Richmond Fontaine

Richmond Fontaine


On a night when thousands line the streets of Manchester to welcome home Olympic and Paralympian heroes, a small group of diehards converge on The Deaf Institute to celebrate the achievements of alt-American rockers Richmond Fontaine who, after almost 22 years, have decided to call it a day.

The sold out show is part of a farewell tour for a band that’s not going out with a whimper or against a backdrop falling relationships. Instead, they are leaving the stage on something of a high after the release of the excellent album, You Can’t Go Back if There’s Nothing to Go Back To, earlier in the year.

Front man Willy Vlautin will continue playing with Richmond Fontaine drummer Sean Oldham and bassist Freddy Trujillo, in his other band The Delines, but he has decided to park Richmond Fontaine and step out of the musical spotlight to concentrate on his burgeoning novel writing career. Lead guitarist, Dan Eccles, has other projects lined up.

Those that arrived early were treated to a short set from Jerry Joseph, who has come over from America with Richmond Fontaine. He is very much in keeping with the plaintive and brutally honest songwriting of the headliners. The song ‘Giraffes’ is about an emotional night spent watching his favourite band alongside a girl dressed in a giraffe costume similarly overcome by the emotion of the performance. He has a new album out called By The Time Your Rocket Gets To Mars, on the evidence of his five song set tonight that is worth checking out.

Next up, is Peter Bruntnell, an English folk singer who has a good line in self-deprecatory wit and songs with character. There are protest songs about disparate subjects such as Facebook addiction and the plight of the tin mining community of Cornwall. He is joined Danny Williams on double bass, a native of Manchester.

There’s much to enjoy with his set, the highlights include ‘Long Way From Home’. Which he describes as “a song about moving to the coast and your wife leaves you. And you take too many drugs. That hasn’t happened yet, but it could do any day now.” ‘Here Come the Swells’ is a song about a how a local beauty spot by his home, that was turned into a housing estate that no one could afford.

In typically understated fashion Richmond Fontaine arrive on stage. There might not be too many surprises in the set list tonight, as the band had thrown the selections for this tour over to its fans on social media. So those present have a good idea what to expect.

The night is a celebration, but its one that’s tinged with sadness given that it will be the last time that many of these songs will be performed live under the Richmond Fontaine banner.

Vlautin and co, have gathered a loyal fan base over years with their distinctive brand of alt-country rock. He pays tribute to those that have given support to the band down the years in Manchester. He recalls a gig 13 years ago at the Briton’s Protection, where the band stayed as guests of ‘Bernie’. For having the patience of putting up a group of musicians, “she deserves all the free drinks that she can get.” 
She was in the room to accept the thanks and hopefully the free drinks too.

They rip through a raucous version of ‘Lost in the Trees’, from 2011’s The High Country, this is the point that my appreciation of the band started. I’m still kicking myself that I hadn’t gotten to them sooner.

For a natural storyteller like Vlautin, the in-between song chatter is as good as the tunes themselves. There was a great tale about decorating a house, in lieu of payment for recording sessions. According to Vlautin, in his usual self-deprecatory manner, said that ‘Post To Wire ‘(from the eponymous album) is the band’s “only semi-catchy song. Not like the usual depressing shit that I write.”

It was a night of memories and recollections. ‘Exit 194b’ evokes memories for Vlautin about the house that he lived in when he was younger. “It had popcorn ceilings that looked like the moon,” says the front man “We hardly do this, as it’s kind of sad. As one of the guys from that time didn’t make it.” Another evocation of the passing of time.

They close with ‘Lost in this World’ that might just be the perfect song to sum up the collective works of the band. It has an added sadness and poignancy given it was probably the last time it would be heard in this context. There was another heartfelt thanks from the band for the support down the years.

With that they left the stage, possibly never to return as Richmond Fontaine. It would be a shame if this collection of songs weren’t performed again, but for now we can savour the back catalogue that confirms that they are one of the great bands of their generation.

Richmond Fontaine  Official | Bandcamp