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Gig Review: Born Ruffians @ The Northcote Social Club, 2nd January

Last night Born Ruffians began 2011 with a show where pretty much everything that could go wrong did, from broken strings to broken drum pedals to mics cutting off. However somehow all of this only served to make the show more entertaining and special which, coupled with one of the most awesome crowds I have ever been a part of, made for one hell of a way to start the year.

It was a remarkably early show, even for a Sunday night, with the headliners scheduled to appear at 9:40. That was about the same time that we arrived at the venue, and found it to be completely packed. The show certainly didn’t sell out online, but it may well have through door tickets, because it wasn’t possible to fit many more people in the Northcote Social Club.

At first it was rather disappointing to have to settle for a spot towards the back of the room, however it very quickly became obvious that this was going to be one of those rare gigs where it didn’t really matter where you were positioned. This was because the crowd was simply awesome. Pretty much every single person, irregardless of whether they were close to the stage or not, was one hundred percent into the gig, dancing, and singing along to every word.

It was an unbelievably awesome atmosphere, and I can honestly say it was one of the best small venue crowds I have ever been lucky enough to be a part of, and it made for a thoroughly memorable show.

Of course Born Ruffians were pretty good as well. Their stage setup was great, with all four band members equally dispersed along the very front of the stage, creating a very intimate atmosphere. Retard Canard provided an early sing along, featuring wonderfully reworked lyrics from the classic I Don’t Want To Set The World On Fire.

“You guys really are great,” said lead singer and guitarist Luke, “You’re singing along to songs that other crowds don’t”.

Bassist Mitch certainly went some way to stealing the show with awesome stage antics, great banter, and sharing lead vocals at times. Higher And Higher was great, and The Ballad Of Moose Bruce was one of my personal highlights of the show, with that wonderfully slow building introduction and great lyrics.

Little Garcon saw Luke bring out an acoustic guitar, and was a simply magical song that captivated the entire venue and saw a temporary end to the dancing and everyone just stood still and watched in awe. “I don’t care just where you go, as long, as long as it’s with me”.

But then the band announced they would be playing a song about an animal, and everyone knew exactly what was coming. Hummingbird began as a very slow a stripped back song, which had me worrying that the band my be opting to play this version rather than the infectiously fun and upbeat studio version. However after one verse of the slow version the band broke into that unmistakably ferocious drum and guitar riff, and the Northcote Social Club exploded.

It was so much fun, singing along to every word and dancing along with everyone else in the venue, all equally excited at what we were witnessing. It was one of the best live songs I have heard in a long time, and singing that furious first verse was particularly enjoyable. “The grass and the daisies think a lot more of the days than you, and you’re you”. The chorus of “We’re not gonna die like this” saw a deafening sound erupt from the crowd, briefly overwhelming the vocals from the band to awesome effect.

By this point a few problems had already occured, including a broken bass string. However the band took everything in their stride perfectly, improvising with a couple of slower songs while other band members sorted out their instruments, and the crowd didn’t mind the delays one bit.

What To Say, first single from the band’s latest full length album, was great live as well, as everyone screamed out the chorus along with the band. Much too soon, Luke announced that the next song would be their last, and it was of course I Need A Life. That chorus is just so much fun, and it once again saw the crowd assume lead vocals as we sung “Oh but we go out at night” along with Mitch.

After a very short break and some thunderous clapping from the crowd the band returned for a brief encore. Their very last song, Kurt Vonnegut, was particularly memorable however- not only is it a great song, but live it was also even more furious and fun. It went for a good six or seven minutes, and its conclusion saw the band’s microphones cut off suddenly. But the crowd quickly picked up the slack and chanted the chorus as loudly and enthusiastically as we possibly could (“Won’t you come outside girl, won’t you come outside?”) conducted by Mitch, as drummer Steven jumped into the front of the crowd to join in.

And just like that, with something along the lines of “You guys have been fucking tops”, the band departed the stage for good.

Born Ruffians had been at their frantic and fun best, but more than anything the crowd had been absolutely spectacular. It is so rare that there is not a single idiot in a crowd; that everybody is just there to have a great time. For once it didn’t matter where you were standing, because every single person in the venue was completely into the show, and clearly a big fan of the band. My only very minor disappointment was the lack of First Date Kid.

It was such a very fun night, and it set an extraordinarily high bar for the rest of the year that will be very difficult indeed to top.

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