (Measure)) is just a few weeks away, I’m even more amped to get it having seen the band live for the first time. Hell, I’d even be willing to go to Brooklyn to get it.
(for a slideshow of the evening’s festivities, click here)