Last Thursday I saw Stornoway at the Bowery Ballroom. Named after the Scottish town (which apparently appears on all televised UK weather reports), Stornoway are a band of cute guys from Oxford. They play a kind of bland English/Scottish-sounding songwriter pop. Frontman Brian Briggs, on acoustic, is supported by the fairly typical backing of guitar, drums, and bass, occasionally joined by the seemingly obligatory trumpet, violin, and the like. The singing calls up shades of a contrived Neutral Milk Hotel or an uninspired James Mercer.
The band was well put together. The bass sound was amazing, and the drummer sang backups well. They seemed to have a great understanding of what the crowd of thirtysomething couples on dates wanted to see and hear—but certainly didn’t seem to bring anything fresh to the table, and at times were just peeing in the pool.
Amidst screams of “America loves you!” from women on the floor, there were some nice bits from the band for sure, but the songs sounded like someone had overthought all the dynamics out of them. One joyous, anthemic chorus went “. . . battery humans, but we were born to be free-range.” Get it?
They ended with a couple of songs unplugged, which was cool in a big club, everyone shushing each other and singing along. In the end, the crowd was happy, and a good time was had by all. No harm done. I guess not everyone’s a critic.
Words by Cedar Apffel