On The List :: Stornoway @ Union Hall [7.7.10]

Last night, Stornoway were in Brooklyn for their first show in the United States. At home in the UK, they sell out major venues and appear on late night television. Here, they won't sell out Union Hall, a venue that fire codes at 92. Of course, this sets up one of those special moments where an audience sees a band in a milieu that will never exist again; and a band to return to its beginnings, remembering what it felt like the first time someone knew the words to your songs. This band is on its way inexorably up, and the audience are the lucky people to see this arrow just before it takes off.

Sitting at the bar just after 8:30, the Stornoway bassist revealed they would be playing some songs acoustically. "It's such a small room," he continued. "It'll be nice to go unplugged." He returned to his hamburger held by a hand connected to a wrist covered to forearm with old show bracelets, like rings of a tree that stayed out too late. This unplugged promise seemed innocuous, in fact, it was hard to imagine how it would happen.

Stornoway opened with the crushing, "I Saw You Blink" before rolling into the pub shanty, "Fuel Up". The back of the crowd remained far too chatty, the mark of too many industry kids, but this is semantic. Singer Brian Briggs commended so many of us for knowing the words to "I Saw You Blink" and then made some magnanimous criticisms of illegal downloading. Yes, only in America will the people from your label talk through your set, while the people who stole your music sing loudly from the front row.

The set became unforgettable in the final two songs, performed without mikes and without amplification. Briggs' heart-broken vocals soared out over the room, and on the final song, "We Are The Battery Human," he encouraged us to return to our roots, "we were born to be free range, free range," as the audience agreed in unison. After an encore they closed with first single, "Zorbing," a song so light in weight it nearly floated away. Bassist, Oliver Steadman got one of those silly grins as the front rows spun and sung the words. You can travel 3,000 miles and find strangers who love your work; it's weird, but it works. At the end the band disappeared behind a curtain and their fans clapped into the night, glad to have met each other even as cross-directed arrows.

Listen :: Stornoway - "On The Rocks"

No comments: