Pete Fij / Terry Bickers, I Am Ampersand: The Tin, Coventry – Live Review
The Tin, Coventry
July 23rd 2014
After releasing what Louder Than War described as ‘one of the most captivating albums of this year’ Pete Fij of Adorable and Polak and Terry Bickers of The House of Love and Levitation have taken their maudlin beautiful songs out on the road. Louder Than War’s Adrian Bloxham was at the Coventry date, read his review below.
It’s a Wednesday night in Coventry. There’s been a bit of a buzz about this one. Pete out of Adorable is playing Coventry for the first time in twenty years with Terry Bickers, him out of the House of Love with, as one of my friends has stated, the best guitarist’s arms ever. People have been asking if you are going and talking about the album, a gentle maudlin classic in the making.
The venue has tables out with tea lights flickering and a chilled out vibe coming from the DJ. Again an old Coventry face from a long gone club where most of the people here would have cut their indie teeth. There are faces dotted about to say hello to and to nod to and to pretend you haven’t seen… It’s an event.
I Am Ampersand is dressed in a buttoned up to the neck red shirt and baseball hat, he looks awkward and out of place as he sets up, but when he is joined by Alison for the first three songs they fill the place with Folky Harmonies reminiscent of the Mid West US. Their first song is an Everly Brothers track. It feels like something from long ago, strangely lost in time. It’s laid back, gentle feeling music, when he makes a mistake with the samples and then forgetting to sing at the start of one song it just makes the show even more human and intimate. The sprinkle of Ennio Morricone works brilliantly and the set ends with a John Cale cover that he says most people hate but he likes.
Pete Fij and Terry Bickers play a sound that is reminiscent of the Velvet Underground album after John Cale had left, the Bad Seeds at their most gentle and remorseful but with a dose of black humour and style all their own. You can see that the two of them are friends and are enjoying telling us just how sad these songs are. There are lots of smiles between songs. The feeling is of regret and sadness, a sense of growing up and having to face up to life in all its perfect detail. Generally feeling quite low a lot of the time but still keeping going.
Pete’s guitar strumming is the backbone to the songs and Terry’s guitar gives them an edge; it sharpens and focuses what you listen to. It gives it an edge. Of the two stories that Pete tells about the songs tonight, the one that resonates is the found and rescued Teddy Bear from his childhood that he produces and to his immense enjoyment Terry then uses to play the next song.
The music takes you away. It’s beautiful and sad. It sounds like the Velvets brought up on the streets of a seventies British town. The sound of the Beach Boys lost at sea. It’s one for long nights fuelled by whiskey and thoughts of the past. It’s for those of us struggling to come to terms with the fact that the indie discos are gone, all the bands have split up and with them we had to grow old.
It’s the sound of our youth all grown up and blossomed into something unexpected and wonderful. As Pete sings about love being like a scratched forty five you can see people nodding along, smiling and feeling. A quite wonderful night.
All words by Adrian Bloxham, you can read more on his author archive here.
All pictures by Martin Ward.