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the guy who invented fire
Winterbrief @The Portland Arms, Cambridge
(8th October 2001)
How many swallows make a summer? How many people make an audience? Seven? Not usually. The local support and their mates could've probably stuck their heads round the door and at least feigned a smidgen of interest. But they didn't. Winterbrief gamely take the stage to a half-embarrassed silence. A vast empty acreage stretches agonisingly from them across the room to where there's less of a crowd, more of a police line-up straggled along the back wall. Winterbrief are nice people, but it must be hard being the outsider headliners.
"Hello, we're Winterbrief." It's a nice, if rather factual, opening line but in the circumstances completely understandable. Awkward pause. Worried glances on stage. Worried glances in the line-up. Tick tick tick tick BOOM! We're away. The DAT machine pumps at breakneck hi-NRG velocity; Jan jabs ferociously at her keyboard, single finger dexterity punching out spiky melody lines; Julian half-hops, revisiting Bruce Foxton's restricted genuflexions as he cuts out ragged guitar lines and fiddles with a piece of equipment that looks like a large red banana. Seven people have no right to expect to be bitten with sonic venom of this potency when the atmosphere just five minutes previously couldn't have been worse had Russ Abbot based his novelty hit on it.
"This is a cover of The Adverts." There is a TV Smith poster on the wall. Julian enters an ill-advised monologue about synchronicity. This is the cue for a couple of pissed blokes to start gently heckling. Julian cannot understand them. Winterbrief are American, and their ears are not yet tuned to British frequencies. Or humour. One or two shouted gags go straight over Winterbrief heads but inviting one of the blokes up on stage to tell a joke was always going to be a bad idea. That said, no-one could have expected it to be in such bad taste only days after the World Trade Centre atrocity.
"Don't you know any songs?" A bit of heckling of my own restores music to the top of the agenda. If Bis had sounded as good as the press always promised me they would (and, of course, they didn't) Winterbrief would still sound better. They're jaggedier in every department, and when they say Gang of Four, you know they don't really mean Funboy Three.
"1,2,3,Go!" The hecklers like it when Julian shouts in the middle of a song. Ever ready to please, he sticks a few extra ones into the last song. This is nice. Winterbrief are nice. Me and Donna Donnelly take them back to our house after the gig and we drink cups of tea while they talk about how great the crowd was and marvel at the turntable in our kitchen. They stay the night and we bus into town the next day. I purchase a Wire Peel Session 12" and Pete Shelley's Homosapien album. Winterbrief purchase a Cambridge snowstorm (Jan) and a green charity shop jacket (Julian.) Nice. www.winterbrief.com
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