Archive for the ‘Live’ Category

I can’t remember the last time I was in a dark room with so many people wearing shades. But then tonight The Fulford Arms is Old Goff central. It’s always the case when luminaries of the 80s scene play: they seemingly emerge out of the woodwork to descend on venues under the cover of darkness. Although with early doors and an early start, its not that dark when Grooving in Green hit the stage.

They’ve been knocking around for over a decade now, and Mick Mercer may be a fan but in a game of one-word reviews, ‘derivative’ would be theirs. Singer General Megatron Bison rocks snakeskin jacket and trousers. Their clunky lyrics and blatant appropriations from left, right, and centre (the first song repeats ‘awayyyyy’ in a bad rip of The Sisters of Mercy’s ‘Walk Away’) are paired with a theatrical, melodramatic delivery that doesn’t sit with the jovial banter, and their sub-Mission ordinariness makes The Rose of Avalanche look and sound strong and innovative. Tron has to hype himself into each of his rehearsed poses, and the overall effect is just… wincey.

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Grooving in Green

1919 originally formed in 1980, split in 84, and reformed five years ago, although the current incarnation features none of the founding members, or even anyone who featured in the 80s lineups. They’re from the punkier end of the goth spectrum, and musically, they’re not bad, with a solid rhythm section and some nice guitar work that switches between chunky chords and spindly chorus-drenched pick-work. Viewed from one angle, front man Rio Goldhammer has energy and presence, but ultimately, when viewed from any other angle, is a bouncing, irritating tit. And only a bozo would wear that jacket. Never mind the vest and braces.

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1919

Cold in Berlin are the clear exception to the billing tonight, being from the new wave of spiky post-punk acts. And it shows: this is a band that brings edge and vitriol back to the table, spitting and twitching. They’ve been on my radar and to-see list since they snared me with 2010’s pulverizingly sharp debut Give Me Walls, which channelled the best of Siouxsie and the Banshees and Skeletal Family an X-Mal Deutschland with its steely, serrated-edged guitars. Since then, they’ve evolved: they’re darker, heavier, doomier, but they’ve lost none of that early edge or the spark of nihilistic rage that defined them. The set may be dominated by doomy, slowed-down riffs, but they’re as much ‘Reptile House’ era Sisters and Sabbath in their grinding riffola. ‘White Horse’ is delivered at around a third of the pace of the studio version, but it’s still blindingly intense.

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Cold in Berlin

Maya makes frequent forays into the audience, from amongst whom she continues to deliver her full-lunged blasts of angst, while Adam (guitar) and Laurence (bass) step forward to the front of the stage to emanate maximum presence. They don’t just play: they perform. Not in a pretentious, posturing way, but in that all four band members operate as a unit and channel the force of the songs with a passion and intensity that far exceeds the sum of the parts. Band of the night by a mile.

Killing Eve are very much in their formative stages, and only have a demo EP to their credit an on the merch stand, but they have immense pedigree. Tim Brecheno, covering bass duties, emerged as the guitarist for All About Eve (his new project’s name a clear statement of a separation with that aspect of his past) before finding a place in the Vision Thing era iteration of The Sisters of Mercy and then forming XC-NN (who were actually pretty good in a trashy postmodern way) and subsequently Tin Star. Meanwhile, Anne-Marie Hurst was the face of Skeletal Family before the formation of Ghost Dance with Gary Marx on the explosion of the original Sisters. And this is why all the old goths have emerged tonight: these people are significant, and I can’t help but feel a certain reverence awe simply being in their presence.

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Killing Eve

From watching the show and watching the room, my perspective is clearly not necessarily representative. But then, how do you pitch this? I may be a fan and a critic, but I tend to write as a fan first and foremost, and it’s as a fan I let feeling disappointed. It’s tough to see icons of your formative years growing old, stepping down a league or two to the ranks of part-timers.

Something about tonight’s performance says they’ve been out of it for a while, and that given more road-testing, they’ve got the potential to regain some of their prior greatness. But then again, the material lacks bite and sounds a bit ordinary, on first listen at least. And any criticism is less about ageism than reducing edge over time: they still play with passion and perform with sincerity and energy and there’s no sense they’re going through the motions. But equally, there’s a certain absence of edge, punch, abrasion. They’ve got some solid tunes, but on first hearing, nothing really bites. But they seem to be enjoying themselves, as do most of the audience. And I’m not going to knock that – because fun is important.

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Christopher Nosnibor

The Ocean certainly don’t do things by halves. The progressive metal act aren’t afraid to go large, delving wide and deep into major concepts, producing music with a sound to match. The band’s website explains ‘The Phanerozoic eon succeeded the Precambrian supereon, spanning a 500 million-year period leading to the present day, and it has witnessed the evolution and diversification of plant and animal life on Earth, and the partial destruction of it during 5 mass extinction events. Conceptually and musically, The Ocean’s Phanerozoic is the missing link between the albums Precambrian and Heliocentric / Anthropocentric.

Only, they do sometimes do things by halves: their most recent album, Phanerozoic I: Palaeozoic released in November is half of a two-album project that evolved and gestated during the five years spent touring Pelagial.

One suspects the current set of dates for the Phanerozoic tour won’t be the last, especially not with the second phanerozoic album due for release later this year or sometime next.

For all that, I’m actually here to see Herod, having been sold on the gut-churning abrasion of Sombre Dessein, released last month. The inclusion of the Swedish metallers makes much sense in context, given that the album explores the idea of ‘the end of our Judaeo-Christian and thermo-industrial civilisation’. What’s more, vocalist / guitarist Mike Pelat was a member of The Ocean Collective between 2007 and 2009, so there’s almost a sense of community reunion here, which is reinforced when current Ocean singer Loïc Rossetti joins them to complete the carnage at the end of the set – and it’s a strong set, which doesn’t disappoint.

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Herod

With dark, heavy atmospherics emerging from the darkness, they pile in with the first series of crushing power chords as the lights – minimal, blood-red – flare up to illuminate the band. They’ve got three guitars, and about 25 strings between them, which makes for a full, dense sound that brings a fully-weighted assault.

In contrast, with standard guitars, Downfall of Gaia sound a little thin at first, but once the ears have adjusted to the relentless blast of overdrive, they erase any trace of lesserdom. Having entered the stage to a low churning emanating from the PA, they play hard and fast, with the three-way alternating vocals providing texture and a constantly-shifting focus in terms of attention, there’s a lot going on. Frequent changes of tempo and blistering volume interspersed with ambient interludes and subtle piano passages make for a gripping set that’s something special.

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Downfall of Gaia

The Ocean’s legendary lightshow is truly something to behold, and in the intimate setting of The Brudenell, it’s blinding at times. again, they build the atmosphere for a grand entrance: smoke…. Minimal lighting…. A sound that sees Tubular Bells melting into ambience before a booming bass note sounds out and the band filter on stage to appreciative applause – which they repay with epic chords on a grand scale.

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The Ocean

It’s easy to understand the appeal and the reason why fans aren’t only singing along but constantly reaching out to shake hands with the band: their set is varied, textured, expansive, ranging from the deeply proggy, to the gnarly: it’s palatable but powerful and packs no shortage of abrasion, offset with moments of breathtaking grace. And while Loïc Rossetti has possibly the most flexible neck in metal, and displays a most affable demeanour he still plays with aggression and edge. It’s a perfect balance.

Christopher Nosnibor

“Are you a journalist?”

I nod. I don’t like talking when a band is playing. I don’t like other people talking when a band is playing, so why would I do it? It’s rude. And I’m there to watch the band. And so I don’t explain that no, I don’t consider myself to be a journalist or a music journalist, but a writer who happens to write about music often.

She’s already asked me what I’m doing and tried to get a look at my notes – a spidery scrawl barely legible to myself, to which I’d responded by wordlessly waving my A7 pad at her.

Some people just don’t get hints.

Following on from opening acts Steve Hadfield, who’ delivered a set of proficient but slightly static electronica and Dean McPhee, who performed some ethereal, atmospheric guitar instrumentals with the assistance of a bank of pedals that almost filled the venue’s small stage, worriedaboutsatan built their set nicely. One of their trademarks is intelligent structure, and while they’ve woven segments of their latest album’s more delicate parts into their set, they swiftly transitioned from drifting ambience through subtle rhythmic pulsations to propulsive beats, all the while conjuring rich layers of atmosphere. Gavin Miller’s guitar sounds even less guitar-like than ever, as he conjures rippling waves of sonic abstraction from six strings.

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Steve Hadfield

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Dean McPhee

It’s been a long and taxing day, and I’ve consumed more beer than intended, than is wise, I’m switching between tenses, and I’m trying to decipher the narrative of the film projected at the back of the stage. It’s intercut with various black-and-white footage that conveys nothing in itself, but is evocative in its bleakness, and there are flickering light segments, too: beyond this, they play in darkness, visible only in silhouette. Their stage show hasn’t changed dramatically in recent years, but it’s visually striking and effective, and places the immersive music to the fore.

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worriedaboutsatan

Then, halfway through, a couple of women appear at the front and get down to some mum-dancing: fair play, but they don’t need to be exchanging comments about it. I have my earplugs in and am in the zone, perhaps more even than usual in my state of inebriation. It’s the short, chubby one who starts nebbing at my pad – not that I’d have been any happier had t been her taller, slimmer friend.

“Who do you write for?” she shouts in my ear. It’s a shame earplugs only reduce volume and cut top-end rather than muting irritants.

“Me.” I want to tell her to fuck off, but even seven pints in, I’m mindful of manners.

This throws her but she seems to think it’s cool, and she asks yet more questions, and then she starts going on about how she’s worried about my eyesight, writing in the dark and all. I appreciate the concern, but my liver and blood pressure and anxiety are probably more of an issue than my eyes, and besides, I’m wearing tinted glasses at a gig, and if perfect strangers feel the need to worry about anything, I’d say climate change, Brexit, the stranglehold of capitalism, and the simple fact we’re all doomed are more worthy of that worry. Ok, so I don’t appreciate her concern one bit.

Eventually, she leaves me in peace and I’m able to watch the guys bring their set to a triumphant climax to an appreciative response from a home crowd. And deservedly so: the fact they don’t tour often, and when they do, they’re reliably solid, consistently engaging and dynamic in both set formation and performance, and perform with such incredible energy, makes an intimate show like this all the more special.

Christopher Nosnibor

Scheduled headliners Ming City Rockers have had to pull out due to a bout of laryngitis. I’m distraught, as I’d been itching to see them again. Thankfully, with Filthy Filthy – a band so filthy they had to name themselves twice – stepping up to fill the slot, we were treated to an alternative choice of middling band with an overreaching sense of self-worth. You can’t please all of the people…

Having headlined the venue not so long back, Weekend Recovery’s first trip to York of 2019 finds them in the strange place of propping up the bill on the night their new single is scheduled to be payed on Kerrang! Radio, after an airing on Radio X the night before. Yes, it really is all happening for the Leeds four-piece right now. And, over the last 18 months, the AA staples have evolved on a massive scale, and they’ve emerged as one of the most solidly consistent live acts around.

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Weekend Recovery

Tonight, they don’t seem to be quite firing on all cylinders, at least to begin with, and back-catalogue single  ‘Don’t Try and Stop Me’ strikes as an unusual choice of opener, but things definitely pick up as the set progresses. Lori is jogging and lunging by the time they power into the grungey thrashabout ‘Why Don’t You Stay?’ and the guitars start sounding denser and meatier. They wrap up with new single ‘Bite Your Tongue’ and it’s not hard to glean why it’s been piquing radio interest: it’s got mass appeal, but rest assured, it’s not R1.

I’ll admit it: I don’t feel entirely comfortable here. After the whole Dream Nails shitstorm, I’m often self-conscious of being a straight white male in his 40s at the front of the stage taking notes and snaps of female-fronted bands. I’m by no means the only one tonight for either Weekend Recovery or Leeds foursome Purple Thread who’ve stepped in as last-minute additions to the bill.

Liz Mann owns the stage from the second she walks on, busting moves every which way, and leads the band through a tight set of what they call ‘funky punky glitter-drenched rock n’roll’ on their Facebook page, and which to my ears combines elements of classic 70s rock with sassy poppy punk in the vein of Blondie. And yes, there is a bit of a funk groove woven into their guitar-led workouts, but it’s so well executed, I’ll let it pass: they’re so confident and comfortable with what they do, melding the vintage vibe with a contemporary attitude, and they really do work hard. The one minor detraction s that the sound is a bit muffled and lacking in definition, although I gather they didn’t get much, if any, soundchecking in, which means credit is due to both band and sound man for pulling it together. There’s a gutsy swagger to closer ‘Back to New York City’ that says they’re a band well worth seeing again.

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Purple Thread

Filthy Filthy trade in old-school punk: four middle-aged dudes cranking out thudding four-chord riffs with enthusiasm, if not always an equal level of technical proficiency, and that’s fine: it’s punk in the well-worn style of Sham 69 at al, and it’s very one tempo, one attitude, one song. It has its place, but we’re in the territory of punk that’s essentially pub rock with attitude and the amps up, and it’s hard to get excited about it in 2019.

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Filthy Filthy

Still, it’s serviceable, and besides, two outta three ain’t bad.

Christopher Nosnibor

It may only be nine minutes on foot from the station according to Google Maps, but despite having probably been maybe twenty or even thirty times, I still find myself struggling to find it, even with GPS assistance. I have no idea why: it’s like I have some kind of mental block, or the venue has some kind of cloaking device that blocks my internal geographical radar. And so I’m disproportionately pleased when I find myself within yards of the venue without taking a single wrong turn. And then I remember the bar doesn’t take cars, and despite having intended to get cash at York station, then Leeds station, then en route, I’ve sailed past all of the cashpoints and only have about four quid on me. Even with beer at £2.80 a pint, I might be a bit thirsty at the end of the night.

I still make it back, with cash, before doors, and they’re not quite done soundchecking. The fact I’m considering plugging up just for the soundcheck brings a small buzz of anticipation: we’re here for some hefty riffage, and it’s best experienced at an appropriate volume. If it doesn’t hurt, it’s not loud enough.

Leeds drums and bass duo Calm are an interesting proposition on paper, consisting of John Sutcliffe from Canvas, Humanfly, Kings, Natterers, and Paul Handley from The Plight, Kings and Ladies Night. In the flesh they’re interesting, too: at the opening, oscillating sequenced synth lines bubble along beneath woozy bass before the distortion crashes I like a tidal wave of sludge. The drums are more energetic than the low-BPM grind of the chords. Structurally, the compositions are segmented and almost sound like three or four pieces glued together, but the transitions make for a set that holds the attention well, and as Sutcliffe, on drums, intones mystical droning incantations into a sea of reverb against a wall of low-end that sends vibrations through my steel-toed boots, the experience takes on an almost spiritual quality.

Calm

Calm

A Headless Horse bring a much more sedate atmosphere with mellow female vocals and delicately layered, meticulously structured songs. Their songs are keenly focused on texture and melody. In contrast to Calm and the rest of the lineup, there’s significantly less weight, and less emphasis on volume overall: that isn’t to say they’re quiet, but when they bring in the riffs, they’re not obliterative, but simply denser. Comparisons aren’t everything, but The Cure and Cranes provide fair touchstones here, and Headless Horse demonstrate that they’re capable of delivering mathy post-rock with emotional resonance. Given that this is only their second outing, they show a lot of promise.

A Headless Horse

A Headless Horse

There’s a proliferation of beards tonight, and Dystopian Future Movies are very much a beard band (singer / guitarist Catherine Cawley clearly excepted). They’re also a very much an atmospheric band, and a band who exploit the dynamics of volume to optimal effect, as abundantly demonstrated by the choppy stop/start lumbering riff of ‘Dulled Guilt’ which opens the set powerfully. Their description of themselves as ‘taking a Sonic Youth approach but arriving at some dark place between Neurosis and Chelsea Wolfe’ is pretty accurate, and they pull the listener in with slow-burning ethereality that yields to punishing riffery, without at any time falling into the trap of formula.

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Dystopian Future Movies

This four-date joint tour sees DFM and Grave Lines unveil a collaborative / split EP, and they’re joined on stage by Jake Harding for a killer rendition of ‘Beholden, which begins a brooding whisper, almost folky in feel, before erupting into thunderous power chords The vocal duet is magnificent: the two singers intertwine with Hardin’s baritone croon underpinning Cawley’s graceful, evocatively gothic intonation to conclude a mesmerising set.

Grave Lines stand out as being very much different from their peers by virtue of the exploration of extended quiet passages that are as much dark folk as post-anything, while exploiting tropes commonly associated with post-rock. This imbues the songs with a palpable emotional depth, and when they crash in with the u-to-eleven distortion, it hits hard.

With ragged hair and beard, wrists and shoes wrapped in grubby shreds of bandage, and a dingy off-white vest, Jake Harding cuts a dramatic and tortured figure as he spews anguish and nihilistic fury, his body tense and wracked, over low, slow sludginess; then again, guitarist Oli, with Alan More hair and beard and sporting a torso so tatood as to appear to be wearing a heavily patterned shirt brings a stoic intensity that’s in stark contrast to the laid-back drumming of Julia Owen, who has an airy style of playing that belies the force with which she delivers stick on skin.

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Grave Lines

And yet it’s when Harding ceases words and spits a guttural ‘urrggh’ that most succinctly articulates all the pain and frustration the band channels.

Caroline from Dystopian Future Movies returns the favour of providing additional vocals on Grave Lines’ contribution to the new EP, the epic ‘False Flame’, and they take things right down for the penultimate track of a remarkably concise – but suitably hard-hitting – set with the minimal ‘Loathe / Disgrace’, pairing a droning organ sound which quavers against a vulnerable, melancholic vocal performance.

My notes blur to nothing as the band drive the set home with crushing force with ‘The Greave’. And in this high-volume release lies the uplifting joy of catharsis.

Christopher Nosnibor

I keep seeing articles, usually shared on social media, about the plight of the small venue, how they’re struggling and their numbers diminishing at an alarming rate. Often, the emphasis is on how little venues are the lifeblood of the music industry, and without them, the industry would die, seeing as pretty much any artist starting out cuts their teeth in such places. I would also note another vital role played by small venues: they’re not all about the industry, or nurturing the talents of the next big thing, but cater to those who crave alternatives. Niche audiences collectively make up as great a proportion of the music-consuming, gig-going public as the more mainstream section.

I’ve just watched a beefy guy with a ruddy face and sweat pouring off him, screaming his lungs out while wearing only boxers and a pair of DMs. You’re never going to get that at an O2 Academy. But there’s undeniably a place, and an audience, for it. Yes, Manscreams make for an exhilarating and exhausting start to an evening – with free entry – that boasts a typically loud and varied lineup as curated by Soundsphere’s Dom Smith.

Their name describes their brand of grunged-up hardcore punk pretty much perfectly. And if the overtly masculine trio’s abrasive racket is superficially an excuse to air some testosterone, with Jon Donnelly’s performance making occasional nods to Henry Rollins, closer inspection reveals that for all the aggression, this is the tortured ventings of impotent rage. Exchanging words with a couple of the band afterwards, as Jon, dressed once more, retrieved his glasses and phone from his rucksack only confirms this: they’re pretty meek, ordinary guys for whom the music is their outlet, and their way of dealing with the fucked up shit that is life.

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Manscreams

Apparition showcase a fucked-up, massively overchorused guitar sound that’s straight out of 1984. We’re tripping onto obscure territory here, with the band landing somewhere between early Danse Society and Murder the Disturbed, and the songs are complex in structure, with accelerations, decelerations and tempo changes here, there and everywhere. They’re a barrage of treble, with two guitars, drums, synth and no bass, and assail the crowd with an analogue primitivism and angular aggression propelled by some thunderous drumming that’s centred around heavy use of toms and rapidfire snare work. There’s rough edges and even rough centres, and the singer is yet to fully master mic stand control, but this all adds to the charm and the sense of period authenticity, and I’m certainly not the only one in the room who’s totally sold on their style.

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Apparition

In many ways, there’s not a lot to say about PUSH: the full-throttle screamo punk duo (are they brothers? Twins) are on the attack from the first bar, thrashing out a fast-paced and frantic set. With elements to That Fucking Tank and No Age pushed to the fore and cranked up to eleven, if Pulled Apart by Horses had been a duo, they’d have probably emerged sounding like this. It’s all over in a loud, shouty blur.

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PUSH

Newmeds have totally nailed what they do. I had fairy low expectations given their presentation, mostly shiny new tats and black hoodies, but straight out of the traps, they’re a raging guitar-driven hurricane. Their stab at audience participation and encouragement to clap notwithstanding, their calls to move forward are met positively, enabling their front man to engage in some crowd surfing – which, given the height of the stage and the ceiling, and the size of the crowd, was no mean feat. But they emanate real energy and play with relentless power, and watching them rev up a small crowd like it was an arena show, it isn’t hard to see the potential. Maybe there’s something for the industry after all.

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Newmeds

The same is true of On The Ropes. I’ve known Jonny Gill for years, and seen him perform solo acoustic countless times, but never before with his band, On the Ropes. ‘I just run around a lot,’ Jonny told me before the show, and it’s a fair summary of his stage performance, most of which happens in front of the low stage.

I’ve been pretty venomous in my critiques of punk-pop acts over the years, and I won’t deny that OTR could easily be just another vaguely emotastic guitars and whines band. I also won’t deny that with the right PR, they’d be all over Kerrang! Radio in an instant. Whether or not it’s my bag shouldn’t detract from the fact they’re a cracking live act with some corking tunes. But more than that, being a cracking live act, I find myself completely drawn to them in the moment. Gill is a blur, and isn’t still for a second. It’s the energy, the sincerity, the emotional honesty, and the massive bass drive, and the way these elements come together to create a positive rush.

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On the Ropes

There’s much hugging and handshaking afterwards, and as much as I’m not a hugger or a handshaker or a fan of the kind of music played by Kerrang! the vibe is the key. we’re all here because we’re misfits together, and we’re all passionate about music, regardless of genre, regardless of, well, anything. This is the way it’s meant to be. Five bands for no money and beer at £3.60 a pint. It doesn’t get better.