“It’s ok, they’re just the support band,” says the guy in front of me, disparagingly. The ‘support’ are Foxface, and the guy in front has cloth ears.
A 3-piece, Foxface get into the spirit of the evening with a variety of folk-ish instruments – banjos, glockenspiel, and roughly coming across as a country version of the Yummy Fur. And they enlist fiddler John McCusker to augment their sound perfectly. Everything else they cope with themselves – a versatile bunch swapping instruments with ease and hammering out a slew of joyous jangly tunes. The band are fronted by former Peeps Into Fairyland man Michael Angus whose voice works as a beautiful contrast to that of Jenny Bell. But it’s the man in the mask at the back who you suspect is directing proceedings – even directing the tuning of guitars, when he’s not playing drums. By the time they do single ‘Monster Seas’ even the guy in front is tapping his feet appreciatively.
Woomble will be getting a fair amount of Xmas cards this year judging by the ‘friends’ he invites onstage. And it’s curious, that what’s billed as a folk gig should have so many indie-rock musicians in tow. Though the real-ale-loving elements of the audience will have been pleased at the start – both Phil Cunningham’s accordion and McClusker’s fiddle on display as they form a curious crossover supergroup with Scott from Sons and Daughters on drums and Rod from Idlewild on guitar. The banter from the audience adds to the friendly atmosphere – ‘where’s Kate?’` they ask of Ms. Rusby (she’s “on her way”), though Karine Polwart is sadly on the other side of the Atlantic. However, Ailidh Lennon joins her Sons and Daughters bandmate on bass for a rather more rock segment of the set. ‘”Turn it up” shouts a member of the audience. Roddy leaves the decision on the knob-twiddling to the soundman – unwise perhaps as on the desk tonight is Campbell McNeil, moonlighting from his dayjob as Aereogramme bassist. Accordingly, the knobs go up to 9 at the very least.
The mix of tunes from Roddy’s solo album and some Idlewild classics is a good one with everything remarkably lending itself to the new treatment. ‘American English’ is a very acoustic tune, but ‘You Held The World In Your Arms’ is a fully-fledged folk-rock wigout. Eventually the stage becomes even more crowded as 2/3 of Foxface arrive to add to the racket, and the band play an encore, Woomble-less, of ‘Whisky Face’ (a McCusker-penned number) which we’re told was written as a cheap wedding present to a friend. With a banjo-fired Woody Guthrie tune (‘Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key’) to finish, it’s clear that Woomble, and friends, have got the folk-rock balance worked out perfectly.