10th May 2019
Review/Photos: Ryan Whitwell (Shotison)
The Picturebooks came back to London for a headline set at Camden’s Underworld for the penultimate date of their European tour. Last time they were here I saw them supporting Clutch at Brixton Academy, where they really impressed me. Tonight they’d be joined by Jonny Halifax.
Jonny Halifax would be solo tonight, utilising a big board of pedals and barrowloads of fuzz!
I had no real idea what to expect as Jonny sat on a stool, picked up some sort of rudimentary guitar, laid it upon his lap and said hello. The room started out pretty quiet, most likely due to the early start, but the atmosphere grew as the numbers did with lots of foot tapping and a bit of head nodding dotted around. The room was a bit sparse at first, due to the early start, but it filled out quickly once he began to play. A big blast of fuzzed-out, bluesy slide tones hit me and the other early attendees. The set was intriguing at times, with a peculiar mix of vocals and harp at one point. There were also some odd uses of phasers and other strange effects on his vocals, harmonica and guitar.
The guitar itself looked rudimentary and raw, and the tone matched the looks as pick rings on numerous fingers plucked at one end and a chunky metal slide whipped across the other. Each number featured lots of sloppy slide and distortion throughout with two sample triggers on the floor taking place of drum and hi-hat, giving a one-man band vibe. Jonny’s use of loop pedals to create rhythms allowed him to keep his hands free to get some harp blowing involved for a couple of numbers too. It worked really well, and even the weirder sounds seemed to go down well.
With twice as many members as the first act, The Picturebooks walked out to a cheering crowd. Drummer Philipp Mirtschink, took up position with his kit virtually on the edge of the stage and singer/guitarist Fynn Claus Grabke selected one of the many guitars (and a mandolin) tuned up and ready to go towards the back of the stage.
More fuzz, more energy, more bass, plus that drum was pumping out some massive beats. The floor tom of Philipp Mirtschink ‘s kit is basically another bass drum flipped over, which offers a sizeable sound. The big, bold beats are hard to ignore, but they were challenged for audio dominance by Fynn Claus Grabke’s guitar playing and some big sloppy riffs, a touch of slide and tonnes of fuzz. There were big, sometimes shouty vocals from Fynn too, with that bluesy Americana flair , and fans were loving it.
Between songs there was a bit of banter from Fynn. I enjoyed the banter, it really made me like them even more as he interacted with the crowd in a really casual way. No normal standard lines like “thank you, great to be here, here’s the next song”, as Fynn would go off on a bit of a tangent, mainly about how he’s on painkillers, but they genuinely seem like a good couple of guys, proper down to Earth vibe. At times things got a touch philosophical, with Fynn reminding us that borders don’t mean a thing, we’re all the same!
Rabbit and the Wolf was played a couple before the encore, the song that got me into the band at that Clutch gig. Hearing a few other people talking, it’s apparent that a fair few had discovered the band the same way. Nice reminder to always check out the support acts at gigs!
Your kisses Burn Like Fire had an enthusiastic singalong moment too and was the last song before the encore, for which there were massive cheers. The band already mentioned they’d be doing one, so the cheers weren’t needed, but fans don’t need an excuse to cheer these guys who had done an awesome set. That noise from the packed crowd was loud!
Cactus was the first encore number, in which we were reminded of the lyrics “heermerrrnerrmeeernerer” by Fynn beforehand. This was a highlight for me. It’s an awesome track that created a party vibe among the attendees singing along.The thumping bass made its impact too.
A nice bit of slide before Zero Fucks Given came in to close. Obviously a crowd-pleaser, with the chorus getting plenty of voices and middle fingers raised as Phillip stepped from behind the kit to smack a big bass drum.
The Picturebooks Setlist:
You Can’t Let Go
I Need That Oooh
Seen Those Days
Fire Keeps Burning
Learn It the Hard Way
The Day the Thunder Arrives
The Hands of Time
The Rabbit and the Wolf
Your Kisses Burn Like Fire
Zero Fucks Given