Filthy Friends in The Button Factory, Dublin, on Wednesday 29th May 2019
Tonight’s quintet, between them, have played in dozens of other bands; some now defunct, others very much alive. Sleater Kinney’s Corin Tucker and R.E.M.’s Peter Buck are probably the most widely-known in the troupe. Joining them are drummer Linda Pitmon (Zuzu’s Petals, among many others), Scott McCaughey (himself an R.E.M. sideman of long standing), and guitarist Kurt Bloch (Fastbacks). The latter pair are certainly no strangers to one another, but then Filthy Friends inhabit a kind of Venn diagram of musicians whose paths cross over various decades, bands and projects, seasoned journeyfolk one and all.
For all those bands though – all that pedigree and musical muscle – there’s no mention of past glories, no namedropping. In fact, the only band whose name comes up at all is Genesis. This is thanks to McCaughey and Bloch, otherwise known as The Young Fresh Fellows, a band that has been on the go since 1981 and that opens tonight’s show as a duo. Threats of heritage prog rock, as good-humoured as they are, are dispelled early on by the band’s snappy, sunny power pop and onstage shenanigans.
Bloch swaps guitar for drums as they blitz through a number and McCaughey quips, “Woah, that was a long one.” Let me tell you, it was not. None of them were. Thrashier things lie in wait with Teenage Dogs In Trouble from their debut album way back when, and an inexplicably louche version of the Sesame Street theme is so scrappy that it almost falls apart, but it’s in keeping with the spirit of the set and those two-minute gems come fast and loose. With Peter Buck roped in on bass, they close with Teenage Kicks, and really, that tells you everything you need to know.
Buck, right off the bat, is the most animated person onstage for the main event, throwing himself into opener November Man. That’s until the solid line of Tucker, McCaughey, and Bloch breaks formation in the instrumental section and loosens up the stage set-up. Over the duration of the set Bloch proves an able counterpart to Buck, and then some, jumping around the stage and even employing the patented Townshend windmill.
There’s a relatively even split between their recent ‘Emerald Valley’ and debut ‘Invitation’, and it’s the tracks from that first record that make the lasting impression over the protest rock of their latest offering. The Elliott and Angels come back to back, one lamenting the treatment of the land, the other the treatment of immigrants under the Trump regime, and Tucker seems to sense the weight of the subject matter (“I’m not bumming you out too much, am I?“)
As Brother is about to kick off, Pitmon counts off a 1-2- but catches McCaughey by surprise. “Will I pick up where I left off?” she asks, and that hanging -3-4 duly follows. It’s a moment that sums up the latter half of the evening, a more playful affair all told with the disco inflections of One Flew East, the rock’n’roll of Ides October, and the glam punk of Maker that punches a full stop into the set proper.
Tonight’s show gives the impression of a band clearly enjoying being onstage – none more so than McCaughey and Bloch – although without Tucker’s distinctive yelp and emotive delivery there isn’t much to elevate things above your average veteran bar band…still though, good fun with good players.