There has undoubtedly been a popularity surge for contemporary folk and country over the past 12 months. I suspect that the likes of Laura Marling and Mumford and Sons, with their easily accessible music and pin-up looks have helped to fuel this resurrection.
Support for Richmond Fontaine last night came in the form of Oregon folk singer Laura Gibson who follows the same genre but less groomed and tweaked. This can be considered positive or negative depending on what side of the fence you’re balancing on.
Personally, her stripped down and unassuming performance along with her soft country lilt vocals were a pleasure to watch. She appears to be a woman left to her own devices, allowed to show her personality and is at ease with the crowd.
However,in the UK I suspect she may not receive the amount of air play as the other Laura. Marling need not panic about being overtaken in the popularity stakes.
Her cover of Leadbelly’s Where Did You Sleep Last Night? was gritty and raw (a brave move to cover a track immortalised by Nirvana). She is known for playing a variety of instruments (marching drum, marimba, bass, percussion, pump organ) but this stripped down performance saw her with guitar and melodica. I can’t help but feel I’d of liked to of seen her show off a bit given her instrumental talents, but she is a genuine performer and one to keep an eye on if the UK’s new found love of modern folk music continues.
Now on to the main event. I have always maintained that Kasabian are the most testosterone fuelled audience I have ever witnessed. I underestimated and didn’t anticipate just how manly the fan base of Richmond Fontaine would be. I actually caught myself staring at a man for an uncomfortable length of time as I was convinced it was James May of Top Gear fame. Then suddenly everyone looked like they were from Top Gear. Everyone.
Richmond Fontaine have been doing this for years, fifteen of them and ten albums worth to be precise. There is no shuffling, shabby, charming persona from them. They are professional, tight fit band who have crafted their performance to such perfection listening to the album sounds no different to listening to them live.
Tenth album The High Country was played in its entirety. The concept album spins a tale set in a rural logging community in Oregon. Deborah Kelly(pictured), on loan from The Damnations, provides spoken word over the opening track Inventory her sad poetry commanded attention. Her presence balanced out the more balls-out, bare faced country tracks.
My most surreal moment coming from Willy Vlautin’s introduction to The Meeting On The Logging Road as a song he penned “about a dream where Bing Crosby was doing cocaine on his table and asked him to write a song that he could actually sing”.
The genre of the songs rollercoaster from beatnik spoken word to cowboy blues, folk to grunge. All tracks on the concept album weave a tale of depression, a nowhere and no way out town, violence, bleakness.
Given this it doesn’t allow for a particularly uplifting, euphoric live experience but they cast their magic over an adoring fan base who stood trance like and adoring through the whole set.
I suspect they can do no wrong in their eyes.