Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen is something of a figurative canary-in-the-mineshaft for hotly-tipped young bands, the last low-key stop on the line before they go on to better places (the past few months have seen the likes of Vampire Weekend and The Ting Tings entertain 300 or so lucky souls), and tonight’s show is surely no exception. After all, with their exposure on Skins and single ‘Hummingbird’ being used for a recent Orange advert, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Born Ruffians’ profile go stellar. Tonight may be their first headlining London show, for the launch party of their Warp Records debut LP Red, Yellow and Blue, but it certainly won’t be their last.
Yet another band to come off the endless Canadian alt-pop treadmill, Born Ruffians have the place packed out, and after Thomas Tantrum provide a worthily energetic support, they enter to a rapturous reception. Going through a set of mostly new material, they show off a repertoire that always sounds suitably eccentric without ever doing anything particularly outlandish. Whether it’s the hamonised yelps of ‘Barnacle Goose’, or the one-note bassline accompaniment to frontman Luke La Londe’s incoherent scatting in ‘Badonkadonkey’, there always seems to be a strange skewing of the pop sensibility that makes them sit just as easily in the Warp roster as it does on a prime time TV advert, wedged between Coronation St and the Bill.
They also demonstrate a professionalism that belies their youth, with a string of problems with the guitar (yes, that was a pun) forcing La Londe to think on his feet for large parts of the set. Whether this could be the reason for his aloofness throughout the gig, I couldn’t tell, but bassist Mitch De Rosier and drummer Steve Hamelin seemed to be much more comfortable with connecting with the crowd on the evening. An extroverted nature isn’t necessarily the only way to have stage presence, but a constant sullen expression on your face doesn’t help. But, it was his launch party, so he’ll cry etc etc and so on.
Anyway, the packed-out crowd weren’t there to watch the singer do backflips; in fact, 60% of them were probably only there for ‘
Hummingbird’. When the band duly oblige, you sense it may well become an albatross around their necks, but judging by the reaction of the Hoxton crowd, it may well be their ticket to much bigger things.
Words: Chris Bell
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