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Whippet Out – Richmond Fontaine, Amsterdam

Sometimes, a 21st Century Rock and Roll preacher has to visit Amsterdam for some cultural immersion. Well, that’s what Howlin’ Whippet told us anyway. While he was there he decided to catch one of Americana’s finest at work. 

Celebrating the Whippet birthday in Amsterdam gave me an excuse to check out Richmond Fontaine, whom I’d missed at Stereo, Glasgow, due to the old five-week-month cash flow problem.

The Paradiso is an amazing old venue in a converted church. Stained glass and two tiers of very steep balcony gave it an almost Globe Theatre ambience. As myself and Mrs Whippet admired the venue I started to wonder about the several hundred locals wearing t-shirts emblazened with a logo for Di Dijk (they’re a Dutch band, apparently.)

A quick confab and we realised we were in the wrong part of the venue. RF were in the somewhat smaller upstairs cloisters room. We all make mistakes, particularly after a somewhat relaxed day sampling The ‘Dam’s rather enlightened attitude to coffee drinking.

Richmond Fontaine are currently touring new album The High Country and they unusually played almost all of the album in order as an opener. Willie Vlautin’s cinematic lyrics about life, love and redemption in a logging town are perfectly captured live and the audiences’ reverential hush and wild applause seem to encourage the band’s playing to levels conversant with the Paradiso’s former life.

If you’ve read any of Vlautin’s Carver-esque mini novels you’ll know the subject matter. Death, lust, alcohol, drugs, bad decisions and all-round weirdness, amplified by the claustrophobic communities that the lyrics inhabit. The High Country songs follow this trajectory, although they’re not without humour, black as it may be.

Vlautin is joined on co-vocals by Debs Kelly of The Damnations and her rootsy voice and keyboards round the sound out perfectly. Guitar playing and shape-throwing duties are the department of Dan Eccles, a huge backwoodsman-type who wrangles Chuck Prophet-like sounds from his telecaster. He pulls some pretty cool noises from a lap steel too, making it sound like a chainsaw at one point.

RF then play a storming set comprising songs from earlier albums, highlights being the Willie/Debs duet Post To Wire, Lonnie and 43. They also throw in (very) old song Contrails from 1999’s Lost Son.

At one point, an audience member shouts out for a song and Vlautin tells us that since they have so many songs, several have been “sent away on vacation”. How much of this makes sense to the Dutch, I’m not sure, but the heckler seems happy.

A curfew unfortunately terminates the show, but we’ve had a taste of the redwood trees, the logging roads and the seedy side of small town americana that flavours much of Vlautin’s work. I should probably exclusively review Amsterdam gigs if this top night is anything to go by. (Nice try – Ed.)

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2 Responses

  1. replying to my own review here, but apologies to De Dijk (correct spelling) who are a veteran Dutch soul/blues band whose songs Solomon Burke has sang on. Sorry for being philistine, guys!

  2. You’re honestly not being a philistine! Not knowing veteran Dutch bands is not a hanging offence!

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