Posts Tagged ‘Live Review’

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s been a very long while since scuzz-punk rock duo Mannequin Death Squad came to our shores, and even longer since they last set foot in York – but hailing from Melbourne, Australia, it’s been quite a while since they’ve set foot anywhere outside their province, with now fewer than six lockdowns and more than 260 days under restrictions during the pandemic, which led to Victoria’s state capital to be dubbed the “world’s most locked down city”, according to the BBC. Hardly conducive conditions for a band who thrive on playing live.

MDS seems to have harnessed all of that pent-up energy for this month-long UK tour, scheduled at relatively short notice, but before they’re on, they’ve got a solid bill of local talent in support, too (let’s face it, four bands for £7, you can’t go wrong), and first on, up-and-coming KissKissKill (styled as XXK so as to avoid any iffy connotations, and who’ve been around a while but seem to be finally kicking things up a notch) prove to be a solid opener giving an assured performance. Their sound may bet kinda standard rock with some big guitar solos, but they’ve got a good level of energy and enthusiasm. Singer Gemma-Louise performs with her eyes as well as with powerful lungs, and she’s backed by some solid riffs and she bounces around a lot: they all do, apart from the bassist who hides at the back behind his straightened hair. They’re a lot of fun, and clearly have potential for great things.

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KissKissKill

Ketamine Kow bring mouth frothing energy and aggression. They’ve had their songs shared on Twitter by Sleaford Mods. The front-cunt’s proper mental and the songs are almost secondary to the spasmodic energy as he charges around maniacally, getting in people’s faces and generally creating a disruptive energy. I mean, there seems to be something not quite right about the guy, but this is the spectacle of a performer who lives every second of the performance for real. Like a young Iggy Pop, it’s all for the moment. There are some squalling riffs and pounding percussion going on behind the manic screaming and shouting. Ketamine Kow could well be the new Baby Godzilla: with the exception of the drummer, who also provides strong second vocals, the band spend as much time in the crowd than on stage, the singer everywhere all at once, hollering from the back of the room, leering in and looming over the crowd, or writhing on the floor. Skinny white boys with gangly limbs, you can’t imagine that being in a band is likely to help any of the members of Ketamine Kow to pull: they’re sweary, sweaty, raw, authentic punk, and so, so angry – and fucking brilliant.

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Ketamine Kow

The Bricks Draw the Line at the start of the set, and they seem to get sharper, more solid, more meaty with every outing, and singer Gemma is more confident and more commanding than ever. The sound is a perfect amalgamation of juggernaut bass with choppy stuttering riffs that splinter onto shards, with heavy hints of Gang of Four and Wire with martial beats. In terms of performance, Gemma doesn’t ‘do’ much – no bouncing about, no, posing: she doesn’t have to. The voice is immense, and is all the presence, allowing the three middle-aged blokes (no criticism, especially as they’re clearly having a blast playing the songs and have the sound absolutely nailed) to fade into the noisy background.

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It’s gone 10:45 when Mannequin Death Squad start, but when they do it’s incendiary: the set is back to back killers, heavily raiding their 2016 debut mini-album ‘Eat Hate Regurgitate’ alongside songs released on-line since and brand new material, too. They’re loud and they’re tight with a full sound, the dual vocals really defining the sound over the big, grungy riffs. They play hard and fierce. ‘Sick’ lands third before a new track off the forthcoming debut album. Elly’s eyes lol up into her head as she kicks out the riffs. The mid-set instrument switch seems to take it up a notch, and Dan steps out from behind the drums to take over the guitar and lead vocals, and stomps the stage fiercely. Meanwhile, the hi hat’s fucked and zip on her trousers is bust, but still Elly doesn’t miss a beat. They’re committed, alright. Live shows don’t come better than this.

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Mannequin Death Squad

Things are running late and curfews are a kicker for most venues these days, especially those in residential areas, so they’re forced to truncate the set a little – and so what it lacks in duration, they compensate in energy, turning the small venue into a total sweatbox as they deliver the title track from their forthcoming debut album, ‘Super Mental Psycho’ as the penultimate song, and it’s blistering. We’re all wiped and melting by the end, and while there’s no chance of an encore, the rush to the merch and to chat to the band after showed the level of appreciation. And rightly so – they’re one of those bands who never disappoint.

Christopher Nosnibor

There’s no escaping politics and economics, even when you go to gigs as your primary mode of escape from life. When people are struggling to make ends meet, going out is a luxury for many. This is truly a tragedy. With the ‘cost of living crisis’, as it’s being billed (because everything has to have a name, a brand now), crippling pubs and clubs and individuals alike as hard as Covid restrictions and lockdowns did, gigs like this are incredibly welcome: a showcase of emerging local talent for a quid, at a venue where a decent hand-pulled (local) pint costs £4.

Perspex in particular have been building quite a buzz in recent months, but had almost completely bypassed me, so curiosity coupled with the simple urge to go and see some live music meant that a quid seemed like a safe enough punt, especially when the venue’s in easy walking distance.

Given that it’s a race night on which Madness are playing at the racecourse and there’s a sold-out gig at The Vaults with other rising local talents, it’s an impressive turnout at the 400-capacity venue as Captain Starlet take the stage.

Christ, they look young. Like bands starting out in 1979. Ill-fitting shirts and striped t-shirts, Vox and Rickenbacker guitars. They’ve not yet figured out haircuts or grown into their faces, but have fashioned some tidy indie tunes. It’s a bit jangly, a bit C86, it’s well played but ultimately kinda middling. And then it goes country, and all the moustache and suit-sporting Nick Cave rip-offs start having a hoedown down the front. I realise I don’t understand anything anymore.

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Captain Starlet

Trueman start off promisingly, with some bold sax action reminiscent of the Psychedelic Furs. But it rapidly descends into a quality performance of average music. My mate suggests Razorlight as a comparison, and he’s right. There’s much movement and arm waving from the sixth-formers down the front.

People really love bland shit. I know I should be supportive of new bands, but these reek entitlement. They’re not as good as they think they are.

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Trueman & the Indoor League

Perspex: great name, sharp look (some of them are the suit and shades wearing posers who were getting down to Captain Starlet), lame, forgettable songs. I persevere for a while before retiring to the bar. They’re still audible, and actually sound better from there, but still ultimately forgettable. There’s a steady trickle of departures during their set, so it’s not just me. They weren’t terrible, just terribly average, and when there are a million average bands knocking about, there’s simply no need for any more.

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Perspex

But for all that, it was a good night: people enjoyed themselves without interfering with others or spoiling their nights. People enjoyed the bands and didn’t gab on through them, and the vibe was good. The bands played well and the sound was good, so much credit is due to bands, fans and venue. There’s definitely a market there, and potentially, a large one. I wish them all the best of luck.

Christopher Nosnibor

Seems like gigs at the Vaults are cursed when I go. Just as headliners Witch of the East cancelled the last time I was down, so PAK40 have had to bail due to Covid. Yep, over two years on and it’s still having a significant impact on live music. But the good news is that REDFYRN are worth turning out for, as previous outings have shown, and even prior to PAK40’s withdrawal, it had the air of a double-header.

It’s fucking melting. I mean, I’m drinking cider, it’s that mafting. And I’m sweating it out faster than I can drink it. My skin is like a sieve or muslin bag. It must be absolutely punishing on stage.

Openers Beswick get off to a bit of a ragged start. But then, it is their first gig in three years, and they’re not looking like the kind of band who get tour-tight. It would be wrong to complain about the lack of guitar definition with a black metal band, and they lean towards the lower, slower end, where everything slips into a sludgy mid-range mesh, thanks to the five-string bass and seven-string guitar and the most fuckedest cymbal I’ve seen in use in a long time.

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Beswick

The main vocalist has three distinct styles: a penetrating, shivering squawk, a low growl, and a cleanish, atonal punk snarling shout, which actually works at least half of the time as they swing towards a dingy punk style at various points during the set. They do seem like a band in a bit of a stylistic quandary as they slither hither and thither, but they’re solid entertainment. The final song is a nod to their previous incarnation as Tokechamber, and sees the set conclude with billowing drone doom chords and feedback. I would have happily watched that for an hour.

REDFYRN start as they mean to go on, bringing the riffs slow and steady, with more five-string bass groove through an immense effects rack. The bassist has bounding energy, smashing every note with fists and feet, and the weighty guitars contrast with the soaring vocals. Big brave but stoner with a bluesy twist, chunky gritty riffs.

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REDFYRN

The solos aren’t overdone, and showcase the fact Cat Redfern is an excellent guitarist on a technical level as well as being a heavy hitter. She plays with only a handful of pedals, but a lot of crunch and a big dense sound and big volume.

A big hairy moshpit happened during the last song, and the half dozen beardy guys going crackers down the front was enough to bring the band back for one more, and they encore with ‘Unreal’, to an even more vibrant response. For a hot Thursday night when people would have likely been lured to a beer garden to toast the announcement of the Prime Minister’s departure, albeit at some time in the future, and for a stand-in headline slot, REDFYRN delivered a commanding performance and owned the night. Having only recently found themselves in headline slots, REDFYRN look ready to take it to the next level.

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s always good to be back at Wharf Chambers, and this actually my first visit this year. Since my last trip, the cost of a train from York to Leeds has absolutely rocketed. It wasn’t that long ago that an off-peak day return for the 23-minute journey was about eleven quid. Now it’s more than £17, plus booking fee. Pre-lockdown, late 2019, it was around £15. This is the cost-of living crisis and inflation in sharp relief. It may only be a couple of quid, but as a percentage, it’s substantial, and when you apply the same kind of increase to everything… My dayjob pay hasn’t gone up by anything like as much, and we know that rail workers’ wages haven’t. But the consequence is that I have to be more selective about what gigs I travel to attend, which means in turn lower attendance for live acts, and less beer sold by venues, and so on. Thankfully, with shows at Wharf Chambers, I can offset the travel costs with decent hand-pulled beer at £3.40 a pint. When was the last time you paid under £3.50 for a pint?

It’s not all about the cheap beer, of course. Live music is always about more than just the music, though: it’s about the whole experience, and Wharf Chambers is a great venue with a great vibe that hosts great bands, and there are two on tonight’s bill.

Fuzz Lightyear are infinitely better than their somewhat flippant name, which doesn’t particularly convey what they do. Sure, there’s distortion, but the guitars take second seat to busy, heavyweight drumming on songs that feature abundant tempo changes, and are weighty, and shouty. Post rock collides with Fugazi. I’m a sucker for the full tom roll rhythm, and the drummer absolutely nails it on the third song. There’s a dash of Trail of Dead in the mix, and the bassist’s manic eyes are as compelling as anything. It’s a solid set, with a lot of range, that sets things up nicely ahead of the headliners.

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Fuzz Lightyear

Deaf Kids start gently with something of an ambient intro. It’s dark, and they move as shadows. There are drums played with elbows amidst drone noise. And it builds… and builds… and then it bursts. And how!

The Brazilian trio aren’t your staple Neurot act: instead of slow-lugubrious, rust-stained metal, this is a band with a vibrancy and an energy that’s positively eye-popping. It’s as if they’ve bottled everything since the release of their last album, Metaprogramação and are finally letting it all out. The set feels less like a succession of songs than a continuous overall work. They play in almost complete darkness. Briefly, there’s a percussive break that’s almost a mellow conga, but then it builds again before it explodes. The set is punctuated by bursts of noise, and – additional djembe breaks aside – it sounds like there are two drummers… There’s just ss much percussion, and so much urgency, and so much energy.

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Deaf Kids

And I realise on reflection, as I relive the immense buzz of the show, that chuntering about the price of trains from York to Leeds is likely nothing compared to the effort of transporting a band from Brazil to play in post-Brexit Britain in a venue with a sub-200 capacity. Really, we’re spoiled. I can only hope we continue to be.

Christopher Nosnibor

This is probably – no, certainly – one of the oddest events I’ve attended in a while. I came because I wanted to see La Costa Rasa, who I caught a couple or so times in their 90s heyday supporting The Sisters of Mercy at Birmingham NEC and at the Off the Streets Shelter benefit at the Town & Country where The Utah Saints headlined, with a guest vocal appearance from Andrew Eldritch, in ‘93, and because their 1994 album, Autopilot, released via Merciful Release has been an enduring favourite of mine. I had been a shade perturbed by the 80s ‘theme’ element mentioned in the event description, but figured my everyday clothes should pass.

On arrival, I ordered a pint of Lagunitas IPA, got something completely different from what I’d asked for – some lager or other – then headed upstairs – and then the weirdness hit as I commandeered as table just inside the door.

Everyone here seems to know each other, not in a club or college reunion way, but more like a birthday party for someone’s granddad, with three distinct generations, none of whose age brackets correspond with my own. The middle generation all look to be around 50-odd and more, which would probably fit with the clientele of the legendary 80s club venues which provide the night’s theme. Then there are some really decrepit old buggers who look like their parents, and then a bunch of women in their early 20s. No-one looks remotely goth. It’s mostly middle-aged and older men with beer guts in check shirts. Apart from me, sitting here in black jeans, jacket, shades and Stetson. It’s the first time I’ve felt so completely out of place at any gig, let alone a supposedly goth gig. This isn’t a matter of nostalgia not being what it used to be, this is a bewildering experience where I truly have no idea. I feel lost, confused, and with maybe twenty people here early doors, I feel exposed, conspicuous, like I’ve gatecrashed someone’s private do, like… like… Like I’m a miscast extra in a bar scene.

Here’s the convoluted but relevant bit. The evening it pitched as a celebration of legendary Leeds clubs, Le Phonographique, et al, with DJ sets capturing the spirit, as well as live sets from Power to Dream and La Costa Rasa.

La Costa Rasa seem an odd choice for an 80s night, being an overtly 90s band – grunge with a drum machine, as I tend to describe them. Of course, there’s the Merciful Release connection, and Mills is, or was, with legendary F Club and Le Phonographique DJ Claire Shearsby (who is significant in Sister circles as Andrew Eldritch’s ex, and who isn’t one of tonight’s DJs, who spin a mix of 80s tune and more recent stuff like Garbage from their laptops at the back of the room). And despite having released a run of three of singles in the mid-80s, this is Power to Dream’s live debut.

La Costa Rasa’s bassist Jim Fields is wearing a Bivouac t-shirt. It seems fitting that not only has it been almost thirty years since I last saw La Costa Rasa, and about the same since I saw a Bivouac T, and within seconds of their starting La Costa Rasa transport us back to back then with their strolling basslines, wall-of-sound guitars, and thumping sequenced drums.

No-one claps. They all just carry on chatting. A huge Jabba of a grandma sits on a sofa by the stage and bangs her stick on the floor in time – or not- for a bit and waves to the people sitting on the window bench. Eventually, three or four songs in, people seem to catch on that there is a band on.

Only two of the songs in tonight’s set are from Autopilot, the first of these being ‘Like a Machine’ which lands early. Slower than the album version, it’s followed by a raging ‘Burning Idols’.

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La Costa Rasa

Mills switches to violin for new song ‘White Rose’, a raging industrial stomper, and some guy looking like uncle fester sits on the sofa and starts clapping like a seal for the second half of the set, while mopping his bald head frequently with a handkerchief and waving to some of the oldies on the other side of the room. The closer is a squalling epic where Mills again switches to violin – played through his guitar FX units to build a screaming climactic wall of noise. It’s blistering, and elating to see – and hear – that after all this time, they’ve not lost the fire.

Oops. Sweaty Fester is Terry Macleay, the singer with Power to Dream. He plonks his red felt hat on and steps into character. Well, he tried, but he can’t stop grinning and gurning. He’s one of those flamboyant goths. Grating dense, dark ambience heralds the start of the set. They open with a cover of Alex Harvey’s ‘Faith Healer’, released as their second single back in the day. It’s surprisingly soulful, more Depeche Mode than Foetus.

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Power to Dream

1986 single  ‘Frantic’ is second, and lays down some taut grooves, although the style is somewhere in the region of Culture Club with more funk. ‘Fountain of Youth’ lands ironically. With just trebly guitar and drum machine, they sound really thin, and there’s just way too much vocal. But you can barely hear any of it over the chat. No mean feat when there are about 20 people in the room in total, all at the back. Fuck’s sake, they should turn their hearing aids up, or fuck off.

Guitarist Alex Green plays a solo rendition of Steve Harley’s ‘Sebastian’ while Macleay takes a seat. It’s barely audible above the babble. Terry keeps looking around, irritated, but to no avail, and I’ve seen enough. It’s time to split.

Christopher Nosnibor

With neither band having previously played in York before 2022, it’s three months to the week since Healthy Junkies and Yur Mum last played in this very room, and on the same lineup as part of the Lips Can Kill Tour, and it’s the third time here for Healthy Junkies, who supported The Kut here in January. And it’s great to have them both back, and although it’s a bit of a standard York on a Wednesday night turnout, those present more than compensate the small numbers with their demonstrations of appreciation, getting going down the front.

It is a while before things get going. Sure, I’m here to write about the music. But a long wait for the music when I didn’t think to bring a book makes for some tedious downtime. Scheduling and communication do matter, as the time I missed the headliners because they were due on around midnight, a full half hour after the last train back to York from Leeds illustrates perfectly. These things are ok if advertised in advance, but can be problematic if not. Opening doors at seven but not having a band on before nine without advertising stage times – or the fact that the headliners have pulled out – beforehand wasn’t the absolute worst, but sitting around on your tod for an hour and a half when you’ve got stuff you could have been doing is a bit of a chew, and midweek, I’d take an early finish over a late start any time.

Still, there’s decent beer on tap at fair prices, and supping a couple of pints of Oakham Citra while they spin some decent tunes over the PA is far from the worst way to kill time. And the bar staff are great, and the bands are without doubt worth the wait, and one thing about the Vaults is that the sound is spot on – and at a volume appropriate for the bands.

One thing that probably doesn’t get much comment is the fact that Yur Mum – Anelise and Fabio – are both great musicians. Anelise plays bass like a guitar and cranks out some monster sound, while Fabio plays the whole kit all at once. They’ve both got outstanding presence – Despite singing and playing, Anelise manages to be pretty mobile around the stage, and Fabio has an exuberant style that goes the occasional stick-spin. Above all, though, they play with chemistry and energy, and the intuition that comes with hard touring. The slower gothic tones of ‘Black Rainbow’ stand out in a powerful set that features a piledriving rendition of ‘Sweatshop’ as the penultimate song.

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Yur Mum

Healthy Junkies are another band who tour relentlessly, and it shows – not because they seem jaded, but because they’ve got that tightness that comes from time on the road (their last album, Forever on the Road is appropriately titled). And unphased by the smaller crowd, they play hard and put on the same standard of show as if the place was absolutely rammed. They’re not just pros, they pour every ounce into every song.

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Healthy Junkies

Nina Courson is a whirlwind of flailing limbs and hair, at times channelling Katie Jane Garside, and utterly compelling – to the point that sometimes you forget the songs, and the solidity of the band as a collective. Guitarist Phil Honey-Jones takes lead vocals on a handful of tracks, making for a nice contrast and highlighting the depth of the band’s talent. The rhythm section don’t do anything to draw attention, and do exactly what’s needed – keep it solid, and with drive. They wrap up with the fan-favourite cover of ‘These Boots Are Made for Walking’, and that is indeed what they do.

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Healthy Junkies

Any disappointment over the absence of Witch of the East – and I for one was disappointed, as I’d been looking forward, while I suspect other got word and stayed home – was compensated by the quality of the two bands, both headline acts in their own right.

Christopher Nosnibor

This is by no means the first time I’ll have mentioned that sometimes, the best gigs are the ones you have to drag yourself to. The dragging here is no reflection on the bands, so much as the fact that when work and life are sapping your soul and you’re not feeling like doing anything ‘people’ orientated, the prospect of venturing out to be among people on a Tuesday night is not one that fires a burst of enthusiasm. You want to stay home. You want to hibernate. But the combination of beer and live music is so often the best therapy – and this proved to be one of those nights.

I have long lost count of the number of times I’ve seen or otherwise written about both Soma Crew and Percy, and while they both fit the bracket of ‘local’ bands, they’re both bands who bring great joy to see, and no-one dismisses London bands who only play a circuit of half a dozen small venues in London as ‘local’, do they? And you can’t watch ‘local’ bands in London with a decent hand-pulled pint in a proper glass for £4 a pint, either.

All three bands are playing on the floor in front of the stage, and The New Solar Drones have a lot of instruments spilling out, including a maraca, triangle, and timpani. It’s quite a sight to behold on entering, and the additional percussion goes a long way to giving the band a distinctive sound. Mellow country flavoured indie branches out in all kinds of directions. The rolling, thunderous drums lend a real sense of drama to the waves of noodling synths. The guitar workout on a song about Hollywood gets a bit Hotel California, but it’s well executed. The final track marks a shift from laid-back easy-going Americana into some kind of post-rock progressive folk that’s rather darker and lasts about ten minutes, complete with clarinet solo. They’ve got some rough edges to iron out, but the songs are solid and it’s an impressive debut.

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The New Solar Drones

With a new album around the corner, this is Percy’s first gig in seven months. Three quarters of the band are crowded to one side of the stage, while singer/guitarist Colin is on the other. Either it’s because he’s a grumpy sod, or perhaps just because his guitar amp is so bloody loud. ‘Going off on One’ kicks off the set energetically and sets the pace for a career-spanning selection that focuses on the more uptempo aspects of their catalogue. Bassist Andy’s post-lockdown look is J Mascis, but he charges around cranking out low end beef, and it’s the rhythm section that dominates, while Paula’s keyboards bring some melody and definition in contrast to the scratchy guitar sound.

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Percy

“Fray Bentos pie! With gravy!” The slower, synthier ‘Alice’ sounds more like Joy Division than their usual jagged post­punk grind and graft, but while most of the lyrics are indecipherable, the pie and gravy seem to be the focus. They really attack the snarling ‘Will of the People’, and its relevence seems to grow by the day. Colin comes on like Mark E Smith at his most vitriolic… and there, I failed in my attempt to review Percy without recourse The Fall. Seems it just can’t be done. They close with a brand new song, ‘Chunks’, about ‘chunks in gravy!’ Yep, definitely a theme, and if Percy are something of a meat and potatoes band, it’s in the way The Wedding Present are hardy perennials and brimming with northern grit.

A resonant throb gradually leaks from the PA, and from it emerges Soma Crew’s quintessential motorik pumping. Standing near the front, I reflect on the fact I could use a wide angle lens to get all of them in. They have a lot of guitars. The front man from The New Solar Drones is on keys and lap steel and, later guitar, and the lap steel accentuates the band’s overall drone and gives something of a Doorsy vibe.

They’re on serious form tonight, sounding solid and energetic. Shifting up to three guitars, they hit a swinging rock ‘n’ roll blues boogie groove.

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Soma Crew

While I find myself drifting on this tripped-out repetition, I consider the fact that less is more. Chords, that is, not instruments. Four guitars (if you count the bass) playing three chords in an endless cycle is better than two guitars, which in turn is better than one. The songs and structures are simple: the effect is all in the layering up and the reverb. Listening to bands that are overtly about the technical proficiency is often pretty dull. Passion and mood count for so much more. Volume helps, and with a brutal backline and sympathetic sound man, they hit that sweet spot where it hurts just a bit even with earplugs. Simon’s slightly atonal droning vocals are soporific, and everything just melts into an all-engulfing wash of sound. ‘Mirage’ kicks with volume and solid repetitive groove, while ‘Say You Believe’ is straight up early Ride/Chapterhouse, before ‘Propaganda Now’ is a blistering drive through a wall of Jesus and Mary Chain inspired feedback that brings the set to a shimmering, monster climax.

I stumble out, my ears buzzing, elated. Because everything came together to surpass expectations to make for an outstanding night.