Hearing of a live rock band playing in Gwangju is a bit like seeing an oasis on the horizon after months of traipsing thirstily over scorched desert plains. Sure, the internet allows anybody with a modicum of know-how to keep up to date with whatever tickled their eardrums at home, but any active music fan begins to crave the sweat and grime of a ramshackle gig before long.
And so it was, on the weekend of Gwangju World Music Festival, that Speakeasy paid host to one of the most omnipotent bands in town, Feed The Boats. And the gods were seemingly on their side. With the weather ensuring the Festival was a washout, the boats were duly fed. Patrons streamed through the door in the shape of a one-fingered salute, directed at Festival organizers, who had chosen to overlook Speakeasy when selecting after-party venues for the event. Did somebody say karma?
In some respects, Feed The Boats couldn’t really fail tonight. A bunch of pie-eyed, gig-starved westerners are hardly the most difficult crowd to please, but credit where it’s due: they put on a good show. Their set list was well chosen: a mixture of crowd pleasers and what seemed to be personal favourites. The crowd, well oiled after a warm up set from Deserts, responded well to each number; dancing, singing along and hurling compliments toward the stage. The lead singer has an excellent voice: guttural and grungy, a refreshing take on Courtney Love or Brody Dalle. And so, it was no surprise when they launched into a rollicking Distillers number.
Likewise, their take on Mod classic A Town Called Malice is pleasing, but not wholly unanticipated, given the poker-faced Englishman in tow. Feed The Boats’ style is a well-worn brand of bar-rock; toying with alternative and EMO, before settling somewhere in the middle. The original numbers they play are greeted warmly, but it’s their versions of a couple of classics that will endure. The schism between The Crystals and The Replacements could never be overstated, so congratulations to Feed The Boats for going some way to bridge the gap, with an enjoyable rendition of And Then I Kissed Her and the Minneapolis outfit’s Bastards of Young, delivered in the only way it should be: loud, fast and rickety.
No, Feed The Boats won’t win any awards for originality, but they should be commended for providing what was certainly the most entertaining option on a Saturday night in Gwangju.
Video: The Replacements - Bastards of Young