Fortuna Pop Winter Sprinter Series: London – live review

Fortuna Pop Winter Sprinter Series
The Lexington, London
January 9th and 11th, 2013

The Winter Sprinter has been a fixture on London’s indie pop scene for quite a few years, started by Track and Field organisation, both a label and club night at The Betsey Trotwood pub in Faringdon. A few years ago, Fortuna Pop, a label with a kind of sibling relationship to Track and Field restarted the run of gigs every January and this year’s has been the biggest yet with four consecutive nights at Islington’s Lexington. The night’s have showcased both the great array of bands on the label and support bands who they are fans of as well.

I caught two of the gigs starting with French siblings Herman Dune (Jan. 9th). Are David and Néman Herman Dune actually related? I’m not sure, perhaps only spiritually – brothers from other mothers (and fathers) and they work well tonight with just a stripped down guitar/vocal and drums pairing. Simple songs with major themes is what Herman Dune do best and they have been a pretty prolific band with something like ten records on several labels.

A huge Bob Dylan fan, David follows his hero in going for lyrical brilliance if not vocal dynamism. The songs have a gorgeous symmetry to them and are lovingly crafted. They even included chord sheets for each song in a version of most recent LP ‘Strange Moosic’. We get a slightly slowed down version of ‘The Rock’ from the record and also the brilliant single ‘Tell Me Something I Don’t Know’. You may recall it’s video featuring actor Jon Hamm and a skateboarding blue yeti?

David tell’s us of his trip to William Blake’s grave before going into ‘Holding a Monument’ and in one song drummer Néman hits his kit so hard that his watch falls off. There’s no half measures with Herman Dune, even if they at times seem loose, they are always elegant and deliberate, the Dimitar Berbatov of indie pop. They reinterpret their songs slightly differently from the records and even sometimes from one concert to another, not quite Dylan at Budokan but still keeping things varied for themselves and their audience. Along with a real mix of tracks from the bands career, we get an encore of Lou Reed/VU’s ‘Pale Blue Eyes’.

 

Before going on to talk about Comet Gain (January 11th) I should give some honourable mentions too the electrifying and energetic Joanna Gruesome who are loud, brash , fresh and just a real joy. A young band playing new songs for the first time, you can tell they are enjoying themselves and really letting rip. Make sure you see them on tour later this year and look out for their forthcoming debut LP on Fortuna Pop.

Milky Wimpshake were a bit of a revelation. With lyrics both witty and lovelorn and gorgeously chiming and precise guitar lines and crunchy riffs , incredibly tight and punchy bass and drum rhythms there’s nothing not to love about this band who have a new LP on the way and three already out for you to get hold of.

Now, A record is not just a record; records can hold memories – As Allo Darlin’ probably sang at their Winter Sprinter gig this week, I don’t know, I wasn’t there. But its true, we all know its true. And people tend to fall in love with a band at a certain time and a certain record. I bought Comet Gain’s ‘Tigertown Pictures’ at a gig in Oxford about 13 years ago, probably from Sean Price, the El-Presidente of the Fortuna Pop label. It’ll probably always be my favourite of the band’s albums, although I have a huge liking for most recent LP ‘The Howl of The Lonely Crowd’ or which we sadly only get one song this evening.

But I’ve got a problem. And it’s all your fault. You and Walt Disney and Blur. You expect to be entertained. You want to buy a gig ticket and want it to be how you imagined, you want certain songs to be played like they are on record, living up to your expectations, getting your money’s worth. Well that’s fucking horse shit. If that’s what you want then stick to Orange Wednesdays and leave rock ’n’ roll alone.

A really annoying boy and girl in the audience are very keen on hearing a particular Comet Gain song tonight. And they won’t bloody shut up about it. Once was enthusiastic but it descends into ridiculous drunken heckling. But Comet Gain main man, David Christian, always self-effacing on stage anyway, rolls with the punches. Pulling a non-existant mobile phone from his inside pocket he makes a mock phone call to a Mr. Jagger. “Right. So you’d use those words exactly. OK.” To the vocal member of the crowd: “Why don’t you fuck off and go and watch the Beatles”. Our heckler is clearly pining for the 90’s, albeit in the most needlessly repetitive and stupid way possible. But Comet Gain are a band that capture those emotions (nostalgia, lost years and loves) in song. We get some real nuggets in the set tonight including stone cold classic ‘You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever’.

 

“We’re about to go and record in a couple of weeks,” says David. “We’re going to record 9 albums and release them on the same day in different towns. The songs are going to be about mix tapes, how melancholy is great and stripey t-shirts….So get to Dresden on November the 12th and you’ll be in for a treat.” If this were true it would be worth the trip as Comet Gain albums are always bloody terrific.

Consistent doesn’t sound like much of a compliment does it? But each record has a kind of timeless quality about it and without knowing you might struggle to decipher the order their back catologue were made. As ever, this gig wasn’t quite what I expected, but then who gives a shit about my expectations? Not even me. Let’s just hope Comet Gain play many more.

The same can’t be said for some of their label mates. The new year has so far been a bit of a time for band break ups with Standard Fare and Shrag both deciding to call time on their groups. They both have one more gig each so keep your eye balls sliced for those.

Herman Dune can be found on Facebook and Comet Gain have a Facebook page as well (sort of).

Words by Willow Colios. More writing by Willow on Louder Than War can be found here.

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