BRAKES touchdown in the USA… updated 9 Oct

BRAKES USA Tour Fan Videos!! Great Scott, 7th October.

NO RETURN White brothers on breath-taking guitar…


For reviews, photos + videos: see the Fan Blog here

Scroll down for earlier blogs from Thomas taken from his Myspace

5th, 6th, 7th October
Washington/New York/Allston

Good news! Our show in Washington, at The Black Cat, has been upgraded to the big room. The room we’re playing in is possibly the best so far – a nice big club with a chequered floor and a proper PA and all the other things that make a band smile when they arrive at a venue. Our friends who came to the Philly show (Bill and Chris) have turned up again – with copies of the bootleg they made at that gig. Despite running over a little (and getting all paranoid that we’ve pushed our luck) we have an amazing show, and I particularly delight in watching Chris wrestle my guitar (it’s the hardest guitar in the world to retune, and he tries gamely, poor chap!). A good friend of ours, Aaron, from the west coast, has flown over as well, and after the show we get to catch up properly, discussing various bands and people and things. Very nice indeed.

The following night we play New Yorks’ infamous Bowery Ballroom, which we’re all looking forward to, and much as we have a bit of stinker, the reviews are good, and we’re happy with that. After the show, we go for pizza at a nearby takeout, and randomly bump into Lou Barlow and Lee Ranaldo getting a midnight slice. I nervously approach Lou, and tell him I’m a big fan – as with every time I’ve met the fella, he seems more nervous than me, and I promptly leave him to his pepperoni and head back to the bus.

After a five hour drive, we arrive in Allston, a suburb of Boston, where we’re playing a place called Great Scott’s. It’s a sweet little bar, and the promoter, Carl, turns out to be a big ESP fan, telling us he regularly drops one of our tunes into his DJ set. Good man! The show later on is a sell-out, absolutely rammed, and for the first time on this tour I don’t break a string. A triumph, in other words.

The next day is a day off, just chilling in Boston. We decide to do something with our day and find a cinema that’s showing ‘The Invention Of Lying’. To call it a travesty would be a massive understatement. How someone as talented as Ricky Gervais could make such a humdinger of a movie is quite beyond me. I guess if he never made anything again, he’s still got ‘The Office’ and ‘Extras’, but really, do we need this Hollywood slush? The outline is perfectly reasonable in theory, if fairly pretentious, but each ‘gag’ is crowbarred in so cack-handedly, strung out so fucking thin, and the characterisation is all but non-existent. Avoid like the plague. After that massive (expensive) disappointment, we return to the bus and console ourselves with guestlist to a Manic Street Preachers show later in the evening. They’re playing a relatively tiny show (about 700 people, when they regularly play to thousands in the UK) and I have to say they’re on good form, bantering with the crowd and playing a fairly equal set of oldies and newies. I can’t say I care for the new stuff one bit, but to hear ‘No Surface, All Feeling’ in such a small venue is really quite something. Thanks, boys. The bus leaves at 2am, so we walk back through the city, along the river, and get the hell out of town.

2nd – 3rd October

After a long, long overnight drive up from North Carolina, we arrive outside Southpaw, our venue in Brooklyn. Just down the road from where Eamon and his family have made their home, the place is a classic. There’s even a dressing room. Before soundcheck we head up the road and eat pizza slices and read the local news. A couple of days ago some psycho anti-semite homophobe nuts from Kansas set up shop in the street and started barking about redemption and ‘fags’ and etc… One of the placards in the accompanying pictures stands out in the memory – ‘You Will Eat Your Babies!’. Make of that what you will.

After soundcheck we head up the hill to Eamon’s new pad, where his wife Koren has prepared a tasty, wholesome stew. A god-send in these burger-filled days of touring. Their flat is beautiful and, as they’re on the top floor, comes with a fantastic view over the Hudson of pretty much the whole of Manhattan in profile.

We arrive back at Southpaw and We Were Promised Jetpacks are already whipping the crowd up. For such a young bunch they really have their shit down, and perfectly warm the room. Thankfully, the show later is what can only be described as a half-cut triumph. All but over our jet-lag, we’re back on form, and the venue kindly records the show for us. Bootleg in the pipeline, I think. After the show, people disperse to various local bars, but I decide to stay at the venue and watch the later show, which turns out to be a 12-piece Samba band, complete with bass drum-wielding band-leader. Special. Last one on the bus is a jobby.

We wake the next day in a bus-park just outside of central Philly. It’s a short walk to town, where we indulge in the local speciality, Cheese Steak. I’ve a feeling we perhaps didn’t choose quite the right establishment for the job – it’s fairly revolting. If you imagine old, shredded beef, mixed with the cheapest processed mozzarella possible, packed into a huge 12-inch sub, with absolutely no seasoning, you’re halfway there. Oh, well. Bloated with cheap, bland stodge, we wander through town, past the Liberty Belle, past Benjamin Franklin’s gravesite. All very nice, though there’s a strong whiff of tastelessness, compounded by a huge, frankly bizarre billboard advertising some hideous touring Princess Diana exhibition. Nasty. We head back to the bus to watch Anvil: The Story Of Anvil. If you’ve not seen it, see it. I’ll say no more.

Around 5-ish, we get taxis to the venue to soundcheck, eat (much better) food, and generally prepare for the gig. The bar, North Star, is a great place, and all three bands have good shows. At the gig, we finally hook up with a couple of guys who Marc’s been chatting to online, Bill and Chris. They’re both big, BIG Brakes fans, and we spend much of the evening discussing recording techniques, and the possiblity of perhaps coming over and recording with them (Bill is an engineer, and was involved in the recording of Stephen Malkmus’ ‘Pig Lib’ – a stunning record, one of our favourites).

The bus being stuck out of town, there’s only time for a drink or two before we have to cab one off back to the bus-park. There we reconvene, dust ourselves down, and prepare for ‘the off’, as my father would say. Today Philly, tomorrow the Williamsburg. Nice.

30th September – 1st October
Brighton/Chapel Hill

This story starts very early one morning. Marc is first to rendezvous with our driver. From his folks’ house, they bomb down to ours in Seven Dials. What with Eamon now living in Brooklyn, there’s no Kemptown pick-up, so straight up the motorway. At Heathrow there’s no usual sillyness. Instead, a totally personable, reasonable lady. She does her utmost to find us desirable seats – being the knobs we are, there are various requests – window for me, aisle for Marc and as far forward for Alex. As flights go, it’s as perfectly still as they get. But for the pricey drinks, and frankly awful food, it’s as calm and beautiful as flying gets.

We land in Raleigh five hours in our favour. Eamon came down from New York almost simultaneously, and is already waiting at arrivals. As is the case with long-haul flights, the next day or two start to blur – I can remember a lovely moment where we all meet up, perhaps an hour after arriving at the hotel, in the hotel sports’ bar. Warming pints of beer, all of us a little frazzled by travel, sharing tales and generally catching up. On the first night we went all out on a slap-up barbeque, just over the freeway from the Holiday Inn. Disgusting, satisfying and completely neccessary. At this point, 9pm feels like 12, so time for bed. What follows is, at least for me, a fitful night of unrest and vivid, horrid dreams. After the general unease and restlessness of the night, I wake the next morning to a fuller, rejuvenated world – blinding, and suddenly full of possibility. We are a million miles from home, after all.

Our first day proper in the States goes something like this: after waking, me and Alex decide a breakfast is in order. A quick chat with the receptionist in the hotel, and we have our destination – some diner over the freeway from the hotel. Apparently the best Blueberry pancakes in town, and I can’t disagree. We scoff, and get back to the hotel to meet Eamon and Marc, who are counting merch in their room. Once at the venue in town, we have an hour or two’s wait for the bus (containing The Twilight Sad and We Were Promised Jetpacks) to arrive. The venue’s a place called Local 506, and much as I’d love to sing its’ praises, I was however many sheets to the wind it is when you’re really fucked, and the venue wasn’t in much better shape. It’d be safe to say it was a bit of a jet-lagged mess for all of us. A less than brilliant first night of the tour for Brakes, and possibly rather harrowing for The Twilight Sad, too. Best forgotten. Back on the bus as quick as you like.

Brakes USA Tour reviews + pics

Scroll down to Great Scott, 7th October, for videos of Ring A Ding Ding, No Return (which features both White brothers on breath-taking guitar…) and Porcupine Or Pineapple. Also Jackson at Hi-Dive, 15th October. Click link for a Brakes photo…

SOUTHPAW, Brooklyn, New York – 2nd October (scroll down for photos) More photos The Fat Cat showcase continued with Brighton’s Brakesbrakesbrakes and their set of sturdy rock numbers included cute 15-second songs like “Spring Chicken” and “Porcupine or Pineapple” played a second time after guitarist, Tom White admitted he “fucked up the chorus.” White was the most entertaining of the quartet, thrashing about and raking his guitar violently along the mic stand.

NORTH STAR BAR, Philadelphia – 3rd October – Only the throwing of wads of cash would’ve made the punk-pop evening at the North Star Bar – featuring England’s Brakesbrakesbrakes and the Glaswegian twin bill of the Twilight Sad and We Were Promised Jetpacks – better.

The second act, Brakesbrakesbrakes (a.k.a. Brakes), didn’t – put on the brakes, that is. While Tom White played a forceful, fuzz-toned rhythm guitar, Eamon Hamilton crooned with a handsome yet brusque voice. Tracks like “Hey Hey” were thrilling, danceable pop-punk of the highest order. When Brakes did chill for a moment, on the soft and roomy “Don’t Take Me to Space (Man),” the rest didn’t last, as the song’s bridge was but a gateway to a ruckus. Brakes (or as they are known in the states BrakesBrakesBrakes) took the stage with a much more seasoned and assorted set. Drawing from the talents and experiences of a group consisting of members (or past members) of British Sea Power, Tenderfoot and Electric Soft Parade the band has a lot of internal influences and it was evident in their live set.

Brakes, compared to WWPJ, have a much more weathered and varied sound. They wavered between a raucous and snarky punk side and a more traditional alternative delivery. Songs like Hey Hey are infused with energy and performed accordingly while simpler romantic pop songs like Leaving England/First Dance were given a low key and tender treatment. Eamon broke any predictable pattern by dropping off beat tunes like Porcupine Or Pineapple and a cover of Johnny Cash’s Jackson into the line up. As they got further into their show their quality and ease became much more apparent.

BLACK CAT, Washington DC – 5th October After brief shifting of equipment and gear, the stage was set for the arrival of Brakesbrakesbrakes. In my head I’ll always think of them as Brakes because that’s what they’re known as everywhere in the world except America (courtesy of a Philadelphia band who had already called dibs on the Brakes moniker here in the States), so they will be referred to as Brakes for the rest of this review. Of the three bands, I’m most familiar with Brakes’s back catalogue, and they’ve never played Washington before, so I was excited to say the least. Their third and latest album, Touchdown, was released back in April.

They’re an extremely versatile band, with songs running the gamut from folky, country rock (”On Your Side”) to punk (”Porcupine or Pineapple”) to more straight forward rock ‘n’ roll (”Don’t Take Me to Space [Man]“). Singer/guitarist Eamon Hamilton led Brakes (with Thomas White on guitar, Marc Beatty on bass, and Alex White on drums) on a rousing set of 16 songs across their three albums. “Hey Hey,” a raucous, guitar-heavy tune from Touchdown, was a joy to hear live finally, along with “Don’t Take Me to Space (Man),” my favorite off the new album. One enthusiastic fan exclaimed that being that we were in D.C., the band had to play “Cheney,” a song from the band’s first album Give Blood; it’s a five-second tirade against our former not-so-beloved vice president. Hamilton rewarded the fan by asking him to “count in” the song for them. It went over so well that another fan was chosen to do the same, to even louder audience cheers. – BrakesBrakesBrakes, or better known as Brakes in countries without lots of lawyers, also put out a fantastic album this year, Touchdown. Continuing their genre hopping, the band played a record amount of music. Since many of their songs are short, and fairly stylistically varied, they were able to really switch it up, song after song. From punk to indie, to country to acoustic ballads, nothing seemed out of the realm of possibilities. After playing 11 or 12 songs in 30 minutes the band settled down and the remainder of their set included the gorgeous “No Return,” one of the few songs all year that struck me this powerfully. Given their attitudes and the frantic energy they play with, it is really hard not to love Brakes.

BOWERY BALLROOM, New York – 6th October Edwina was more familiar with Brakes (Brakesbrakesbrakes in the US due to a band name conflict) and it was their inclusion on the bill that made her eager to catch the show. She spoke of their funnier songs such as Porcupine or Pineapple and Cheney, a blast of noise about Dick Cheney. What she didn’t talk about much was the wit and strength of the band as they eased their way effortlessly through genres varying from disco to post-punk noise rock to instances of Eamon Hamilton on guitar just conversing directly with the audience.

The songs were put together easily enough, and never drowned out the vocals which was grand because even the songs which you’d expect to be throw away novelty tracks would usually contain bits of wit sung with great aplomb as Eamon would pull faces that brought to mind Woody Harrelson portraying Popeye the Sailor and gave every song a bit of a bitter angry undercurrent in the performance, though to assume that Eamon was the only band member of note is a mistake. Tom White the guitarist managed to talk his brother, Alex, into performing a Soca drum solo that segued into the final three songs of their set.

Nearly every song was a stand out track and if I’d had the money, I would have cleaned out the merch table. There are a number of videos of them on YouTube, and you could certainly find a worse way to spend a half hour than by going through them.


Flickr: Set OneSet TwoSet Three —  Brooklyn Vegan (scroll down)

GREAT SCOTT, Allston – 7th October (with photos) First up, Brakesbrakesbrakes, for the purpose of brevity hereto know as ‘Brakes’ (another band by that name requiring the U.S.-only name change). Those who arrived early had a nice treat. For myself, a Brakes virgin, delightful and somewhat unexpected quirkiness, craziness, and fun mix of styles. Slow pretty tunes with lovely, flowing melodic guitar supplied by Tom White. Who then turned on a dime into a madman, leaping about in search of ‘found objects’ – a beer bottle, the mic stand – to use as a slide. Seemingly random and erratic, yet amazingly precise, perfectly harmonizing with Eamon Hamilton’s equally crazed and powerful vocals, with the incredibly sharp rhythm section of Marc Beatty (bass) and Alex White (drums) giving them a solid base and safe haven from where to shoot off, in all directions. At one point when Tom was especially lost in the moment (along with the rest of us), the cord came unplugged from his guitar. With mild amusement but truly not missing a beat, he waited until just the right moment a few seconds later at the end of the song to plug it back in with dramatic flourish, the resulting sound so perfect, that while it seems so terrifically silly, that was the defining moment that cemented it for me. I love these guys.

EL MOCAMBO, Toronto – 10th October

chromewaves.netphotos here Tom White obviously having a grand time abusing his Telecaster as Hamilton brayed intently while being equally hard on his acoustic. I had thought Hamilton mad when he gave up his gig as keyboardist/drum-banger/rabble-rouser for British Sea Power but it’s pretty clear now he knew what he was doing. (with photos) The UK’s the Brakes started the evening with an adrenaline boosting set of super-catchy pop songs. Fronted by former British Sea Power member Eamon Hamilton, the band formed in 2003 and has toured with the likes of Belle & Sebastian and the Killers, their experience evident both in ability and crow-pleasing interaction. – They have a stunning ability to jump right from ballad material into high-speed, throw-down straight up rock songs; exhibited by an extended version of their new single Don’t Take Me To Space (Man), the upbeat, rather optimistic song progressed into a lower key, dirge style haunt before picking right back up and blowing up the venue for a stunning climax. Guitarist provided a slew of kicks throughout the show, advancing the belief that happy music can still be aggressive.

EMPTY BOTTLE, Chicago – 12th October

undergroundbee.comphotos here I’ve been a fan of Brakes since the band released Give Blood in 2005, and the group’s latest CD, Touchdown, is another strong recording. Opening Monday night’s show, Brakes slammed through a series of quick songs, tossing off these punk, post-punk, country and rock gems like musical haikus. Several of the songs end abruptly, as soon as Brakes have said everything they want to say. The shortest song of the night was so short that Brakes played it twice: the 2005 political commentary “Cheney,” which consists of about 30 seconds of the name “Cheney!” being chanted over and over followed by the eloquent plea: “Stop being such a dick!” The band also threw in a cover of Camper Van Beethoven’s “Shut Us Down,” but the highlights were some of the now-classic songs from Brakes’ 2005 debut and new tracks like the catchy “Don’t Take Me to Space (Man)” and the wistful “Leaving England.” Somewhere into the second or third song I became absolutely transfixed by Thomas’ guitarwork. Yes, regular readers, you know what he was doing. Aside from the usual bits necessary to be played in order to fulfill the song’s requirements, he would, towards the end and in the small solos taken in the middle, move between the amp and front facing speaker so as to manipulate the sound. That always makes me a bit woozy. And if you’re an aficionado of this feat, you also know that some artists do it with considerable more skill than others. Thomas was a master at throwing out just the right note for just the right amount of time and letting it hang there to be looped back around in an infinite circle of sound, deteriorating with every second that it reverberated there. I ambushed him after the set and demanded an explanation, of course (visit the blog to read more)

HI-DIVE, Denver – 15th October

KILBY COURT, Salt Lake City – 16th October – photos at BrakesBrakesBrakes has evolved into something of a dynamic, if hard to pin down, rock band. Live, their sound is as slippery as it is on record, sliding from an arena-rock Beatnik Filmstars on the more “indie-rock” numbers to Clinic-gone-country on the acoustic songs.

It’s all good fun, though, and their setlist equally covered all three of their albums, opening with the stomping “All Night Disco Party” from their 2005 debut. They played a lot of bouncy upbeat numbers like “Ring a Ding Ding”, “Spring Chicken”, and “Hey Hey” – the highlight of the set was probably a blazing version of “Don’t Take Me To Space (Man)” from their latest studio release, Touchdown. They rounded out the set with some folkier songs like “On Your Side” and “NY Pie”, one of my favorites from their first record. They seemed to be in good spirits as well, in spite of the low turnout.

RICKSHAW STOP, San Francisco – 21st October (click for full review + pics) As anyone who reads this blog knows, I can be a loyal listener, and once a band or an artists gets under my skin, I want to support them for as long as I can. It doesn’t hurt when the performers in question continue to kick around the club circuit, even flying in from overseas and traipsing all the way to the western edge of this country to do so. Chalk one up for Brakes on each of the aforementioned counts.

The fuller sound of Touchdown translated quite well to the environs of the Rickshaw Stop. Among the newer songs, “Don’t Take Me to Space (Man)” swept through on a refreshing breeze that characterizes much of the record, while “Leaving England” carried some poignancy when Eamon informed us it was based on a true story.

Those of you who’ve seen Brakes in concert before may be heartened to know that other elements have remained the same. They made use of their last moments of stage time with not one but two–two!–takes of “Comma Comma Full Stop.” The paean de punctuation forever endears them in this copy editor’s heart, but apparently, I wasn’t alone in feeling its pull. The song was so explosive that guitarist Thomas White had to descend from the stage and plant himself on the club floor, as if to ground himself from the tune’s full force. This time, at least, he lived to tell.

Brakes on BBC 6 Music + May shows

Brakes had a session on BBC 6 Music (29th April) They also talk to Cerys Matthews.

Brakes BBC 6 Music Session – Tracks: Hey Hey and Why Tell The Truth (When It’s Easier To Lie)

There’s some brilliant live footage from Brakes tour on youtube especially What’s In It For Me, from Oxford, 23rd April: watch here

BBC 6 Music broadcast a few songs from Camden Crawl, though the quality isn’t as good as the session above, Jackson is worth a listen (posted in the Fan Blog) Watch All Night Disco Party here

Brakes Fan Footage

HEY HEY with live fan footage from King Tuts, 19th April: WATCH HERE

Videos from Oxford, 23rd April:
What’s In It For Me
Isobel/Don’t Take Me To Space (Man)
Cease & Desist
Porcupine Or Pineapple

TW Blog 18th April: Well, we all enjoyed a much needed day off today. Actually it was a partial day off as we had a wee instore at the lovely Avalanche record store in Glasgow. Good it was too. The tour’s been grand so far – Manchester and Leeds being the definite highlights up to now… King Tut’s tomorrow (see video here) where we’re joined again by our favourite Glaswegian buddies Le Reno Amps (last seen wandering off into the Hull night…) for the last time on this tour. Fun times, indeed! TWX