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REVIEW: Big Thief @ Hope and Ruin, 10/02/2017

The Verse’s Lou Clement tells us about Big Thief and their performance at the Hope and Ruin on Friday 10th February 2017

Big Thief are from Brooklyn, New York. There’s so much on the news about the American political system that I found myself looking at them, and wondering whether they would express any opinions about borders closing. Walls being built. The President’s nepotisms. Thankfully, they don’t. Instead, they are a band full of intense connections and their playing really does make me think that being in a band is a serious undertaking.

Each note seemed carefully eked out in four-piece harmony. They are accepting of each member’s individual playing methods, and whether they want a few extra notes or a solo focus here and there. I might be wrong of course. But there was something concentrated, beautiful and maybe just a little painful to their music.

I came across Big Thief after their reviews hit a high score on Metacritic, and only found out about their Brighton gig a week before they played. I honestly nearly jumped out my chair. They were playing two locations. London, predictably, at the Lexington, a 200-seat capacity venue – and at Brighton’s Hope and Ruin, nestled on one of the main streets leading to the sea. Just above a pub, and with only 150 capacity. It was a Friday night, and a sold-out show.

Though, to be honest the beered-up, bar-hogging folk who thought it was ok to talk loudly through the tracks annoyed me. I might be a Monday-Thursday gig person from now on. The half-cut ramblings of people not interested in the band can be attributed to a ‘Friday-night-out crowd’. This band had travelled a gazillion miles. They had chosen Brighton to play and they were bloody great. There was a lot of genuine fans there, and a bit of very English shushing from the crowd seemed to help quiet the rabble and got a laugh from the band.

I was waiting for them to play Paul. There aren’t many songs I want to learn the lyrics too, but this is one. I felt like I’d had an experience of being a ‘morning bright shadow machine’. And had the realisation that there is ‘no one who can kiss away my shit’. It’s a heartfelt sentiment and delivered with delicacy by vocalist Adrianne Lenker. Lenker has shades of The Cranberries’ Dolores O’Riordan to her, not only because of her shaved close hair do, but because of the way her voice breaks over notes and is full of emotion.

Lenker only said a few words to the crowd. But these included asking us whether we had all seen the sea today and then remarking how lucky we are. She was genuine. I kind of wished the band were from Brighton, so that I might see more of them. Then I could brag: ‘Yes, my town – Big Thief yeah, they’re brilliant aren’t they?’ The other members of the band are Buck Meer on guitar, Max Oleartchik on bass and James Krivchenia on drums.

Brighton has some awesome gigs coming up, this has been the best of 2017 for me, so far.
Big Thief’s debut album Masterpiece was released in 2016, and they continue their international tour in Australia.



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