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Live Review: Teenage Fanclub and the Vaselines with the Radar Brothers at 9:30 Club, Washington DC – 2nd October 2010

By on Thursday, 7th October 2010 at 2:00 pm

I don’t know too much about Scottish popular music. The only Scottish band’s album I have knowingly purchased was Camera Obscura’s ‘My Maudlin Career’ last year. When Teenage Fanclub announced a tour of North America was starting in Washington, I decided it was in my best interest to see these elder statesmen of guitar-driven twee pop. (Also on my mind was the reverence for Teenage Fanclub that Brighton’s Brakes related to me when I met them last autumn.) Co-headlining with the Club were the Vaselines (pictured above), who I knew nothing about, save their recent single ‘Sex with an X’ (also the title of their latest album) that Lammo enjoys playing on his 6music programme. Surely one good pop song means they can write others, yes?

A mate described opening band the Radar Brothers as ‘Americana’. To be honest, I have no idea what that label means, except that maybe it indicates low-key, slightly country rock. It’s not my thing. But it’s mellow, enjoyable and wearing plaid, not super exciting. Lead singer / guitarist Jim Putnam tried to be funny, telling everyone, “we have some stuff on sale over there,” pointing to the merch table. “Lots of black market stuff!” Laughter. I was a little confused at one point in their set when womens’ voices seem to come out of nowhere (well, I know they were coming out of the speakers, but I didn’t see any synths onstage, so I’m not sure how they cued the backing tracks up), and this addition seemed out of place to me.

I expected the Vaselines to proffer plenty of great pop tunes and they certainly delivered. It’s hard to write a good, punchy, short pop song, and the Vaselines are very good at this. Never wearing out their welcome with effective guitar driven melodies and the gorgeous duetting of Frances McKee and Eugene Kelly, they sounded and looked great. Forget that they started the band in 1986. They’re just as valid as any other band out there today trying to make pop music.

Songs like ‘Jesus Doesn’t Want Me for a Sunbeam’ showcased their somewhat softer side, while ‘No Hope’ and ‘Ruined’ highlighted the fact that this is a guitar band capable of being a great guitar band. Don’t discount the Vaselines, they know how to rock. They also know how to tell dirty jokes(there was a continuing joke about wanking throughout the entire set) and poke fun at each other. A punter asked McKee what kind of guitar she played, and she replied, “Hagstrom”. Kelly quipped, “because it’s a hag that strums a guitar”. Ooh, snap!

Teenage Fanclub was really the reason I made the trip to the 9:30 Saturday night. (It was my fifth gig in a week after returning from my Philly/Boston trip, so I was running on empty pretty much by this time.) I hate to say it but after the Vaselines, there was really no way they could compete. It’s funny to me that Wikipedia lists Teenage Fanclub as ‘a Scottish alternative rock band’ and the Vaselines as “a Scottish pop band’ when the Vaselines definitely showed a rockier, harder edge than Teenage Fanclub did.

To be honest, I was getting bored with the extended outros that reminds you of the Grateful Dead. After people ‘lit up’ for the Temper Trap in Philadelphia the previous Sunday, I’m really surprised no one lit a spliff for this show. They do have some gorgeous numbers – ‘When I Still Have Thee’ off their current album, ‘Shadows’, for one is amazing – and their musicianship is great, so it was a good but not extraordinary performance.

More photos and set lists after the cut.

Continue reading Live Review: Teenage Fanclub and the Vaselines with the Radar Brothers at 9:30 Club, Washington DC – 2nd October 2010


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