Field Music Astound The Exeter Phoenix

by Oliver Rose

Photo Credit: Oliver Rose

I think I can quite safely say that no gig has ever surprised me as pleasantly as the one I attended last Friday – Field Music at Exeter’s very own Phoenix. Most impressive was the excitement it stirred in me; neither the main act, or their support-band, London-based indie-rockers The Drink, are particular favourites of mine. I’m not even that keen on these respective bands’ prog-pop and folk-rock genre labels – and yet I was mesmerised.

Being the first one in the auditorium, I scored an excellent vantage point for the evening ahead, and stood right up against the barrier-less stage, ready and waiting for The Drink who were fantastic. Shy front-woman Dearbhla Minogue had little to say to the audience, but so much to give when it came to her music. Playing expressive finger-style on a fuzzy-toned, all-black Telecaster, Minogue’s falsetto perfectly complimented the tight rhythm section in their seemingly effortless pursuit of a dreamy, shoegaze tonality that blanketed the audience, submissive to its blissful temperament. For a three-piece, they’re not half bad.

The main event however, were Sunderland art rockers Field Music, comprising multi-instrumentalist brothers David and Peter Brewis, joined by their touring posse of Liz Corney (keys), Andrew Lowther (bass) and Kev Dosdale (everything else, including but not limited to lead guitar, synthesiser and cowbells). From the off, the band’s infectious funk was meticulously executed by this hypnotic collective of extremely conscientious musicians, each engaged in crafting a wonderfully exacted rhythm, expertly syncopated and, ultimately, fun. From the stomping, new-wave swagger The Noisy Days Are Over, their latest single, to the jingling oddity that is If Only the Moon Were Up, opener on their 2005 debut; every track was a sharp performance – every riff as expertly neat as the last.

You got the sense, watching these two well-dressed gentlemen, older than the majority of their peers and almost certainly a darn-sight cleverer, that this was indie music’s crème de la crème; the way it’s supposed to sound. I’d struggle to tell you precisely what makes them interesting – certainly, the jazzy experimentations in chords and timing owe something to this image of Field Music as a force of indie intelligentsia. Though it has to be said, this isn’t radio-friendly indie rock – it’s demanding to participate in, requiring all your attention. Herein lies the beauty of the live performance – it utterly engages you. So much so, in fact, that I’d thoroughly dissuade you from buying a Brewis brothers CD – or at least, from doing so until you’ve first seen them live. It’s a real experience.

With the siblings taking alternate turns at drums and rhythm guitar, Dave (pictured) quickly got the chance to let the audience know he’d lost his voice, kick-starting a trend that would last all night – witty, inter-track banter (I still don’t know which brother won so to speak). Certainly then, Field Music are a band with impeccable manners – their fantastic stage presence and warm familiarity with the fans felt very welcoming, which, as a newcomer to the brothers’ music, pleased me immensely. It also made for some moments of genuine comedy – a somewhat self-reflexive encore began with Peter explaining how the vastness of the band’s back catalogue means they end up rejecting most audience requests for the more demanding, experimental material, which he then proceeded to do, (much to the disdain of the anoraks in attendance).

I simply cannot fault this performance. It was just the right length, very reasonably priced (a meagre £13 a ticket) and richly coloured by its relaxed, conversational atmosphere and buoyant experimentalism. This band are excellent, and so are The Drink. Check both out as soon as you can. But for goodness’ sake, do it live.