Some people consider intimate gigs awkward. But how often does it happen that the artists casually walk past you in the audience while the other act is on stage? Or how often does the band take picture of the audience? Hardly ever.
On Thursday, May 3rd, The Barr Brothers to appear on the tiny stage placed right in the corner on the room with a white sheet hanging on the wall to cover the red bricks. Having had a harp, drums, couple of guitars and a whole PA system squeezed there, the band did not have much space left to move around. Once making themselves as comfortable as they could, they began with "Beggar In The Morning", a subtle, wistful melody with cascading guitar lines and gentle harp sound. Moving on to more country-like, skipping songs before going back to slow, melodic nuances, the band had introduced a brand new song to the audience. There was no doubt as to how nervous and excited they must have been, even though playing in front of maximum 20 people that evening, as it was their first visit to U.K.
Soup Kitchen in the centre of Manchester is an intriguing venue to say at least. With capability of not more than probably around 60 people, it guarantees an intimate gig where the artist is just within the reach of your hand. Being an old cellar with scruffy walls and clearly visible bricks, with the small bar situated somewhere between the toilets and the backstage room, and few small tables scattered here and there, the venue has a certain, somehow underground undertone.
By the time Team Me appeared on stage, more and more people gathered in the room. It was difficult to distinguish between the band’s crew, the venue’s staff and fans. English, Norwegian and German mixed within number of conversations giving more the impression of an international meeting rather than a gig. Once the band managed to somehow swarm onto the stage it became clear that something, or rather someone was missing. "Our drummer is in Norway," announced Uno, the bassist designated to take on drums for the night, "But the good news is we’re going to Japan" he continued as the crowd cheered. Having introduced themselves and cracked few jokes Uno, Elida, Simen, Marius and Simen began playing. The set included most of the songs from their debut album, To The Treetops (QRO review), including "Daggers", "Patrick Wolf & Daniel Johns", "Show Me", "Fool" and more. The gig progressed, the atmosphere loosened and the band relaxed turning this unfortunate situation into something fun and exciting not only for the gathered fans but most of all for themselves. At some point during the "Weathervanes and Chemicals", Simen knocked something off the stage in his attempt to dance despite the lack of space. With few, hardly noticeable forbearing smiles from his band mates they carried on playing.
Few times one of them warned the public, "This could go terribly wrong," but every time Marius humbly thanked the audience at the end of each song, they applauded them cheerfully, clearly enjoying the show. The optimism of the band turned out to be contagious with everyone smiling by the time they left the stage. There is definitely something that distinguishes Team Me from the sea of other, seemingly similar bands. It’s not their quirky looks, not the headbands; it’s not the handmade decorations they use to spruce the instruments and microphones up. It’s the joy they share with every person present in the room while performing, whether it’s just a couple of people or a full stadium. It’s the connection they make by casually chatting to their audience rather than at them. And finally it’s about how flabbergastingly fantastic they sound live, with or without the drummer. Sure, a degree of messiness is a part of the act, but turning everything into a joke rather than stressing about it and taking on new challenged is the key to the success.
Some people find intimate gigs awkward. However as far as I am concerned there is nothing better than being able to see the band members not as a small dot on a horizon or somewhere on a TV screen when you stand too far from the stage amongst thousand other people. And if they are able to look back at you, not by skimming through the faces in the crowd but rather by looking directly at your face, playing for you and all those 20 other people. Being tremendously impressed first with their debut To The Treetops as well as with their performance at Soup Kitchen in Manchester, I am looking forward to seeing Team Me in the future. Whether it’s Norway, U.K. or Japan, football stadium or a small pub, with or without the drummer it’s just a pure joy watching them perform.