THE HANDSOME FAMILY LIVE IN HEBDEN BRIDGE – WHAT HAPPENED?

And so it was another dash over the tops to get to The Trades Club who have been on a bit of a roll lately and getting quite a few sellout nights recently, tonight included. It’s great to see packed rooms once again at grassroots venues, sadly it’s taken an awful amount of time for people to start to return in numbers since the pandemic which has caused and is still affecting many small venues issues and even closures.

Just think is it really worth spending £90+ to see some band who were big in the 90’s or spend sometimes as little as a tenth of that seeing who could be the next arena selling band?

Tonight are two unknowns to me as I’m stepping out of my comfort zone and watching an American Country Music band headline (don’t let that put you off from continuing to read on) and a bloke from up the road on guitar supporting…

Dean McPhee 

Dean announces himself as an Electric guitar player from nearby Bradford which manages to get a single cheer much to his “delight”. He’s not a man of many words, indeed during his performance there’s a distinct lack of them as he lets the guitar do the talking.

By using a looping system he produces quite a sound stage not dissimilar to some of the greatest prog rock bands have produced but doing it single handedly. In doing this he’s showing some immense talent and skill on the guitar and seeing just what he’s put together on a incredible pedalboard to create these sounds that most people would simply just produce on a keyboard and sequencing software it is quite mind-blowing.

So much so that I went over to Spotify afterwards to check his album Astral Gold from where tonight’s  songs have come from and there’s not much in it if anything between what was recorded and what he can do live.

With a total of only5 songs over a 33 minute set you can imagine the sort of scale Dean aims to create so if Ambient Sounds is your bag or if you just simply enjoy a great guitarist perform then check him out.

The Handsome Family.

Looking around the venue during the stage changeover I clock the merch stand and incredibly unusual for bands these days, there isn’t a single tee on sale just music! Is the first rule of The Handsome family, you do not talk about The Handsome family?

Have I walked into a cult? Might be the reason why up until late last year I had never heard of them before which is surprising as apparently they formed in 1993 so clearly I really know nothing about this genre. Second thing noted is they certainly aren’t down with the kids (Even though current mini superstar in the making Phoebe Bridgers has covered one of their songs, So Much Wine) very few of the younger demographic here tonight but it’s a complete sell out and the room is rammed just before they come on so clearly some people know about them.

Opening with Joseph the omens are good, I’ve heard this so happy days I might not be scratching my head for the rest of the night. This isn’t happy thigh slappy Country and Western, it’s dark, brooding Gothic stuff that’s interjected with dark humour between songs as husband and wife Brett and Rennie Sparks bicker about their lives, neighbours (or might that be neighbours) and their home country America.

Indeed the subjects to many of their songs include references to drugs and suicide but also South American rainforests (and drugs & suicide) Frogs and even Octopuses amongst things not to mention what they call the greatest ever American invention, the 24 hour convenience store…

As someone who tends to favour the fast and furious type of music I really shouldn’t be getting this but they really are drawing me in, I think myself and Brett have a lot in common where typically just everything and everyone tends to just annoy us so maybe I, like the packed, hot and sweaty room have found a kindred spirit.

There’s a lot to love with what’s going on here, Rennie has a way with the words she writes for the bands songs and while the music is slow and melodic for the most part they simply fly by when watching them perform much in the same way a night with Nick Cave and Warren Ellis does, you’re drawn in and captivated for an hour or so – it’s truly magical stuff!

Has tonight made me want to start listening to more Country Music, nah doubt it. Would I See The Handsome Family again? Hell yes and you should come along too!

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By mykct