Photo not from last night, although singer Jack Barnett WAS wearing the same outfit
These New Puritans @ Doug Fir, 6/17/08
When we showed up at the Doug Fir last night the ticket office was closed and at the top of the stairs, nobody was stamping hands. Shit, I thought--show's canceled. Or maybe we missed it. Neither, it turned it.
The show just wasn't selling tickets. These New Puritans would play, and they'd do it for free. Somebody said something about really brisk door sales and almost nothing in advance... A damn shame. These kids--and I mean kids--are on to something. But indeed they are a very new band from half-a-world away (they're from the UK)... So I suppose it's not a huge surprise that the show undersold.
Puritan's turned heads at this year's SXSW, and that's about it. The album, Beat Pyramid came out pretty recently. It's a minor chord, angular, minimal, post-punk affair--not exactly the rage at the moment. But still, it's good stuff.
There were maybe 30 people in the Doug Fir downstairs. Maybe a quarter of them standing. The Puritans took stage and you could tell they weren't exactly buttressed by the clubs energy. Their age is striking. They look like high school kids. God knows, they might be. I wondered what it might look like if singer Jack Barnett got hit on by groupies -- it would look wrong. Dude looks like he doesn't even have armpit hair, much less own a razor (ok, and also he looks sort of a like a brown-haired, even younger version of Mercury Film Editor Erik Henriksen). They are all that age and build. Almost too innocent to be doing this sort of paranoid, cryptic post-punk thing.
But here they were, and damn if they didn't do it well. The band, which sounds quite electric and synthesized on record but more organic live, was tight as chain-link fence. They didn't waste notes. Ever. The drummer George, Jack's twin, was something--fast, sharp and precise. Supposedly a wild performer, Jack didn't really break out of his skin like I was hoping for, but again, you couldn't blame him. Opening up the show for free seemed like a nice enough gesture.
The Puritans didn't play a long set that night, and well they shouldn't have. The energy, or numbers, just weren't there. But then again, the somewhat abrasive, minor-chord slices aren't an all night affair under any circumstances. Still, we stood there, legs cocking to the beat. In the right space, however--a packed, sweaty, club swirling with drink--it's easy to see how These New Puritans could lead some amazing, cathartic, tribal dance party.
Tip for End Hits?
Email them here.
Get the best of the Mercury each week in your inbox!