The Handsome Family

FRIDAY 24TH FEBRUARY 2017

Doors 7pm

SOLD OUT

Over 18s

THE HANDSOME FAMILY
NEW ALBUM “UNSEEN” OUT 16 SEPTEMBER 2016

Words that in their everyday surrealism have no parallel in contemporary writing...Music that mines the deep veins of fatalism in the Appalachian voice — GREIL MARCUS

Haunting, primal and strangely heroic —THE TIMES

They come from Hell’s ditch armed with love— NME

The Handsome Family’s greatest gift lies in its tremendous talent for painting vivid, sometimes terrifying pictures with every word— NPR

Through the Trees (1998)—10 essential Americana records of all time — MOJO

In the Air (2000) —One of the most important records of the 21st century — UNCUT
Rennie Sparks disappeared one afternoon while waiting for a flight at O'Hare. A middle-aged businessman, McDonald's bag in one hand, rolling-bag handle in the other— walked up to Rennie and, without pause, turned and sat down on her lap. A second later his French fries and rolling bag were on the floor and he was sputtering apologies, insisting he'd seen an empty chair.

Rennie often has trouble with automatic faucets ignoring her waving hands, but this unexpected airport invisibility was in 2014, the year the TV show True Detective used her song, “Far From Any Road” as its opening theme. This was the year The Handsome Family (aka husband and wife Brett and Rennie Sparks) became visible to millions. Even as she was getting sat on by strangers, Youtube counts for The Handsome Family’s 'hit’ song climbed from two million to ten million, twenty million and more. The song was in the top 10 in US and UK Spotify charts and spent months in iTunes top 100 in countries as far-flung as Vietnam, South Africa, and the Ukraine.

Millions of viewers ‘broke the internet’ watching the final episode of True Detective S1, but Rennie and Brett watched in their little house in Albuquerque, NM, feeling oddly alone. The Handsome Family were now known around the globe for a song they’d written 12 years earlier about fire ants and desert plants, a song now linked forever to a show about cops in a psychic swamp. The Sparks were arguably famous now, but at the same time unknown. They were not their famous song nor was their famous song written for the show that made it famous. All these disconnections, though, are fine when you’re a writer of songs.

For almost as long as they've been married (26 years) Brett and Rennie have written songs together (Brett, music; Rennie, words). Their finished work is never fully one or the other’s, but lives in unseen space between them. William Burroughs claimed he walked busy streets without being seen, simply by seeing everyone else first. This is similar to the Sparks’ approach to songwriting and why Rennie embraces her power to vanish. You have to willingly disappear in order to write lyrics for someone else’s voice, or to write music for someone else’s words. Invisible songwriters are happiest when their songs outshine them, leaving their creators unseen in the dust.

The Sparks have released 10 albums since 1995’s Odessa. Their songs have been covered by countless Youtubers and well-known artists like Jeff Tweedy, Amanda Palmer, Cerys Matthews, Christy Moore and Andrew Bird (who released an entire record of HF covers). Guns ’N’ Roses used, “Far From Any Road” as stage entrance music for a South American tour, and both Bruce Springsteen and Ringo Starr are fans. Decades into their careers, after winning the TV theme-show jackpot— the Sparks still find their greatest reward in disappearing into new songs.

And so in the strange light of 2014 they began again to write. 2016 brings the release of Unseen— 10 songs by a couple both world-famous and happily invisible. Each song on the record has a guiding colour—gold, silver, green, red, white. Rennie is also a painter known for her vivid and surprising use of colour, and she finds herself painting even when her brushes are made of words. The stories of Unseen are mostly inspired by real events— “Gold” began when a bunch of twenty-dollar bills blew in Brett’s face in a parking-lot dust storm. “Gentlemen,” is a tribute to William Crookes who built the first vacuum tube in 1875, hoping to detect spirits from unseen dimensions. And “Tiny Tina”— Rennie still hasn’t seen that little horse.

Unseen is about the light that emanates from things we can’t see— behind “The Red Door,” in the empty hands of blackjack losers (“The Silver Light”), and amidst desert bones bleaching in the sun (“King of Dust”).

Since 2001 Brett has made their albums in a converted garage at the back of their house. He recorded Unseen on a Mac and played most of the parts at night, with only hawk moths listening. There were guest musicians— David Gutierrez: mandolin on “Tiny Tina” and dobro on “The Silver Light.” Alex MacMahon: guitar on “The Silver Light,” baritone guitar and pedal steel on “Gold.” Jason Toth: drums throughout (except “Green Willow Valley”). Rennie wrote all the lyrics. She sang and played banjo and autoharp, but didn’t bother to write down on which songs.

The Sparks’ music is steeped in the western gothic of New Mexico life. The unseen is powerful here. Nothing rusts, but entire oceans have disappeared. Ski masks mean robberies, but in the slow dive of the sun, enormous bugs awaken in thorny yards and unseen sirens and coyotes cry out to the purple sky. Just about anywhere you stand there’s been some blood drawn.

In 2016 The Handsome Family continue to sell out venues worldwide that they couldn’t have filled before TV fame. Live, Brett (guitar/vocals) and Rennie (banjo/bass/vocals) are joined by drummer Jason Toth (worldwide) and multi-instrumentalist Alex MacMahon (USA). Their shows are full of humour and chit-chat. The Sparks’ aren't afraid to reveal their ordinary humanness. The invisible couple is also very happy to be seen.


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The Caves - Unusual Venues Edinburgh

8-12 Niddry Street South
Edinburgh
Midlothian
United Kingdom
EH1 1NS

Venue Details



MON 25 JUN 2018
Shamir
Broadcast, Glasgow7.00 p.m.£10.00
FRI 29 JUN 2018
Dale Barclay
Steven Thomas & Natalie Pryce
Stereo, Glasgow7.00pm£10.00
FRI 6 JUL 2018
Eric Paslay
Broadcast, Glasgow7.00 p.m.£12.00
FRI 13 JUL 2018
Mr Airplane Man
Broadcast, Glasgow7.00 p.m.£10.00
MON 16 JUL 2018
RVG
Broadcast, GlasgowDoors 7:00pm£7.00
TUE 17 JUL 2018
Pallbearer
Stereo, GlasgowDoors 7.00pm£14.00
MON 23 JUL 2018
Charley Crockett
Broadcast, Glasgow7.00 pm£10.00
MON 6 AUG 2018
Adolescents
Reaction
Broadcast, GlasgowDoors 7:00pm£13.00
TUE 7 AUG 2018
The Weirdos
and The Jackhammers
Broadcast, Glasgow7.00 p.m.£13.50
MON 13 AUG 2018
Kurt Travis
plus Televangelist and Atlas:Empire
Broadcast, Glasgow7.00 p.m.£10.00
TUE 14 AUG 2018
King Tuff
Broadcast, Glasgow7.00 p.m.£14.00
WED 15 AUG 2018
Mest
Broadcast, Glasgow7.00 p.m.£13.50
FRI 17 AUG 2018
Sons Of Bill
Broadcast, Glasgow7.00 p.m£10.00
WED 29 AUG 2018
Alexander Tucker
Broadcast, Glasgow7.00 p.m£8.00
THU 30 AUG 2018
Titus Andronicus
CCA, GlasgowDoors 7.00pm£12.50
TUE 4 SEP 2018
Screaming Females
The Mash House, EdinburghDoors 7pm £10.00
WED 5 SEP 2018
David Ramirez
Broadcast, Glasgow7.00 p.m.£10.00
SUN 9 SEP 2018
Imarhan
Broadcast, Glasgow7.00 p.m.£12.00
MON 10 SEP 2018
Peanut Butter Wolf
Stereo, Glasgow7.00 p.m.£12.50
10 Years
TBC
Broadcast, GlasgowDoors 7.00pm£12.00
WED 12 SEP 2018
Albert Hammond Jr
SWG3, Glasgow7.00pm£15.00
Wooden Shjips
Saint Luke's, GlasgowDoors 7pm£15.00
THU 13 SEP 2018
Sextile
Broadcast, Glasgow7.00 p.m.£8.00
Sextile
Broadcast, Glasgow7.00 pm Doors£8.00
FRI 14 SEP 2018
Psychedelic Porn Crumpets
Broadcast, Glasgow7.00 p.m.£7.00
SAT 15 SEP 2018
Skating Polly
Broadcast, GlasgowDoors 7.00pm£10.00
WED 19 SEP 2018
Tempesst
Pearl Charles
Broadcast, GlasgowDoors 7:00pm£5.00
TUE 25 SEP 2018
Julien Baker
Becca Mancari
Saint Luke's, GlasgowDoors 7.00pm£17.00
SUN 30 SEP 2018
Peter Hook & The Light
performing 'Technique' and 'Republic' plus opening set of Joy Division
O2 ABC, GlasgowDoors 7.00pm£25.00
TUE 2 OCT 2018
Deafheaven
Inter Arma
The Art School, Glasgow7.00pm£18.00
FRI 5 OCT 2018
Terry Riley & Gyan Riley
Glasgow Royal Concert Hall New Auditorium, Glasgow7.00pm£25.00