Posts Tagged ‘Fibbers’

Christopher Nosnibor

There’s probably not much to say or write about Lydia Lunch that hasn’t been said or written before. A cult legend in her own lifetime – a rare thing indeed – she remains one of the most formidable performers around. Tonight – performing the only northern show of three UK dates with Weasel Walter with her ‘Brutal Measures’ spoken word show (why said show happened to be in York… Those present weren’t merely grateful, but overjoyed, but those present were depressingly few in number), she’s uncompromising from start to finish.

Before Lydia and sidekick Weasel Walter who drums and generates all mind of noise to accompany her take stage, Leeds punk foursome Flies On You deliver a visceral, in-your-face set of primal punk songs. It’s a challenging and emotional show, a mere fortnight after guitarist and lad songwriter Andy Watkins’ sudden and unexpected death. Front man Doug Aikman clearly struggles at times, but still pulls of a storming performance. And while the basis of what Flies on You do is meat-and-potatoes old-school punk, there’s a distinctly post-punk vibe that borders on goth in their rattling basslines and screeding reverby guitar peels. Moreover, it’s delivered with passion and a certain degree of wit – and the refrain ‘Katie Hopkins in human form’ is a great line whichever way you look at it.

She may have mellowed with age, but Lydia Lunch is still infinitely more fierce in every way than pretty much anyone. It’s all relative. And she may not be large in stature, but her presence fills the room. Her voice is a cracked rasp for the most part, but she uses it to compelling effect. It’s not about being seasoned, either: this is her nature, who she is. Raw, real. Intense. Intense. Intense.

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‘Brutal Measures’ is an extended spoken-word piece set in a number of movements, split by segments of hefty percussion and augmented by extraneous noise passages. Or, as Lunch’s bandcamp page describes it, ‘a longform composition featuring tense spoken word versus manic free drumming outbursts, glued together by cryptic electronics’. Recorded live, there’s an improvisational aspect to the musical accompaniment to Lunch’s words, which she delivers alternating between two mics, one clean, one heavily reverbed. The twenty-minute recorded take stretches to a full fifty-minute set live. And yet there is no filler: the drum solos breaks are tight, taut, concise and blistering. The instrumental electronic passages and the extraneous noise which both accompany and intersperse the chapters are intriguing, and the beer barrels Lydia uses as a table for her notes double as percussion instruments in the sometimes cacophonous batteries of sound between spoken word passages.

She does get slightly pissed off when the stand for the clean mic slides down and is uncooperative, and the venue techs are slow to react – but then, who wouldn’t be? But she doesn’t make a deal of it, and continues her narrative stream regardless. She’s a performer, not a diva.

As a spoken word performer myself, I am in awe. For me, it’s a challenge, and one I sometimes struggle with. Even the good nights are challenges. Lydia is in a league of her own. She holds the room, even with a whisper. She silences the chatting tossers at the bar. Not because she’s dictatorial: she does it for everyone who’s paid to hear her and Weasel and the chat at the back.

Words fly every which way as Lydia sparks in all directions: she’s a relentless conjurer of images and ideas, with a perspective on everything. Even delivered slow, mean and low, it’s often hard to keep up with her endlessly swerving trajectory, but it all comes together to present a version of her world-view. And yes, it is pretty brutal, all told.

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It’s an early finish – but then, it’s a Monday night – but what the set lacks in duration, it more than compensates in intensity – did I mention intensity? If some spoken word performances leave the audience departing wilting because they’re a trudge, tonight is very different: Lydia Lunch and Weasel Walter create something utterly compelling, that leave the audience wilting by virtue of its immense force. Spoken word at its best.

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Christopher Nosnibor

Forget the ‘failed musician’ angle: any serious music writer (journalist might be stretching it, certainly where my own work is concerned) is likely to be a music fanatic first and foremost. PIG is a band who’ve inspired a degree of fanaticism on my part for a long time: since I first discovered them as the support for Nine Inch Nails on the Downward Spiral tour back in 1994. The nature of their scattered catalogue makes tracking down even a reasonable chunk of their discography extremely difficult, and they hold the perhaps dubious honour (through no fault of the their own) of being the band who I’ve paid the most for an album by, with the (then) Japanese-only Genuine American Monster skinning me for some £50 over eBay back in 2000.

It really has been 23 years since they last toured the UK, and it’s fair to say that York on a Monday night struck me as an odd choice. Suffice it to say the 400-capacity venue wasn’t exactly rammed, but the double-header tour did manage to attract a devoted bunch of oddballs.

Glasgow trio Seraph Sin made a decent fist of opening. With smeared makeup and lank locks, there’s a black metal element to the presentation of their grindy, metal-edged industrial rock riffage. Delivering some full-tilt noise, they play the ‘menacing’ card nicely. While there are some clear and quite accessible choruses to be found in songs which are perhaps a shade, dare I say, obvious, they boast a gritty, earthy guitar sound which really cuts through, especially when heard from a position close to the front, where the full force of the back-line has maximum effect. And their drummer sounds like a machine, which is admirable.

Seraph Sin

Seraph Sin

Also admirable are Mortiis. It transpires that shunning the band on account of the eponymous front man’s prosthetics – something I considered to be rather cheesy – has been my loss all these years. Still, the advent of Era 0 and the latest album, The Great Deceiver, has marked a shift of both style and sound, marked by an absence of prosthetics and an abrasive technoindustrial sound reminiscent of Ministry.

They’re still big on the theatrics, though, from the big, moody intro of drums and grinding guitar before the entrance of the man himself, to the smeared corpse paint. Håvard Ellefsen strolls on, barefoot and resembling a decayed suicide, and proceeds to stomp around the stage radiating petulant energy. Despite the absence of a live bass, the threesome forge a throbbing sonic intensity with a dense and murky sound counterpointed by a bright, ear-shredding top-end. The set is drawn predominantly from the latest album, which both makes sense both promotionally and in terms of rendering a cohesive performance, and it’s a performance which is powerful and intense. Yes, there are clear elements of rock posturing in evidence, but it’s played knowingly, and manifests as an aggressive channelling of a deep fury, making for an uplifting catharsis.

Mortiis

Mortiis

For a man spitting fury and venomous rage, Ellefsen smiles a lot. Granted, with the makeup, his grin takes the form of a maniacal, murderous leer, but it’s clear that this a man who’s having a pretty good time channelling his demons into his art and releasing it all on stage. It’s not hard to determine the reasons: as his skeletal guitarist, who has highly vascular arms, peels of sheets of blistering noise it’s all coming together perfectly out front, and Mortiis are a band on top form.

PIG crank up the rock posturing to the power of ten: Raymond Watts is a man who not only gets irony, but breathes it and chews on it slowly, savouring the flavour, as he throws his shapes around the stage amidst a musical tumult and a whole kitchen sink melange of electronica and grinding guitars on full thrust. He enters the stage in a preposterous fur number and gives it the full works on the posing front for the set’s slow-burning opener ‘Diamond Sinners’.

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PIG

I’m immediately transported back to 1994: supporting Nine Inch Nails at Wolverhampton’s Civic Hall, where they audaciously opened with ‘Red, Raw and Sore’ over any of their throat-grabbing, up-front crowd-pleasers. But then, the appeal of PIG has always been their perversity and their stubborn refusal to do anything obvious. Having supported Nine Inch Nails, they could have been propelled, if not to a stratospheric level, then perhaps the upper strata of the troposphere. But, as I subsequently discovered, their material was almost impossible to locate, especially in a pre-internet age, and it’s a situation which hasn’t really changed over the last two and a bit decades.

As with Mortiis’ set, there’s a heavy leaning toward the latest release: the accessible industrial pop chop of ‘Found in Filth’ is dropped in early, but then there’s a reasonable plundering of the back catalogue, too: ‘Everything’ lands as the third song on the set list, and the atmospheric spoken word work ‘Ojo Por Ojo’ prefaces a pounding rendition of ‘Wrecked’ (which more than compensates the fact it doesn’t lead in to ‘Blades’ as it features on The Swining by virtue of its throbbing intensity). Really, it’s absolutely fucking blistering. The same is true of ‘Serial Killer Thriller’ from 1995’s Sinsation.

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PIG

The fact that the current line-up features both En Esch and Gunter Schultz not only makes this incarnation of PIG something of a supergroup, but also illustrates the expansive nature of the musical family centred around KMFDM to which Watts belongs. And while there’s also a shared territory in musical terms, PIG have always sounded unique, and continue to do so. Watts’ showmanship is something else, and while there isn’t a weak element in the band’s performance, he’s indisputably the focal point, radiating a charisma that elevates the band to a different level. He’s a tall, limby guy, and he uses this to fill the stage and to dominate the space around him.

It’s a triumphant, and above all, thoroughly enjoyable show. Here’s just hoping it’s not another 23 years before they return.

Christopher Nosnibor

I’m struggling here. I know that people standing texting, Facebooking, taking selfies and shooting videos while dancing is immensely irritating for a band. It’s immensely irritating for other people in the audience, too. But I’m struggling to think of a scenario when it would ever be acceptable to harangue a woman in the front row with the line ‘get off your fucking phone, bitch!’. Or, indeed, to interrupt a lengthy and rousing right-on speech about inclusivity, about how it’s ‘bullshit’ to hate someone for being black or gay, etc., with ‘get your fucking hands in the air, bitches!’ (followed by a head-shaking ‘Shit, women!’). I’ll let that sit for a moment because I’m here for the supports, Raging Speedhorn and local monsters of noise, RSJ.

Arriving at 7:35 for a show with an advertised door time of 7:30, I’m a little surprised to find the place heaving and RSJ half-way through their thunderous set. But I’m able to worm my way to the front as they piledrive their way to the set’s climax, ‘Play it Again, Sam’. Look up ‘intensity’ in the dictionary, and you’ll probably find a picture of RSJ playing live.

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RSJ

Things have been a bit unsettled in camp Speedhorn recently, with Frank Reagan being forced to sit the tour out on doctors’ orders. And so RSJ’s Dan Cook is filling in, and despite playing back to back sets, his energy – and intensity – is unwavering. Cook looks comfortable and the dynamic between the two vocalists is on-point as they go all-out on the confrontation (and occasional off-the-cuff banter) which is integral to their shows. Building the tension by drenching the venue in howling, humming feedback, they erupt onto the stage, John Loughlin opening a bottle of beer with his teeth and spitting the cap to the floor before the band assume their places to commence the set with the customary menacing stare-out.

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Raging Speedhorn

These guys are good: they never fail to build their sets to a point of total frenzy. Slam-dancing breaks out during the second song, ‘Bring Out Your Dead’, but the band goad, harangue, hassle and coerce the audience, with both encouragement and abuse, and it works: the crowd get closer in, and they get moving. ‘Motörhead’ is utterly ball-busting, and Cooke’s menacing presence and lighting-rig climbing antics make for one hell of a show. By the end of their too-short set it’s mayhem.

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Raging Speedhorn

While they’re setting the stage for Skindred, the rammed crowd are getting down to Red Hot Chilli Peppers blaring from the PA. I’ve always detested them, and the funk groove of ‘Suck My Kiss’ epitomises everything I loathe about them. I’m no purist, but some crossovers simply aren’t meant to be, which is primarily the reason I’ve spent the entirety of Skindred’s career avoiding them. The Queen singalong orchestrated by some bozo near the front is beyond embarrassing: isn’t this supposed to be a metal gig? Queen aren’t even rock.

But Skindred’s Benji Webbe harps on endlessly about ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ during their set, which is every bit as vibrant as their reputation would suggest. However – and please, (s)top me if you think that you’ve heard this one before – if Brexit and the advent of Trump (and the success of Oasis, for that matter) tell us anything, it’s that popularity is no measure of artistic merit. The crowd lap it up. No, more than that: they go absolutely fucking ballistic.

I get the deal of being ‘in the moment’ at a live performance. It’s why I live for live music. Even when reviewing, I will, often, forget to take any notes and will return with only a handful of photos because I’ve been enjoying the music, the performance, the atmosphere, soaking it all up and immersing myself in the show from the same perspective as everyone else. I may be a music writer, or critic, but I’m a fan first and foremost. Skindred, I witnessed as a detached spectator. I simply could not get into the moment.

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Skindred

The union jack pegged to the mic stand set me on edge for a start. In the current climate, it’s a divisive symbol. For a band fronted by a big black guy to flout, it’s clearly intended as a signifier or unity and collectivism, of being black and British, but even so. There’s a certain incongruity there, just as there’s an incongruity in a Welsh metal band fronted by a guy sporting a pair of sequinned hammer pants. The trouble is, it’s neither challenging nor funny. It’s therefore not funny when Webbe plays the race card, taunting the audience – being a packed-out crowd who’ve paid £20 to see his band – with ‘black guy on stage… what’s he saying? I don’t understand what he’s saying’. I would say it was insulting and patronising the audience’s intelligence, but they’re all in the moment and aren’t taking a critical stance on this. It’s banter, innit?

Musically, from a detached, distant, and critical perspective, it’s a fucking mess. Based around a metal / reggae crossover more heinous than the funk / metal hell of RHCP, Skindred also drag in elements of hardcore punk, dancehall, jungle, ska, hip hop, drum and bass, dubstep, and they do so clumsily, their sub-RATM stylings, and with endless calls of ‘C’mon! C’mon!’ all ripped into some horrible stew which simmers the bones of House of Pain, Shaggy, and Funkadelic into a stinking, foamy broth.

Amidst the sea of ubiquitous metaller beards, the ratio of XY to XX chromosome is uncommonly high. But this makes the beaming grins and the willingness of the female segment of the audience to buy into and participate in the band’s crudely-executed agenda, laced with sexism and misogyny, all the more perplexing. Sure, the Newport Helicopter – a ritual which entails the majority of the audience, regardless of sex, removing their t-shirts and rotating them above their heads, regardless of the danger to those around them – is pitched as symbolic of unity and empowerment. But when you’ve got Webbe up there yelling ‘get them titties bouncing!’ and so forth, it sounds more like a guy playing the rock star and getting his rocks off by exploiting the crowd than a true moment of collective liberation. And, in context of everything else, it’s deeply unplasant.

RSJ and Raging Speedhorn were ace, though.

Christopher Nosnibor

Any longstanding fan of The Fall accepts that inconsistency is not only par for the course, but part of the band’s enduring charm. The appeal of Mark E Smith, and, by default, The Fall, has always been a perverse one: revered by fans, loathed by pretty much everyone else, The Fall are the epitome of singularity. Recent years have seen them hit an uncharacteristic groove: the core of the current lineup has been in place for the best part of a decade now, and while it’s yielded some fine moments, there’s not been anything to touch the quality of Fall Heads Roll in 2005. I’d been reluctant to take a £25 punt on them delivering a decent show but when a friend who was unable to attend offered me his ticket, I joyfully accepted. Because it’s The Fall after all.

Tonight’s lineup makes perfect sense: local support and Aural Aggro faves Soma Crew are all about the motoric beats and plugging away at repetitive riffs, and having been gaining momentum of late, this is a big night for them. They certainly rise to the occasion: given the opportunity to play a full-length set to a substantial and receptive crowd, they meld together as a unit and crank out a set of psychedelic krautrock grandeur. One of the band’s more recent recruits, bassist Andy Wiles, brings movement and dynamism to the stage act, and they rock out hard amidst a tumult of FX-laden guitars and thumping mechanoid drums. No fills, nothing fancy, just a relentless groove.

Soma Crew

Soma Crew

The Fall – when they finally appear on stage some time around quarter past ten – hit a fairly solid, if uninspired – groove, too. Smith looks unsteady as he navigates the path onto the stage and tries out a couple of different mics. Against the LED backdrop, which I watched countless men well into their 40s and 50 be photographed before the show, they crank out a set which promisingly features a snarling rendition of ‘Wolf Kidult Man’ early on, but from thereon focuses exclusively on recent – and seemingly unreleased – material. In itself, it’s standard Fall.

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The Fall

But while fans reach out and grab his leather blazer-style jacket in adulation and the substantial mosh-pit goes nuts, it strikes me that all is not well with MES. To criticise him for being unintelligible, for pissing about with mics, the guitar settings, well, it’s redundant. It’s what he does. The first time I saw The Fall in ’94 at the cavernous York Barbican, touring Cerebral Caustic with the classic twin-drummer lineup: neither drum kit had any mics before the set was out and it sounded awful to begin with. But it’s small wonder bassist Dave Spurr stands so close to his amp, as it guarding it from marauders: Smith repeatedly silences Pete Greenway’s guitar, and drum mics – and well as cymbals – are tossed over and about the stage at will, and of course Smith spends much of the show dicking about with mics. One mic, two mics, radio mic, wired mic, backing vocal mic, spare mic.

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The Fall

If it were any other band, the venue would have emptied after three songs. People would be concerned for the singer. But it’s MES. He’s a legend! But as he wavers and slurs, hollering unintelligibly, by turns gurning toothlessly, lolling his thick tongue and sucking his gums, it all feels far from legendary. Smith’s performing, throwing poses, tinkering absently with atonal keys, doing all the things he does, but he doesn’t seem entirely present, and oftentimes, he looks quite lost. Like an ageing grandparent with slowly advancing Alzheimer’s, there’s something sad about his performance.

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The Fall

Standing on a stage awash with beer, Smith removes his leather coat. He then passes his mic into the audience (who sound better than he does); he then collects the coat he’s just removed and leaves the stage unsteadily. He returns, wearing the coat again, and, looking lost, begins hollering through his hands until someone in the front row picks up the mic that was returned to the stage in his absence. He looks grateful, and begins to holler and drawl into the mic instead.

With the recent material being very much one tempo and one dimension, the music, while well-played, fails to really grip the attention, a problem exacerbated by Smith’s non-stop sonic sabotage. Without any real standout tracks (‘Reformation’? ‘Sir William Wray’? Forget it), everything blurs into one stodgy sequence of stocky but forgettable riffs.

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The Fall’s Setlist

The first encore fails to offer any back-catalogue excitement, but they finally end the set with a second encore in the form of a solid but unremarkable (and rather hurried-sounding) stomp through ‘Mr Pharmacist’.

But it’s not the lack of back-catalogue material that’s the issue here. The Fall, who for all time have been lauded and adored as the most essential band by virtue of their unwillingness to conform or to bend in the face of trends, feel depressingly lacking in relevance (in contrast to peers Killing Joke, who played the same venue only a couple of weeks ago). The blame must sit squarely with Smith: lacking in focus and, seemingly, a real sense of where he’s at, the show felt awkward, confused, uncoordinated and generally underwhelming, and Soma Crew were definitely the better act on the night.

Christopher Nosnibor

For a long, long while now, Killing Joke have been a 1,500 or so capacity venue band. Hardy perennials of the post-punk scene, I first saw them in the early 90s at Rock City in Nottingham touring the mighty Pandemonium album. They’ve never really been away over the course of a career spanning four decades, but their 2003 proved to be a landmark in their renewed vitality. The onslaught hasn’t really stopped since then, and with the original lineup reinstated, the thing that’s most remarkable about Killing Joke is just how current and utterly essential they feel right now. Some of that’s down t the fact they’ve always been a hard-touring band and a going concern rathe than some nostalgia act but their recent string of albums have been as politically sharp and sonically abrasive as anything you’re likely to find. So it’s small wonder that an additional date at the front-end of the UK leg of their immense European tour at the 400-or-so capacity Fibbers, announced at only a week’s notice, should be sold out.

The evening’s support, Death Valley High, do a decent job of warming up what could have been a difficult crowd. The US foursome, drawing influence from old-school and latter day goth with a major leaning toward the sound of classic Wax Trax! grind out a set culled primarily from their album CVLT (released 4th November). The guitars could do with being a bit more up in the mix, but against a blinding backdrop they give it a hundred per cent. Front man Reyka Osburn gets down into the crowd, who are hanging back away from the stage, and actually manages to get some audience participation going, for which substantial kudos is due.

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Death Valley High

Needless to say, shortly after they’re done (and on this occasion those who delayed their arrival missed out), the venue’s packed and it’s getting pretty tight down the front while the roadies prepare the stage with bottled water, a large rug, candles and incense. Yes, it’s a Killing Joke gig alright. And unlike many larger shows – including when I saw them at Leeds Beckett around a year ago, for one of the fist reviews featured on Aural Aggravation – there’s no barrier. People are resting their pint pots on the edge of the stage, and when the band take the stage, we’re standing within handshaking distance. This is a big deal.

The open a career-spanning set with a gut-busting rendition of ‘The Hum’ from their 1982 album Revelations. The eighties indie-goth hits are dispatched early, with ‘Love Like Blood’ (dedicated to Raven) being the second song on the set-list, followed immediately by a buoyant ‘Eighties’.

After that, it’s back-to-back recent cuts, with a thunderous ‘Autonomous Zone’ and ‘New Cold War’ – simultaneously textured and delivered with the force of a battering ram – representing Pylon. Things take a turn for the even heavier immediately after, with a relentless ‘Exorcism’ finding the band hitting optimum intensity. Standing close together on the small stage, Geordie nonchalantly grinds out the absolute mother of all chirning riffs while Youth, looking like a strange ex-yuppie golfer who’s discovered New Age mysticism with his sparse dreadlocks and, visor peak and flowing star-and-moon cape, reminds us that he’s an incredibly solid bassist.

Killing Joke

Killing Joke

It’s a long set, and impressively – especially given the age of the band-members – doesn’t let up on the tempo for the duration: there are no lighter-waving anthems or slow ballads to allow band or audience alike to catch their breath. There are a lot of older men with bald heads in the crowd, and they mosh relentlessly and with wild abandon as Jaz marches non-stop. He has a stare that can reach the back of any 1,500 capacity venue, so, the intensity he radiates is even more powerful in this small space. But for all the apocalyptic menace, it’s clear he’s having a ball, and there are smiles all round between the veteran players as they feed off the audience’s adulation. Coleman’s voice is showing no sign of diminishment, and the band are so tightly together, playing with the intuition only endless hours shared in rehearsal and on stage can bring.

KJ Setlist

Killing Joke – Setlist

The latest material is up there with their best, and ‘I Am the Virus’ is a particular standout, exploding with fury, while ‘Dawn of the Hive’ is punishingly dense, before the main set ends with the swift one-two of ‘The Wait’ and ‘Psyche’.

The sole track from their landmark 2003 album is the first of the encore, and ‘Death and Resurrection Show’ is nothing short of monstrous. While I would have personally liked to have heard more from Extremities (I never tire of ‘Money is Not Our God’), ‘The Beautiful Dead’ is epic and is perhaps the most sedate song of the set.

With ‘Empire Song’ cut for time (I get why venues have to wind up gigs early to accommodate club nights: it’s a matter of economics, but it will never cease to be a cause of frustration that major headliners have to abridge their shows, for which punters have paid over £20 a ticket only to be turfed out at 10:30 to make way for a clamour of 3-4-2 alcopop-scoffing cretins), they complete the encore with ‘Wardance’ and ‘Pandemonium.’ And it’s fucking belting.

In many ways, this perfectly summarises the appeal of Killing Joke. They’re relentless in their barrage of dense, angry, grey metallic noise. And they’re consistent, both on record and live. A Killing Joke is like being pummelled, mercilessly, yet it’s also immensely exhilarating, because they’re a band who mean every word, every note, and the sense of unity in the room – band and fans – is something special. Everything is fucked. We know it, they know it. They’re preaching it to the converted, but for this time, we truly are all in it together. And despite the eternal sense of impending doom, it’s a great feeling.