modmis jpgIt’s a bit of a contrast with the last gig I reviewed.  That was in a shiny new purpose-built venue in London and this is in Henry’s Cellar Bar in Edinburgh which has a capacity of about a hundred  if everyone breathes in at the same time. This was a flying visit to have a look at Modern Misfortune, an Edinburgh/Glasgow-based band comprising Amber Milne (vocals), Andrew Mortimer (guitar), Adam Wier (bass), Euan Thompson (guitar and vocal) and our own Edinburgh correspondent Louie Anderson (drums).

Although this was a whistle-stop visit to see Modern Misfortune, I have to say something about The Phlegm after hearing the second half of their set.  Most of what I heard was passable psychobilly (including a cover of “Blue Suede Shoes”), but the set closer was a storming surfpunk version of the Surfaris’ 1963 instrumental “Wipeout” which got the crowd dancing, smiling or both.

It was a difficult act to follow, but Modern Misfortune opened with their live favourite “Disheartened” and grabbed the audience from the start of the set.  Playing spiky, punky guitar-based pop with female vocals invites comparisons with late seventies punk legends The Rezillos, and that’s pretty close to the mark with some of the material.  The band play the originals “Cry Witch” and “Zugzwang Detente” from their current EP/mini album plus “How to Lie”, “Nothing Left to Receive” and “B Young” and 1 seventies cover.  The original material is strong and delivered convincingly although not without a few problems.  Playing at this level, monitor mix is always going to be difficult and the lead and backing vocals seemed to struggle to stay in tune at times.

The seventies cover showed Modern Misfortune at their very best as they tackled the Buzzcocks’ “Ever Fallen in Love…” with tremendous energy as a straight copy initially before sliding into a Hendrix/Pink Floyd-inspired breakdown and back into the song structure again for the ending.  It got the crowd moving, particularly the ones who loved it first time round (me included), and left them in the right mood for the final song.

There was a lot to like in this live performance, particularly the strength of the songs and the way bass, drums and lead guitar worked together.  The lead and backing vocals were a bit ragged at times (which, to be air, I’ve heard from bands that have played together for years) and using two guitars felt a little over the top at times.  There’s definitely musical talent there and if it doesn’t break through in the guise of Modern Misfortune, it’s going to break through somewhere else.

It’s beginning to look suspiciously like the start of summer, what with the rain stopping and the sun appearing at last, but the Riot Squad don’t care about any of that (apart from the fact that we can wear our shades now without looking ridiculous).  Anyway, we’ve got a busy few weeks coming up with plenty of live and recorded music to tell you about.

“Closer Than You Know” – The Kennedys

I’m finally going to get to see Anna-Christina’s live, unplugged show “Pretty Little Lady?” this week and I’ll be telling you all about that next week. The highly-acclaimed New York duo, The Kennedys, are touring the UK and Ireland to promote their latest album “Closer Than You Know” and we’ll be telling you all about that later this month.  Then, at the end of the month, I’ll be going to Edinburgh to see Modern Misfortune whose first EP is out now.

John’s going to be reviewing albums by Little Boots, Alison Moyet, MS MR and Daft Punk and I’ll be having a listen to The Kennedys album.  I’m also trying to get hold of a review copy of the debut Federal Charm album which is out in June.  I’ll keep you posted on that.

We’re also kicking around the idea of a monthly Riot Squad podcast to let you know what we sound like and what we’re up to each month.  It’s going to be an interesting month.

“When are we playing?”

“Who are you?”

“Modern Misfortune.”

“Oh, you guys will be on last.”

Not something a band with but two gigs under their belt expected to hear, especially considering the fact that at both of these gigs we had been first on the bill. Everyone outwith the band thought the prospect of performing last was brilliant: everyone will remember us! We’ll be the last thing they saw so we’ll stick in their memory! And for a while, it was a great feeling. It was as if we were headlining, despite this being a Battle of the Bands, and so we were filled with an air of confidence, an imaginary strength, like we had something that put us above every other band.

This was reinforced by  our surroundings. We considered Studio 24 our home: it had been the site of our first gig and so, as silly as it sounds, that night felt like a homecoming. We had to outdo ourselves, this was going to be our best performance following a successful first gig and an ever so slightly disastrous second gig. Having decided to play it straight, our setlist consisted of seven original compositions (including our apparent signature song, “Disheartened”. A demo of it had been uploaded to YouTube, garnering some recognition among our friends) and no covers. Pretty much every other band on the bill had some sort of reinvention of some hit or another up their sleeve (with a curious performance of Rebecca Black’s “Friday” arising at one point) and so we chose not to pull out one of the few covers we had actually mastered.

We were at ease, which was reassuring yet slightly worrying. Complacency had been a major factor in the disappointment of our second gig with the success of our debut making us relaxed. If you’re not nervous before a gig, there’s something wrong so luckily (or not) as the night wore on and more and more bands performed anxiety crept in. Of course we were excited to perform but the longer we had to wait the more we began to dread it, especially after seeing some of the talent already on display.

During the band two before us, it arose that there had been a mix-up with the times of performances and for a moment it looked like we might have to shorten our set, making matters worse. Quickly, things were sorted but even the mild stress of that incident had been jarring and by the time we were heading for the stage I was particularly nervous.

However, stepping on the stage any nerves were quickly forgotten and we powered through our half-hour set in what seemed like five minutes. As far as I’m aware, the only mistake made was by yours truly during our opening song, Back to the Fire, and was resolved quick enough so as to be fairly unnoticeable. The audience reaction was incredible , particularly and predictably during our finisher, Disheartened. To be honest it was all a blur at this point. All I could hear was my cymbals and Amber, our singer and at the same time my vision was considerably impaired by strobe lights: I couldn’t even see my drumsticks in my hand.

It was incredible.

Once we had finished, all we had to do was wait for the verdict which wasn’t long. It was announced before I had even made it off stage.

We came second to a band called Lost Weekend. It was decided by the audience who wrote their favourite band of the night on a piece of paper however, according to many people we invited, a lot of people hadn’t had a chance to vote. A longer voting period could have benefited anyone.
Regardless, we were overwhelmed with the result. In all the excitement I ended up knackering my ankle as I jumped off the stage but, to be quite honest, it was worth it.

It was a night of ups and downs but the high points outweighed the lows. The concert as a whole was brilliant and we, Modern Misfortune, came off more than pleased with our performance.  We’d done exactly what we’d hoped we would.