Brakes - Rotown 3/11/05

Tom White's guitar takes enormous liberties and slides around in some tracks, especially All Night Disco Party.


"Look everyone, it'd help us a lot if you came and stood a bit closer to the stage". There are about forty people in Rotown, mostly congregated round the bar or the window seats, far away from the small stage Brakes are performing on. This might well be a warm-up gig for the high profile London Calling the following night, but Brakes, you feel, like their gigs to be full of atmosphere. After all, their songs are intensely personal, very committed and written to be noticed by an audience, despite some of these songs being extremely short in length.


Incendiary saw Brakes earlier in the summer on their maiden Dutch tour. Back then they were more hesitant, much more precise, and doggedly faithful to the recorded versions of their songs off the LP Give Blood. Obviously the constant touring is testing the structure of these tracks. They've certainly been put through their paces, and consequently the Brakes sound has become somewhat "loose, maan"...


The songs are, at times, treated in an almost cavalier fashion, Tom White's guitar takes enormous liberties and slides around in some tracks, especially All Night Disco Party. Indeed, this evening's version of Disco Party is speeded up, almost to a late seventies disco tempo. Other tracks, most notably a sinewy I Can't Stand To Stand Beside You are lengthened, changing pace mid-song. This slap-dashery actually helps. Eamon fairly roars the lyrics out and there's certainly a lot more thunder about their performance than in the summer.


Boring gits like me have also noticed that the set list has sorted itself out. The opener is Hi How Are You and the track, quite naturally the seven second Comma Comma Full Stop; this evening played three times in succession, each re-take louder and more hare-brained than the last. A cracking version of Jackson gets an airing, as does the beautiful Tabitha, a hidden gem that never gets enough live time.


Six months ago, Brakes were being classed (in Holland at any rate) as another British guitar band, bizarrely being dumped in a bargain box with the Rakes and Maximo Park by some (rather less perceptive) magazine writers. It is increasingly noticeable that they are aligning themselves more and more with their spiritual fore-bearers Guided By Voices and Camper Van Beethoven. Hell, they even manage to slip in Shut Us Down from the CVB 3 album into their set. It's a road I hope they explore, to be honest. The gig was over (as all Brakes gigs are) all too soon, but at least most of the bar loungers had been impressed enough to wander over to watch them. A toughie for the band, but they did it in style.


Luckily for all the absentees, Brakes were on pretty blistering form the following night at London Calling. However the Rotown gig was one of those special, private affairs that bring band and fan that little bit closer together.


Words: Richard Foster.