The other night, Rough Trade East hosted an in-store performance for Midlake on the drop-date of their newest, The Courage of Others. If you didn’t know any better, upon arriving at the store an hour before the show was to start, you would have thought that this was just any old night at Rough Trade. They like to keep things relatively under wraps there. Nevertheless, it was shocking to arrive to a pretty vacant storefront. I expected a line down the street and was sure I wouldn’t get into the thing to begin with. But when we got there, it looked like we came on the wrong night. There was literally no line to be seen. There were actually very few people in the store, for that matter. Eventually, however, the place did fill out and they even had to turn some folks away. There was a performance going on tonight, even if it didn’t immediately look like it.
The way it works at Rough Trade is you can either buy the album any time during the day to get a wristband into the show, or wait for free leftover wristbands. I bought the album beforehand to ensure a ticket in, and geared up for the show with a pint next door. Upon exiting the bar, a line had accumulated at the Rough Trade entrance. Those with wristbands made their way inside to the small stage area at the back of the store and those without them were turned away. The band quickly took the stage to the 60 some in attendance (the audience numbers seemed low for it being “sold out”) and jumped right into some of their new work.
The new stuff sounds gorgeous in the live setting, but in a way, it all kind of meshes together, much like it does on record. This isn’t always a bad thing, but the songs do all retain a similar feel. There’s a slow, fluttery British folk-tinge. It continually sounds like Midlake trying to Nick Drake it up. The songs all float along, without any notable muscle. The new stuff is just consistently mellower than Van Occupanther. This consistency lends itself to a great sound, but also to a performance that’s not quite as exciting as what comes with say a “Roscoe” or a “Head Home.” Luckily, there was room for those two songs in the short 45 minute set.
With four guitarists, flutes galore, and some steady beats, Midlake brought their full, eerie folk-rock vibes into Rough Trade. The vocals were spot-on. The sound was clear and crisp. It was all there for a short, mellow, intimate performance from the Texas septet. The guys were clearly thankful for the turnout and happy to be playing at “one of the best record stores in the world.” Finishing things up with a three part extended solo during “Head Home,” the crowd was clearly pleased. This wasn’t a show for the ages, but more of a nice, brief introduction to Midlake’s new record. It was a solid, short, intimate performance of their new material. Thankfully, however, for those super-keen on their back-catalogue (like I), the guys also brought some old friends along.
After the show, I got my record signed, talked to the guys, and bought another record, Hidden by These New Puritans which I can’t recommend enough. Sadly, on the tube home I left both records in a bag on the train. There was also a nice postcard in the bag. It’s a shame, but hopefully somebody somewhere in London is happy with the contents of that plastic bag. (Hits self in head).