Live Review: Teenage Fanclub and the Vaselines with the Radar Brothers at 9:30 Club, Washington DC – 2nd October 2010

By on Thursday, 7th October 2010 at 2:00 pm
 

I don’t know too much about Scottish popular music. The only Scottish band’s album I have knowingly purchased was Camera Obscura’s ‘My Maudlin Career’ last year. When Teenage Fanclub announced a tour of North America was starting in Washington, I decided it was in my best interest to see these elder statesmen of guitar-driven twee pop. (Also on my mind was the reverence for Teenage Fanclub that Brighton’s Brakes related to me when I met them last autumn.) Co-headlining with the Club were the Vaselines (pictured above), who I knew nothing about, save their recent single ‘Sex with an X’ (also the title of their latest album) that Lammo enjoys playing on his 6music programme. Surely one good pop song means they can write others, yes?

A mate described opening band the Radar Brothers as ‘Americana’. To be honest, I have no idea what that label means, except that maybe it indicates low-key, slightly country rock. It’s not my thing. But it’s mellow, enjoyable and wearing plaid, not super exciting. Lead singer / guitarist Jim Putnam tried to be funny, telling everyone, “we have some stuff on sale over there,” pointing to the merch table. “Lots of black market stuff!” Laughter. I was a little confused at one point in their set when womens’ voices seem to come out of nowhere (well, I know they were coming out of the speakers, but I didn’t see any synths onstage, so I’m not sure how they cued the backing tracks up), and this addition seemed out of place to me.

I expected the Vaselines to proffer plenty of great pop tunes and they certainly delivered. It’s hard to write a good, punchy, short pop song, and the Vaselines are very good at this. Never wearing out their welcome with effective guitar driven melodies and the gorgeous duetting of Frances McKee and Eugene Kelly, they sounded and looked great. Forget that they started the band in 1986. They’re just as valid as any other band out there today trying to make pop music.

Songs like ‘Jesus Doesn’t Want Me for a Sunbeam’ showcased their somewhat softer side, while ‘No Hope’ and ‘Ruined’ highlighted the fact that this is a guitar band capable of being a great guitar band. Don’t discount the Vaselines, they know how to rock. They also know how to tell dirty jokes(there was a continuing joke about wanking throughout the entire set) and poke fun at each other. A punter asked McKee what kind of guitar she played, and she replied, “Hagstrom”. Kelly quipped, “because it’s a hag that strums a guitar”. Ooh, snap!

Teenage Fanclub was really the reason I made the trip to the 9:30 Saturday night. (It was my fifth gig in a week after returning from my Philly/Boston trip, so I was running on empty pretty much by this time.) I hate to say it but after the Vaselines, there was really no way they could compete. It’s funny to me that Wikipedia lists Teenage Fanclub as ‘a Scottish alternative rock band’ and the Vaselines as “a Scottish pop band’ when the Vaselines definitely showed a rockier, harder edge than Teenage Fanclub did.

To be honest, I was getting bored with the extended outros that reminds you of the Grateful Dead. After people ‘lit up’ for the Temper Trap in Philadelphia the previous Sunday, I’m really surprised no one lit a spliff for this show. They do have some gorgeous numbers – ‘When I Still Have Thee’ off their current album, ‘Shadows’, for one is amazing – and their musicianship is great, so it was a good but not extraordinary performance.

More photos and set lists after the cut.

The Radar Brothers Photos:

The Vaselines Set List: (what was printed on the set list)

Oliver Twisted
Monsterpussy
I Hate the ’80s
Slushy
The Day I Was a Horse
Sex with a X
Jesus Doesn’t Want Me for a Sunbeam
The Devil Inside Me
Molly’s Lips (featuring Norman Blake on bicycle horn)
Overweight but Over You
Rory Rides Me Raw
Ruined
No Hope
Let’s Get Ugly
Mouth to Mouth
Dying for It
Dum Dum

The Vaselines Photos:

Teenage Fanclub Set List:

Sometimes I Don’t Need to Believe in Anything
The Past
It’s All in My Mind
Star Sign
Alcoholiday
I Need Direction
Baby Lee
About You
Don’t Look Back
I Don’t Want Control of You
Your Love is the Place Where I Come From
Ain’t That Enough
When I Still Have Thee
Sparky’s Dream
The Concept
//
Can’t Feel My Soul
Sweet Days Waiting
Everything Flows

Teenage Fanclub Photos:

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12 Responses

12:28 am
20th October 2010

Wow, this has to be the least informed review I have ever read.

12:41 am
20th October 2010

Funny how she wrote that the tour was “starting in Washington.” So, I guess the shows that I had previously seen in Boston, 2 nights in NYC, and at the Troc in PHL were all in my mind. Who gave this person a press pass? Is she sure she wasn’t smoking a spliff? I wrote better pieces than this while going to middle school in Bumblefuck, Texas. At least there isn’t a hyperlink to her Angelfire website.

1:16 am
20th October 2010

I was going off this list, it lists DC, 2 October, as the first date in “the Americas”.

http://www.thevaselines.co.uk/dates.php

1:19 am
20th October 2010

and I seem to remember Frances McKee stating very clearly that this was the first night of the tour.

3:13 am
20th October 2010

I’m sorry. I must have misread “When Teenage Fanclub announced a tour of North America was starting in Washington….. ”
Proofread, or have someone do it for you. Visit the Merge site as well.

10:24 am
20th October 2010

This article was linked from the Radar Brothers website and I have to say that I agree with their assessment. This review is ridiculous. I don’t know which is more disturbing, your complete lack of knowledge about the subject or the conclusions these gaps lead you to draw. Teenage Fanclub compared to the Grateful Dead? Laughable. I will never visit your website again. As a native Washingtonian, I am ashamed that my city has bloggers like you reviewing shows.

2:31 am
21st October 2010

Fact: This was the start of The Vaselines North American tour.
Fact: This was the only date Teenage Fanclub and The Vaselines co-headlined. The bands were not on tour together.
Fact: The Radar Brothers and Teenage Fanclub did tour together. They played twelve shows.
Fact: Teenage Fanclub and The Radar Brothers are both on the same label, Merge Records. Wanna venture a guess why The Radar Brothers were chosen as the opener?

10:21 am
21st October 2010

A couple of points:
1) You are entitled to your opinion. I was at the show and I completely disagree with your assessment of both Merge acts.
2) The Radar Brothers linked to your review in their tour recap. They called it “ridiculous” and put the word “review” in between quotation marks. That was all.
3) You critique the work of others when you review their records and shows. Don’t get bent out of shape when your work receives similiar treatment.
4) Citing Wikipedia as a source in a music review is pretty Bush League. I don’t condone the use of profanity, but one of the previous posters correctly called you out. Middle schoolers are expected to do more (and, quite frankly, better) research for their seventh grade history papers than you did for this review. Before you release something out into the world, check a few facts. You were just plain wrong about the various bands’ touring schedules. Being tired doesn’t excuse it.
5) The spliff comment was strange. As most DC-area music fans know, the 9:30 Club has a notoriously strict policy on drug use inside their venue. Also, bars and clubs within the city limits are all smoke-free, so it is pretty easy to bust violators. Even if these imaginary Deadheads at the Teenage Fanclub show wanted to light up, they would have likely refrained from doing so at the 9:30.

4:22 pm
21st October 2010

Just to clear something up, any use of profanity on my part was not directed towards the author. I just used the term to describe a one-horse town with a REALLY bad public school system.

4:47 am
22nd October 2010

I saw two shows of this tour and everyone I brought, including myself thought that the Radar Brothers’ music was unbelievably well written and well played live. It’s a slow-building energy that climaxed many times in the set giving us all goosebumps. Teenage Fanclub – just as much so, only in a different way. The Radar Brothers came from the mid-90’s “slow core” scene and (thankfully) are growing out of it nicely, but … slowly. Calling them ‘mellow’ is like calling Nick Drake quiet. Whatever. They were amazing live when I saw them — both times.

Teenage Fanclub … Greatful Dead. Okay, I’m gonna be nice and not even touch this one.

Americana? Are you serious? Yeah, it’s a vague term but like most bands and their pigeonholes, as far as I can tell, the RB’s don’t call themselves that anywhere. It’s about the most overused term in music criticism (it’s lazy) but the fact that you’re unfamiliar with it and the general sense of what it’s describing musically brings me to the bigger point.

This is the second time I’ve laded on your website. I’m really confused at this point as to why anyone wanting to read anything intelligent about music would ever go here, but then, it’s a blog. You’re entitled to make it look and sound … authoritative. But I’m equally entitled to say that you demonstrate pretty consistently that maybe you should either A) write about something you know something about or B) … no, just do option A.

Best Regards, RF

4:05 pm
22nd October 2010

Totally rubbish review Miss Chang. Ill informed and evident of your poor journalistic pedigree. I don’t wanna hear any your 5th gig of the week excuses. You are as good as a man short.

I honestly don’t think you are cut out for this lark. May I suggest a career change. I hear there is a vacancy
For a Back-scrubber.

2:21 pm
23rd October 2010

Lady, your reviews suck. Just stick to pretending you’re British. Also, I am surprised you know so little about Merge Records. As American writing about the UK scene from across the pond, shouldn’t you be somewhat familiar with the US labels for various British acts? Besides being the current home to Teenage Fanclub, Merge has released records by The Clientele, Let’s Wrestle and Tracey Thorn here in the States this year. Thorn’s LP was produced by Ewan Pearson who, correct me if I’m wrong, has worked with your precious Delphic.

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