Turin Brakes: New York Fez

After their Top Of The Pops performance, Turin Brakes play their New York debut gig...

It’s early on a Saturday evening, and one of Britain’s most understated acts, Turin Brakes, are about to make their suitably understated New York City debut. While the sun still shines down outside, a small crowd is gathered in the candlelit underground domain of Fez, a venue that sits hidden away beneath East Village eatery Time Cafe. It would be impossible to stumble on this place off the street, so those in attendance are obviously in the know. And extremely lucky.

Olly Knights and Gale Paridjanian step up on the tiny stage, pick up their guitars and take to their stools without a word, opening the first of the night’s two shows with an extended instrumental intro, segueing into a softly lamenting, heavily mellow version of ‘The Door’.

Behind the duo is a red velvet curtain; a disco ball spins slowly on the ceiling above, reflecting the quiet light off of shimmering silvery support columns. The audience is seated around the room at tables and in booths, watching expectantly. It would all be perfect, if the damn subway didn’t keep rumbling by.

Touching takes on ‘The Road’ and ‘Future Boy’ follow, but while hearing these songs that we’ve become so quickly familiar with live for the first time is indeed special, the real treat comes next. “We’re going to do a new song, which isn’t on the album,” says Gale, adding, “I’m going to sing.” They don’t mention the song’s title, but it borders on bluesy foot-stomper at times, sounding very much like one of Gomez’s lost great singles. Gale delivers breathy vocals that suit the melody perfectly, with Olly adding harmonies as they sing, [I]”It’s been so long since I’ve seen you/You haven’t changed”[/I].

Despite the fact that it’s only a short set they’re playing tonight, there’s another new song on offer, as well. ‘Average Man’ is a dark number, featuring the melancholy chorus, [I]”Have another drink my son/Enjoy another cigarette/Cos it’s time you realized/You’re just an average man”[/I]. The set is rounded out with ‘By TV Light,’ ‘Feeling Oblivion’ and ‘Emergency 72’, before it all ends with the aurally addictive single ‘Underdog (Save Me)’. Olly takes a minute to explain the phenomenon of Top Of The Pops to the New York crowd, before revealing, “We were on it on Friday, playing this song. It was kind of a victory for us.”

And it’s at this point that we realize how lucky we are, to be here in this little room, cut off from the world outside, getting a first look at what is sure to become a bit of an international phenomenon. Tonight, this place feels very much like the home of a sonic secret society and we, the privileged few, are getting a glimpse into the future.

Doug Levy