It’s not every day that university students would get to interview and review a band fronted by Harrison Ford’s son. It’s pretty cool, but probably not that big a deal, so Pablo and I planned to pretend we hadn’t heard of Wikipedia and ignore all celebrity connections. Then on the morning of the gig, Twitter informed us that Harrison Ford had just been injured in a plane crash. We’re pretty sure that’s an ever rarer situation to be in…
An already strange coincidence turned even more surreal when we arrived at Moseley’s Dark Horse. Having been told to come armed with a camera, we were approached at the door by a suspicious employee who asked us who we were and what we planned to take photos of. Once we explained that we were from the unintimidating local university radio station, we were welcomed into the venue and inundated with apologies and explanations, mostly about how the Daily Mail were hounding the band for a statement. This all happened at 6.30pm, and we were told to relax and have a drink at the bar.
Four hours later, the support band [4/10] made their way to the stage upstairs. We walked in to see a pretty generic-looking blues band performing a pretty generic blues song. They seemed like local novices and their music made few attempts to be taken seriously.
The Dough Rollers [6.5/10] came onstage at around midnight, and dived straight into their lively rock and roll set. Their performance was miles from the old-school blues days of supporting Bob Dylan, as they explained in our interview afterwards, and no tuxedos or acoustic guitars were in sight. Lead singer Malcolm had no guitar at all and instead used his hands to tangle the mic in every way possible, and finish off two bottles of red wine (our suspicions are more were consumed pre-stage). The scene was set for a heavy rock gig, and the band didn’t disappoint. Ford is an incredibly charismatic frontman, although his whiskey-drenched vocals don’t sound as pure as on the records, but noteworthy all the same. He’s a lively performer, moving on and off the stage in every song and ending the gig on his back kicking the air. There’s also more intimate moments, where he sits at the front of the stage and seems like he’s more attached to his lyrics.
Like the difference of Ford’s vocals, the songs themselves take a turn away from the sweet and polished sound of the Josh Homme-produced EP Gone Baby Gone, and the two singles ‘Mansion on a Hill’ and title track ‘Gone Baby Gone’ are filed down to raw, intense performances. The roughness comes mostly from the singer and the drummer, with guitarist Jack Byrne creating perfect balances of noise and faultlessness on every song. His playing is incredibly impressive, but his on-stage persona is a bit of a stark contrast with Ford’s hyperactivity – Burne barely changed facial expression throughout the gig and stayed put by his pedals. On the other hand, it could well be a necessary antidote to his bandmates’ goofiness.
The band performed a mix of new and old songs, but none really stood out from the standard debauchery of the set. It was an entertaining show, however, and Ford’s enthusiasm got everyone moving. The intimacy of the gig allowed the audience to feel included in the mess of the show, but it’s easy to imagine people seeing them in a bigger venue stepping back and watching more critically. It’s hard to judge the Dough Rollers on their performance that day, given the weirdness of the circumstances, but if every show sounds like that one, the band have a few cobwebs to clean off before they prove their potential.