Gallery/Video/Words: UK’s STORNOWAY are made of the pretty

Jon Ouin from Oxfordshire, UK’s alt-folkie band Stornoway has a coded setlist. Coded, because, Ouin plays about 150,000 instruments. The Vancouver gig on June 1 at the Media Club, for example, had Ouin doing duty on keys, samplers, guitar, vocals, cello and banjo. And then there was drummer Rob Steadman and Adam Briggs (doing duty on trumpet and samples as well) playing THE SAW.

Yes, the saw.

Steadman bowed a saw during one song, while Briggs actually SAWED a piece of wood for sound effects during another. (I once saw Iceland’s Múm play a bucket of water, but the double-saw action trumps that. Particularly when Briggs actually and accidentally sawed completely through his wood chunk during the track.)

It’d be tempting to dismiss the band as being twee: beardy lead singer Brian Briggs has a kind of Englishnerdypolitesweet between-song banter that included a rundown of the weird drinks they now like to experiment with whilst in Vancouver – last time was Bubble tea, this time a beet-ginger thing – and drummer Rob and brother Oli on bass were wearing blue and green face paint. PLUS they have a banjo and a violinist on the side. But let’s not, okay?  Because Stornoway are actually GOOD. They can actually play – one, three, 15 different instruments – and their harmonies are swoony.

Stornoway play the kind of really pretty, breezy UK folkpop stuff that makes Sunday mornings tolerable. And on this night, gigging for a partly sozzled jersey-wearing, post-Vancouver-Canucks-Stanley-Cup-Playoff-Game hockey-win group, they made a Wednesday night truly lovely.

Highlights? When Brian Briggs asked the audience for silence and tolerance (and, eventually, got it) so he could unleash a new track called “The Bigger Picture” (coded as “B.P. Oil Spill” on Ouin’s set list below, watch the video, thanks to Peter Leung) sung entirely off-mic and acoustically. The crowd responded so well, that “The End of the Movie” was also performed unplugged, as was the absolutely stonking encore – love this song -“We Are the Battery Human”. “Zorbing” sounded predictably beautiful and fun, as did opener “I Saw You Blink.” Other highlights included chatting with the Brothers Steadman post-show and teaching them how to do the rockhands. “I mean, for fuck’s sake, you’re a drummer” I said, shortly after telling him he was a brilliant drummer. (He is.) “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?” the tipsy blonde next to Rob, lurched, “LOOK AT HIM! HE’S ALSO FUCKING HOT!” He laughed. I’m thinking he gets that a lot. He is fucking hot. But that’s neither here nor there, because one of the coolest things about him is HE CAN PLAY A SAW.

Stornoway’s debut album is Beachcomber’s Windowsill on 4AD and you can consider that link back there a secret decoder ring to help you decipher the set list below. Enjoy the pics and video, friends. \m/

Jon Stornoway's Setlist

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *