'Cake is a made up drug.'

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Review #1 - First Aid Kit @ Hamptons (Southampton)

This is my first in hopefully a continuing line of reviews of the local gigs I manage to catch. They'll mainly be Southampton based. Enjoy.

First Aid Kit @ Hamptons – Sunday 7th March 2010

First things first – I can't quite believe these girls were playing on a Sunday night in Hamptons as a free show. It always has a great atmosphere in there – more like a front room than a venue and Sundays are always a pretty relaxed affair, so to see it so completely packed out would have been surprising if I hadn't heard any of First Aid Kit's tracks before hand. I had, however. So I dragged as many people I could muster out with me on the promise it would be a great show - thankfully I wasn't wrong.

A quick scan of their myspace tour list so far might go some way to explaining my shock and delight to see them for free – Bristol SOLD OUT. London SOLD OUT. Brighton SOLD OUT. Then in the next few weeks they're off to the Texas industry event South by Southwest (SxSW) where with a bit of luck they'll get the exposure they dearly deserve. These sisters really do make some lovely noises. So, for whatever reason, Southampton seemed to strike it lucky getting to see them in such an up-close-and-personal venue, and the night started in a suitably sweet and strange fashion.

The band,  Johanna and Klara Söderberg and their tour drummer (who was great but unfortunately I can't remember his name) take to the stage and begin tuning up. After a little while, though, they start to look a little confused - the music in the venue just won't die. So our first few minutes with F.A.K are spent with them shouting at the back of the room in Swedish and speaking into microphones that were silent. Bemused, Klara, explains in her American tinged accent that we're having a few technical hitches, and this thing might have to turn into a play instead. A cigarette's pause later, the room thankfully falls silent and they launch into their first song.

On their myspace page, First Aid Kit describe themselves as Gary Numan if he'd made folk music. This, despite being brilliantly tongue in cheek, is underselling themselves. What initially strikes you, apart from Klara's startlingly powerful and beautiful voice is the old-soul potency of their lyrics. Jesus, they're my age. (EDIT: No they're not, they're younger than me. This is scary.) These are songs that are not just from the heart but speak of pain and worldy-ness that goes beyond hipster folk, the blues tinged breaks in her voice tip them into something else, something for want of a better word, real.

The second song after their fast paced opener is the first I heard from them – 'Hard Believer'. Lines like 'I see you've got your bible/your delusion imagery/I don't need your eternity or meaning to feel free' instantly speak to my inner atheist but when followed up with 'I just live because I love to and that's enough you see/don't preach about morality that's just human sense to me' I fall a little bit in love. In one verse they seem to have summed up my feelings on humanism and religion, and not in a teenage 'fuck you' sort of way, just simply, sweetly and with dignity.

The rest of the night goes off, as much as a folk gig can – the audience a mixture of rapt silence and screaming whooping applause. Highlights include the stand out 'Heavy Storm', and 'Sailor Song', but to be honest the set list has become a bit of a brilliant blur, although little moments stand out clearly: A weirdly charming rant about how great Marks & Spencer (“Maarrxx unt Sparrx”) is; “we're not being sponsored by them, honestly” insists Klara. She has a natural, inbuilt charisma, breaking off now and then to chuckle at themselves ("First Aid Kit - jesus what a name!") or us - a filthy request shouted out in Swedish is met with a simple "Er.. no. I won't do that."

Telling the audience to be real quiet the two come out from behind the microphones and keyboard to play a fully acoustic number ('Winter is All Over') and it is utterly haunting, and the closer, one of my personal favourites from their début album, 'I Met Up With A King' marks a fitting end to the set.

Cheers for more get us a Fleet Foxes cover and then suddenly it's all over. If you haven't heard them already get in there quick – if you like bands like Cat Power or Fleet Foxes these girls are right up your alley. And even if you don't, listen to them anyway, you may be surprised. Plus, this may be your last chance to have 'liked them when they were underground, man.'

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