Reviews of recent Field Music gigs always seem to start on one observation. David Brewis is manning the merch stand! The inference is that the Brewis brothers and their band members are somehow only taking to the stage on the way to a food bank. To me, band members being jacks of all trades is an increasingly common sight, and no longer surprising, but the hyperbole of some reviewers does highlight an increasingly urgent issue in the music industry.
The return on talent invested does not seem to be an equitable ratio for many bands on the live circuit. I’m simultaneously surprised and encouraged at how they stick at it. I’m grateful for this because it seem that a lot of my favourite bands inhabit a BBC 6 Music twilight zone, from which very few seem to escape. Although accounting for taste is important, this is to me an indictment of the listening and music buying public. Shame on them, and more fool them, because they miss out on some truly wonderful musical experiences.
For Field Music in particular I have been missing out, but for different reasons. For the past 14 years or so the band and I have managed to avoid one another from the live gig perspective. Nothing deliberate; the opportunity never arose until now. I have all their recorded stuff: as Field Music, as Peter and David Brewis solo works and collaborations, and even works by people they have produced. They are the kind of musician who carry a bottle of Field Music mixture around with them and spray it over anything they touch. I also like watching their sessions on Youtube, KEXP, Jools Holland etc, so I was excited at the prospect of seeing them in the flesh.
Typically I, along with the couple of hundred others, had to wait that bit longer as the sound check unearthed a serious technical issue. There was a bit of a committee meeting among band members, a bit of head scratching, some fiddling around with leads and pedals and that was it sorted. No hystrionics, no panic, and no roadies.
That sense of calm is what comes onto the stage. On the face of it the brothers’ frequent swapping of drumming and guitar roles creates a feeling of mild chaos but it’s all under control and they clearly enjoy what they do. Every now and then one band member will catch the other’s eye and they have a good giggle as if there is some ongoing private joke at play.
To me this where the live talent bit comes in. These guys write intricate and complex songs, the music sometimes bordering on avant garde, other times pure pop. It’s one thing to put it all together in a studio, but playing it all live has to be another thing entirely. Tonight it was tremendous; better than I expected even.
Also better than I expected was Mary Epworth and her band who, in baseball parlance, threw a curve ball by being rather more than any of her material that I found prior to this gig would promise. Rather than the folky, acoustic stuff or low key psych pop that makes up most of her Youtube presence, she and her band came on like Little Boots meets Kristeen Young. Highly percussion oriented, the front three players looked to be fiddling around with things on hospital meal trays, helped out by drums and sax; all dressed in robes with huge silver designs. The opening couple of tunes seemed neither here nor there to the audience, although the prominent bass and drums set the scene. They livened up as things suddenly took a heavily experimental and much more interesting turn. This was so different from what I expected. that I have had to check subsequently that there are not more than one Mary Epworth. Weirdly, there isn’t, so it would appear the band should really be seen live.
For Field Music new material from Open Here formed a good proportion of the set, opening with Time In Joy, but there was plenty of room for the “hits” like Them That Do Nothing, or (I Keep Thinking About) A New Thing. The set seemed over in a flash. But reviewing my list they played a good few numbers and they were persuaded to do an extra song It’s Not The Only Way To Feel Happy from their eponymous debut.
I really enjoyed them but as usual I got to thinking, what do a band like Field Music do for the best? In this era where superficiality seems valued more than substance, depth and, dare I say, talent, the cottage industry that is indie continues to produce marvellous bands, and even more marvellous music. But it seems like awfully hard work.
Field Music Set list
Time In Joy
Them That Do Nothing
Count It Up
A House Is Not A Home
Let’s Write A Book
Checking On A Message
The Noisy Days Are Over
Share A Pillow
No King No Princess
How Many More Times?
Just Like Everyone Else
(I Keep Thinking About) A New Thing
It’s Not The Only Way To Feel Happy
Review: Ian Gelling
The new album by Field Music, Open Here, is available on transparent 180g vinyl, CD and cassette from www.field-music.co.uk. Go and buy it!
There are some dates left on the Field Music tour:
22 Mar, Liverpool, Arts Club
23 Mar, Sheffield, Foundry
24 Mar, Norwich, The Waterfront
25 May, London, Barbican with the Open Here Orchestra
Go and see them – you will feel better for it!