Live Review
Fool's Gold
Barfly, Camden

Photography by Owen Richards

Every so often a band comes along that reaffirms your faith in the importance of live music. A band that builds upon and extends their songs, adding vibrancy, energy and spontaneity that can’t be felt on record, to create an all-consuming, irresistible experience. Fool’s Gold is one such band.

That only six songs are played in a set lasting well over an hour shows how – unlike those other afrobeat popularists, Vampire Weekend, who condense things into three-minute indie pop – they’re content to play the most out of a song for a good ten minutes or more. The set never once drags, and is completely free of any musical grandstanding. In fact it’s the simplicity that gives Fool’s Gold’s music its power; the unfaltering rhythm section and Luke Top’s simple basslines that repeat until you can’t help but move along with them. This forms the foundation for more complicated flourishes from flute, saxophone, or Lewis Pesacov’s lightning-fingered guitar. Myriad other instruments are produced and played at various times by tonight’s relatively sparse line-up of six, making for an intriguing sight as each seems to work individually on creating their own music – and moreover having their own good time – yet creating one unified, multi-layered harmony.

It’s a phenomenon echoed in the songs themselves, as rather than feel repetitive or giving the band a definable ‘sound’ each track has its own unique personality. Opener ‘Nadine’ is a laid-back, oceanic waltz, perfectly illustrating the marriage of their African influences to their Californian origins and Jewish upbringing, with its part-English, part-Hebrew lyrics.

The sing-song guitar of ‘Surprise Hotel’ introduces us to a sun-soaked summer groove, encouraging the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd to make what space they can to dance their cares away and start the party proper. Just as it seems to come to an end an almighty drum roll sounds and things instead go double-time in a multi-instrumentalist frenzy of drums, guitar, bongos, saxophone and all manner of shakers and cowbells. ‘Poseidon’ bears the most obvious African sound, tinged with an 80s feel of its original crossover heyday and bringing to mind Paul Simon’s ‘Graceland’. ‘Ha Dvash’ is then a much calmer ballad, but what it lacks in tempo it more than makes up for in conviction and intensity, before the hyper-kinetic sonic assault of ‘Night Dancing’ brings things back up to melting point.

Closer ‘The World Is All There Is’ is the jewel in the evening’s crown, its constant “whoa” refrain and clap-a-long beat impossible to resist as the band down instruments and make their way into the midst of the crowd. Now the band and audience are in unison as we are brought low to the floor for a communal love-in and brought back up for one final flourish of Masai-like leaping, chanting and dancing. It’s clear from this that a Californian band who have never set foot in Africa aren’t just plundering the depths of world music to be knowingly edgy or different, but because it’s so enjoyable – for them and for us.

By Phil Dixon


Originally published in issue 17 (vol 3) of Loud And Quiet. May 2010