Dag for Dag, Thao with The Get Down Stay Down
Abbas Ali 02/02/2010
With brother / sister, boy/girl combos, what's the first thing that springs to mind? The Carpenters? The White Stripes? The Kills? In descending order, ahem. Well, you can add to that list Stockholm-based combo Dag For Dag, who made their way to Manchester's Deaf Institute on a freezing cold winter's day shortly after appearing on 6 Music with Marc Riley, all in aid of promoting their forthcoming tastefully titled LP, Boo! And current single Animal.
If it's anything to go by, the duo have the backing of other prominent indie DJs, including the BBC's Steve Lamacq and Gideon Coe both on 6 Music, and Huw Stevens across at Radio 1. And so it's with great expectation that I stand before them as their rumbling, haunting early 80s sound kicks into gear. Augmented by a drummer, Sarah Snavely scrapes at the guitar, producing jagged, sparse guitar lines and providing lead vocal, with brother Jacob on bass duties. Being a small outfit on the road is often fraught with Spinal Tap-style crises, and tonight is no exception as the band reveal they have been forced to borrow the equipment they are using from the headline act Thao and The Get Down Stay Down, who it emerges, have themselves struggled with stolen guitars earlier on the tour.
By the fourth number, Boxed Up In Pine, the band switch up the dynamics as Sarah has donned a violin, and Jacob has taken over lead vocal duties for this beautifully funereal dirge which recalls The Arcade Fire. With Hands And Knees, the band swap instruments again, and the set comes alive, infused with the urgency of the song, an obvious single. By the time they play their single Animal they look like they're enjoying themselves, and then it's time to leave.
The half-full interior Manchester's best small venue has been sparsely filled throughout the set, but it soon reaches just over half capacity for Calfornian 3-piece Thao with The Get Down Stay Down. Occupying the same space as Fiona Apple, Feist and Sinead O'Connor, San Francisco singer songwriter Thao Nguyen and her two piece backing rhythm section lead to a change in gear. Playing songs from last year's Know Better Learn Faster, the cerebral, lyric-oriented nature of her confessional songs about failed relationships and the melancholic disappointment of adulthood contrast with the cheery tunes she strums on the guitar, providing a perfect soundtrack for the disaffected students that make up most of the audience.
She begins with Chivalry, redolent of the jagged girls' blues of PJ Harvey, before suggesting people come to the front in her soft-spoken voice, as she battles the English reserve in the room, 'Think about it'. She then goes into one of her most recognisable (and recommendable) songs, Bag Of Hammers, an upbeat number about a couple on the brink, before telling the tale of her stolen (and later recovered, smashed up) guitar. It looks like neither band has had much luck in recent days. By the rock n rolling of anti-misogyny number Swimming, I can't help but notice that there is a powerful sensuality about her stage persona, with the sheer power of her inspired guitar playing, , and touching vocals moving the crowd. With When We Swam, in which she implores another, faltering lover to Bring Your Hips To Me, we are all entranced.
By this time, the English reserve has all but dissipated, and the awkward looking geeks that were hiding in the shadows have come forward to dance, and we sense the time ticking, before finally she shares Know Better Learn Faster, triumphantly, before the Deaf Institute is engulfed in drunken dubstep hell.
Dag for Dag Myspace