Dry The River / Arcane Roots / Goodnight Lenin – Komedia, Bath
Wednesday 31st October 2012
There’s a great film called Goodbye Lenin! set in Berlin in which a loyal Communist Party worker falls into a coma. By the time she’s woken up ten years later, Communism has been dismantled along with the Berlin Wall. Her family, aghast at what effect this terrible news may have on her, take the only logical route open to them.
They pretend the Communists are still in power. They get all the old traditional East German tinned food brands in, and get an old Moskvitch car, and play videos of East German television to her so she doesn’t have to go through the potentially fatal stress of realising how much things have changed.
The opening band tonight, Goodnight Lenin, take their name from this film, and this is entirely appropriate for a band who wear their folky, early 70s hearts on their cheesecloth sleeves.
If the late great Sandy Denny had merely fallen into a coma after her fall in the seventies, and then come round now, she would recognise Goodnight Lenin as the inheritors of the seventies folk-rock trail, blazed by Denny’s band Fairport Convention. Come to think of it, you could also tell her truthfully that Fairport were still going.
This is in no way a criticism – Goodnight Lenin are great. Funny how bands that take their cue from the sixties are regarded as cooler than bands who do the same with the early seventies – it ain’t necessarily so.
The evil forces that surround Bath, its one-way systems and its Stepford Wives vibe are powerful enough at the best of times, but tonight is Hallowe’en and it is particularly difficult to find a parking space.
So I miss the first half of Goodnight Lenin’s set, but see enough to download the new single
Definitely a band to watch – they’re on tour all over the place in their own right in November.
The second band on is Arcane Roots of which I have to say this
Then its Dry The River time. I was really looking forward to seeing this band, and there are so many things to love about them. The violin flourishes. The astonishing harmonies – ragged, discordant yet rich, reminiscent of The Byrds or even The Band. The bass player mops his hairy brow with a towl and makes a joke about the Turin shroud which goes down about as well as Donald Trump’s daughter bringing Chris Rock home. It’s Bath, mate. Its weird.
There’s this nagging doubt in my head though that they really really want to be Stadium, and they’ve decided the best way to do it is to do That Rocking Out ending that landfill indie bands like Kasabian and White Lies do. On every song.
Guys – enough. This is not where your strengths lie. After the fourth or fifth one droned on for an age, it became clear this was akin to the end of a football match where a team is winning 4-3, we are playing stoppage time and they are keeping the ball close to the corner flag to wind down the clock. It mars every song they do it on, which is a damn shame cos the songs are all good.
A word about the acoustics at the Komedia. Superb. From the balcony you often get distortion but not this evening. Well done, sound-man. Or woman.
And this is demonstrated beautifully by Dry The River’s fabulous encore, which instantly wipes out any cock-rocking that may have occurred earlier.
They seem genuinely surprised and made up that they’ve been called back for an encore, and they do something brave and different. They descend into what would be the mosh pit in a livelier town, and play a beautifully balanced acoustic song – hell, its practically a cappella. Once the crowd shushes up, and once the air conditioning is turned down, its a magical moment. I wish they’d do more of the quieter stuff.
Excellent evening. I walk back to the car past hordes of freezing, sodden students dressed as monks, butchers and nurses. There is a group of about 20 girls in slutty costumes and umbrellas belting out Oasis’s Wonderwall. Hey, maybe Bath has a soul after all.