Live: Peggy Sue & First Aid Kit @ The Garage, London

FAK-GarageHaving seen Peggy Sue more recently in a festival field and First Aid Kit in the heavenly Union Chapel, on first impressions The Garage seemed something of a mis-match. A dark, low-ceilinged, intimate venue with a reputation as a rite of passage for indie bands, the relaunched Garage may not appear the ideal venue for folk music.  Its shadowy confines may have felt oppressive to begin with, but a fittingly intimate amosphere developed for what was both a gig and a birthday celebration for the Wichita label itself.

Rosa Slade and Katy Young take turns at fronting Peggy Sue, swapping between guitar, accordion and ukulele. The sweetness in their vocals belies the fury of women scorned in lyrics such as “I’m gonna go down town gonna find myself some fun / I’m gonna go down town I’m gonna get myself someone / Forget your hair forget your smell until there’s none.” This, from ‘Yo Mama’, is a good example of the attitude of hurt and emotional reprisal.

Peggy Sue deliver their angry music with a fist concealed in the proverbial velvet glove, occasionally interrupted by a seam of regret as in ‘The Shape We Made’, a musing on the memory of spooning with an ex lover.  The trio worked the small stage well: Rosa in particular performs with a striking presence; showing the emotion on her face as she sings and poses like a star with a lifetime of experience.  What direction they go from here will be the key to their future success; agitated melancholy is one thing, but can they play happy, and do we really want them to?

Following Peggy Sue, the Soderberg sisters who form First Aid Kit took to the stage with a confidence and exuberence I haven’t seen in them before. This was most striking in Johanna who has seemed nervous in the past despite the assuredness of their music. Gone is the self-deprecating belief that their audience only know them due to a YouTube Fleet Foxes cover, replaced instead by playfulness in the performance.

Older material combined with tracks from this year’s The Big Black and Blue were played with their usual heartbreaking thrust and murmured riposte including what is becoming a well-oiled performance of ‘Ghost Town’ unplugged in the front ranks of the crowd. This is possibly the most beautiful track in their arsenal and is rightly given special treatment as Klara’s voice sweeps her fans away into a reverie, receiving rapturous applause at its end.

The confines of The Garage made the experience of this track, and First Aid Kit’s music as a whole, all the more mesmerising and all-encompassing. The girls wrapped things up with an onstage contest, getting some eager fans up for a sing-along to win some tickets.  I only wish my hand had gone up faster and with more conviction to secure my place onstage.

All in all it was a fitting end to a fitting part of the Wichita 10th Anniversary celebrations, probably greatly improved by the omission of my own vocal contribution.

Words and Pictures: Chris Gent