Sunday, November 02, 2008
There is such an air of collective camaraderie and positivity among the mingling crowd tonight that it’s hard not to think the impression is at least partly due to the band that people are here to see. Even an hour after the curtains swing shut, people are still in animated conversation and mingling in a warm, friendly and unpretentious way that can’t help but remind you of the music and the community that birthed it.
Over the last year Skipping Girl Vinegar have gone from a band with a catchy – but not annoying - song on JJJ (One Chance), into quietly turning down six-figure advances from major labels, putting an astonishing level of attention to detail into their inescapable merchandising, and slowly but surely acquiring a fanbase who seem as excited as SGV’s Mark Lang does about tonight’s show.
‘I’ve had four years of holding onto it,’ he says clearly elated. ‘I’ve got to let it out.’ And let it out he does. We get stories, explanations, insights into his darker times as well as the rousing, driving indie-country anthems that the band seem to write in their sleep. Interestingly, we get the mid-gig confession from his bass-playing sister Sare that sleepless nights were had over the thickness of the drawstring of the library bag that houses the Sift The Noise CD we’re seeing launched tonight. ‘It’s great!’ shouts someone reassuringly. ‘It is now!’ he replies.
After screening the two gorgeously animated videos for One Chance and new release Sift The Noise (which neatly join to tell a story), the band walk on to the ivy-clad stage and take their places side by side along the front, amidst paper owls and before the projected visuals of a moon hovering over a windowsill. It’s a damn impressive sight. Kicking off with Wandered, a highlight of the Sift The Noise album, the band instantly fall into their effortless easy style, one that betrays tight-knit and long-standing friendships, giving the songs an extra glow, much like the light in drummer Chris Helm’s bass drum.
Bringing in The Ramblin’ Hobos (horn section, second keyboard, violin and banjo) to help out on Sift The Noise and Sinking creates a sound as full as the venue and a wave it’s hard not to be swept up in. The arrangements work brilliantly, for the delicate I Drove For Miles and set-closing eulogy The Passing especially. Though not quite silencing the chattering in the crowds, they cast a spell that in another venue would be followed with deep exhalations. Wasted, a song about getting drunk and seeing bands at The Corner gets the requisite big whoop of approval and shows that, when they want to, this band can ‘do’ rock. That they choose to close with quieter, more intimate songs is telling. If the badges, tote bags, library-cards in the CDs with the signatures of those involved listed (which the owner is to add their name to), posters and music is anything to go by, Skipping Girl Vinegar may use the same instruments as other bands, but they’re in a carefully created and alluring league of their own.