Yes, yes, this is extremely late. Again. I never promised this would be a up-to-the-minute, breaking news, stop-the-presses kind of blog. But hey, better late than never so they say…
After several good gigs towards the end of last year I was looking forward to keeping up the momentum with some good live music in 2011. However despite scouring the listings there was nothing particularly appealing. Well there were a couple of bands that I had heard good things about and if I had been younger, free-er and singler I would probably have gone to check out, but as things are I get so few opportunities to go out that I want to make sure I have a good chance of liking what I hear. Anyway, on 16th April I finally went to my first gig of the year. It came in the shape of Frightened Rabbit and was part of Record Store Day. I won’t go too much into Record Store Day here now cos I may well do a separate entry on that.
In any case Frightened Rabbit deserve an entry all to themselves. I remember hearing about them a few years ago, and hearing they were from Selkirk. Now I was surprised that anything came out of Selkirk. To explain, my husband comes from Selkirk, so I have spent a fair amount of time there. It doesn’t seem like the kind of place that is a hotbed of creativity but apparently one bunch of guys managed to find some guitars and drums and the resulting sound was pretty convincing. So back all those 3 or 4 years ago that seems like forever ago, I listened to Frightened Rabbit on MySpace and downloaded a couple of their tracks, but I never got round to getting their album and kind of forgot ab9ut them.
Then I got acquainted with Susie, who is the uber-FR fan. She reminded me that I actually quite liked them, and she persuaded me to buy one of their albums. I’m glad I did because I was instantly taken back to that initial feeling of being pleasantly surprised at how good they were. Frightened Rabbit are hard to describe. They are Scottish, that is plain in the music and lyrics, more so than other Scottish bands like Franz Ferdinand, but not annoyingly so like The Proclaimers. They do raw, strong, in-your-face kind of songs, but with delicious melodies and understated accompaniments. The vocals are prominent and just gravely enough to be interesting and worldly. They are the kind of songs you get drawn into, it’s not background music, you are compelled to listen and give them your full attention. I immediately wanted to see them live, but they finished a big tour at the end of last year so I figured I’d be in for a wait. But then Susie told me that they’d be taking part in Record Store Day in Glasgow.
The bonus was that RSD gigs are free – but of course that meant that every man and his dog wanted to get in and the venue, Mono, is pretty much a cafe / bar with a tiny stage in the corner. Luckily Susie the uber-fan had been camped out there for several hours before FR were due to go on and had saved a prime spot just in front of the stage.
I went to the bar and when I finally made my way back there was a bunch of hairy guys setting up the stage. Susie informed me this was the band. I had no idea what they looked like. They are hairy. They were all sporting beards and looked like a group of roadies. Although never one to be swayed by appearances with regards to people, I did note that they all used Fender guitars so they were all right in my book.
I was a bit worried that I wouldn’t know many of the songs, cos I only have the 1 album (The Midnight Organ Fight), and FR have released 3. I didn’t want to be one of those annoying people who only knows the hits and sings enthusiastically along to those while looking bored during the rest of the set. Especially since we were pretty much right at the front and the stage was so close we could practically see Scott’s nose hair. But my fears were unfounded as the set consisted mostly of songs from The Midnight Organ Fight and those that weren’t were the same compelling, beautiful but gut-churningly raw songs with choruses that you could kind of join in with anyway.
The crowd were amazing, Frightened Rabbit really do have loyal fans, the kind of fans that have been with them from the very beginning and know the lyrics of the songs better than the lead singer. Scott said they didn’t have a planned setlist, that they would take requests, but the crowd were requesting some of their early back catalogue and at first Scott said he wouldn’t play them because he wasn’t sure of the words, but the fans were insistent and he eventually gave in. FR are nothing if not a fans’ band.
I have to mention the swearing. The lyrics are strewn with swear words, and those weren’t toned down at all on the day, despite the fact that there was a bunch of kids running around the place. I don’t see why they should have, mind you, anyone who knows FR must know about the swearing, so if you take your kids to one of their gigs you know what they are going to hear. Anyway, I love how the swearing is just an integral part of the FR experience, it comes so naturally that it doesn’t seem out of place at all in the flow of the lyrics. I imagine this is how Scott talks normally. It isn’t gratuitous or crowbarred in for shock effect, it is just part of the narrative that they are telling. Of course the crowd took particular delight in singing those lines extra loudly.
After the gig the band made a hasty exit, but it turned out they had just gone out the front door, so we wandered out after them. Susie the uber-fan caught hold of Andy (guitarist, her favourite) so I had a quick chat to him, he was a lovely guy, happy to speak to us all and pose for photos with some other fans. I kind of forgot to ask about getting a photo myself.
So all in all the first gig of 2011 may have been a long time coming, but it was worth the wait, Frightened Rabbit are an excellent live band, I shall be signing up to see them do a “proper” gig as soon as they tour again, and I’ll definitely be buying their other albums. And you should too!