The Handsome Family Band @ The Half Moon Pub

Last Sunday’s sell out gig at Herne Hill’s Half Moon Pub was opened by Danny George Wilson, aka Danny and the Champions of the World. Disappointingly, Danny’s champions in the event turned out to be a sole accompanying guitarist who looked incredibly uncomfortable. Other than occasional backing vocals in which his face demonstrated how much he wished he’d made it into another band, said champion’s presence on stage provided no more than we would have expected from a CD player. This lack of charisma was not entirely made up for by the man himself. Danny’s set was dominated by long indulgent guitar solos. When we did sing, it was hunched up over a microphone which appeared to be about 30cm too low for him, giving him an unfortunate likeness to a troll.

Luckily for the crowd, The Handsome Family did their very best to make up for this with a set bursting with banter. From the outset Rennie and Brett engaged with the audience, pleasing them with old favourites and new songs from their forthcoming eighth album. “This is a song about love” says Rennie, introducing a balled detailing the mating habits of carnivourous insects – who can fail to be amused by a song which ends with such an original line as “I’m going to climb on your back….and bite off your head”. The wit and dry humour that pervades their lyrics translates very well on stage – the Handsome Family are so likeable that I would love to give them nothing but praise.

However, I think there is a reason why there was only about 6 people there under the age of 40 (that includes 2 bar staff and a sound guy). The Handsome Family make the kind of music your dad likes – my 23 year old ears are not designed for this much throaty wailing in an American accent! “Hurray its a banjo” cried my friend – a banjo which was strummed complacently without a hint of hoe down. Disappointing.

Nevertheless, my middle aged counterparts certainly seemed to enjoy themselves, and you can’t fault Rennie and Brett for their stage presence. Thanks to them for taking an active interest in their audience – their success has clearly not gone to their heads, so hurrah for that. Will I be rushing out to buy their new album next year? Probably not. Present for Father’s Day? Sorted.

Words: Mary Liggins