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The Independent Culture
A rock concert at the Commonwealth Institute sounds about as likely as a fashion show at Westminster Abbey. But for Red House Painters, it seems right.

You do not swing your pants at a Red House Painters gig. The etiquette at the San Francisco band's concerts is rather more sombre than that. They make mellow, restrained, introspective music, along the lines of their hero, Neil Young. Singer and lyricist, Mark Kozelek, always looks distinctly uneasy at being on stage, pulling at his sweater and turning away from the audience. Drummer, Anthony Koutsos, guitarist, Jerry Vessel and bassist, Gordon Mack, perform with a cool that makes Catherine Deneuve look excitable. They expect their audience to behave accordingly. Stage diving? No thank you. Hysterical, screaming girl fans? I don't think so. The last time the Painters played London, you had to pick your way around the fragile waifs, so moved by the music they were curled in the foetal position on the floor (the song was even called 'Mother').

Finding the right venue for a band as understated as this isn't easy. The audience want to be able to concentrate on the dark witty lyrics and study the musicians. The swirling mosh pit of the Camden Underworld wasn't quite right for a band that makes you want to ask Leonard Cohen what he's being so damned cheerful about. This Sunday, they are booked to play the Commonwealth Institute and it looks like they may finally have got the venue they deserve. Because the Institute is not a music venue, but a centre of anthropological discovery, this will be a sit down gig. If you want to leap and prance and slam into sweaty bodies, go and see Guns and Roses at Wembley. If you want to enjoy a melodic and thoughtful evening, without some beer drenched nutter jumping on your head, see Red House Painters at the Commonwealth Institute. And don't get lost in the witch doctor exhibit, because I did when I was eight and it was really scary.

(Photograph omitted)