It’s been a while since I’ve been invited to a 10th birthday party; and I’m pretty sure that even when I was 10, I never attended on in a venue quite like this. But, here I am at the Relentless Garage (a name that makes me cringe every time) in Islington for the 10th birthday of indie record label Wichita Records. The place is pretty packed out and is much bigger than I had always assumed it was. Tonight’s entertainment are a folky/country duo from Sweden going by the name of First Aid Kit.
The girls take the stage to thunderous applause from a surprisingly large crowd (I say surprisingly only as I had no idea they had such a big following in London). Dressed nearly identically in 70′s style dresses and brown boots, the two teenage sisters, Klara and Johanna SÃ¶derberg, seem shy as they make a timid greeting to the crowd, but soon fall into their comfort zone when the chords of their first song Tangerine start up. With an intro reminiscent to ‘Half The World Away’ by Oasis, the song is a sweet, stripped down opener. Klara has an impressively powerful and soulful voice for a girl of only 17, with a slight Swedish twang which seems to compliment the songs beautifully. The girls soon find their stride as they rattle off highlights like Hard Believer and a cover of Fleet Foxes’ Tiger Mountain Peasant Song they become noticeably more confident and playful with the audience. This confidence becomes comes to a head by achieving an impressive feat: Getting the entire crowd to remain totally silent as the sisters take to the very front of the stage and perform an impressive version of the song Ghost Town, a narrative filled number which wouldn’t seem out of place on a Rilo Kiley album, sans mics and with only Klara’s acoustic guitar for backing. Even with their small frames, the pair fill the entire place with heart wrenching and imagery laden lyrics which keep everyone captivated for what feels like a life time (in a good way).
The interactive nature of the night continues when, after another couple of songs, Klara announces that they have Latitude festival tickets to give away, before hastily cobbling together a competition for a group of lucky fans. As four self proclaimed “super fans” are plucked from the audience and brought on stage, each in turn have to join Klara in a duet of their chosen First Aid Kit song. It’s a mixed bag of performances ranging from enthusiastic (shall we say), to inaudible before culminating in a actually rather impressive show from a petite girl, decked out in scarlet FAK t-shirt. A gutsy move on all parts, but the audience seem to lap it up. It’s certainly a become a night of unexpected turns of events, but isn’t that the beauty of live music after all? A few more songs follow (including the Martha Wainwirght-esque) I Met Up With A King, which sounded amazing, and a short encore cover of Gram Parson’s Still Feeling Blue before the fleeting set is over.
The girls packed a huge amount into their hour on stage. The performance is fairly no frills, just solid renditions of very solid songs mixed in with a hearty dose of playful fun. It was certainly not what I was expecting, but I think that was part of the charm. If you enjoy these girls on record, then you’ll love them live, and I urge you to do just that.