We Played…Scared To Dance 3/4/15

We admit it we were wrong! A couple of years back we listened to Withered Hand and we harshly cast him aside as an also-ran, middle of the road singer songwriter. At last years Indietracks Dan Willson and his band of merry musicians were considerably better than we thought, but still we didn’t quite declare ourselves entirely won over, but last Friday something clicked! It became clear that we were wrong, and the people who took his latest album New Gods into the UK Top 100 were right, the people who sold out the Shacklewell Arms were right, and those clever people at Fortuna Pop and Slumberland Records were right. Withered Hand, we are sorry!

Last Friday we were back at another superb Scared To Dance gig night, playing some tracks between the bands and into the wee small hours, as ever there was an eclectic and excellent assortment of bands on show. Opening proceedings for this evening were Papernut Cambridge, essentially a solo project for Ian Button. Ian’s best known for his time as the guitarist in Death In Vegas, but was also a member of Thrashing Doves, an 80’s rock band who first came to prominence via a support slot with Duran Duran. All interesting facts, but ones that bare little resemblance to the sound of his latest project! The music on show is somewhere between the glam rock of T-Rex, the electric folk of Fairport Convention and the poppier end of The Velvet Underground. The musicians he assembles around him are an eclectic bunch, as he puts it “you’re all in Papernut Cambridge, you just haven’t turned up to a rehearsal yet.” Previous collaborators include Mary Epworth and Ralegh Long whilst tonight he’s joined by Darren Hayman on drums, and newest recruit Emma Winston, a member of Owl and Mouse and Enderby’s Room.

Seabirds are, as they put it themselves “the least prolific new band in the country!” A fact confirmed by a back catalogue that seems to consist of one single, despite the fact they’ve been going since early 2013. Were it not for the fact that a number of members were previously in Red Shoe Diaries you could have forgiven the world for forgetting about them all together, but thank heavens they haven’t! Seabirds are an excellent indie-pop band, all simple catchy rhythms, jangling guitars and male-female vocal interplay, they bring to mind the likes of The Lucksmiths, Making Marks and as much as it’s become a cliched statement, Belle & Sebastian. With talk of them heading into the studio in recent months it’s definitely going to be worth keeping an eye on Seabirds, because the likes of Oh Bouy and Real Tears mark them out as an act of huge potential.

For tonight’s show Withered Hand has become a nearly solo show, joined not by Wilson’s regular full band but just by vocalist Pam Berry, formerly of seminal noise-poppers Black Tambourine. Whilst this stripped backed approach looses some of the textures of his recorded material, the jangling guitars of Black Tambourine, the upbeat folk of King of Hollywood, the country twang of California, it does achieve in putting his more lyrical qualities on display. Love In The Time Of Ecstasy is simultaneously romantic and depressing, flashing back to good times gone but looking at the present and asking “what is love in the time of ecstasy and bare knuckle fighting?”, before going on to question religion and concluding that even if there is a heaven it is “some place of little consequence.”

On Horsehoe Dan compares loving someone to a boxing match and begs for someone to, “tell me it’s easy to pretend, that nobody is dead, and nobody you love will ever die.” Throughout the set his lyrics tread a path between heartbreak and humour and he’s as adept at walking that line as anyone you’re likely to hear. He saves arguably the best to last, in the form of the superb Religious Songs; it’s the sound of man questioning faith and religion and noting they are not one and the same. Wilson starts of asking, “I don’t really know what the wine was for ‘cos if it was Jesus’ blood wouldn’t there be more?” and notes “my hair’s getting too long for this congregation” as the people around question “how does he really expect to be happy if he listens to death-metal bands?” As the crowd join in and sing along with him, it’s oddly close to the feel of a congregation, the audience rise as one to sing our belief not in any higher being, but in a man who is perhaps just like we are, as the crowd depart there will be few among them who are not believers in the power of Withered Hand.


The Crimea – Lottery Winners On Acid
Cayucas – High School Lover
Du Blonde – Mind Is On My Mind
M.Ward – Primitive Girl
My Morning Jacket – Big Decision
Frankie Rose – Candy
Nadine Shah – The Gin One
Villagers – Courage
Courtney Barnett – Depreston
Young Guv – Crushing Sensation
Gruff Rhys – American Interior
Cass McCombs – Dreams Come True Girl
Hurray For The Riff Raff – Body Electric
Francisco The Man – Big Ideas
Girl Pool – China Town
Burning Peacocks – Game


Courtney Barnett – Elevator Operator
Veronica Falls – Teenage
Jenny Lewis – Just One Of The Guys
Beck – Defriended
Father John Misty – Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins)


Ballboy – All The Records On The Radio Are Shite
The Long Blondes – Once And Never Again
Camera Obscura – Let’s Get Out Of This Country
The Wave Pictures – Lisbon
Teleman – Skeleton Dance
Allo Darlin’ – Half Heart Necklace


Ezra Furman – Restless Year
Phoenix – Lisztomania
Talking Heads – Found A Job
The Wharves – Renew
Summer Camp – Bad Love
Honeybood – Kissing On You
Fever Dream – Serotonin Hit
The Mountain Goats – The Legend Of Chavo Guerrero
Allo Darlin’ – Capricornia
Belle & Sebastian – The Boy With The Arab Strap
The Wave Pictures – Pea Green Coat

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