Octoberman @ Brixton Windmill 15.11.10

This gig at Brixton’s charmingly down-at-heel Windmill saw a handful of very talented musicians barely outnumbered by the paying audience. But those few that braved the sudden onset of winter were treated to a fine, literate band with smarts and soul.

Nov 15th, 2010 at The Windmill, Brixton / By Ben Wood
Octoberman Opening act Muy Fellini played beautiful acoustic guitar and sang soulfully about… erm, love probably – impossible to tell, really, unless you speak Spanish. The campaign for subtitles at gigs starts here! Great voice though…

While Canadian band Octoberman’s third album Fortresses has a lengthy supporting cast, the band’s current European tour – which concluded tonight – saw them stripped down to a three-piece. Their founder, singer/guitarist and songwriter Marc Morrissette, was joined by a bassist and drummer, which was just as well. They’d have struggled to fit anyone else on the Windmill’s dinky stage.

Morrissette sings rueful, well-observed lyrics in a thin, reedy voice which is sometimes reminiscent of Sparklehorse’s Mark Linkous, Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy and, on folkier numbers, Palace Brothers-era Will Oldham. Meanwhile, the band can do a good tasteful jangle a la Eliott Smith’s later albums; or spread out and even rock out somewhat in a more muscular mid-70s style.

Morrisette has a novelistic ability to zero in on the telling detail, whether he’s singing about internet haters (the lyrically Pavement-esque ‘The Backlash’); or former lovers. He spreads his net wide for inspiration - singing a song written in a German ditch; one written by his grandparents; and one inspired by Haruki Murakami’s cult classic novel The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles. He also plays a mean harmonica.

Octoberman have a nice warm sound… and a nice warm attitude. The sprinkling of punters made it feel more like a rehearsal than a gig. But the band played a full set with full commitment and Marc was graciousness personified, telling us “it’s always nice to come back here”. He said that after some of the more hectic shows being crazy it was nice to finish the tour on a “mellow” note.

There were definitely advantages to the sparse attendance, however. Everyone had a seat and could actually see the band, despite the Windmill’s notoriously ropy sightlines. And hopefully the band won’t take it too personally. Van Gogh didn’t sell many when he was in Brixton, and he wasn’t too shabby either…