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Peter, Bjorn & John - Louisiana, Bristol

26 September 2006

Young folks, old folks, a chap that resembles Sloth from The Goonies and a shouting crank who doesn't understand where the bird's gone, squeeze in and sweat to Swedes...

Annual tradition states that as the UK Summer festival season comes to a close and autumn evenings draw closer, indie kids leave their bedrooms only to occasionally huddle together in snug pub function rooms for weeknight gigs. Not so this Indian Summer, the incredibly small upstairs room of the Louis is rammed (with a bevy of aforementioned folk) and is extremely hot. Also, it being a week night and all, they’ve shut the shutters to the outside balcony in an attempt to cut down the noise.

No matter, band Loney, Dear get things into sweet Swedish swing with lead singer Emil Svanängen dancing round the tiny stage. Only slightly off putting is that Emil is unfortunately up-lit by the handful of stage spots which make him look a bit like a pig in a toupee.

Removing Emil’s spot-lit character traits from the equation, Loney, Dear are excellent and rather typical of current Swedish indie music. The small scene is intimate enough to share similar attributes. Recent bands from the Scandinavian country provide well rendered versions of hypnotic organic groovy tunes in slightly broken English with a tightness that suggests years of practice but an informal homely sound that suggests they’re all still mates.

Their sound is so complementary to Peter, Bjorn and John that uninformed latecomers to the gig may assume that they are in fact them. The exception obviously being that Emil has brought with him a female keyboardist / tambourine player (Malin Ståhlberg) who sings along with the drummer and pig wig. From a sound point of view, they’re like a more profound Scissor Sisters with Belle and Sebastian on lyric duty, backed by Stereolab.

The heat continues to intensify and when Peter, Bjorn and John come on. I’ve fashioned a makeshift fan out of a Loney, Dear flyer which I flap in time to the beats and keep my date ‘cool.’

One advantage Peter Bjorn and John have by playing an intimate venue is that rather than cashing in on their summer hit and starting the UK campaign by playing the mid-afternoon set at a festival, every member of the audience really wants to be there and has a knowledge of the album. Instead of the audience just being in anticipation of ‘Young Folks’ there is polite appreciation and recanting of their other songs. We may not have been following them for the eight years they’ve been successful in Sweden, but we’re quick converts to their catchy and varied Writers Block.

In fact, ‘Young Folks’ is played five or so tracks into the set and the crowd dutifully offers whistling support. Only a few people show dissatisfaction at Victoria Bergsman from The Concretes not putting in an appearance.

One twat asks them where their girlfriends are. Bjorn laughs it off saying they can’t afford to bring them. Peter gets uncharacteristically snappy and says ‘What a stupid question, people always ask us this, it’s so fucking boring.’ Personally, I think it would have been nice to bring Malin on from Loney,Dear and get her to sing it. They are Swedish scenester mates, after all. Aren’t they?

This aside, the Swedes are on the whole, characteristically polite - particularly Bjorn who doesn’t have much to say (and says as much) - so gets by just smiling. His main vocal moments are on ‘Start To Melt’, an endearing acoustic version of ‘Amsterdam’ and two hander new single ‘Lets Call It Off.’ Though they’re a band that pride themselves in their equality, Peter’s singing voice steals the show by taking the most memorable vocal lines, from ‘Objects Of My Affection’ to the show closer ‘Up Against The Wall.’ His earthy, yet soaring voice rocks like Mega City Four (ask a crusty uncle).

With no dressing room to run to, their fake encore is played out by the band facing the wall for a few seconds. They sense the room’s energy but also appreciate the intense heat of the room which is somewhat smothering us - and so ask us to shout whether we’d like a “Chilled song or a rocking one.”

Thankfully, we vote for chilled - with a touch of rocking - which helps diffuse the room and we gasp out into the street.

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Article by: Dan Davies

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