Saturday, 11 September 2010

Bookhouse Boys at Camden Barfly -09 September 2010

The Bookhouse Boys by Tim Broddin

Camden seems to have fallen on hard times. It was always scuzzy and a bit lairy, but it used to be culturally vibrant. Now that the more cutting edge elements of the music scene have decamped en masse to Shoreditch, Camden is left tawdry and neglected, a feeling of desolation and desperation about the place.

The Barfly is a case in point. Its walls used to be covered with details of hot and exciting bands that were down to play the venue. Nowadays it’s like an old dog waiting to be put down. This evening everything is plastered with flyers for the new Runaways movie, and a claim is made that there are ‘three girl-fronted bands’ on as a tribute. I know who’s on, and to tie them into this rather strains credulity.

Leading off are Evans The Death, a four piece who are merely the first of the acts tonight who are severely hampered by an atrocious sound mix in which only bass guitar and drums are clearly audible. Under these circumstances it is perhaps politic to just say that the band does their best.

Two-girl-one-boy trio Bleech play a very surreal set in front of a wall of more than half a dozen photographers, who stand happily snapping for the whole of the band’s time on stage. It’s a bloody camera club outing.

With this barrier between them and their audience, and coupled with the bass-heavy sound it feels like they are playing behind a Perspex wall.

Even at the best of times Bleech are a band who are frustratingly close to being really good, but fall somehow short because their songs just don’t stick with you. Tonight, they are on a hiding to nothing.

Headliners The Bookhouse Boys have been off the touring circuit for quite a while, taking time out to prepare a new batch of songs. Tonight we get a first glimpse of the fruits of their labour.

This performance is so dedicated to the new material, that they only play a couple of tracks that I recognise, these being the great ‘I Just Can’t Help Myself’ and ‘Dead’

The unheard songs all sound like potential winners – aching, yearning, Tex-Mex twangers that give plenty of opportunity for Paul van Oestren’s growl and Catherine Turner’s atmospheric, heartfelt wail. The Tijuana trumpets are still well to the fore and cut through the muddy murk from the mixing desk.

In many ways it has been a disappointing evening – none of the bands have been done any favours, all will have better nights.

But, I’m always an optimist and am glad to find that The Bookhouse Boys seem to be going from strength to strength.

As the night draws to a close, I take a last look at the venue and, in keeping with tonight’s er…’theme’, I runaway.

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