Various Artists – FEAST 6 Halloween Show – Tower Studios, Stone, 30th October 2021

Posted: 2 November 2021 in Live
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Christopher Nosnibor

That there is a shortage of grass-roots venues is a widely-reported fact, and the last year and a half has only exacerbated what is, put bluntly, a crisis in the music industry. At the heart of it all, the problem is is that we exist under capitalism. Art and capitalism simply aren’t compatible. We therefore have a model whereby venues need to book acts who will bring punters who will pay for tickets and spend money over the bar. But how do acts who simply don’t have an established audience, or are unlikely to ever attain that kind of audience reach whatever audience they may have? How do acts who need the exposure get the exposure in the first place? The system is flawed. However, recent years have seen the emergence of a different kind of venue, with rehearsal rooms doubling as gig spaces. They maybe small, but that’s for the better – gigs with an audience of maybe 20 people don’t need a lot of space. Unlicensed, BYOB means no overheads or costs there, and because these spaces make their money by other means, any takings from gigs are simply a bonus. They also tend to benefit from being on industrial estates, meaning there’s less risk of neighbours complaining about noise, meaning the only downside is that they’re not so often in prime city centre locations. But how many small venues are these days?

Places like CHUNK and Mabgate Bleach in Leeds and Hatch in Sheffield have led the way, and now Tower Studios in Stone, a little way out of Stoke-on-Trent, presents a ‘proper’ gig following one shot for online streaming as part of the last FEAST event (with FEAST being very much something born out of lockdown with a series of streaming events).

For a place a bit off the beaten track, it’s stunning. Scratch that: by any standards, it’s stunning. A rehearsal space with a stage and meticulously maintained, it’s something else. The PA speakers are halfway down the room in the main room and face the stage, doubling as monitors, meaning the band get to hear the ‘out front’ mix instead of the monitor mix. There is a second, smaller room, but we’re in the main room tonight for a lineup of noise and experimentalism, and if the audience isn’t huge, at least they’re receptive.

Omnibael open with an ear-bleeding blast of space rock feedback with industrial percussion worthy of Godflesh. Jase plays pedalboard predominantly. Brief moments swerve into black metal, but it’s mostly just a relentless barrage of noise. The third track goes a bit Sunn O))), with big hefty power chords paving the way for more raging metal noise. The duo’s experimental explorations may yet to have found a firm stylistic footing but this outing is perhaps their most focussed and most intense live workout yet as they continue to evolve.

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OMNIBAEL

The second act, Vile Plumage, make like performance art, but struggle to keep straight faces, like they know this is audacious and preposterous. The gloved hands over faces cover grins disguised as menacing smirks. Stop start blasts of noise judder and thud. A rattling bean tin. We got given pebbles to toss into a bowl, and it was all quite bizarre and confusing, but entertaining in a strange and ritualistic way.

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Vile Plumage

I must have zoned out or blanked out for the next twenty minutes. Something about some guy cranking out electronic noise reminiscent of early Whitehouse while shouting torrents of vitriol and profanity through squalls of feedback, I don’t know much and I can’t comment on whether or not it was any good. But I think it happened.

Garbage Pail Kids is an experimental duo which features Theo Gowans, aka Territorial Gobbing – meaning that anyone familiar with the scene will have an idea what to expect –namely anything as long as its experimental, noisy, and improvised – and Basic Switches, the experimental side project of Leeds indie act Cowtown. Weirdy drones and feedback strongly reminiscent of Throbbing Gristle dominate the set. There’s echoed vocal oddness and endless pulsations with phasers set to warp and stun. Crazy headgear is of course a signature, and the headgear is particularly crazy here. The ‘anything goes’ oddity is nonstop, and at one point we find Theo playing keyboard barefoot while ululating wildly. It’s a complete headfuck, but a brilliant one.

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Garbage Pail Kids

Final act Ashtray Navigations are far easier on the ear. Predominantly dominated by dark, ambient sounds and gentle ripplings, although these are ruptured by dense synth bass and crushing beats. They venture deep into prog and space rock with vintage drum machine sounds: the snare is pure Roland 606. The set builds with some bumping bass that’s more akin to Chris & Cosey’s Trance era works. After a guitar string change that does slow the momentum just a little, the last piece combines the throb of Suicide with extravagant prog guitaring. It works primarily because of the blistering volume that’s utterly gut-trembling.

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Ashtray Navigations

It makes for a great end to a great night, offering a selection of sounds that have enough in common to be complimentary, but different enough so as to snag the attention. With any luck, this will become the blueprint for nights to come.

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