The Travelling Band, Louisiana

The Travelling Band are a Manchester folk-collective who are at first glance seem unremarkable and whose ambitions remain distinctly unambitious. The travelling band_0 The name doesn’t help, harking back as it does to an imagined sixties nostalgia land of Woodstock and Monterey; reconstituted Americana and folk gathering nod along. They are here promoting their third album The Big Defreeze having formed in New York in 2008 and remained moderately successful since then. So – why should we care? Why, on this of all nights when across town the likes of Mogwai, Death From Above 1979, Kode9 and the rest of the Hyperdub stable are busy reimagining the sonic landscape? Initially at least it’s easy to remain uncaring – opening tunes “25 Hours” and “Garbo” are perfectly pleasant slice of Britpop, recalling long-lost northern mainstays The Charlatans, The Las and Cast. “Desolate Icicle” is the worst song-title this side of Liam Gallagher’s solo career and sounds exactly like you expect it to sound. 107605_original The audience composed entirely of geography teachers and Green Party activists smile, nod and stroke their collected chins. The Travelling Band are giving them exactly what they want to hear and it would be easy for the group to remain trapped in the comfort zone somewhere between Mumford & Sons (there, I said it.) and Badly Drawn Boy. There is however something more about this band and in the second half of the gig – augmented by an added violinist – they change direction fast. The gorgeous and airy “Borrowed & Blue” recalls Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac and with “Only Waiting” they really hit their stride: it’s a raucous, bellowed folk jam that Pete Seeger or Woody Guthrie would have been proud to call their own! Lead troubadours Adam Gorman and Jo Dudderidge are handsome in a fey kind of way but they wear the obsessed glares of men who spent their teenage years hoarding vinyl and memorising Bob Dylan lyrics. There’s a determination and steeliness about The Travelling Band tonight; it would be easy for them to stay in the comfort zone as the crowd sink into pints of real ale and mid- nineties memories of Levellers gigs, but they change gears quickly helped by a synchronicity between the disparate weapons in their arsenal (hammond organ, maracas, mandolin; the aforementioned violin), and a tight rhythm section – drummer Nick Vaal in particular is excellent. A sense of confidence is duly restored in the ranks of The Travelling Band who’ve gone from shamefaced callowed youths one minute to pub banter merchants the next. By the time Gormon tells us that penultimate song “Passing Ships” is “very popular in South Korea” you feel warm and fuzzy for the lad. You want to pinch his cheek and call him things like “buddy” and “sport” and “champ.” With a final dash of hue and cry the band are done and off the stage. No encore. Their work is done here. They’re off on the road to a spit and sawdust pub in Birmingham or Liverpool, Newcastle or Norwich. Anywhere where the beer is warm, where there are rollies aplenty; where barefooted women hum along to Joni Mitchell – that is where they are needed. The Travelling Band will never change the world and they don’t want to anyhow, but what they do they do charmingly and that should be good enough for all of us. 7/10 Find out more about The Travelling Band by clicking here. By Daniel Neilson