Live Review: Field Music with the Spinto Band and the Mugs at the Bell House, Brooklyn – 30 January 2010

By on Monday, 1st February 2010 at 12:00 pm

Located in a slightly run down industrial area of Brooklyn, there’s not much about the Bell House from the outside to recommend it. Once you get inside, however, the venue is fabulous. There’s a cozy bar with very friendly servers open from 5pm, which is convenient if you’re mental like me and like to show up hours early for gigs. Inside the performance space, which is built in a converted 1920s warehouse, there are “25-foot wooden arched ceilings, a 450-square foot stage, and unobstructed views from any part of the room.” Three large chandeliers light the room between acts, and their playlist was fantastic (Phoenix, Yeasayer, Field Music, Fleet Foxes, the Beatles and Travis, to name a few). Although this was my first visit to the Bell House, I’m fairly sure that it would be impossible to have a bad gig experience there, and that was certainly true of the phenomenal Field Music show on Saturday night.

The first of two openers, the Mugs, are a local band who according to the barman play at Bell House so often they’re practically the house band. Featuring great harmonies and driving beats, this four-piece was very energetic, dancing around on stage through most of their songs, and had the crowd moving with them as well. A couple of highlights for me were the guitar breakdown in their third song and the song later in their set where the singer brought out a megaphone. Although the venue wasn’t packed yet and the crowd mostly hung back from the stage, they seemed to have a strong local following.  By the end of their short 30-minute set the crowd was yelling for an encore. While they sound much better live than they do in recordings, the Mugs are definitely worth a listen.

Second opener, the Spinto Band, came all the way from Wilmington, Delaware, for this gig, their first of the year. The band’s six members contributed to their rich, full sound. In all, they boast 3 guitarists (1 acoustic, 2 electric), a bassist, a drummer and a keyboardist. Their set was full of energy from start to finish, and their music was very dance-y.  While they definitely sounded like a modern indie band, something about their sound, most likely their harmonies combined with “oohs” and “aahs” and hand claps, reminded me of an earlier era. They made their set even more fun with the addition of the ukulele and the kazoo on a couple of songs. The only minor complaint I can make about their set is that it was sometimes hard to hear the vocals above the music, but overall they were a great opener, and they got the crowd energized before Field Music took the stage.

But of course the real highlight of the night was Sunderland band Field Music. They were originally scheduled to perform here in late November, but they had to reschedule because David came down with flu-like symptoms in the middle of the swine flu pandemic. They flew all the way from England (and returned the next day!) for this one-off gig because they felt they owed it to the fans and to Skippy, the venue’s booker, on whose birthday they were supposed to play in November.

In an industry that’s rife with gimmicks and auto-tuning, it was very refreshing to see the real thing: four men sitting down at their instruments to play their own distinctive style of pop music. Saying “we’re not very good at jokes,” they let the music do the talking, with just a short “thank you very much, indeed!” between songs.

Their set was a mix of about half “classic” Field Music songs from before their hiatus in 2007 and half tracks from their new album, ‘Field Music (Measure),’ due out in the UK on 15th February and in the US on 16th February. While the two live-only members, Kev and Ian, stayed on the guitar, keyboard and bass throughout the show, David and Peter Brewis rotated every couple of songs between drums, guitar and keyboards, with David even coming up front for a few songs from his side project, School of Language. The Brewises  later admitted to me in an interview that they’re terrified of playing the new songs live and are more comfortable with the others, but they seemed to have a great time playing them and they sounded fantastic. It’s a testament to both their performance abilities and the brilliance of their new material that the audience was just as into the new songs as they were their old favorites. The band’s signature complicated rhythms and intricate sound were somehow even better live than they are on the albums. For two men who have a very clear vision for their sound and control every step of the recording process themselves, it’s great that they’ve been able to find two men to play in their live band that can both fulfill their vision of the songs and add a little something special on top.

This was one of the best gigs I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been to quite a few, so I’m begging you, if you get the chance to see Field Music, then by all means, take it!

After the jump: set list and photos.

For more Field Music goodness, keep your eyes on TGTF over the next couple of weeks. We’ll have an interview with David and Peter Brewis, as well as a review of the new double album, ‘Field Music (Measure)’.

Field Music will be embarking on a three-week tour of the UK and Ireland starting on 15 February 2010 in London. Visit their myspace page to see if they’re playing near you.

Field Music Set List
Give It Lose It Take It
A House Is Not A Home
You Can Decide
Shorter Shorter
Clear Water**
Each Time Is A New Time**
Keep Your Water*
A Gap Has Appeared
If Only the Moon Were Up
Them That Do Nothing**
All You’d Ever Need to Say**
Something Familiar**
Share The Words**
Extended Holiday*
Tell Me Keep Me

Encore: Tones of Town

*School of Language track
**New track off of “Field Music (Measure)”

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[…] from Washington, DC, and had the privilege of interviewing them after the show (check out the TGTF review). Apologies in advance for the slightly shambolic nature of parts of the interview. We were in a […]

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

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