Sort of Revolution: Fink & The Staves live at Liberty Cinema

It’s been a good year for Mumbai in terms of breaking out of the usual gig-circuit – fashioning venues out of old Marathi studios to host crowdfunded DIY events, the emergence of tiny new spaces hosting open mic nights, the utilization of erstwhile seedy-clubs as party spaces. In the latter half of this year, a single-screen theatre as old as independent India quietly stepped in and established itself as the gig venue we had needed so badly. It’s a need we had long given up on and forgotten we’d ever had – being able to purely experience indoor gigs; without omnipresent, uninterested diners filling half the room.

Liberty Cinema, built in 1947, has a history that runs deep through this city’s culture, and is one of the most beautifully preserved art deco structures in Mumbai. Furnished with liberally reclining chairs arranged over red carpets, under the warm glowing ribs of a balcony and upper stall chambers, the 1200-seater cinema has a large elevated stage replete with drapes and scalloped curtains. Beams from the projector light up the embellished walls before hitting the screen, leaving audiences feeling encased in mother of pearl.

Liberty somewhat specializes in indie events now – from film screenings run by Alliance Francaise to a surreal ‘cine concert’ (a silent movie set to an accompaniment by an orchestra). Their foray into gigs began this summer with a performance by Microphon3, a Mumbai-based-and-inspired rapper. Some of the best gigs I’ve been to in my life have been inside quiet auditoriums lit up like night skies, and high-ceilinged music halls filled with only a few hundred people – because of the way the structure treats the sound. Only last night did the setup truly take advantage of Liberty’s acoustics, at Fink and The Staves’ gig.

Bristol-bred folktronica act Fink (led by Fin Greenall), and Watford-based folk rock band The Staves, are doing a three-city tour this month (including the NH7 Weekender in Bangalore) kicking off at Liberty Cinema. When I first saw The Staves on stage, seeing as they were a trio of sisters with a guitar and a ukulele, I was expecting something along the lines of perhaps a less-ominous Warpaint. They’ve toured with the likes of Bon Iver, and they eventually sounded roughly like a female Fleet Foxes. The kind of crisp vocal harmonies that could fill a church, wrapped around nonchalant poetry. Between stories of “People running away / Running like strangers / Day after day” and hiding their tongues behind their teeth, they would announce their next songs with, “We’re gonna blow your faces off.”

When Fink and his band members got on stage, they basically all looked like the same person, only with varying degrees of facial hair. This was an intimate gig, which escalated and plunged quickly amid some songs growing into more percussive versions of themselves. Cheesy visuals played behind the band, and as Greenall sang “Fear is like fire, you can warm your hands on it,” the images on screen burst into cheap flames. There was a sweeping intensity that belied the visuals, and they soon gave way to a brilliant lights setup. Most of Fink’s music is about the minimally poignant songwriting, that shines through on the familiar fluidity and urgency of his voice, and raspily emphasized by the sudden harmonies. They played a ninety minute set spanning material from their 2011 release Perfect Darkness, as well as reworks of older hits like ‘Pretty Little Thing’ and ‘Sort of Revolution.’

Greenall’s ex-Ninja Tune DJ roots showed up when he dropped to his knees extending ‘Sort of Revolution’ into a resounding arrangement of layered delays. “The truth is that we’re whatever we can hold on to,” the visuals turned to silhouettes of trees shaking, as if perturbed only slightly by Greenall speaking of how “it’s beautiful right before the end… of summer,” and for a few moments everyone fell into their lovers’ arms.

written by The Knife

NEWS - 19. December 2012   CITY - Mumbai

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