The last time KV caught Woodpigeon, after the cancellation of last year’s Junip support slot, was at the End of the Road festival way back in 2010, where he was in full band mode, backed up by Eagleowl. Tonight, Woodpigeon the man (born Mark Andrew Hamilton), adorned in a chunky sweater – perhaps a souvenir of a recent spell in Iceland – is playing alone. Given the softness of his voice, comparisons to Elliott Smith are easy, but they seem appropriate, there’s a similar sadness lurking behind his upbeat melodies. The set is shortened due to minor technical difficulties, but is absolutely compelling, interspersed with a certain melancholy humour (he seems resigned to a fate of always staying in the Travelodge on Mitchell Lane – not a joyful place it seems – whenever he visits Bristol). On record, Hamilton shows himself to be a skilled pop music arranger; playing solo his considerable talent as a songwriter takes centre stage.
“That’s a fucking stupid line”, opines Mark Eitzel, immediately after singing “what’s the price of your soul?” during American Music Club number The Dead Part of You. Eitzel is self-deprecating throughout, using the breaks between songs to reflect on a long career in ways that are variously hilarious and alarming (but why was your face covered in bear-shaped slices of meat last time you were here, Mr Eitzel?), while revisiting his musical output, reworking some songs into an almost lounge singer style. With his cap and corduroy jacket and simple backing of piano, upright bass and drums (a temporarily one-armed drummer indeed!), he has the air of a Bay Area jazz bar performer. Indeed, lines like “all the ropes that held you down unravel like Mission District pigeons” from 2009’s Why I’m Bullshit show his songwriting is rooted in the Bay Area – but it isn’t necessarily a happy Bay Area (“Hey, how’s your Margarita? You won’t be around very much longer” from Mission Rock Resort).by