High and Lonesome Saturday @ The Brudenell Social Club

Posted by vibrations on 27-11-16

As a fan of the Netflix eighties retro sensation Stranger Things, I have now declared that Saturday is a time for ‘coffee and contemplation’. However, being a father, I have realised that this is not always possible, so sometimes the coffee and contemplation takes place during Saturday evening, only the coffee is more often beer. So it is with contemplation and beer in mind that I approach High and Lonesome.

I manage to get there in time for Steve Gunn, softly spoken Brooklyn based singer songwriter and former Violator with Kurt Vile, who is playing the main room to a timid group. “Come closer,” he says, “I’m feeling a little lonesome up here.” High and Lonesome. Sorry. His songs are a curious mix of Midlake mellowness, radio friendly riffage and country and… sorry, Americana, with poignant Camberwick Green folkery and melancholic pauses spiralling off into extended guitar solos, which gives him the feel of a Dire Straits for a new generation, which I’m not saying is a bad thing. There is a familiarity in it that lures you in and makes you feel… nostalgic. Neo nostalgia. Yeah. That’s what it is.

Wakefieldians Mi Mye always surprise me. They are cheery, yet sombre, intimate yet anthemic, despairing yet hopeful. Jamie Lockhart, alternating between fiddle, soul scorching lyrics and abandoned guitar, is a humble yet amiable host, and the set is an exercise in how to make epic yet modest songs – an Arcade Fire without the hype or a Bon Iver without the 6music over-exposure. Good to see I still can’t pin them down.

It’s hard to believe that I Like Trains have not played Leeds in three years, but if you’ve seen the film (I really advise that you see the film) you’ll understand that they have been a bit busy. Regardless of whether it has been three years or not, the moment they open up it is clear to see that they have not diminished in any way at all, and with five new tracks in the set list it has not all been about building empires and families over the last three years. The favourites are there, with ‘Rook House’, ‘Terra Nova’, ‘A Father’s Son’ and ‘Mnemosyne’ being played with epic passion and sincerity, but the new track possess a darkness, fury and venom not seen in I Like Trains before, with Dave Martin screaming into the microphone at one point – it is quite a shock – and intoning menacingly into the microphone at other times. This new ‘Trains is an angry ‘Trains, a more post-punk than post-rock ‘Trains… I might even say… goth. And it’s a really good thing. When they close with ‘Sea of Regrets’, though it is a shortened set, it is a show with everything but regrets. I Like Trains are more than a middle band, more than a local band, they are a unique phenomenon. Now, let’s not leave it for three years next time, okay?

Robert Wright