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words & photos by Dominick Mastrangelo
The Twilight Sad
If it was possible The Twilight Sad have gone even darker on their new record Forget The Night Ahead (Fat Cat). Yet what was evident on Friday night at Brooklyn's Southpaw is their live sound has not suffered as a result. Headlining an "early" set, along with label mates Brakesbrakesbrakes and We Were Promised Jetpacks, the Scottish quartet ratcheted the volume and dissonance blanketing lead singer James Graham's bleak lyrics about familial dysfunction and neglect.
Before all that, however, it was fellow Scots, We Were Promised Jetpacks, riding into Brooklyn on a wave of buzz. A full, but not sold out, venue led lead singer Adam Johnson to comment how there may have been only four people out to seem them on a visit to New York earlier this year. Supporting their summer release These Four Walls, it was a solid and heartfelt set - Johnson, belting out his lyrics, rising up on his toes for maximum effect. But it was always going to be the single "Quiet Little Voices" (played ad nauseum by the likes of KEXP) to garner the loudest applause.
The Fat Cat showcase continued with Brighton's Brakesbrakesbrakes (replacing Frightened Rabbits on this leg of the tour) and their set of sturdy rock numbers included cute 15-second songs like "Spring Chicken" and "Porcupine or Pineapple" played a second time after guitarist, Tom White admitted he "fucked up the chorus." White was the most entertaining of the quartet, thrashing about and raking his guitar violently along the mic stand.
But both bands still have a bit of a ways to go to match the sonic spectacle that is The Twilight Sad. With a sound that begs for an arena, the intimate nature of Southpaw allowed the Twilight Sad to swap their song's penchant for the epic for more intensity.
The searing guitar feedback from Night Ahead track and set opener "Reflection of the Television" gave way to the rumbling drums and bass as the curtains pulled back to find Graham and guitarist Andy MacFarlane sporting newly shaved heads. Graham stepped forth and doubled over singing "There's people downstairs, I'm more than a fighter, you know."
Keeping track of the songs off the setlist was a test in Caledonian translation as "Television" was listed as "Doonstairs" and "Loud/Quiet" was "Talking With Fireworks/Here, It Never Snowed" from 2007's debut "Fourteen Autumns, Fifteen Winters." Graham picked up a drumstick, dropped to his knees and hammered along with drummer Mark Devine during the loud part.
That debut landed them critical praise on both sides of the Atlantic and Graham mentioned that he thinks they had played more shows in New York than in Glasgow and he wasn't sure if that was a good thing. They did split the set almost evenly with songs from both records instead of opting for the practice of loading the set with new songs at the cost of older, familiar ones.
The fevered pitch of the set reached dizzying heights with showstopper "The Neighbours Can't Breathe" a train-without-breaks-number from the new record and Graham's primal screen of "You keep pulling on the heart strings."
Graham walked into the crowd for "Cold Days From The Birdhouse", singing back to his band and then stood painfully still on stage as "And She Would Darken The Memory of Youth" and set closer "I Am Taking The Train Home"'s swirling outros played around him. The latter building into a five-minute wall of noise as he left the stage. It wasn't quite "You Made Me Realise", but the nod was clearly in that direction and perfectly executed to punish anyone without ear plugs. Fair warning if you plan to see them Tuesday (TONIGHT, 10/6) at the Bowery Ballroom (tickets).
More pictures below...
We Were Promised Jetpacks
The Twilight Sad
Tour Dates HERE.