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Ben Kweller at the Union Chapel

As we get towards the end of the year there’s normally an upswing of interesting gigs, with the christmas spirit overflowing into the pockets of the promoters as they drag acts out for a once yearly showing. So, despite a singular lack of interest from you, the viewing public, I’ve dragged my lonely carcass along to a bunch of gigs recently and do you know what – y’all missed out. However, rather than write about Frankie Boyle and the Alabama 3, both of which were pretty good, I’m going to focus on this weeks gig, one of the best I’ve ever been to – Ben Kweller at the Union Chapel.

I first saw Ben Kweller when he was heading up Radish at V97 – my second ever music festival. I was there to see Ash (in their first gig with Charlotte Hatherley), Kula Shaker (in one of their last big gigs) and Stereophonics (who may have had a The in those days), and popped along to see what the minor fuss about this “new Kurt Cobain” was. I thought they were excellent – poppy alt stuff fronted by a tiny child (although he does only have three years on me, he has aged remarkably better). I grabbed the album and heard they’d split, which was annoying. Anyways, I picked up his first solo album, liked it a lot and have been on his mailing list keeping an eye out for a gig in London ever since. Annoyingly he always seems to appear when I’m out in the US, especially annoying as he plays a lot around New York, the place that I’m normally visiting, so I grabbed a ticket for last weeks show early and have been sitting waiting patiently ever since.

So, Union Chapel – fantastic venue. Sticking a gig in a nice church adds to the atmosphere and if it’s one quite as nice as the Union Chapel, complete with candles around the rotunda (I’m not even sure if that’s the right word, but I’ve been wanting to use it for ages, so I’m going to pretend that it is) then it works rather well.


First up was Carrick, Ben’s tour buddy and singer/song writer/guitarist for Everybody Else. Despite the not particularly favourable reaction from the rather partisan crowd, and his annoying hat (my hat fascism is unpredictable and well known), he’s got a voice on him and I grabbed his band’s debut album, which isn’t bad at all.

Having randomly bumped into a couple of my step-brothers friends (who I’d met at my dad’s wedding where I tried to make up for their rather lowly employment as waiters all day by filling them with rather fine whisky, as I slowly slipped under the table into unconsciousness) I moved down to a closer pew for BK.

Rather than the more full band that’s on the albums, this was a solo acoustic tour, with Kweller supported by Ben Kitterman, aka Kitt, on dobro. I barely remember the names of songs that I like from albums, let alone setlists at gigs, but they played stuff from all over the place with a Neil Young cover, songs from friends, songs that Ben doesn’t normally play but Kitt likes and a fill-in on the piano as Kitt went to fix a broken string. There was setlist negotiation between songs, an apology to the soundman as Ben did “that thing that made the microphone pop in soundcheck” again and random power downs of the stage lights as small animals zapped themselves on the daisy chain of wires (I assume). The atmosphere can be fairly well summed up by a moment early in the gig where Ben stopped mid-song, grinned wildly and apologised for losing his place, as Kitt had pulled off a rather excellent lick on his guitar and put him off. To be fair to them both it was a rather excellent lick. They closed out with Penny on the Train Track and I found that all the buses outside of the church took me somewhere useful, even though each went somewhere different.

Ben Kweller

It was one of the best gigs I’ve ever been to – excellent atmosphere, great music, great venue and random gig partners. I tried to take some pictures with my little camera and as normal none of them really came out (although the venue didn’t seem to care about cameras and there were a couple of useful SLRs out in the audience). However, this morning I got a mail from Kitt thanking me for putting up my favourite picture from the night, telling me my caption for it was great (‘Yes I know it’s crap quality, but it’s not every day you get such an image showing the love of a boy for his dobro playing buddy…’) and letting me know that Ben is using it as his myspace picture. And that, my friends, is pretty awesome.

Anyways, you heathens get a second chance – he’s got a new album coming out at the beginning of next year (it’s sounding a little bit country at the moment, but bear with it) and as is normal will be doing a tour to support it – he’ll be playing at Koko on May 15th, if you want to be sensible and buy a ticket. I’ve not seen them on sale yet, but soon you will have your chance to show that you do actually have musical taste.


Pingback from cowfish » Ben Kweller @ Koko – May 15th
Time 4th March 2009 at 10:14 pm

[…] coming to play in London again – May 15th at Koko. I think it’ll be an electric gig, unlike the one at The Union Chapel I saw last year, but I suspect it will be rather […]

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