It’s Wednesday night, it’s pouring with rain and England v Germany is on TV. It takes something special to entice people away from their armchairs and into a cramped Highbury bar. Step forward GoodBooks. Their set may fail to reach the half-hour mark, but it’s quality not quantity that matters as far as the Sevenoaks quartet are concerned.
Before the opening track, vocalist Max Cooke asks, ‘Have all those nasty record labels that were here earlier gone home?’ While the comment may be tongue-in-cheek, you get the impression that this youthful, intellectual band feels more comfortable with the fans who have followed them from the start, rather than the industry types who might try to turn them into something they are not. Similarly, they seem more at home in this small indie-friendly arena as opposed to larger-capacity venues where the intimacy is lost.
Cooke instantly generates a rapport with the fans, many of whom have supported GoodBooks throughout their four-day residency at the Buffalo Bar. The inter-song banter raises plenty of laughs, especially at the suggestion that guitarist Chris Porter’s grandfather has only given Alice three stars on iTunes because ‘he doesn’t agree with the subject-matter.’
Those in the audience being introduced to GoodBooks for the first time may be in the minority, but they are given a decent idea of the band’s style in the opening bars of Passchendaele, which appears to be not only a crowd favourite but also a favourite of the band members. Lyrics focusing on casualties of the two World Wars are complemented by brilliantly understated instrumentation to produce a sure-fire cult hit.
When the set is brought to a close, the audience didn’t look too disheartened. However this was not based on an indifference towards the music. Indeed I doubt any individual who left Buffalo Bar on Wednesday night would have a bad word to say about the performance. What’s more, anyone who bought a piece of GoodBooks merchandise received a free work of literature. I chose Karl Marx’s Dispatches for the New York Tribune. How many bands do you know who can offer that?