Her Name is Calla / Halo Blind / Team Picture / Sewage Farm / Bull – The Crescent, York, 12th February 2017

Posted: 15 February 2017 in Live
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Christopher Nosnibor

It’s a cold, wet, February night in York. The wind is howling and the air is bitter. It’s not much warmer in The Crescent, despite a respectable turnout for this incredibly good value five-band extravaganza hosted by Leeds promoters and label Come Play With Me (and while I’ve never asked or otherwise bothered to research, I’ve always assumed the name is taken from the 1992 Single by Leeds indie stalwarts The Wedding Present, rather than the 1977 sex-comedy movie).

Perhaps it’s because they play so frequently in and around York that I often pass up on seeing Bull play. As a consequence, I tend to forget just how good they are, and often feel as if I’m, discovering them anew when I do see them. Their breezy US alternative sound, which hints at Dinosaur Jr and Pavement is laced with a distinctly Northern attitude, and they’ve got a real knack for a nifty pop song. They make for an uplifting start to proceedings.

The ubiquitous and multi-talented local stalwart Danny Barton features among the lineup of three-piece Sewage Farm, in capacity of bassist. Their post-grunge style is a sort of hybrid of US alt rock and 60s pop: more New York than Old York. With nods to Sonic Youth, but equally, Weezer, they’re good fun and make a dense noise for just three people.

Looking around the venue, I observe a number of long coats and above-the-ankle trousers. It’s starting to look like 1984, while on stage it sounds like it’s 1994. Time is warping, history is bending in on itself. Clearly, I need more beer. While I’m at the bar, The Jesus and Mary Chain and Slowdive pour from the PA, setting the tone nicely for the next act.

While they’re setting up, I chat briefly to Adam Weikert, drummer with Her Name is Calla. I waffle a load of bollocks, and as he heads off to get warm and grab a beverage, I realise just how unbelievably fucking tired I am. Maybe if I drink enough beer I’ll perk up, or otherwise fall asleep at the table I’m sitting at to make notes between bands. Perhaps I’ll simply care less, and also develop a much-needed beer-coat.

Team Picture describe themselves as ‘One part post-punk, two parts fuzz’, and having been impressed by their single cut released by CPWM the night before, I was keen to check them live. Biographical details about the Leeds act is scant, and despite the positioning of old-school cathode ray tube television sets around the stage and the female singer being one of the hyper-retro bods I’d clocked, giving an air of hypermodernism of a vintage circa 1979, they’re really not an image band. They are, however, an exceptionally strong live act. The six-piece forge a layered sound that oozes tension: the monotone dual vocals and fractal guitars trickle brittle over strolling basslines and taut drums. The songs are magnificently composed and executed. Atmospheric segments blow out into expansive passages propelled by motoric rhythms. I’m totally sold: it’s a cert that this is going to be a band who are on an upward trajectory and 2017 could be a big year for them.

Team Picture

Team Picture

I’m still freezing my tits off, tired, and feeling disconnected and out of sorts, so I buy a third beer: surely an Old Peculier will unthaw my toes at least. The barmaid throws a friendly smile as she hands me my change. Inexplicably, I feel hopeless and empty, and now, I’m without a seat, as the girl who stood right at my elbow during Team Picture’s set, despite the venue being only a third full is now sitting with her mate at the table I was at previously. She looks vaguely familiar, but I’m not about to embarrass myself by attempting conversation. Perhaps it’s the chilly post-punk vibes lingering in the air spurring my existentialism; perhaps not. Regardless, I don’t go to gigs to socialise.

It’s a relief when Halo Blind begin their set. Another York band featuring another ubiquitous face on bass, this time in the form of former Seahorse Stuart Fletcher (currently rocking a look that says he wants to be Tom Hardy), they’re classic exemplars of post-millennium neo-prog, and they’re seriously good at it. Having just released their second album, Occupying Forces, they showcase an evolving, expansive sound. Layered, dynamic, melodic and harmony-soaked songs, rich in atmosphere and calling to mind the likes of Oceansize and Anathema, define their set. They explore dynamics fearlessly, building some sustained crescendos and executing them with admirable precision. During ‘Downpour’, I find myself drawing parallels with ‘Pictures of a Bleeding Boy’ by The God Machine. But if a band’s worst crime is betraying echoes of The God Machine, then you know they’re a band worth hearing.

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Halo Blind

Her Name is Calla: another tour, another lineup. Sophie Green is out (a shame, as she’s an awesome presence), making way for a return for Anja Madhvani (which is cool, because she’s a superb player). And that bearded guy at the back, manning a bank of electronics and hoisting a trombone: is that really departed fonder Thom Corah? Yes, yes it is, and they open up a tempestuous set with the rarely-aired single-only track ‘A Moment of Clarity’. I may be in a minority, but it’s one of my favourite Her Name is Calla songs, and as Tom Morris pushes his voice to the limit with the cry of ‘the crunch / is the sound / of a human spirit breaking’ as the band erupt around him, it’s a powerful and emotive moment.

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Her Name is Calla

The band play a varied set with intensity and vigour. Quiet and melancholy, ‘Pour More Oil’ is delicate and moving; ‘Meridian Arc’ brings an insistent throb, vlume and tension in spades. Tiernan Welsh’s bass coms to the fore and his complete immersion in the songs is compelling.

They close the set with ‘New England’. I stopped taking notes, beyond scribbling ‘fucking yes’ in a barely decipherable scrawl. One of the highlights of The Heritage¸ this is precisely the kind of slow-building, explosive epic that made the band their name, and to see them thrash wildly, with Tom gnawing his guitar strings with his teeth amidst a tumult of ever-swelling noise, is an experience that’s something special. There is no encore: there doesn’t need to be. There is nowhere to go from here: an awesome finale to an awesome night.

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