Wednesday 29 May 2013

The Besnard Lakes and Sweet Jane at The Garage - 28 May 2013

Besnard Lakes pic by Patrick Kelly

It's probably more than two years since I was last here in the Garage. Initially at least, I am surprised at how sparse the crowd is. However, those who decide to come and give time to the support band are amply rewarded.

What immediately strikes me about Sweet Jane is that I'm unused to watching bands that play anything like a version of traditional 'classic' rock.  Sweet Jane are a well set up five piece from Dublin who evoke the song craft of late period R.E.M. or even Neil Young. This is melodic guitar-led Americana done really well.

Singer/guitarist Danda Paxton has a very pleasing voice and an easy manner. His mighty moustache is a thing of beauty too.

I like Sweet Jane a lot. I enjoy their harmonies and appreciate that they can incorporate guitar solos into their music without derailing their songs.

I have recently been listening again to "Until in Excess, Imperceptible UFO", the latest album from headliners The Besnard Lakes. It is an album of epic vastness and wonder, if a bit low on actual tunes. It will be interesting to see how the band approaches these songs in the live setting.

The immediate answer seems to be an overreliance on the powers of dry ice to convey mystery.

Singer Jace Lacek can occasionally be glimpsed through the fog, either wringing the neck of his guitar or coaxing sounds from a tall keyboard set up. He sings in a falsetto, his voice more a part of the grand sweep of the music than a distinct and separate thing.

When a more traditional voice is required to deliver a song, it is provided by Olga the bassist.

It is ludicrously hot in the venue and the band suffer along with the crowd, often stopping between tracks to mop themselves with towels.

The heat and the dry ice are distancing and damaging, much of the set passing by in a literal blur in which nothing can be distinguished. It makes for an at times dull and uninvolving show.

And yet. For the encore Jace leads the band through a rendition of 'Happy Birthday' for Olga and a friend dressed as Fidel Castro presents her with champagne and a cake. It is a silly, human moment.

This rejuvenates the band. The dry ice mostly clears and we see a cheerful, sweaty group of musicians enjoying themselves whilst making epic music. It's a fine end to the evening and goes a long way towards sending me home a lot happier than I would otherwise have been.

Not a great night, but decent support and a strong finish. I'm not a fan of the Garage though - I've been in saunas that were less oppressive.

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