Archive for the ‘Live’ Category

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.

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Christopher Nosnibor

Casting an eye back to my reviews from last year, I discovered that it took me until 14th January to lug my carcass to see any live bands, and that was just up the road to see some friends play. Well, it’s friends playing that has forced me out of my hole for my first gig of 2019, too. For this, I’m grateful to the Wharf Street Galaxy guys: I don’t fare so well at this time of year, and the urge to hibernate all too often overwhelms the will to socialise.

After the hike from the station to Hyde Park Book Club, I’m pleased to find them near the bar sipping soft drinks and coffee, although I’m ready for beer and the Northern Monk Heathen IPA (purchased before realising it registers an ABV of 4.2%) does the job nicely as we riffed about various methods of making coffee and matters of male grooming – rock ‘n’ roll over 40s style.

Tonight’s show is the 50th birthday celebration of Neil Gumbley, guitarist in the first band on the bill: apparently, he’s not keen on birthday celebrations, but is keen on gigs, so decided to put one on with bands he likes.

The scrappy, scant nature of my notes is less as a result of the beer, but more as a result of being too busy enjoying the bands and conversations in between acts, although Vat-Egg Imposition make enough of an impact to not really require any notes to jog the memory. Musically, they’re all about the Fall-like repetitions, which is cool, but nowhere near as striking as seeing a bloke dressed as an egg and lofting a yellow carrier bag. It transpires the bag contains packets of crisps, which are distributed to the audience before they perform ‘I Bought You Crisps’, a tale of everyday heartbreak that’s both sad and funny. For entertainment, they’re top-notch, and I might even say egg-shellent.

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The Vat-Egg Imposition

Wind-Up Birds aren’t bad either. I’m understating here. Choppy post-punk guitars and a stonking rhythm section propelled by some tight, crisp drumming define the sound. Somewhere between The Fall and The Wedding Present, they do ranty, political, etc. You get the idea. They’re bloody good at it, too. And the theme for the evening is pretty much set solid.

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The Wind-Up Birds

‘Fuck me,’ my spidery scribble says. ‘There are people here in WSGB T-shirts!’ And they’re not members of the band! This is likely to be the band’s last show for a while, given that D. Procter (Message) is heading off to Scandinavia for PhD-related pursuits for 8 months very soon, although with more related projects than even they can count, the other members won’t exactly be twiddling their thumbs in his absence. And as a final show before their hiatus, it’s a stormer: yes, they’re on fine form. ‘Freedom to Comply’ (which pursues the theme of totalitarian conformity under the auspices of free capitalism and as such stands as a complimentary counterpart to ‘Organised Freedom is Compulsory’ from the first EP) is hammered out over a single chord augmented with strains of sculpted feedback, and the low-down, sleaze-funk of ‘Sex Master’ is delivered with audacious panache. I struggle to contain my mirth, and I’m laughing with rather than at them: this is a band that gets the ironic juxtaposition of middle-aged men in red boiler-suits doing pseudo-slinky.

Yes, ‘Hector and Harangue’ always gives me cause to smirk a little, the title and lyric lifted from an early review of mine, and it provides a well-placed change of tempo and tone with its faster pace and shouty, hooky chorus. No, they’re not so big on choruses.

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The Wharf Street Galaxy Band

There may be something of a dearth of puffins in tonight’s set, but ‘Ritual something-or-other’ (I can’t decipher my own handwriting or trust my own ears – it turns out to have been ‘Transgalaxial Time Travel (Slight Puffin Return’) boasts thumping tribal beats and a scratchy guitar reminiscent of The Fall on ‘Muzorewi’s Daughter’, and Procter finally melts into hollering harassment against Ash’s (Throb) slow-drip bass groove. And they play their slinky cover of ‘Warm Leatherette’, too.

On the journey back to York, WSGB’s John (Visual Balance) gives me a proper introduction to early OMD, whose work I’d never explored based on my lack of enthusiasm for ‘Enola Gay’. I offer some pointers for 90s Depeche Mode albums and probably talk a lot of bllocks because I’ve had three 440ml cans of Heathen, but it’s all good and I’ve never been more pleased to have forced myself out of the house instead of wallowing in the winter blues. Winter motorik grooves is definitely the way to go.

Christopher Nosnibor

My appreciation of the debut album by Leeds noisemongers Irk is already out in the public domain, as is my admiration of their capacity as a live act. It was only fitting that they should launch their debut album at Chunk, the rehearsal space which has become the hub of the new Leeds underground / alternative scene which has begun to emerge since the Brudenell – still the best venue in the country – has become increasingly popular and catering ever more to bigger-name acts. And there’s no escaping the fact that without the tiny venues, the microscenes, the free and cheap spaces where anything goes, there’d be nowhere for the bands of the future to explore and develop ideas free from the limitations of marketability and the pressure to achieve success. Commercialism strangles creativity, and we need the obscure band who want to fuck shit up more than ever in these desperate times in the stranglehold of corrupt, constricting neoliberalist capitalism which is not-so-slowly eroding every real freedom for the ordinary person.

Chunk is so no-budget, so DIY that there’s no licence for tonight’s (free) event: its BYOB, and people file in with carrier bags containing four-packs and the atmosphere is just so laid back that my anxieties about finding the place (Chunk is hidden through a door up some steps (which I worry I may fall down on my way out) next to a car repair place in an industrial area two miles out into the arse-end of nowhere) and all of the other stuff I panic about but tend not to talk about evaporate almost immediately. There are friendly faces, faces I recognise, faces I can chat to, and it feels more like a house party than a gig.

Only, there’s a gig PA and there are bands, and Beige Palace are on first. I note that they’ve been using a quite from a review I wrote of their live debut on my only previous visit to Chunk in the summer of 2016, which says ‘Beige Palace make sparse-sounding music that’s jarring, dissonant and hints at a clash between early Pram and No Wave angularity.’ Two yeas on, it still seems a fair summary. ‘It’s not math-rock’, their diminutive and moustachioed front man, Freddy Vinehill-Clifee forewarns the audience before they begin their set. He’s right. It’s atonal, droney, repetitive noise-rock with an almost spoken word delivery. Kelly Bishop’s flat, elongated vowels are reminiscent of Mark E. Smith in the early years of The Fall. They’re bursting with nagging, awkward guitar lines and clattering percussion playing unusual time signatures, too. So, like math-rock, only not. Or something. But it’s not about labels, but the music, and while they’re still rough ‘n’ ready, their confidence and intuition has evolved a lot over the last two years, and they turn in a more than decent performance.

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Beige Palace

It was the release of BRITN3Y that brought deranged Edinburgh 3-piece Britney to my attention, and I’d been itching to see them live ever since. They don’t disappoint. Comprising bass – through a fuckload of pedals; vocals – through an even bigger fuckload of pedals; – and drums, they deliver sonic riots in the form of blistering sub-two-minute noisefests. Occasionally, chuggy riffs and even grooves emerge from the screaming, spasmodic mess, albeit fleetingly. It hurts after two songs. It hurts a whole lot better after ten. The speaker a foot from my right ear is sounding like it’s fucked and they just fuck it harder with a relentless barrage of explosive, brutal hybridized noise that draws on elements of metal, hardcore, and grindcore and Final Fantasy (the victory fanfare is a recurrent feature throughout their set and closes it, too, while the infamous Tidus Laugh from FF X also features). They’re joined at the end by NALA for some screaming vocals to wrap up set appropriately culminates in an ear-splitting wall of noise, and I’m not the only one blown away.

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Britney

It turns out that Jack Gordon still has the copy of The Rage Monologues from the time we exchanged books. He’s read my review of the album, and during our brief exchange, I’m reminded that so many of the people who make art that pushes extremities, in whatever way, are the most pleasant, polite, and mild-mannered people you could wish to meet. It’s their outlet, and it’s what keeps them sane. Better to make brutal art than commit mass murder. Probably. Jack – bespectacled, sporting jacket and chinos and looking like any other smart-casual office worker – is a nice guy. But with the aid of a PA, a backline, and a bottle of Buckfast, he brings the brutality.

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Irk

If the disappearance of Blacklisters from the Leeds scene following Billy Mason-Wood’s departure for Germany left a jagged, gaping hole, then Irk more than manage it fill it with their own rendition of that Jesus Lizard, Touch ‘n’ Go skewed 90s US noise-rock racket. The trio are quite a different proposition and are very much their own people, but the comparisons and local lineage are impossible to ignore. And in this enclosed space, with the volume at pulverising levels and the warmth of community and camaraderie only adding to that of the proximity of bodies, everything comes together perfectly.

Christopher Nosnibor

You know what I appreciate, less as a critic but first as a fan of fringe music? Promoters and venues that can see beyond the bottom line, who appreciate and support art, and actually support grass roots music and artists who exist so far outside the mainstream they’re probably lucky if even their mums have heard of them, just because. The Fulford Arms in York is a rare venue indeed, and in booker Dan Gott they’ve struck gold. Facebook may have only shown there were 17 attending in the hours before and as I approached the venue, but there were at east three times as many actually in attendance, proving Facebook is a measure of nothing other than Facebook users’ capacity to click buttons on a whim. Actions very much speak louder than clicks, and the turnout alone says York isn’t as dead, conservative, or disinterested as all that.

Tonight’s lineup is a classic, with Gott’s own band, Snakerattlers – more of whom later – as the main support.

But first up, Gillman, a solo artist playing guitar and drums. Have I ever seen a drums-and-guitar one-man-band before, apart from the ancient busker who’s been on the streets of York paying awful Elvis covers for the last 30 years or thereabouts? I really don’t think so. Gillman looks harp in suit and bootlace tie and just-so oiled hair and does fucked-up rockabilly country stuff that got some real grit and a 60s psych twist. With minor chords and shedloads of echo, not to mention some deep twang, it’s like David Lynch meets Gallon Drunk. A plume of smoke rises from the edge of the rum kit, and he looks like he’s delivering a final sonic sermon from the top of a pyre. It’s pretty intense.

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Gillman

Tensheds proves that looks can be deceiving. Tensheds – pianos and gravel and whisky vocals extremely reminiscent of Tom Waits and assisted by an anonymous but extremely able drummer – looks uber-goth, but the majority of their set is given to knees-up theatrical piano-based blues songs. Said piano at times is given a different voice, and a bit of crunch and overdrive and sounds more like a guitar as the pair power through some glammy stompers. And Tensheds are definitely better than seven, although I’m taking a risk saying that in York.

Tensheds

Tensheds

On my arrival, Snakerattler Dan told me how their tireless touring had really tightened them up and that in many ways, the band has come on a long way in a short time – and watching the husband/wife duo tonight, for the first time in a few months, it’s very much apparent that this is very much true. Naomi’s drumming may still have a loose-limbed swing to it, but she’s hitting harder and tighter, and Dan’s very demeanor, and not just his playing, is tripwire tense. Every song is a short, sharp blast of adrenalised rockabilly garage. They’re not just playing the songs any more, they’re fully performing them, attacking them, and channelling the musical energy with every thread of their beings and at a hundred miles an hour. It’s proper, powerhouse stuff. Primitive, simple and stompy, Snakerattlers’ songs grab you by the throat and shake, rattle and roll. Ferocious and fun, this is truly the essence of rock ‘n’ roll.

Snakerattlers

Snakerattlers

Less straightforward is Mark Sultan, who’s responsible for an immense body of work both solo and with almost countless bands over the last 20-plus years. Musically, well, it’s rock ‘n’ roll too, with a strong punk element, but the execution brings all levels of bizarre as he walks on stage and sits behind the drum kit, brandishing a guitar, decked out in a snug-fitting hooded top adorned with eyes and sequins which my seven-year-old daughter would have loved. He proceeds to talk at length about problem gas and divulges that he’s farting freely while performing (there’s even a tour poster depicting beans on toast with the header ‘Mark Sultan’s UK Fall Flatulence’, and he spits a lot, mostly down his own front. Such openness and lack of pretence is unusual, and perhaps it unsettles a few people. Some leave. It’s their loss, as we’re in the presence of a true eccentric and a rare talent: Mark Sultan really puts on a performance, and works hard, playing with tireless energy and enthusiasm.

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Mark Sultan

I realise that while two hours ago, I’d never seen a drums-and-guitar one-man-band before, apart from the ancient busker who’s been on the streets of York paying awful Elvis covers for the last 30 years or thereabouts, I’ve now seen two and they were both bloody great.

It’s pretty busy and pretty warm early doors, and there’s a definite buzz about the place which is filling up with black-clad beings who’ve seemingly crawled out of the woodwork (some possibly having lain dormant since Sulpher’s first album back in 2003).

The stage is set with myriad props and adornments, including a lectern, black helium balloons on strings, and a pigurine (that would be a figurine of a pig… wonder if the term might catch on?) for the arrival of Pretty Addicted – on this occasion, a solo performance by Vicious Precious, who enters dressed in white habit and cassock. These are both discarded within a couple of songs as she woks herself into an evermore frenzied state. During her set, a Marilyn Manson-aping effort which draws on every cliché blasphemy in the book as she bumps, grinds, writhes and spits endless profanities, she exudes a brutally aggressive sexuality. Musically, it’s pretty much by-numbers cybergoth: hard-edged techno beats pump relentlessly, and there’s little to distinguish between them. Still, as performance art, it’s striking and not one anyone will forget any time soon.

Pretty Addicted

Pretty Addicted

York’s Beyond All Reason have a big, big sound – as big, in fact, as singer Venno’s hair. Combining live and sequenced drums, they exploit dynamics and texture, and deliver it with an impressive slickness. And there’s no doubt they can play – although at times, the displays of technical proficiency overshadow the substance of songwriting, and the melodic epics are tinged with self-indulgence Venno belts out long high notes with gusto, and I half expect a cover of the Oxo ‘Shepherd’s Pie’ advert.

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Beyond All Reason

Dude, it’s a bass, not a bazooka: just because it’s got five strings… In terms of presentation, they’ve done their research with textbook legs akimbo rock god postures and axe-wielding guitar poses. It’s all a shade calculated and contrived to have resonance or lasting impact.

Sulpher, on the other hand, throw shapes (on the occasions they’re visible though the smog), but do so with swagger and a raw energy that positively crackles. It seems that bands who tour with The Sisters of Mercy acquire a taste for smoke – I recall I Like Trains playing in a pea-souper at the Cockpit following their jaunt round Europe with them – but Sulpher take it to the next level. Not only can I barely make out the band, I can barely see whoever’s standing next to me, and I sure as hell can’t see my way to the bar. In fact, by the end of the set, I can barely see my feet.

The dense atmosphere makes the room even hotter, and it’s the perfect setting for the trio’s intense brand of abrasive, industrial-edged rock, which they piledrive hard at it for a full hour.

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Sulpher

There’s a good reason they’ve been keeping a low profile for so long: Rob Holliday’s been pretty busy the last fifteen years, what with playing as a member of Marilyn Manson’s touring band, first on bass and later on guitar, as well as working extensively in the studio and live Gary Numan and The Prodigy, not to mention a three-year stint with The Mission. To say he’s been in demand would be an understatement, but inevitably, the day-jobs have left little time for the real work.

Given his experience of playing immense venues, I was interested to see how Holliday would handle a 120-or so capacity venue with a stage just 10” high. A lot of artists accustomed to larger venues struggle with more intimate crowds – Andrew Eldritch never looked more tense than at the Brudenell performing to 450 people, while at a distance of 20 feet, elevated and hidden by smoke in 2,000 capacity venues, he’s comparatively at ease. Holliday is more than fine with the small space, and the band as a whole seem to relish the experience, giving every ounce to deliver a real show, and succeeding.

At one point, Rob asks how many people own the first album: maybe three people raise a hand or call out. They ride it out: the grass-roots approach and strategy to land a major support slot next year is likely to achieve major reach, and besides, the music industry has changed beyond recognition in the last fifteen years.

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Sulpher

The set’s more or less a split between Spray and No One Will Know and it’s solid: a molten mass of seething rage that climaxes in a brace of old songs of a minute and a half apiece. The old material blends seamlessly with the new: they’ve still got that turn-of-the-millennium industrial vibe about them, with Ministry and Killing Joke providing the most obvious touchstones, but with blistering, memorable and melodic choruses in the mix, NIN offshoot Filter make for the most obvious comparison.

Wrapping up with ‘Scarred’ and ‘Spray’, blasted home in less than a couple of minutes apiece, it’s a ferocious finale to a meaty set. Sulphur are very much back.

Christopher Nosnibor

I can’t help but feel a little sorry for Jo Quail: the two occasions I’ve seen her this year as an opening act, she’s been on not only early doors, but within minutes of doors opening. So I’m standing outside, in the rain, hearing the strains of her opening piece and feeling frustrated: the doors, set for 7:30, don’t open until 7:40, but Jo, scheduled for 7:40, starts on time. Still, the fact there’s a substantial queue before doors, and that people have packed to the front immediately on arrival is validation, if validation is needed.

She’s no ordinary cellist, utilizing a vast bank of pedals to conjure pulsing rhythms and a grinding undercurrent which flows fluidly as she builds layer upon layer to form cathedrals of sound – appropriate for a venue which a former church, now restored as a venue, and which boasts some of the most magnificent architecture. Her music is immense and powerful, the experience intense, moving, as the compositions transition between graceful and forceful, and Jo channels the range through her posture, at one with the instrument. The third and final piece, taken from her forthcoming LP opens with thunderous explosions and eerie, haunting shrillness, cultivating a dark, industrial atmosphere. And she certainly knows how to build a sustained crescendo: by the end of her set, I feel like I’ve emerged, battered but triumphant, from a tempest, and the respectable audience show real appreciation for an impressive set.

Jo Quail

Jo Quail

Rewind: while queueing in the rain, some irritatingly superior bozos behind me prate on about this and that. One remarks how the support has a forgettable, generic “adjective, something, something, noun’ name. He checks the event on Facebook on his phone, before trilling ‘A Storm of Light…. Yeah, adjective, something noun…” I turn and point out that ‘storm’ is also a noun, and that the new album’s really good. The smug cret thanks me dismissively and returns to babbling about cake at work and the like. I turn back to wait in silence, alone, and I’m fine with it, not least of all because A Storm of Light more than compensate the cold, damp discomfort of the queue.

With relentless, ever-shifting streams from CCTV intercut with cascading pills and the like projected behind the stage, ASOL play in near darkness and they play hard. Cranking out gritty industrial-tinged, grunge-hued post-punk with a dark, metallic sheen seems most incongruous in the setting, particularly given the nihilistic sociopolitical leanings of the lyrics. But we’re on deconsecrated, renovated ground here, and as much as I’m struck by the contextual juxtaposition, I’m struck by the clarity of the sound, particularly the drums, which cut through and pack a serious punch.

lA Storm of Light

A Storm of Light

Veering between claustrophobically taut frameworks and more organic, Neurosis-like expanses, the band create a sonic space that’s very much their own. And throughout the set, the basis lunges, hard, building in intensity as the set progresses: near the end, his instrument is pretty much scraping the floor, and he steps in front of the monitors to deliver some of the most savagely attacking bass playing you’re likely to witness. Not so much a strong performance as an act of total devastation.

Mono are considerably less abrasive, and I some ways, feel like a little bit of a step down. They sit down to play, for a start. It makes for a mellow atmosphere, but renders them invisible to anyone not in the first few rows, for a start.

Mono

Mono

Unable to get decent sight of the band, I make my way to the back, where the sound is magnificent. I can’t see anything other than smoke and strobes, but it’s ok: Mono aren’t a band to watch, even with the addition of vocals to their arsenal: they’re a band to get lot in. and that, I do. I find myself slowly drifting in the enormity of the experience: the sound, the atmosphere, the space, all contrive to create an immersive experience.