Posts Tagged ‘Fulford Arms’

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.

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The Fulford Arms, York, 14th January 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Two weeks into the year and I haven’t had a single night off writing CD reviews to drink beer and check out some live music. The simple fact is, times are hard and I’m in the mod to hibernate. But tonight’s extravaganza is one of four nights of epic showcase events to mark the fourth anniversary of the current management – Messrs Sherrington and Tuke – taking over the venue. It’s something that deserves to be celebrated.

Time was that there was nothing much to be found in York apart from acoustic blues. York became synonymous with blues. You couldn’t walk into a pub without some bloke with a guitar doing blues. Some of it was good. Some of it was extremely good. Some of was less good and the less said about the remainder, the better. It’s all too easy to have too much of a good thing, let alone a middling samey thing. The Fulford Arms, as was, was integral to the scene for a time. Then, everything changed. Under new management, The Fully Arms really started putting on proper gigs. Taking chances with less obvious artists. Sorting out proper lighting. And with a decent PA, upping the volume.

Tonight is one of four gigs showcasing the expansive range of local talent which is anything but centred around gentle acoustic blues. Of the four nights, this is perhaps the most eclectic, with everything on offer from quirky, theatrical avant-art folk pop to droning psyche, via hard-groove electro and post-punk pub-rock.

Having still been cooking with my own fat spatula at 6pm, I’m too late to catch the band Fat Spatula. Shame, because their brand of US-influenced alt-rock / indie is rather cool. I was also too late for the electro pop of Short Dark Stranger who I heard good things about. I suspect he was the gut standing to my left in the conspicuous silk shirt while I supped my first pint to the strains of Jonny Gill’s acoustic alt-rock which furnished the space between sets ahead of the arrival of Percy. These guys have been knocking around since forever, and still hit the mark (E. Smith) with their post-punk, Fall-influenced sneering takes on the workaday life.

In fact, the first time I heard Percy was circa 1998, at a pub just over the river. They were on the same bill as a band called Big Vicar, who were fronted by AB Johnson, who now forms one half of tonight’s headliners, Viewer, who meld sociopolitical lyrics and indie sensibility to driving dancefloor-friendly beats courtesy of Tim Wright, who in another world is the seminal TubeJerk.

There’s so much more than blues, and so much more than Shed fucking Seven going on here. Meabh McDonnel’s self-effacing kitchen-sink folk tunes are good fun: she’ll probably not take the compliment, but her voice is superb and her lyrics are funny and often poignant, and unstintingly honest and direct. The delivery is an integral part of the charm of her performance: it’s not about polish, but relatability and being real.

Soma Crew’s set is abridged due to apparent technical difficulties but out front their psych-drone attack had been sounding good, while Naked Six – the closest to blues it gets tonight – crank out the kind of vibrant, full-tilt set melding AC/DC and Led Zeppelin with a grunge twist that they’ve made their standard.

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Naked Six

It’s been a while since we’ve seen Viewer, seeing as they called it a day before re-emerging as Stereoscope a while ago – and playing in darkness for the majority of their set, or otherwise illuminated only by stark backlit images. I’ve watched – and reviewed – these guys more times than I can recall, and not because I invariably drink too much beer at their shows (AB is one of those guys who is just the best for sinking pints and talking bollocks with – but, miraculously and ever the professional, he always manages to deliver the lines, cast the poses, and, just as miraculously, stay upright during their sets). They’re late starting, but this seems to work n their favour: the audience is even more buzzed up and ready and they groove hard as Johnson throws his shapes and wry commentaries into the space before him. They get down, albeit a bit tipsily – to Wright’s insistent beats and grinding synths. And Viewer were – are – ace because they straddle the line of playing dumb and acting up to dumbness.

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Viewer

Every single last one of the acts playing on tonight’s bill could go far given the right breaks and adequate effort. But this is the time to simply celebrate a landmark moment for a venue that’s spent the best part of its four-year existence punching well above its weight (Ginger Wildheart? Wayne Hussey? The March Violets? to name but three) while providing a space for some far-out and emerging acts. Hell, they’ve even had me on, more than once. But this is what small independent venues are for. It’s so hard to get a break these days, and it’s venues like this, with open doors and open minds, which keep new music alive.

Christopher Nosnibor

A few weeks ago, before the start of a spoken word night, another performer approached me and opened with the line ‘these people hate you.’ She went on to explain the specifics of why they hate me, citing a piece that was – but wasn’t – about suicide that I performed in August, and how the ferocity of my sets in general were not appreciated at this particular night. I was taken aback, shaken, and rather wounded. My confidence was rattled. It took me some time and reflection to realise that not only did I not care, but was actually pleased – elated, even – that people could react so strongly to my work. After all, it’s not hate speech or anything nearly so insidious, and ultimately, if you’re pleasing all of the people all of the time, you’re not making art, but entertainment.

The reason this is relevant is because Arrows of Love make art. They refer to themselves as art-rock, but there’s nothing pretentious about them or their music. In person, they’re some of the friendliest, most approachable and generous people you could wish to meet. On stage, they’re as challenging a band as you’re likely to see – or half-see: tonight, they play in near-darkness to a depressingly small crowd, moving shadows cranking out a fearsome wall of angular noise that straddles grunge and goth-tinged post-punk. And they don’t care: if anything, they revel in the perversity and play as hard as ever.

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Arrows of Love

With more time than usual on account of the original co-headliners cancelling, they dig deep to deliver an attacking extended set which features the majority of the new album, Product. As well it should: while its predecessor, Everything’s Fucked was a snarling, sprawling squall of an album, Product is more focused, denser, more intense, and even more pissed off. The first song of the set is also the album’s opener and single cut ‘Signal,’ a sinewy slice of tension that explodes in every direction.

‘Desire’ is deep, dark, and brooding, and The Knife’ from the debut is deadlier than ever, with added guitar noise and played with a blistering ferocity at its searing climax. The grinding dirge that is ‘Restless Feeling’ invites comparisons to Swans circa 1983/84, and the jarring, grating sonic backdrop is rendered literal as Nuha swaps her bass for a plank of wood and coping saw, which she proceeds to gnaw away at while drums and bass shudder along at a glacial pace. It’s mighty, but hardly moshable.

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Arrows of Love

Nimah would later tell me that he was tired and – on account of having to drive after the show – completely sober, but he still fires into it with unbridled fury, spitting the lyrics like they’re his last words as he’s being dragged off to his execution, and the band crackle with dark energy.

It’s this unstinting, uncompromising, total bloody-mindedness that makes Arrows of Love the band that they are, and as they churn out a juddering, sneering rendition of ‘Predictable’. The only thing predictable about the band is the intensity of the performance (as if to illustrate the point, guitarist Alex, who stepped in when Lyndsey left, is now Alice, who’s perhaps less flamboyant than her predecessors, but still cranks out a mean overdriven six-sting racket), and this highlights the contrast between them and the evening’s support act, Naked Six. The York duo kick out a fiery and energetic set of heavy, balls-out, stomping blues rock with big nods to Led Zep, and having seen them a handful of times, they’re incredibly solid and consistently entertaining. But it’s not art.

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Naked Six

Art is dangerous, risky, uncomfortable. With the roaring attack of ‘Toad’ and the tempestuous closer ‘Beast’, Arrows border on the unlistenable, presented in a style that borders on unwatchable, with no concessions to commerciality. There is something about the lack of illumination which renders them even more inaccessible, more untouchable tonight. If Arrows of Love’s latest album really is the ‘soundtrack to the impending societal collapse’, then bring it the fuck on if it means more shows like this.

Christopher Nosnibor

Last time I saw Ming City Rockers, supporting Arrows of Love in Leeds, I wasn’t hugely impressed, and thought that if they put as much effort into the songs as into looking like rock clichés, they might get somewhere. I’m here, in fact, for grungy Australian duo Mannequin Death squad, whose debut EP was one of last year’s highlights. Anyone who caught them on the supporting tour over here, thanks to their Hull-based label, would have witnessed a treat.

Back in the UK once more, they’re gracing York with their presence on the night before dropping their first new material since the Eat, Hate, Regurgitate EP in the form of the track ‘Blue’.

Warming things up are local lads Naked Six. At one time a three-piece, they’re now reduced to a two-piece. But rather than diminishing their power, the guitar / drum combo have focused and concentrated their energy, and with the guitar signal split across two amps, there’s a real depth and solidity to their sound. And it helps that the amps are cranked up loud. It’s the best way to listen to their swaggering, ballsy, hard-edged blues rock. Seb Byford not only has a classic blues rock voice that also works well when they move into grungier territory later in the set, but he’s got a stomp that’s half Angus Young, half frenzied madman as she grinds the riffs into the stage with his heel. It’s a cracking performance.

Naked Six

Naked Six

Mannequin Death Squad certainly don’t disappoint, and it’s telling that the instrument-swapping pair have evolved a set with enough new material to be able to drop killer tracks like ‘KYMS’ from their debut EP without the set being remotely lacking.

The eight-song set, which kicks off with ‘Sick’ from the aforementioned EP boasts almost 50% new and unreleased material. For a band who are yet to really break the market, it’s a bold move, but with a debut album in the offing and so many ace tunes, it means they’re able to arrange the set based not on simply what they’ve got, but to sequence it from a selection that gives the set shape and a dynamic beyond the individual tracks. It’s clear they’ve spent time out and about, on the road, refining their sound, and they benefit from the venue’s appropriate volume to make for an attacking sound.

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Mannequin Death Squad

‘Nightmare’ marks a change of pace and style, bringing a darker hue and a bass-led dirginess to break up the succession of driving grunge tunes with killer hooks which define the band’s sound.

Swapping instruments at the set’s mid-point and again near the end (much to the appreciation of those who thought they were about to finish), they keep themselves and the crowd on their toes, and they work bloody hard to power through a full-throttle set often coming on like Live Through This era Hole, with the added punch of a spiky post-punk edge. They’re fucking awesome.

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Mannequin Death Squad

With a surly-looking female guitarist, a trashy aesthetic, and a slew of uptempo punk tunes, what’s not to like about Ming City Rockers? Regrettably, and despite the consensus of the aged punks going nuts down the front, they still suck. The lack of imagination is the issue. It’s bog-standard spirit of ‘77 4/4 punk, and like many of the bands of the era, at its heart it’s just pub rock played fast with the amps cranked up. The songs are churned out with an abundance of posturing and posing but without any real substance, or tunes, and the sameness gets tedious very quickly.

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Ming City Rockers

They introduce one song as being about playing a gig in Lowestoft where a man chased the singer and ‘tried to pin me down and fuck me, I mean proper fuck me!’ but the lyrics are articulated as something along the lines of ‘wahwahwahwahyaggch’. It’s crass, lowest-common denominator stuff, and much of what happens on stage feels extremely contrived: the walking off stage into the crowd, knocking over cymbals on the way by way of a finale is pretty much emblematic.

Filing out, a few punters could be overheard commenting that Mannequin Death Squad were the best band of the night, and those punters would be right.

Christopher Nosnibor

“I’ve fucked my wrist – chipped a bone in rehearsal.” I’m talking to Dom Smith, drummer with Seep Away. His band are due on in ten minutes. Should he even be playing? He’s not exactly a gentle percussionist. But as he and the rest of the band take to the stage to Hole’s ‘Doll Parts’, it’s clear he’s adrenalized and up for going all out. Screamer Jay is kitted out in full mini-skirted drag and looking killer. Seep Away get harder, heavier, denser and louder with each outing, and tonight, Jay is even more manic and confrontational than ever, writhing on his knees among the front rows.

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Seep Away

Brooders might have a tough act to follow, but if it bothers them, they’re not showing it. They may be young – they certainly look it – but this power trio are solid as they come. They knock out some driving grunge tunes, which are dark, dense, and weighty, but also so much more. They pack in some neat and hooky melodies alongside the chunky, bass-driven noise: in many respects, they’re the quintessence of 90s alt-rock, and they know how to nail down a hefty Nirvana-inspired riff.

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Brooders

Hands Off Gretel have drawn a decent crowd, particularly for a Thursday night that’s blessed with beer garden weather. In fact, it’s a battle to get a decent spot down the front on account of the clamour of folks with their phones out, filming. It’s not hard to see – or hear – why: they’re a killer live band, who combine a raw, ragged energy with a musical tightness. And there’s simply no sidestepping the appeal of Lauren Tate.

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Hands Off Gretel

I’ve been criticised on occasion for commenting on the physical attributes of women in bands, because despite the fact I’m equally likely to comment on the physical aspects of a man in a band, it’s not really the done thing. But Lauren Tate doesn’t so much invite the eyes to focus on her, but demands it. If the powder-blue hot pants and matching top, accompanied by knee-high socks, is sort of cutesy-sexy, the heavy eye makeup, smeared lipstick and truly ferocious full-throated vocal is terrifying. It’s the perfect paradox of appeal and repel, the cheerleader slut who’ll murder you and play with the blood. This, of course, makes her the embodiment of the grunge style; the oppositional elements of quiet / loud, melody and discord, introspection and screaming rage. And the songs encapsulate all of this perfectly. Yes: let’s not forget the songs, or the rest of the band. Both are equally essential to the band’s appeal.

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Hands Off Gretel

Tonight, airing a set built around debut album Burn the Beauty Queen, the band positively tear into the guts of those songs, channelling every ounce of fury into those angst-filled aural assault. Dropping ‘Be Mine’ as the second track of the set, it’s a shuddering, full-on bass-led attack. ‘Bad Egg’ is served with a huge dose of venomous self-loathing, and ‘One-Eyed Girl’ is pure Live Through This era Hole – although unlike their forebears, Hands Off Gretel don’t sound ropey, and you can be pretty confident they’ll make it all the way through the set. And by the end of the set, everyone’s a sweaty mess, uplifted by the joy of catharsis.

Aural Aggro faves Hands Off Gretel return to York on Thursday and promise to bring with them a tidal wave of angry, angsty grunge rock.

They’re pitched as being ‘for fans of Nirvana, Hole and Alt Grunge’, and it’s an accurate enough summary, as their debut album Burn the Beauty Queen evidences in spades. But what it doesn’t really convey is just what a killer live act they are, and in Lauren Tate they have a real star in the making as their focal point.

Support comes from Brooders and the mighty (and seriously noisy) Seep Away. Needless to say, we’re fans.

There’s more info, including ticket links, at the Facebook event page. See you down the front!

 

 

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The Fulford Arms, York, 6th April 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

The saying goes that variety is the spice of life. If it’s true, York-based promoters Behind the White Door managed to dished up a musical phaal at this free / donations midweek showcase of the weird and the wonderful, and it was gratifying to see such a decent turnout.

Local stalwarts Percy, who’ve been going forever and will probably still be going another eternity into the future warmed things up with their reliable punky pub rock. Not everyone would agree, but there’s something appealing about a bunch of disenfranchised middle-aged men wearing shirts and ties – like they’ve just walked from the office to play – cranking out four-chord riffs over which they grouse and sneer with distinctly fall-like overtones about shit jobs and equally shit relationships, neither of which they’ve the energy or inclination to get out of.

What swayed me to turn out tonight was a video by tonight’s second band, Hull-based Cannibal Animal. They didn’t disappoint. Throwing elements of early Therapy? together with bits of more obscure 90s noisy shit like Jacob’s Mouse, Headcleaner and Fudge Tunnel, into an industrial blender with a dollop of Godflesh, they crank out a fierce, feral racket that’s defined by a powerhouse rhythm section. The drummer’s ace and the bassist is something else. It’s all about the snarling, churning, springy, remarkably detailed but relentlessly driving basslines. As a nit, they’re as tight as they are angry, and man, they’re angry. But for all that, the vocals are drenched in reverb and at times have an almost psychedelic hue. Band of the night by a mile, it’s no hyperbole to say that they’re also my favourite new band.

Cannibal Animal

Cannibal Animal

They’re a hard act to follow, but Sweet Deals on Surgery – having travelled from Manchester for tonight’s show – do themselves ample justice. The first song of their set is called ‘Elvis Costello is a Wanker’. Whether you agree or not isn’t the point: it’s a great tune that grabs the audience’s attention, and for that, respect is due. They’re hard to place, musically. Vintage indie (as in vintage indie in the key of The Smiths), collides with contemporary indie (think the complexities of Everything Everything), but with a strong noisy / classic rock element (if melding AC/DC riffage with a dash of Golden Earring and Cheap Trick sounds like a bad ideas, it is, at least on paper, but these guys actually pull it off. (How, I’m really not sure, and no, the Theakston’s Old Peculier hadn’t taken effect at this point, and I switched to Oakham Citra at a more modest 4.2%. A more thirst-quenching beer was required to counter the rising temperature in the small, low-ceilinged pub venue)). They’re whacky, alright. And the between-song banter is gold at times.

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Sweet Deals on Surgery

The headliners don’t actually have a name as yet, and ask the audience for suggestions. They’re celebrated York band The Littlemores reinvented and rebranded, and while their previous incarnation made a decent job of presenting ska-infused indie tunes which took cues from the Arctic Monkeys in their kitchen sink lyrical leanings, they clearly feel it’s time to move on. By way of references, my initial thought was Oasis – only infinitely better: I’m referring to the big wall of guitars rather than the songs, which are a long way from the turgid plod of the 90s reinventors of pub-rock for stadium consumption. However, I’ve been reliably steered in the direction of The Cribs, and it’s definitely a fair comparison. They’ve got a keen pop sensibility, strong harmony-led melodies, and a layered guitar sound. It’s their debut gig, and they’ve barely got 30 minutes of material, but it’s not only solid, but already rehearsed to perfection. Whether or not it’s your bag, they’re a quality act with huge commercial potential.

No More Littles

No More Littles.. or whoever they may be by the time this is published or you read this

In a world increasingly dominated by sameness and homogeneity disguised as consumer choice, and driven by profit, the fact that it’s possible to discover four high-calibre but completely disparate acts at a decent beer venue and pay nothing for the pleasure (if you’re a miserly skinflint) is something in itself. But the atmosphere – that intangible thing that can make or ruin a gig – lifts the evening to another level. Small gigs can be every bit as special as big ones, and for Cannibal Animal alone, this one was extra special.