Miracle Fortress


6 apr 2008, 01:44

I am pathetically, hopelessly in love with Miracle Fortress. I have been since December, which is when I re-discovered their album Five Roses (sadly not available for streaming - boo). Back in June last year I snagged a copy after reading a short but favourable review in The Guardian. At the time I was getting through a lot of new albums, mostly based around what the Guardian recommended. I can remember sitting at my desk at work and listening to it on my iPod, and thinking "Man, this is good." Then work distracted me and I forgot about it completely.

Miracle Fortress would next break into my consciousness in December when the opening track came up randomly in my MP3 player. I listened to the whole album for a second time, thinking "Man, this is really good". I played it again immediately. I've listened to it a lot since then. I can't recommend it highly enough. It sounds like my ideal relationship would sound - intimate, intelligent, delicate, and subtly quirky. Amazon will sell you a copy for £13.50 but you can find it on eBay for about a fiver.

Back in December I was gutted to find out that Miracle Fortress had played in London about a week before I re-discovered them, so I was delighted when they announced they were playing in London again. Twice. I don't normally get crushed out on musicians/bands, preferring to remain somewhat aloof and rational about it all. Not so with MF, and without shame I bought tickets to both shows. As it turns out the second gig - the one they were headlining - clashed with a previously-scheduled trip to the dentist. The appointment that could not be rearranged. There was nothing for it but to do both in one day.

The dentist, fortunately, was an amenable chap. "I'm going to a gig tonight and I intend to enjoy it," I explained. "I don't drink or do drugs so there's no side effects to worry about - so if you wanted to go somewhat OTT with the anaesthesia I'd appreciate it." He obliged, and after my root canal I trotted off to the gig with a numb face in a paracetamol/ibuprofen/codeine haze.

Just before the support band took to the stage I spotted Miracle Fortress in the audience. Encouraged by my friend I trotted up to them and did my best to be charming, polite, and human. So obviously I ended up acting like a cloying, over-reverent fanboy. Thanks to the Novocaine there may have been some dribbling and mumbling involved too. I babbled; they smiled, and signed my CD. "Do you have a pen?" they asked. "YES!" I bellowed, thrusting a CD marker into their waiting hands.

I was wearing my emo shirt that day - partially because it matched my shoes, partially because it wouldn't show the blood from the dentist. I ran off with my tail between my legs when the support band started playing. (They're The Joy Formidable and are rather good. They too are also not streamable on Last.fm. Boo.) One of my colleagues (thanks, lumberjack) told me that I should tell them I worked for Last.fm, so I re-approached Graham Van Pelt afterwards and thrust some Last.fm badges into his hand, chasing off an attractive woman in the process. He accepted them slightly hesitatingly, which is to be expected when a crazy person gives you something sharp and pointy.

They played a good, if somewhat short, set. Fortunately I had heard some live recordings before the two gigs, otherwise I would have been shocked and disappointed. It's not that they're bad live, it's just quite different to the recorded sound. GvP's vocals are more gaspy; the sound is more harsh. It will not seduce you the way the album does, but you will enjoy it if you let yourself. I would have liked to hear them play their cover of Digital Love, but 'twas not to be. They looked like they had fun on stage and that's always nice to see - I like a band who enjoy what they do.

The show on Wednesday was also good, though alas I missed about two thirds of MF's set due to a scheduling mishap and some not-so-fast food. I'd only heard one track by Patrick Watson (only one track streamable; boo!) and quite liked it but live I didn't think he was that great. If you locked Coldplay and Mogwai in a room and refused to let them out until they'd written something together, you'd have got the Patrick Watson set - plus he seemed just a little bit smug. I liked it when he climbed into the centre of the audience and sang Man Under The Sea unamplified; I liked it when they improvised a closing song; I liked it when he focused on his melodic side and didn't venture too far into the experimental (I found myself giggling at one point when their performance was screaming 'IMPROV' at me). It was good, it just wasn't astonishing.

Graham Van Pelt hinted that they'd be back in London this December; I suspect my crush may still be alive and well.


  • stoibee

    I too have been obsessed with MF since reading that Guardian review last year (a similar review of Panda Bear's Person Pitch had the same effect) . Fortunately I got the bug in time to catch the two December 07 gigs. Both were stunningly short but then didn't the likes of theJesus and Mary Chain and Fire Engines make this hip back in the day? While I still love MF because of Five Roses, I've found all their gigs a little underwhelming. The Luminaire one was probably the best so the deal you did with your dentist was worth it. I know bands that have only one album under their belt have trouble stretching out their material to make up a respectable set but it seemed that MF had only learnt about half the songs from Five Roses Funnily enough I felt the opposite to you about the Patrick Watson gig. I quite liked Close To Paradise but could take it or leave it. Live they blew me away (as Graham Van Pelt warned us they would). Yes there was a lot of improv but they never lost track of their great songs and it was like experiencing something familiar but with a newly acquired sixth sense (man!). Glad it's not just me that starts thinking (guiltily) Coldplay when confronted by Patrick Watson! However, at the Scala it was more like Coldplay produced by King Tubby.

    6 apr 2008, 19:49
  • thegiraffeman

    Yer. i got into Patrick Watson when i saw him supporting Cold War Kids, that performance was enough for me to pop out and buy his album. Don't you think there was something slightly endearing about him rather than cocky?! ahh his voice makes my heart melt, its all down to taste innnniit haha. oh COLDPLAY. what?!

    6 apr 2008, 21:29
  • MrSweep

    I'm with stoibee on Patrick Watson. I quite liked his album, nothing more, nothing less... yet I was blown away by him live on Wednesday. I had exactly the same feeling of experiencing the familiar in a new light. His album has suddenly suddenly started to jump out the speakers at me! I guess before seeing the live show I was struggling to separate him, vocally, from anything more than a poor Jeff Buckley. At Scala, I could see the ACTUAL Patrick Watson, and suddenly the music seems so much more... relevant? Coldplay!?!?!? No idea where you got that from.

    7 apr 2008, 13:20
  • stoibee

    Coldplay? I think it's those driving piano chords on some of the songs and I did say it was Coldplay produced by King Tubby!

    7 apr 2008, 20:54
  • MrSweep

    Fair enough... I don't actually have anything against Coldplay, in fact, I'm quite fond of them. I just couldn't see the comparison :]

    8 apr 2008, 12:25
  • acreature

    I think that Watson and Chris Martin have quite similar voices; smooth but slightly breathy/gravelly. Combine that with a tinkly piano played in the upper register and you've got some Coldplay-esque vibes going on. To my ear, at least. As for short material, while they've only got the one album there's also a previously-released EP, some B-sides, and some other miscellaneous tracks they've released. By my count it's 21 tracks, with a runtime of 1 hour 14 minutes. Even allowing 10 minutes for total audience banter they could have played everything they've ever done and throw in a new track or two. I'm not saying they should have burned through an anthology set, just that they do have the material to flesh it out. As for Watson, I may have felt differently had I heard the album beforehand. The friend I was with says she enjoyed it a lot. But as an introduction it didn't set me aflame.

    8 apr 2008, 12:58
  • kablaaamo

    I've seen both live and Patrick Watson comes off SO MUCH BETTER than he does on his album, I think. Miracle Fortress....I too have hopelessly crushed on them (since last May, actually) and any shortcomings in their live performance are completely made up for by the fact that they're all just SO ADORABLE. I want to pick them all up and put them in a wagon and drag them around with me. In a non-creepy way, of course. It also helps that one of the members is from my hometown (where I was for most of last summer) so they played there twice, haha. I'm seriously so jealous...both bands are from Montreal, which is not at all far from where I live now...but then they go ahead and only play together in London. I'm glad it was good though!

    15 apr 2008, 16:53
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