Tonight’s show isn’t billed as a Fence Records gig, but it’s convenient shorthand for an evening with three of the Fife label’s artists, James Yorkston, The Pictish Trail and Seamus Fogarty. All three musicians are performing together throughout the show, a folky, Gaelic take on Crosby, Stills & Nash with an equivalent fondness for drinking.
It’s the soft-voiced Yorkston we’re most familiar with, thanks to his run of albums for Domino, while we know The Pictish Trail’s Johnny Lynch best for his aberrant electronic pop duo, White Columns. Fogarty’s debut album ‘God Damn You Mountain’ appeared only last year, and, unlike his Scots tourmates, he hails from Ireland.
With our three hosts seated onstage, we’re in for a sedate show. They start early and a cappella, before Yorkston takes the lead for ‘Kath With Rhodes’, Lynch and Fogarty accompanying on acoustic guitar and mandolin. From here on, each musician offers up a song in turn as his friends harmonise and play along. Fogarty’s finger-picked tunes tend towards the sparse and succinct, while Lynch’s are hazy and sometimes synth-coated. With the lights dimmed, the distance between us and the musicians shortens, and we start to imagine ourselves holed up in a far cosier place than central Brighton, even as the double deckers swish past.
The Fence trio are too cheery to let tonight be fogged by reverence though, puncturing the atmosphere with corny gags, tall touring tales and affectionate ribbing. While Yorkston is dry and Fogarty shy, it’s Lynch who’s the ballsy ringleader, shattering any folk club stuffiness before the break with a keyboard-led rattle through White Columns’ signature tune ‘Columns’. Adding to the noise is guest musician Suhail Yusuf Khan on the bowed sarangi, who returns from time to time throughout the second half.
The evening peaks emotionally with a new Yorkston song, written for his friend (and former bassist with Yorkston’s band The Athletes) Doogie Paul. It’s a deeply moving elegy for Paul, who passed away last year, and the musicians don’t quite hold themselves together at the end. James Yorkston & The Athletes’ first record helped us through the death of one of our own friends many years ago, and we feel for them.
But they carry on, song after song, ‘til the good humour is restored through music and booze and banter. They don’t play all night, but they’re tempted. “In Fife, this passes as entertainment” deadpans Yorkston, which is fine by us. Wit, warmth and some of our most engaging songwriters are good company at any time.
Blind Tiger, Tuesday 16th April 2013
Words by Stuart Huggett
Photos by Jon Southcoasting