Nathen Maxwell – London Borderline

By paul

Nathen Maxwell & The Original Bunny Gang
Tuesday 30 March 2010
Borderline, London
Support: Mouthwash

With Easter looming it seems somewhat fitting that The Original Bunny Gang should roll into London for a debut UK performance. The response though is surprising. For a band fronted by a member of the always popular Flogging Molly you might expect a few more pairs of feet through the door. Tonight is quiet. Like 30 people quiet. Still, Nathen Maxwell and his troop manage to make a decent evening of it.

On paper MOUTHWASH seems like an odd choice of support. Okay, a really odd choice. Not only are there few similarities between the two acts, but the Londoners played this very venue just 10 days ago (on a Saturday night no less). Unique booking choices aside, the band can put on a performance. Bar the odd technical hitch this evening, the quintet is solid even eliciting a bit of a response from the sparse crowd. The set plucks top-quality moments from ?True Stories? (and its bonus disc), well honed and precise. Dirty, booming and vibrant. If you?ve seen Mouthwash at all over the past year or so you know how good the band is. Tonight isn?t about to change your thinking. Here?s hoping for new material soon.

Adorned in shirt, jacket and hat, can of Guiness within reach, NATHEN MAXWELL takes to the stage for what turns out to be a real slow-burner of a performance. The bassist-by-day/guitarist tonight opens with a malfunctioning melodica and a not overly-friendly PA system. We?re a couple of songs in before the sound starts to level out and then things pick up. A relaxed vibe is stamped all over the set, with Maxwell and Original Bunny Gang mixing in a little folk, a little ska, a little soul. It?s easy-going but moody and enchanting. With a heavy crimson drape backing the stage you get the impression of a showcase club more likely to be found in Maxwell?s native Los Angeles, and that?s what this feels like; a showcase.

Predictably the set is made up of material from debut album, ?White Rabbit? (anybody that did come to hear some Flogging Molly is disappointed) although it?s interesting to see that this isn?t merely a rendering of the album. Songs are tweaked, adjusted and playfully presented, none more so that ?Chief of a Nation? which sounds certifiably heavy. The band itself, including Papa Maxwell on drums (?Literally, I wouldn?t be here if it wasn?t for this man,? quips Maxwell), is at times pensive. There haven?t been all that many performances yet and there?s room to work with. It all looks to be fun though, and when the band does finally get to let its collective hair down completely during an encore cover of Operation Ivy?s ?Knowledge?, there?s relief all around. Even the crowd steps forward for this, which Maxwell acknowledges by abandoning the stage for a get-together.

In terms of foot traffic it may not have been the debut the band had hoped for, but in terms of performances this is heartening. It truly is intimate and it?s hard to imagine that this sort of music working as well otherwise. An enjoyable rainy Tuesday in London town.

Alex Hambleton