Posts Tagged ‘Gig Review’

Christopher Nosnibor

Ever since the moment I hit ‘play’ on the CD of the Chambers single, ‘Disappear’ that landed with me for review last year, I’ve been itching to see them. And when a band with as much buzz as Chambers are down at third on a four-band bill, you know it’s a solid lineup. Dom Smith and the guys at Soundsphere know their stuff, and the fact that the entry fee is less than the price of a pint in most gig venues, makes the whole thing doubly impressive.

PUSH are up first: the duo are young and full of raw energy, cranking out choppy, knotty grunge riffery, they display hints of early Pulled Apart By Horses. The songs are direct, and they’re unpretentious in their delivery, laying down some solid, gritty grooves. It was also pleasing to see them get a proper-length set, giving them time to show what they’ve got in their arsenal.

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PUSH

Chambers don’t disappoint, and if anything, exceed expectations. They’re also seriously fucking loud. Aeris Houlihan is a remarkable presence, stomping about the stage, wielding her guitar menacingly and dispatching salvoes of thick, overdriven noise that more than compensates for the absence of a bass. Yes, there are heavy hints of Brian Molko about the vocals, which are heavily processed with a sharp, metallic edge – but theirs is a sound which is dense, murky and menacing. None of this would work half as well without the thunderous drumming of Eleanor Churchill, and the pair demonstrate exactly why a duo can make for such a strong musical format.

Chambers

Chambers

I would have been perfectly happy if that had been it for the night, but that would have meant not seeing Glass Mountain. Now, my notes are somewhat sketchy about this Bradford foursome, who a) should in no way be confused with York-based  cock-ends of monumental proportion Glass Caves  b) draw their inspiration not from an obvious musical reference point, but from David Hockney, who they cite as ‘one of Bradford’s finest ambassadors’ with their name being taken from one of the artist’s etchings, and credit to them for actually being – as they put it – ‘bold and confident enough to have respectfully requested his personal blessing for their use of the name’. They do the name and the artist justice, too, with their melodic, FX-heavy grungy / shoegaze stylings. With a hefty, driving bass behind their epic riffery, they stroll confidently between spacious dreampop territory and neoprog. Their songs are hugely detailed and textured, with layer upon layer of sound wafting down in a smoky haze, and set-closer ‘Glacial’ is worthy of the ‘anthemic’ tag.

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Glass Mountain

Manchester’s False Advertising are straight in with a ‘hey!’ and some driving riffs. They’re a proper, full-tilt, grunge-inspired instrument-swapping power trio, and while Jen Hingley may look girly, she’s got some serious guts both as a guitarist / singer and drummer. Much of he set calls to mind Live Through This era Hole, with heavy hints of the Pixies in the mix, too. In short, False Advertising produce pop-infused grunge par excellence. When Jen swaps to take the drum stool, she proves to be outstanding again: she’s a hard-hitter. There isn’t a dud song in the whole forty-five-minute set: from the scuzzed-out slackerdom of ‘I Don’t Know’ to the sinewy grind of ‘Scars’ which blossoms into a killer chorus, everything just works. And Jen’s got nice teeth and a determined mouth, according to my notes.

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False Advertising

There’s always a downside to watching bands play in pub venues that serve excellent beer at affordable prices. Still, if wonky – and in places illegible – note-taking is the worst of them, then it’s hardly a disaster.

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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.

Fall Set

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

Six years ago, I saw Eagulls, alongside Cold Ones, supporting Cerebral Ballzy at A Nation of Shopkeepers in Leeds. Cold Ones were pretty awful but Eagulls were, to be blunt, utterly fucking gash, and I vowed never to see of hear them again if I could possibly help it. It’s a vow I’ve kept until now: there was no way I was going to pass up on Protomartyr playing practically on my doorstep as part of a co-headlining tour.

We’d been advised to get don early doors (7:30) as York (and now Leeds) perennials Fawn Spots were scheduled to play at 7:45 ahead of a 10:30 finish. In the event, I arrived at 7:35 to find a guy with a guitar, miniature keyboard and massive rack of pedals set up in front of the stage in the process of building a layered, loop-based sound that straddled post-rock, post-punk and shoegaze, with some tendencies toward whappy time signatures and general fiddling. It’s really rather good, and on the strength of this brief outing, 99 Watts from Darlington warrants further exploration.

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99 Watts

Fawn Spots are a band I’ve spent a long time exploring, and they’ve evolved so much over the course of their career. Having stated out as a snotty two-piece reliant more on attitude than ability, their debut album, released on Fire Records was testament to their blossoming into a thrashy post-punk powerhouse. Now free of the label and into their next phase, tonight’s set showcases material from in-progress album number two. It’s a new sound again, amalgamating elements of mid-80s Cure, Echo and the Bunnymen and Julian Cope. Early in the set, Oliver’s guitar playing sounds like Marty McFly at the prom, but fortunately, it’s just one broken and one out of turn string rather than a disappearing hand to blame. A switch of guitar later, he’s back to form, and while the songs are yet to bed in fully, it’s clear the next album will be a blinder.

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Fawn Spots

All of Protomartyr’s albums to date have been belters, and the reception they get shows just what an ardent fan base they’ve built with them. The kids – and they are kids – down the front are flopping and flapping uncoordinately, fringes drooping. And they know every single bloody word. It must be gratifying to see, though you’d never gauge it from the faces on the stage: three IT guys in jeans and t-shirts, fronted by their frustrated manager, a guy in his mid-to-late 30s and still in the beaten suit he wore to the office, churn out the tunes with passive expressions. If Mark E. Smith had been into US blues rock and discordant post-punk, The Fall would have sounded like this. While the deceptively detailed guitar parts are big on texture, the powerhouse drumming really drives the energy levels up, in contrast with Joe Casey’s downtrodden baritone grumblings. Repetition and dissonance are integral aspects of their angular sound, and it’s the fact they’re overtly uncool which makes them ultimately and ineffably cool.

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Protomartyr

Eagulls are bloody loud and crank out a dense wall of sound from behind a thick smog, silhouetted by stark lighting. Gone is the shambolic amateurism and apparent lack of identity of six years ago: the bands on stage are slick, confident, and it’s a straight fact that they sound fucking incredible. Immediately, The Cure and A Flock of (S)eagulls come to mind my way of reference points, and everything in their performance is immaculate. I feel like I’m experiencing first hand, at last, the spirit of gigging in 1985 (being born in 1975, I was simply too late to witness bands like The Cure and The Sisters of Mercy in their heyday.

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Eagulls

So why am I not absolutely feeling this, one hundred per cent, to my very marrow? Because it’s not 1985, it’s 2016. While everything about Eagulls is exactly right, it’s only a replica, a reproduction, out of time. It’s convincing, but it’s a carefully-studied fake. I’m not actually questioning their sincerity or integrity here, but their authenticity. Three songs in, and the rush of seeing such an accomplished performance has full hold: by seven songs, it’s becoming apparent that for all the style – and Eagulls have all the style when it comes to presentation – the content isn’t quite on the same level. It’s the same issue as I have with Department M: it’s meticulously observed, perfectly executed but lacking in soul and conviction.

Still, they do put on a show, and are deservedly well-received. But Protomartyr were always going to be the band of the night, and without doubt, they were.

South Bank Social, York, 28th August 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

You know it is with the underground. People in the know, know. Networking, word of mouth… and social media. So while …And the Hangnails had intimated a ‘secret’ gig at a venue tbc a few days previous, it wasn’t until the day of the event that The Howl & the Hum announced, via Facebook, a ‘last minute’ gig with a killer lineup in the dingy upstairs room in a WMC in York’s South Bank.

Call me a scenester if you like, although I’d rather say I’ve got my finger on the pulse. Moreover, this was a remarkably un-scenester gig in many ways. The peeling, mildewed walls in the room with a capacity in the region of 35 to 40, the unisex toilets hardly hollered ‘hip’ or chic and reflected a greater alignment with the DIY / basement club aesthetic of early 80s punk.

Events like this are a(nother) sign of the times. As small pub venues go to the wall, sold off by pubcos for conversion to flats or convenience stores, and other venues find themselves subject to noise abatement orders and other untenable licensing restrictions when finances are already tight, it’s increasingly difficult for bands – especially smaller ones – to find opportunities to play live. But as the cliché goes, necessity is the mother of invention, and folks are taking it upon themselves to become increasingly creative in seeking out underused, or even unused spaces. And I’m all for it. This is keeping it real, and in a universe parallel to the glitzy, mass-produced chart fodder churned out by bling-toting major-name acts with the backing of multi-billion dollar corporate labels, this is where the music that matters can be found.

A brief solo acoustic promo for the South Bank Suicide Club prefaced a belting set from Howl & The Hum The intimate venue setting was well-suited to their detailed sound: the textured guitar sound, tom-heavy and restrained drumming, paired with their knack for monumental crescendos draws parallels with early I Like Trains, although their style is very much more geared toward alt-country with a fiery rock twist. Intense and impressive, they have a ‘great things ahead’ aura about them.

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The Howl & The Hum

The last time I saw Tooth, they were so new they didn’t have a name, but they did have some great tunes. Having risen from the ashes of The Littlemores, they’ve ditched the ska leanings of their previous incarnation, and while there are still strong traces of Arctic Monkeys in their acerbically observational indie-rock, they’re flexing new muscles with some big choruses and chunky bass-leg guitar tunes.

Tooth

Tooth

Washing Machine Repair Man offers a brief acoustic interlude – by which I mean a detour into delirious and borderline deranged shouty anti-folk, augmented by double bass and green rubber wellies – before Bull are up. Having found the last couple of performances I’ve seen from Bull to be a shade lacklustre, it was uplifting to see them on such fine firm on this outing. Guitarist Dan Lucas seems to have learned pretty much everything he knows about solos from listening to Dinosaur Jr albums, and for that, he gets my vote. With shirts off and sweat running free in the tiny venue, they really step things up a notch, and carry the enthusiastic crowd with them.

Bull

Bull

…And the Hangnails are one of those bands who never get tired, who are consistently brilliant in their volume and intensity. And not only are they a great band, but they never put in less than 100%, with the same explosive energy being poured into intimate pub gigs as festival shows. Tonight is no exception, and the crowd get down accordingly. They may have turned the amps down a bit on account of the venue and its residential location, but when the room is such that if you’re not in the front two rows you’re in the back two rows, and you’ve got a drummer who hits so hard he can cause earthquakes with a single bash of the snare, it’s still ear-bleedingly loud. And these guys go for it, a hundred miles an hour, hell-for-leather, no let up, blasting out pretty much every last one of the highlights from their two albums. Crunching riffs, piercing vocals and immesne drumming are all pulled together in a molten heat into solid gold garage-influencd alt-rock classics. By the time they’re done, we’re all deaf and halfway transmuted to liquid form, and everyone is very happy indeed.

Trundling out superlatives to apply to the individual acts or even the night as a whole seems somewhat redundant: stepping out into the cool night air, tacky from head to with perspiration and ears whistling, the buzz isn’t coming from the beer, but from the exhilaration of living in the moment.

Christopher Nosnibor

Is it wrong to review an event you’ve participated in as a performing artist? Very probably, but in the scheme of things, and in the current global socio-political climate, a minor display of poor etiquette really doesn’t amount to anything. Besides, this is more about what I – as a writer, reviewer, artist and site editor – believe to be the primary function of running a site dedicated to the coverage of non-mainstream music, namely to give artists and acts I believe in exposure. At times, focusing on a niche – albeit a pretty eclectic niche – feels like the audience are likeminded obscurists but I like to think there are things for those likeminded obscurists to discover here. So. I landed a spot initially to provide a spoken-word interlude to some bands – bands I like. The night before the gig, this evolved into a collaboration with one of the bands, one-man experimental noise act Legion of Swine. It was something I’ve wanted to do for ages.

So I rocked up while the soundchecks were getting going to discuss what we were going to do. The little pub venue was bursting with more kit than many all-dayers and everything was pointing to this being one loud night before anyone even got plugged in.

And the lineup! Five acts, three (and a half) over from Leeds for a measly three quid? You have to hand it to both the venue and first-time booker Jim Osman for the wild ambition here. There’s so much that could go wrong.

Neuschlaufen are only just soundchecking fifteen minutes after they’re due to play, and their bassist, Ash, has to be out and on his way to another gig by 7:45. Yet somehow they manage to pull it together and are churning out their heavy, hypnotic grooves in next to no time. Ash Sagar’s hefty, Jah Wobble-esque basslines boom out, underpinned by Jason Wilson’s uncluttered drumming. In cominationm they provide  a solid base for John Tuffen’s textured guitars, and while the set may be short, it builds nicely, going beyond Krautrock and into territories as yet unexplored.

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Neuschlaufen

Immediately after, everyone vacates to cool down in the car park, with its impressive beach art installation. It also serves as a sandy area where people can go and sit and smoke and buy cocktails and stuff and pretend they’re not in a car park in a city pub.

Consequently, I began spouting my first rage monologue (a recent piece entitled ‘Ambition’, if anyone’s interested) to an audience numbering half a dozen (plus sound man and bar staff), but – probably for the first time in the years I’ve been performing – people began to filter into the room by the time I left Legion of Swine to run the set to its natural conclusion of feedback and bewilderment (what other response is there to a man in a pig’s head and lab coat, ambulating the space with a condenser mic taped to his face and a battery-powered 3W Orange amp to his ear?) there was a substantial crowd. Most of them were confused, and more interested in the spectacle than necessarily enjoying watching a 40-year-old man spew vitriol and expletives into a mic, but I had an absolute blast. Literature is the original rock ‘n’ roll and the new rock ‘n’ roll, and the footage of the performance, for which I can take no credit whatsoever, is outstanding.

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Legion of Swine

https://player.vimeo.com/video/175067654

 

One of the benefits of being lower down the bill is that it’s possible to kick back, drink beer and watch the other acts, and while the temperature was steadily rising, it was a joy to sup a cool pint and listen to Fawn Spots road test a set based on their upcoming second album. I‘ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen these guys since they started out as a snotty York-based two-piece and it’s been a source of pride to witness their evolution to a Leeds-based four-piece with a debut album on Fire Records. Their hard-gigging work ethic is admirable, and they’ve got both songs and attitude. If the new material showcased tonight is a little less frenetic than the older stuff, it’s no less intense, and there’s every indication that album number two will be a stormer.

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Fawn Spots

It’s a little over a year since I saw Super Luxury play. Supporting Oozing Wound at the Key Club in Leeds, I’d been impressed by the power of their performance. However, as their gig photos and the anecdote I’d heard from a friend about front man Adam Nodwell delivering vocals for a large portion of a set from inside a box on stage, it seems they’ve been evolving the performance aspect of their show. They pulled out all the stops for this one, Nodwell arriving on stage cowelled in a hooded cloak, stripping it off to reveal some crazy man/badger legs thing that simply looked wrong. With confetti guns bursting all over and crowd-surfing and a general air of crazed mayhem, you might think the music was taking a back seat. But you’d think wrong: with enough back-line to shake a venue three times to size to its foundations, they blasted through a ferocious set with terrifying vigour and psychopathic precision. They may be zany in their presentation, but when it comes to the songs and slamming them in hard, they’re entirely serious.

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Super Luxury

Irk are pretty fucking serious, too. It’s barely been a fortnight since I caught their set in Manchester supporting Berlin’s heads, and while they were pretty ripping them, tonight they really do take things to another level. Of course, when I previously stated that they sound like fellow Leeds band Blacklisters, I meant it as a compliment: Blacklisters are one of my favourite bands of recent years. They’ve delivered two gut-wrenchingly hefty albums and are one of the most consistent live acts you’ll find. But it’s on this outing that I first truly appreciate Irk in their own right as the drum / bass / vocal trio lumber, lurch and piledrive their way through a full-throttle set. Jack Gordon – an affable, articulate chap off stage – comes on like a man possessed, hurling himself about the low stage amid crushing bass riffs and powerhouse percussion. While the power trio format is often lionised as the optimal band configuration, there’s even less room to hide when there are only two instruments and a vocalist. And so it is that Irk are tight as hell and double the intensity of the playing to compensate the absence of instruments and bodies on stage. In contrast to Super Luxury, here’s little by way of over showmanship on display here, and instead it’s all about whipping up a blistering intensity through directness and unadulterated force.

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Irk

With not a weak act on the jam-packed, super-value bill, and every act giving every last drop of juice to their performance, this is going to stand as one of the gigs of the year. The venue may not have been packed to capacity, but there’s no question that those who were there will be talking about it. That’s precisely how legends are made, and I’d wager that that at some point in the future, tonight will go down as one of those landmark events. And if I’m wrong… fuck it, it was a great night.