Live: Eamon Hamilton, the Hand in Hand, Brighton

There are secret gigs, and then there are secret gigs. I mean, there are those shows when a big name band plays a slightly too small venue to try out new material or create a buzz, and everyone is alerted by text message earlier in the day, and the press all know and there’s a huge guest list and a gaggle of hardcore fans congregating around the doors in the afternoon desperate to get in- and then there is Eamon Hamilton, erstwhile British Seapower member and frontman of Rough Trade recording artistes Brakes, playing a solo acoustic set at my local. A show announced that same day solely via a handwritten sheet of paper stuck on the pub door. That nobody seems to have read.

Brakes are a popular, hip and very credible indie band, with two critically-acclaimed LPs under their belts. They have toured Europe and America, where they are particularly well-loved, and in their hometown of Brighton they’ve previously headlined the 1150-capacity Corn Exchange. The Hand in Hand struggles to hold 50 people. It is a small cosy room attached to the Kemptown micro-brewery, usually haunted by ruddy-faced men in late middle age who have little truck with the vagaries of fashion or the arty whims of esoteric pop groups. But presumably tonight the regulars have been usurped by an influx of youthful and enthusiastic Brakes fans, keen to hear Eamon perform stripped-down versions of all their favourite numbers? Erm, no. Like I said, this was a secret gig. He really hasn’t told anybody. And it’s pretty much the usual crowd.

The note said from 7, so I got there at 8.30, thinking it’ll probably be full, I probably won’t get in, but it’s not far to go home again and- oh, okay, there’s about a dozen people here as usual. Three or four nattily-dressed youngsters at the bar, getting in the way and laughing loudly at each other, but otherwise just the usual old soaks with their dogs and balding blokes in fleeces talking about cars and taxes. No buzz. No sign of any live music being planned. I nurse my pint of Old Trout for an hour (the Dragon’s Blood was off), reading the local free paper from cover to cover, watching the backs of the guys stood in front of me, wondering if maybe I misread the notice and it’s all happening somewhere else, or on another night. Someone knocks a glass of wine off the table, pushing past to get to the toilet. It’s filling up, anyway.  

 Then about 9.30 a beer crate is placed in the far corner and Eamon climbs on top of it, clutching a battered acoustic guitar. I stand up and move forward. Well, by a couple of feet. He’s completely unamplified, not even a microphone, and the regulars are doing their best to ignore this unwanted interruption of their evening. This is less a British Seapower-style situationist performance in an unusual location, and more a Brakes song brought to life- as in, ‘won’t you shut the fuck up, I’m just trying to watch the band.’  

So Eamon is singing ‘Ring a Ding Ding,’ possibly, but it’s hard to tell as I’m stuck behind this grey-haired scouser holding forth to his cronies about how his ex-wife is getting fuck all money from him, she’s getting a fiver a week and that’s all, she can try living on that and see how she likes it. Eamon is delivering the homesick country blues of ‘NY Pie,’ but the ex-wife has gone to university you see, she thinks she’s better than him now, she says she hasn’t got a boyfriend but he knows she’s seeing this fucking hippy, some long-haired twat- ‘Porcupine or Pineapple,’ Eamon wonders, in the manner of a skinny, English Black Francis, but his daughter’s gone to university now as well and she’s just as bad as her mum, she keeps ringing him up and giving it all this, she’s fucking 17, thinks she fucking knows it all, she’s got no use for him now, he says to her, who’s been telling you things, who’s been putting ideas into your head? And on the other side of me, sat at the bar, a bearded young groover is telling his girl yah, I rilly wanna go to ATP this year, but I don’t know, the line-up just doesn’t do it for me- Eamon airs a new song, possibly entitled ‘Consumer Producer Chicken Egg,’ in the same tradition of directness and brevity as Brakes classics ‘Cheney,’ ‘Comma Comma Comma Full Stop’ and ‘Pick Up the Phone,’ which are also performed tonight. “These kids, they all think that’s great music- that’s a fucking university education for you, innit? I don’t fucking understand it, it’s just weird. It’s not music. It’s like speaking another fucking language, innit?”

Afterwards Eamon is at the bar, meeting his public. “I usually play with a band called Brakes,” he’s saying. “No, B-R-A-K-E-S…” So are they all your own songs, this bloke wants to know, have you ever tried selling your songs to other people? I know it’s all just hype, but at the end of the day they need a good song, don’t they?

They do. “Put Phil Collins on!” someone shouts desperately as soon as Eamon finishes, with the genuine Brakes hit single ‘All Night Disco Party.’ The bar staff oblige. Eamon’s solo tour continues throughout the month- see for details.    

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2 Responses to “Live: Eamon Hamilton, the Hand in Hand, Brighton”

  1. oh yes a friend Says:

    I feel like a guy going to see a gig at a tiny local pub by a really good musician and hardly anyone else in there knows who he is, leaving this comment here. Good blog.

  2. Min Says:

    Tom White is playing at The Hand In Hand on Monday 3rd March with Stuart Flynn, see front page at for more info.

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