Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Apache Relay, Ruby Lounge Manchester, 23rd January 2015 7/10

My live music year started less than auspiciously: awful traffic stretched the journey to the venue to two hours. The more than slightly drunken audience were amidst the least considerate I can recall, and the support act I'd come to see were allocated only 30 minutes on stage. This was compounded by the main act being devoid of musical interest for me, completely failing to engage me emotionally. They may have programmed alongside The Apache Relay because both bands are now based in Nashville. They also cite Springsteen as an influence, in common with the Southern Rock main act. Yet, their roots in American music lie far wider and deeper.

It has to be said that the two opening songs from their American Nomad EP initially failed to enthral me: perhaps I was mentally still in that traffic jam. The Apache Relay decided to build their energy gradually, but it's no confidence that the closing highlight, Valley of the Fevers, is from their most recent, self-titled album. This shares producer Kevin Augunas with Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, who would surely would have been more appropriate counterparts for them. The six piece band listened to each other, and the gains from performing together for over 5 years were clear to hear. As the set progressed, lead Michael Ford became more animated, inspiring the rest of the band to become more extrovert too. Despite the noisy audience, a joy emanated from the band, an infectious happiness that transcended the limitations of the venue.

A two hour drive was a modest price to be transported across the Atlantic for even a few minutes. The Apache Relay talk about 'reinterpreting the American songbook for their generation', making folk music relevant to a contemporary audience in the same way that Trampled by Turtles, whom they've supported on tour, have brought bluegrass to new fans. They combine acoustic guitar and fiddle with electric guitars, blending new and old in what they describe as Indie Roots. The Apache Relay is also known for engagement with fans: I was delighted when the band Tweeted me after the gig. I can only hope that they return to the UK with headline tour in the near future, or at least to the festival circuit, for they are full of American optimism, regardless of the sometimes dark lyrics. With a more sympathetic crowd, I'm sure there would have been heartwarming sing alongs.

Set List:
  • Power Hungry Animals
  • American Nomad
  • Katie Queen of Tennessee
  • Good As Gold
  • Lost Kid
  • State Trooper
  • Valley of The Fevers

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