Ham Sandwich‘s greatest seift so far in their brief but productive (four singles?) life has been to convince people that it’s Niamh’s show. She’s the obvious candidate: she’s attractive, she wears cool stuff, she doesn’t sound like a culchie eejit and she is, lest we forget, a girl. So she gets the magazine specials on girls in Irish indie, the most camera time on the Late Late Show. People take Ham Sandwich the same way they take Yeah Yeah Yeahs – it is the singer, and then the band. They’re wrong though. She’s an excellent singer without doubt, and her pose striking is den scoth, but it really is all about Podge. The difference between a good Ham Sandwich gig and a bad Ham Sandwich gig is almost entirely down to Podge’s behaviour. If he acts too much of a cock, tosses his guitar around too much, forgets to tune, grins when he should be singing or talks to his ubiquitous friends about matters concerning Meath-folk, the music can be ruined. And he drives the music too, he plays the key guitar parts and provides the unusual half of the vocal unison that seems to make Ham Sandwich stand out.
Luckily enough, he was on his best behaviour tonight. Ham Sandwich opened Tripod on Saturday for some reason, and even though I missed the beginning due to bookshop duties, I had a lot of fun. Smart money is on the early slot and the good behaviour being down to industry presence, and I would love to see a Ham Sandwich album on a good label. Their recordings to date have been great, but nailing down a live show has sometimes eluded them. Tonight they look polished though. They looked like they belonged in Tripod (due to the guitarist’s slightly-less-endearing-than-Barra-Immediate rock and roll posing and to Niamh’s inimitable presence even if it does seem a little affected when Podge is grinning at her and she’s pretending to be serious), and they seemed like they could do it anywhere. It would be lovely to see England like Ham Sandwich. Thing is though, it’s not just polish or even just catchy songs. There are those moments where something cracks and you realise that there really is something going on in Kells. The guitar crash bridge in Click Click Boom (played by Podge mostly from the ground but at least fully clothed and not grinning too heavily) sounded intense tonight, and the drop into the chorus in Sad Songs is proof in dark times (like, hypothetically, after an embarassingly bad Tower Records in-store) that Ham Sandwich are at the top of Irish indie on their own merits. They could make it, even, if they get a good bounce.