The Miserable Rich/ Random Family/ Ian Williams
@ The Library, Leeds, 14th October 2009
Downstairs at The Library pub is, as every Friday, thronging with rowdy students in fancy dress who are passing through as part of their important and formative Otley Run. Upstairs, however, it is a different story tonight; and nestled together in a candlelit room are quieter people, dressed (in the most part) slightly more normally. They are here to see a gig.
Ian Williams of Ian Williams and the Beale Street Whalers – sans Whalers for the night – kicks off the night, with a morose yet buoyant performance which sets the tone for the whole evening. He is wearing an enormous hat and crooning his heart out in true Leonard Cohen style, alternating between the guitar and keyboard as his instrument of choice. I am attending the gig with my dad tonight, who seems impressed; “Is he an alcoholic?”, he asks. Aptly describing his own style as “cracked heartbreak and gloom”, Ian Williams is a melancholy, bearded-toting storm cloud, creating introspective, alt-country-based ramblings about love, death and everything in between.
Next up, The Random Family take to the stage with a plethora of instruments, ranging from double bass to mandolin to wooden flute. The group make perfectly pleasant and pastoral ditties with well-crafted four-part harmonies, and though initially I find them somewhat languid and lacking in passion, by the end of the set they’ve warmed up and settled in. The result is whimsical, melodic folk with more than a little Fleet Foxes about it, though the style of the harmonies reminds me perhaps slightly more of The Everly Brothers. Overall, this is beautiful folk-pop of an optimistically sunshiney bent.
Headlining the night are Brighton’s The Miserable Rich, who seem by all accounts to be doing quite well for themselves, having been championed by BBC 6 Music’s Marc Riley and recording a couple of live sessions for the same. The attention is not unmerited, and The Miserable Rich are on top form tonight, creating lush orchestral-pop with stunning harmonies and strong, soaring vocals, all interwoven by aching violin and cello. Describing their own sound as ‘bar-room chamber pop’, the exultant and dreamy mood of many of the songs sits well against a winsome, caberet-theatrics approach to performance, utilising as they do multi-coloured bells, hand claps and wind-up children’s music boxes. The result is mature yet playful, full of longing and yet uplifting. I leave impressed.
You can also read this article over here at Leeds Music Scene.