Saturday 5th March 2011

Withered Hand SXSW fund-raiser, Zoey Van Goey, O’ Messy Life

Saturday 5th March was a very special night, as Limbo welcomed back old favourites Withered Hand and Zoey Van Goey alongside Withered Hand friends O’ Messy Life, from Newcastle.  Withered Hand was appearing on the eve of a trip to America, to play the legendary SXSW festival in Austin, Texas and then conduct an inaugural solo tour of the country on the back of the US release of his Good News album via indie label Absolutely Kosher.   Zoey Van Goey, meanwhile, had just released second album, Propeller Versus Wings (Chemikal Underground) and were half way through a UK tour.

O’ Messy Life go on first and have never played Edinburgh before, so this is quite a baptism for them.  From the amount of fiddle going on during their sound check, the obvious assumption to make about this band is that they had a bit of a thing for Eighties gypsy/crusty rock outfits such as The Levellers, The Waterboys et al.  Far from it.  Their set exhibits more similarities to the likes of The Strangles and The Pixies and proves they are a far more interesting proposition than initial impressions would suggest: a great opening act from a promising outfit.

Zoey Van Goey are up next and, while earlier on in the day they seemed somewhat jaded by the demands of the current tour (not to mention the fact that their car broke down on the way to the gig and yet, by some heroic manoeuvres, they still managed to make it to the sound check on time), you wouldn’t have guessed this at all once they are up on stage.  Kim and MJ seem focussed and upbeat once the adrenaline has kicked in, while drummer/front-man Matt is characteristically ebullient and charming, a cheeky glint in his eye as he divides the audience in half early on.  By his command, one half of the room is to act, spontaneously, as the kick drum and other half is to (orally) play the snare.  It’s a very neat trick, breaks the ice nicely and the crowd is theirs for the taking from then on. ZVG are mainly playing material off their new album, half more downbeat folky numbers and half upbeat, energetic songs with a more punky edge and, as Matt explains to the audience at one point, they’re equally at home writing the latter as the former.  It’s not yet clear which side of Zoey Van Goey is the more popular in Edinburgh but the inclusion tonight of debut single Foxtrot Vandals certainly seems to be a welcome one, while new songs such as The Cake And Eating It also go down well.  Zoey Van Goey follow this date with a run of dates in Europe, supporting Belle & Sebastian, which is sure to offer them a raft of new experiences to call upon for future material, not to mention some much, much bigger audiences.

Withered Hand and his band also seem to be on fine form (perhaps with the exception of drummer Alun, who is nursing a bad cold but managing to disguise this fact well). Believing the time available to them to be limited, they waste none of it ripping through a rapidly swelling catalogue of crowd favourites: Religious Songs, New Dawn, I Am Nothing, No Cigarettes and Love In The Time Of Ecstacy.  Tune after tune drops in front of a grateful, capacity crowd, before the band leave the stage in something of a rush, only to be gently ushered back on for more than a small encore, as it’s made apparent that they can most definitely keep going.  Front-man Dan Willson’s banter is testament to the size of the wave he’s currently surfing.  Much wittier than the average singer, he’s always quick with a wry remark or self-deprecating quip and now he’s joking about some bother he’s been experiencing of late with US immigration officials.  Since this evening’s show was originally conceived as a fund-raiser for his US tour and, actually, as he makes clear back-stage after the show (and as becomes even more abundantly obvious the week following the Limbo event), this is more than a wee bit of a thorn in his side and definitely no laughing matter.  Still, the crowd is hanging on his every word and, as ever, he leaves the stage again on a high.

In the immortal words of George Formby, it’s all turned out nice again, as, following something of a media storm over his misfortune at the mercy of some very odd decisions by US immigration officials, Dan did manage to get to the US, having only been forced to cancel a few dates at the start of the tour and should now be nearing the end of this trip as these words are being typed.  Withered Hand is definitely among the most exciting artists to have emerged from Edinburgh in the last few years and, on current evidence, he’s very clearly destined to be among its most successful, too.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,