Posts Tagged ‘Live Review’

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.

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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

There are early starts, and early starts: when doors open at 7:00 and you arrive just after half past to catch the last song and a half of the first band, you know you’re in really early start territory. Not that I felt I’d missed out immensely with York four-piece Heartsink: what I heard was very much standard contemporary ‘alt’ rock, nicking riffs from Biffy Clyro and hair from A Flock of Seagulls.

I’ll confess that I didn’t fall in love with Avenoir the first time I saw them, which happened to be supporting Our Divinity along with Weekend Recovery in the summer. The tired rock ‘n’ roll clichés I observed then are no less tired three months on: the singer’s wearing the same knackered denim jacket with Ramones back patch and his jeans are rags. He lunges around the stage – and if he plants his feet any further apart, there’s a danger he’ll split straight down the middle – wielding his bass like a weapon as he affects a hybrid persona that amalgamates Glenn Danzig and Lemmy. Objectively, they’re not terrible: they’re just not nearly as good as they seem to think they are.

Avenoir

Avenoir

I didn’t fall in love with Pulverise on this first meeting, either. They’re quite a sight: a quartet with a sort of image but not quite, they’re a hybridized sports rock monstrosity harking back to c.1999-2001 with added unicorn horn. They’ve got plenty of heft, grunt, and chug, but sound so, so dated. They chuck in a Cypress Hill cover medley effort, harking back to the rock/rap crossover fad of the early 90s that gave us the groundbreaking but agonisingly patchy Judgement Night soundtrack. Still, by the end of the set, they’ve got a bunch of people pogoing hard down the front, and if the primary purpose of a support act is to warm the audience up for the main event, then Pulverise meet their objective in style.

Pulverise

Pulverise

Weekend Recovery have received a conspicuous level of coverage on these pages of late, but that’s by virtue of the fact they’re a cracking band worthy of backing. They launched their first post-album material, in the form of the EP In the Mourning (the video for which we proudly premiered here at AA) in London on Friday, and tonight is their hometown celebration of what’s without doubt their strongest work to date. Lori is (appropriately, I suppose, given the lyrics to the EP’s lead song) pretty much faced when I arrive, promising after-show shots (again) and I wonder how she’ll even be standing in three hours, but she’s not only standing but delivers one of the strongest performances I’ve witnessed to date. Should I worry about this? About the encroaching impact of a rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle on the day to day, or whatever? Nah. As a performer myself, I get it. It’s not life-damaging. Performing is hard, especially if it doesn’t come naturally. Tonight, she comes on on boisterous, grunge-diva form, and it suits.

The fact that the front rows are packed tight while the last band are still dismantling their kit speaks for itself in terms of the ardour of Weekend Recovery’s fans. Bands playing venues three times this size don’t receive attention of this intensity. I’ve long maintained that it’s better to cultivate a small but passionate following than a larger indifferent one. The former will attend every show, purchase every release. The latter, they’ll big you up, like your Facebook page and stream your stuff on Spotify. But as it happens, the venue’s looking pretty busy, which says Weekend Recovery are making it, achieving a larger audience who are also passionate.

They open by raiding the back catalogue up-front with a blistering ‘Don’t Try and Stop Me’. A shot emerges from the audience before they even play the third song, ‘Oh Jenny’, and scribbling in darkness after four pints my handwriting descends into illegibility while Lori continues without missing a beat and the band pound and thrash solidly. I’m struck – once more – by just how good they’ve got in the last year. Having broken free of the shackles of their formative influences, Weekend Recovery hit their stride with the album and are seriously killing it now.

The difference between now and any time previous is that they’re confident enough about what they do to not care. By the mid-set landing of ‘On My Knees’, Lori’s lipstick’s smeared and they’re all sweaty messes, and it’s clear that this is a band playing hard to deliver maximum r’n’r (and that’s not rest ‘n’ relaxation). ‘Monster’ brings a dense, funk-tinged groove, and is a hook-laden standout, alongside ‘I Want to Get Off’, which really pounds and drives on this outing.

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Weekend Recovery

There’s a choreographed false ending with a rambunctious ‘Why Don’t You Love Me?’ which prefaces the ‘encore’ of ‘Bite Your Tongue’, and with a couple of minutes before the curfew, they shoehorn in an unexpected back-catalogue raiding ‘Focus’ by way of a genuine and truly impromptu encore.

The band seem genuinely astounded by the reception, but they deserve it. And as the lights come up over the sticky black floor, the EP is well and truly launched.

Christopher Nosnibor

Four years on from Black Rat and DZ Deathrays return to the UK touring album number three, Bloody Lovely. Granted, the York show at The Woolpack with a capacity of maybe 70 on their last visit to these shores was one of the more intimate, but it’s clear from tonight’s turnout and reception that they’ve significantly expanded their fan-base in the intervening time.

Those who turned up in reasonable time got a real treat in the form of opening support act Dead Naked Hippies, who caught my attention a few months ago with the release of ‘Drain You’ on a split 12”.  The Leeds art-rock trio, consisting of drums / guitar / vocal kick some serious arse. The guitar sound is dirty, a little bit messy, but works well in contrast with the crisp drum work. It’s Lucy Jowett who really commands the attention, though, lunging and stomping about the stage, wide-eyed and crackling with tension. They’re already going places, and were worth the entry fee alone.

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Dead Naked Hippies

Touring support These New South Whales come on, shirts off and electrical tape over their nipples, looking dangerous and introduce themselves with some angular, grinding guitars, with menacing vocals pitch-shifted down. The stage half-obscured by a thick smog, they then proceed to slash and thrash their way through a sweaty, high-octane set. They may have their own show on Comedy Central, but they take the performance of their fast, furious, bass-driven art-punk seriously. It’s pretty fucking intense.

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These New South Whales

DZ Deathrays have really honed their live sound and the material from Bloody Lovely – which accounts for over half the set – is delivered with real attack. With the album having been out a full six months already, it’s had time to bed in with the fans, and a good segment of the crowd sing along with every song. Others just go nuts, with a mosh-pit seven rows deep and crowd-surfing commencing early.

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DZ Deathrays

Said new material pushes further into melodic territory, but the tunefulness is still driven by big, fat, fizzy riffs. Impressively, they maintain the high energy level throughout the set, with no let up in tempo (you’re not going to get a mid-set lighter-waving slowie or an acoustic breakdown with DZ Deathrays).

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DZ Deathrays

They throw ‘Reflective Skull’ from Black Rat in early, saving ‘Gina Works at Hearts’ for near the end. The crowd goes ballistic – with a crowd surge causing the band to briefly stop to make sure someone wasn’t too badly hurt – and rounding off with ‘Like People’ and ‘Ocean Exploder’ for the final salvoes, it all adds up to a blistering set.

With three cracking bands, a corking headline set, and a great vibe all round, it’ll probably go down as one of the gigs of 2018.

Christopher Nosnibor

The fact the word ‘fan’ comes from ‘fanatic’ is perhaps worth bearing in mind. A band can probably be considered to have achieved a certain level of fan appreciation when they see the same faces in the crowd at venues around the country on a given tour. As one of those fans who’s attended multiple (although never more than a couple or three) dates on a tour for several bands, I’ve found it interesting to observe how audiences in different cities react, and also how those reactions feed into the performance. And, of course, there’s a certain curiosity about a band’s consistency. And in my capacity as a critic, the same is true – although it’s fair to say that as far as my second time of seeing Weekend Recovery in a month is concerned, I’m attending as both fan and critic. Having just unveiled their debut album, their touring schedule has amped up considerably, with almost three months of dates around the UK now to promote it, followed by a cluster of festival dates in the summer.

But here are now, this does mean I’m playing compare and contrast with Leeds on a Friday night where Weekend Recovery are the main support, and York on a Thursday, where the band, with their origins down south and now based in Leeds, are headlining. It’s hardly like-for-like. Much as I love York and its music scene, there is a conservatism which runs deep in the city’s gig-going community. Local bands will fair ok, but any act from out of town who isn’t well-known will, more often than not, find there’s a lot of space in the room. So it’s credit to Weekend Recovery that while the place is far from packed, there’s a respectable turnout, especially given that it’s the week before payday.

Maybe it’s my age. Maybe it’s my rage. Increasingly, I’ve come to respect and admire and enjoy bands comprising guys of or approaching middle age ranting about the mundane. They’re not all even a fraction as good as Pissed Jeans, but Paint Nothing, while endlessly ripping off The Fall up to 1983, occupy the same office-based miserabilist territory as Scumbag Philosopher. The singer’s wide-eyed intensity augments the spitting anger. The audience may be divided, but those who don’t dig these four shouty, balding midlifers ranting about stuff clearly haven’t lived.

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Paint Nothing

Brooders are probably young enough to have been parented by Paint Nothing, and probably were busy being born when grunge was all the rage. But having built themselves up as a live act with some impressive support slots and single release ‘Lie’ on Leeds label Come Play With Me imminent, the trio bring a finely-honed fusion of abrasive noise and not-so-abrasive melody. When they hit optimal heavy, they’re in the territory of Therapy? in collision with Fudge Tunnel, and the clean guitar sound, that’s awash with chorus and flange is lifted wholesale from Soundgarden’s ‘Black Hole Sun’. At times they get pretty and it’s more indie than grunge, and with a psychey / shoegaze twist. There’s never a dull moment in their varied but relentlessly riffcentric set.

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Brooders

Last time I saw Brooders, it was supporting Hands Off Gretel at the same venue, so it’s perhaps fitting that Weekend Recovery’s front woman Lorin’s sporting a short dress, holed tights and knee-length white socks, passing a note to the now-classic 90s kindergarten whore look.

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Weekend Recovery

Their set isn’t radically different from the one in Leeds last month, and kicks off with a driving rendition of ‘Turn It Up’ which encapsulates the up-front grunge-orientated sound of the album, which marks a distinct evolution from their previous work. ‘Oh Jenny’ sees the titular character introduced as a ‘colossal slag’ after I’d chatted with Lorin before the show about the merits of ‘colossal’ and ‘massive’ as adjectives (we have a colleague who’s a colossal pussy; my boss is a massive cunt) and the set closes with ‘Why Don’t You Love Me?’ as is now standard, and it’s delivered full-tilt and brimming with a balance of desperation and sarcasm.

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Weekend Recovery

In between…. Lorin may not pogo as much or appear as bouncy in general as the last time I caught them, but bassist Josh (wearing the same outlandish shirt as at the Leeds gig – not that I can comment on outlandish shirts) and guitarist Owen throw lunging, leg-splaying poses all over. But this isn’t mere posturing: they’re really giving it all the energy. And the crowd appreciate it. Did they get what they came for? Of course.

Christopher Nosnibor

There’s usually at least one band in a lineup of four that’s only so-so, only middling, or simply doesn’t appeal. This makes tonight’s bill unusual, especially given the fact there’s no specific genre theme. The four bands showcasing their wares tonight are pulled together from around the country is probably a factor: despite FURR being a Leeds band and Weekend Recovery having recently relocated to the city (and both having built themselves a bit of a following on a national level), this isn’t a ‘local bands’ gig by any stretch.

Sheffield four-piece Mollyanna deliver buoyant indie / alternative rock with – dare I say it? – infectious tunes. They have a good energy, but also an emotive, brooding edge, and tinges of darkness creep into the keen vocal melodies. The band’s gutsier, grungier side emerges as the set progresses, as do more cinematic aspects that call to mind Evanescence (only minus the pomp, and therefore better).

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Mollyanna

Tokyo Taboo are an altogether different proposition, and if Mollyanna have good energy, Tokyo Taboo have insane energy. The guitarist – Moöey is wearing a silver hoody and star-jumping, spot-running, high-kicking singer Dolly Daggers has accessorised her minidress with a kind of shrug that’s also a sort of stuffed toy. Or something. But they’re not just visually compelling: their brand of amped-up power pop with a punk edge – and a dash of grunge – hits all the right spots. Joe Scotcher’s basslines keep everything nailed down nicely amidst the frenzy. And they have tunes! In fact, the last song – a slow-burner that finds Dolly sitting in the audience to sing – is one of the best things I’ve hear so far this year. I’m too busy enjoying the set to take many notes and the ones I have are barely legible, and all of my photos are blurry, but then, writing about or taking still photographs of Tokyo Taboo seems vaguely pointless: go and see them for yourself. They really are a cracking live act. And utterly barking.

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Tokyo Taboo

I’ve written a fair bit about Weekend Recovery over the last year or so, and it was a year to the day I first caught them live in Leeds. They’ve come a long way since then, on many levels and not just geographically. Musically, they’ve evolved, and the songs on their debut album, Get What You Came For – the reason they’re currently touring and are here tonight for their local launch – have a harder, grungier, punkier, and more distinctive sound. Visually, they’re simply looking more like a band. And in terms of performance, they’re more confident and assured, and the time on the road has made them tighter and punchier. Not that older songs like ‘Focus’ and ‘Don’t Try and Stop Me’ sit awkwardly in the set: if anything, they contrast nicely with the more direct and biting newer songs.

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Weekend Recovery

Lorin pogos around a lot while the guys kick out the riffs, with the album’s title track standing out in particular for its riffines. They wrap their set with a high-octane, full-throttle rendition of ‘Why Don’t You Love Me?’, the squeaky pop of the studio version transformed into a fierce demand that’s both exhilarating and a little bit scary (in a good way).

In the event, they prove to be the biggest draw of the night, and receive the warmest reception. And it’s well-deserved.

FURR are conspicuous by virtue of being the only all-male band, and not having a female vocalist. Having recently featured as part of the Leeds-based Come Play With Me singles club, the grungy guitar foursome have been attracting some attention of late. They’re probably too young to have even been born when Kurt Cobain was still alive, but they’ve got the c92 sound – with some keen melodies and clean vocals, they’re perhaps more Bivouac than Nirvana – nailed, as well as the look, only with a contemporary spin (by which I mean they sport plaid shirts, and have a 3:1 beard ratio). There’s no let-up for the duration of their set, as they piledrive their way through the songs. It’s all good, and they close with a ripping rendition of single cut ‘Fable’ (the set list scribbled on a Jiffy bag confirms this).

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FURR

They fumble about a bit and deliberate before playing one more song, and it makes for a slightly disorganised end to proceedings, but who cares? It’s been a good night – better than good, in fact, even great – and one which reminds us precisely why independent music and the venues that support it are so essential. Every band on the bill brought the energy and their A-game, and the experience is an all-out rush. And given the pick of these for bands tonight, or Morrissey at the First Direct Arena the next evening, I’d make the same choice every time.