The Willkommen Collective – Live at the Union Chapel, London, June 2009

Held in the dramatic chapel of the 18th century Highbury and Islington church, the evening was a celebration of the many acts that make up the collective.

Arriving just as things kicked off we headed to the bar. No drinks were allowed in the chapel itself and we ended up missing the opening act Rowan Coupland. Drink completed we headed down and took our pew to watch the original Willkommen act, Shoreline, take the stage. The first of the collectives bands that I heard, they have recorded some of my favourite tracks of the last few years. Beatrice Sanjust Di Teulada is a captivating front woman and the performance was assured and skilled. Finishing with a magical ‘Shipwrecked’ they set a high standard for the other bands to follow.

Sweet Billy Pilgrim proved to be one of the few missteps of the evening. They weren’t bad, and I’ve enjoyed their recorded output, but the sound didn’t work in the setting or sit comfortably alongside the other acts. The upside of this dip in quality was the opportunity to pop to the bar before the next band hit the stage.

The Sons of Noel and Adrian are the Willkommen act that I struggle with most on record. I like their sound, and their album is good, but I’m not always sure I’m enjoying them. Live they make perfect sense, and the venue was the perfect setting. Songs like ‘This Wreck is not a Boat’ really took flight and the chorus of voices and foot stamping rhythms had me hooked. On balance they were the best band on the night.

The Leisure Society arrived and were faced, due to band overrun and a strict chapel curfew, with only 15 minutes of stage time. Their set, featuring an inspired cover of Gary Newman’s ‘Cars’ and the Ivor Novello nominated ‘Last of the Melting Snow’, certainly deserved more time. Joined on the stage for the finale of their final song by dozens of their Willkommen colleagues, all armed with ukuleles, they were the perfect closer to the main stage events.

After the Leisure Society finished I bolted upstairs to the bar and took seat in an armchair next to the smaller second stage. The Miserable Rich proved to be the perfect act for this environment and played a brilliant set. Sadly late night train travel needs arrived to break up the party and we had to leave before the Laish Quartet took the stage. Kopek were also billed to play the event and I must have missed their performance as well. Cramming eight acts into your bill for the evening may have been a little ambitious.

The gig had the sense of a festival and seemed intimate all at once. If i go to a more enjoyable evening of music all year I will consider myself blessed. I recommend that anyone who wasn’t there (or anyone who was) heads to the next Willkommen event at Brighton’s Stanmer House on July 5th.

Kudos has to go to William Calderbank and some other collective members who seemed to be on stage all evening.


by Dorian Rogers