Saddle Creek must be one of the better known labels around right now; despite their relatively small size there is still something inherently cool about putting out your mates records and being very successful. Despite the gaggle of feature writers queueing up to profile them they aren’t backward at coming forward; 2003’s _Saddle Creek 50_ double CD celebrated their half century of releases with two songs from everyone on their roster, while Spend an Evening with Saddle Creek marks their first ten years with what pretty much amounts to a South Bank Show on themselves, only without Melvyn Bragg bookending things in a sports jacket and wafting cologne.
If Belle and Sebastian hadn’t already used the title then this could have been called Fans Only. Want to see the recording of Lifted...? Check. Mike Mogis as a preppy student? Check. Which leads quite neatly to Conor Oberst in a crew cut, glasses and polar bear knitted jumper recording and playing shows in his early teens; his enormous success can’t have given him that much of an ego if he’s happy to have such copious footage of himself as a gawky high school kid be put on general release. Coming as it does amid a sea of uber-indie haircuts (can these people even tell each other apart?), it’s pretty refreshing.
Structure-wise the main focus is on the big three; Bright Eyes, Cursive and **The Faint** all receive their own fairly lengthy sections after a good half hour on how the label came about. This is as entertaining as it is constricting; The Faint in particular are good value but it does leave the likes of Azure Ray, Rilo Kiley and Now It’s Overhead crammed into soundbites at the end. Still, with a roll call like this the DVD could easily run to ten hours rather than one and a half, so they were never going to please everyone. The uniform arty black and white does get a bit wearing, especially when slowly panning over multi-coloured record sleeves like Letting off the Happiness, and while there are many snatches of fantastic songs, they tend to cut to another talking head just as you are getting into it. This last criticism is pretty much nixed by the extras, however; a bootlegger’s paradise of rare recorded live shows from almost all those involved, giving this a shelf life well beyond the one or two plays the main feature probably warrants.
Essentially the people who buy a DVD like this will already be pretty big fans of the bands featured and it’s likely to do it’s job in getting them to dust off their Blank Wave Arcade CDs and scouring Soulseek for **Lullaby for the Working Class**. As for the rest, see it round your mates house or just buy the records.
They’re good, you know.
7John Winters's Score