Tuesday, 3 September 2019

GIG REVIEW: Native Harrow - Kitchen Garden, Kings Heath, Birmingham. Monday 2nd September 2019

The mythical world of the unwritten artist-audience code was put to the test as the post-summer gig scene got underway at the Kitchen Garden. A venue that thrives on its warmth, intimacy and elective connectivity. A venue operating at the end of the scale where the spheres of artist and audience exist barely a hair breadth apart. One where building blocks are laid and positivity reverberates around the bricked interior.

This evening it hosted the American duo Native Harrow currently on a whirlwind tour around the UK in support of the recently released album HAPPIER NOW, courted lovingly by the indie record shop circuit. A record with an addictive streak that lures the listener into a transfixed zone through a narrow introductory passage decorated with neither: hooks, bells or whistles. Once there, a cathartic intensity takes hold as you are whisked down roads repeatedly compared to Laurel Canyon and dreamy singer-songwriter heaven.

Just as on record, Devin Tuel and Stephen Harms recreate the vibes in a live setting using a multitude of guitars, percussion accompaniments and fleeting keys. The magic of the album projects through Tuel's steely focussed delivery, best exemplified on this side of the Atlantic by the statuesque posterity of Laura Marling flowering the air with stern vocals, aligned with both beauty and harshness.

Two sets (45 and 38 minute long respectively for a touch of extra curricula accuracy), a raft of songs from across the Native Harrow repertoire and a finely tuned staging of a studio reenactment. A successful gig if you seek the headline terms of the unwritten code.

So where's the caveat implied in the opening sentence. Perhaps in the notion of a how a gig can start in one unassuming place and increasingly slip further away. Set 1: a brief acknowledgement to the dozen (hardcore) paying audience; a shallow but minimal insight into the inner workings of an artist. Reasonable without setting the world on fire and in line with the introvert nature of a performer wholly immersed in the beauty of the song. Set 2: barely a word spoken; playing to a distant place; a curt departure and a rebuked engagement with an encore request. 

Set 2 is not what the Kitchen Garden is about. Literally hundreds of artists pass through buying into the ethos. A vast majority abiding by the unwritten code. Of course shouts are heard "they bloody did their job, what more do you want?" Maybe Native Harrow did. Maybe this humble paying observer is guilty of witnessing what was in front of them. Maybe this is a small dot in a big picture. Good luck to them. They have made an excellent album. Perhaps live music just needs a little more. 

1 comment:

Chris Swinden said...

You've hit the nail on the head there with what the Kitchen Garden is all about for me - the connection between the artist and the audience.

So, it was sad to hear what happened with this gig. Perhaps there was a level of disappointment by the size of the turnout? Regardless, people have paid good money to be there and you expect an artist to provide their best, whether it is to 5 people or 15,000.