Posts Tagged ‘Live Review’

Christopher Nosnibor

Riff after riff after riff.

Riff after riff after riff.

Riff after riff after riff.

Celebrating their thirtieth anniversary, Helmet are playing thirty-song sets in thirty cities. It feels like an immense privilege that Leeds is one of them, and the fact it’s the 150-capacity Key Club even more so. With only ten tickets remaining for sale on the door, for a cult band who’ve only released two albums in the last decade, they’ve retained a hardcore following, not all of who, are old buggers.

With no support act, they take the stage at eight sharp, and immediately start with the riffs. Not a word at the start, nor between songs for the first half dozen at least. Instead, it’s all about the riffs.

Riff after riff after riff.

Riff after riff after riff.

The extended freeform solos drift into the background while the rhythm section thunder on relentlessly: the floor-shaking, gut-churning bass, the rhythm guitar that blasts out concrete slabs of noise.

Riff after riff after riff.

Riff after riff after riff.

The blunt, bludgeoning weight of thick, stop/start chunks of noise that became the defining feature of Nu-Metal are Helmet’s staple, but they did it first and did it best. Helmet were also one of the first off-the-street jeans ‘n’ T-shirt bands, and Beavis and Butthead were on the money when they observed that “That drummer looks like a regular guy,” and “If you, like, saw these guys on the street, you wouldn’t even know they were cool.” And yes, they are cool. Seriously cool. Their influence clearly extends far, far beyond their fanbase and commercial reach, which peaked in the early ‘90s. But being cool is also about pushing on, and Helmet’s achieving radio play and MTV exposure around this time was a matter of coincidental timing rather than strategized mass appeal.

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There’s no messing, no posturing: Page regales us with an amusing anecdote about being rehearsing in a space next to Buck Cherry, who commented on the fact the band load their own gear, and who they heard rehearsing their between-song banter. But I never mentioned that. It’s one of only a few moments of chat we get but what’s keenly apparent is that these are nice guys, with no pretence or rock-star delusions, and with their major-label years long behind them, no industry bullshit surrounding them.

They play songs in small venues.

They play hard.

Riff after riff after riff.

Riff after riff after riff.

Song number thirty is ‘In The Meantime’. It’s blistering. But then, so were the preceding twenty-nine songs.

And long may they continue to knock out the riffs.

Christopher Nosnibor

Arriving at gigs in Leeds drenched is becoming not so much a habit as the norm for me by the looks of things. But unlike recent jaunts across the border to West Yorkshire, where I was caught in torrential precipitation, we’re in the middle of a heatwave. The humidity is off the scale, it’s rammed like a cattle freighter, and I’m not convinced the air conditioning is functioning in the vestibule I find myself standing. Consequently, I disembark with my shirt completely saturated ahead of what I know will be a warm gig in Leeds’ best venue for all things metal. And hot on the heels of Thou and Moloch on the same bill, tonight’s is another absolutely killer lineup.

Things are off to an abrasive start with harsh electronic duo Soft Issues. Gnarly electronic noise fizzes from the PA before hammering beats kick in. Samples fire off all over between the distorted, pain-filled screaming vocals and they’re switching patch-leads with mechanical precision as the mess of treble and pulsating lower-range synth oscillations grind forth. It’s relentless, repetitive, and brutally industrial, and there may be hints of NIN but this is way, way harsher, the obliterative wall of anguish-filled noise closer to Prurient than anything. It hurts.

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Soft Issues

Whipping Post’s goatee-sporting bassist may be wearing an REM T-Shirt, but there’s no Shinny Happy People vibe here. He churns out some strong, strolling basslines that provide the solid foundations for some gritty hardcore racket reminiscent of Touch and Go’s early 90s roster. Theirs is a sound that’s nicely angular, dirty, and dense, with lurching rhythms and no shortage of attack.

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Whipping Post

If things are already warm (and I’m so grateful cans of Scrumpy Jack are only £2.50 as I’m sweating it out faster than I can drink it), then co-headliners Bad Breeding really turn up the heat, blasting in at 150 miles per hour with their brand of raging grindy hardcore. A band whose album liner notes and essays posted on their website reference Mark Fisher and American Psycho while dissecting the politics of Brexit while substantiating points with figures on GDP and a host of verifiable statistics, there’s some qualifiable intellect beyond the blizzards of rage they spew out on stage. And the force with which they do it is monstrously intense and gives rise to some energetic – but extremely well-natured – moshing. And yet again, I’m reminded that the nicest audiences are to be found at the most extreme shows.

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Bad Breeding

For a number, Bad Breeding are the headliners, and fair play. They were storming, and moreover, Uniform are a whole other kind of intense nasty. Their debut, Wake in Fright was a non-stop shoutfest with a pounding drum machine and raw, ragged guitar assault fused into a nightmarish sensory overload. The Long Walk added live drums to the mix, but in retaining that raw, unproduced approach, the sound didn’t change radically, but instead stepped things up a notch. So this was a band I’d been absolutely busting to see live.

And fucking hell, they know how to deliver. Perhaps it’s because the studio work has a live, immediate feel that on stage they replicate it so well – only with the added bonus of being able to see the sweat and the whites of their eyes from the front rows of a venue like this. The set explodes with ‘The Walk’, and it’s nothing short of devastating. Bloody, brutal, raw, it excavates the depths of nihilism and paranoia. They burn straight into ‘Human Condition’, the album’s second track, and it’s pulverising: everything’s overloading, and Michael Berdan’s wide-eyed, rage-spewing delivery is as menacing as hell. Everything blurs and melts with the heat and the blistering intensity of Uniform’s wall of noise. To complain it’s a bit one-key is to miss the point completely: Uniform savagely drive at that seem of gnarly, shouty rage that takes the template of snotty punk and distils it into something that’s so potent it could make you want to puke.

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Uniform

They piledrive home the end of a scorching and frankly punishing set with – I think – a brutal rendition of ‘Alone in the Dark’. I’m already lost. There’s no encore and we filter out. I’m drained, a husk, and so, so happy.

Christopher Nosnibor

And yet again, after a soaking on my way to see Interpol in Leeds a fortnight ago, the heavens open to deliver a truly tropical downpour, a torrent of fair biblical proportions in stepping out of the station. It’s way to wet to have my phone out to sat-nav to the pub I’ve arranged to meet a mate in, so I take hasty refuge in The Scarboro Hotel.

It’s not hyperbole or dramatic scaremongering to say that this is climate change in effect. It’s been stiflingly hot, we’ve experienced high winds – which is why I left my umbrella at home: Poundland brollies and strong gusts don’t go together – and light showers and some flash downpours. But this precipitation isn’t so much a cloudfall as a monsoon, and as frustrating and mood-despoiling the soaking is, the bigger picture is that this is a sign of things to come. JG Ballard’s 1962 post-apocalyptic sci-fi novel The Drowned World is rapidly looking like future reportage rather than speculation.

It’s a good thing I’m heading to Temple of Boom in my drenched state. Live music invariably proves itself to be a mod-lifter, or at least the best conduit to a window of escapism, and never more than a night of full-throttle metal. It’s a genre I’ve come to appreciate almost exponentially over the last decade after spending years completely disinterested and dismissive. The irony that I considered metal somehow juvenile and primitive isn’t lost as I realise I’ve grown to grasp the sheer diversity of the – infinitely fragmented – genre, as well as the benefits of untrammelled catharsis as a form of therapy.

The tip I’d had ahead of the show suggested Vonnis were pedlars of fairly standard grindy thrash, and musically, this is fundamentally true. It’s all in the delivery, and I’m wondering a day on if their front-man’s antics were the result of drunkenness, insanity, or a combination of the two. Their Facebook bio records a history of ‘dislocated shoulders or open leg fractures’ and a ‘disregard for any kind of personal safety’, and they deliver on that. Tonight’s set found this guy piling up (and falling off) monitors, stumbling wildly, stripping from his boiler suit to socks and boxers and ending the set on the flor in front of the stage with his head in a bin. The whole thing was demented, and was a real horrorshow car-crash of a performance – but it was utterly compelling.

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Vonnis

Bismuth are compelling for all the right reasons, bashing out some monumental noise with drums and bass. By which I mean BASS. Arsequaking bass. Head-shredding bass. Immense bass drones that sound like Sunn O))) and Earth circa Earth 2. Simultaneously. Bass channelled through a pedal board the size of a cruise liner to the point it no longer sounds like bass. An age separates the trike of every chord, every explosive, punishing beat. Bismuth grind it out, low, slow and heavy, but with the full frequency spectrum: bass that sounds like a full band lineup with everything up to eleven, or even twelve.

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Bismuth

Tanya Byrne’s vocals range from a delicate and emotionally-charged melodic to full-blooded howl of pain: it’s all integral to Bismuth’s sound and intensity, and the set concludes with Tanya out in the audience, on her knees, shrieking and howling into a wall of feedback. It feels like the purest catharsis, and the entire room is on edge and close to breaking to bring down a devastating finish.

Whereas Bismuth’s sound is textured, detailed, and atmospheric, Moloch go all out for blunt force trauma. Lumbering riffage provides the backdrop to rasping guttural anguish. There’s something about the vocals, which register in the higher regions, and the way they contrast with the shuddering downtuned sludgefest. There’s also the complete lack of pretence or even any real kind of show involved.

“Hiya, we’re Moloch,” says Chris Braddock as he takes the mic. Cue a wail of feedback before everything crashes in and continues to grind away at a gut-churning crawl for the next forty punishing minutes.

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Moloch

With three guitars dominating the six-piece’s instrumentation, Thou have texture and density completely covered. And despite the fact they’ve been going some fourteen years with only two changes to the lineup, they still appear remarkably youthful. The ever-informative Encyclopaedia Metallum locates them in the bracket of ‘Sludge/Drone/Doom Metal’ and lists their lyrical themes as ‘Despair, Revolution, Societal collapse, Death.’ This does nothing to convey the intensity of their albums or the kind of performance they deliver – or, moreover, the nonchalance with which Bryan Funck – wild-eyed and grey-bearded – delivers his velociraptor vocal scream.

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Thou

It should be harrowing, hellish, but is precisely the opposite. To witness a band so finely-honed, channelling everything into a powerful and relentless piledriving assault is a beautiful and uplifting thing: elating, life-affirming. As they thunder through an immaculate set, I find I’m no longer in the room and everyone else has melted away. There is nothing but this moment, in which I find my mind is empty and I am floating, detached, wired into the music alone. Time stops and the sound becomes everything.

Christopher Nosnibor

This is a show I’d been looking forward to for weeks, even months. Arranged as a benefit gig for Mind and Shelter, Aural Aggro and personal faves Modern Technology have pulled together a truly killer lineup for their official hometown EP launch show.

So I arrived at The Victoria a full two hours before loading in and soundcheck was due to begin. Ordinarily I’d be positively crapping myself, a mess of perspiration and palpitations, but unusually, the only reason I’m sweating is because it’s bloody hot. But kicking back with my book in the beer garden outside The Victoria, I’m decidedly chilled.

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I get a message from Owen, Modern Tech’s drummer, asking if I want a pint since he’s arrived and getting a round in. Of course I do: I’m sweating them out faster than I can sink them, and I finally meet him and Chris in person after months of to-and-fro and co-producing a tabloid zine for tonight’s event, which I’ll soon see has tuned out brilliantly.

I walk in during Bruxa Maria’s soundcheck. The snare alone is punishing, and the full band’s run-through is devastating. This isn’t a venue that’s afraid to turn it up. It’s also a really nice space, too, something Owen and Chris comment on as we riff bout work, mental health, merch, and whatever else. The rest of us soundcheck. We’re all buzzing with anticipation. The sound is fucking incredible. And I realise I’m in a room with some of the nicest, most decent people you could find. No bullshit, no posing, just mutual respect and support.

Tim, aka Cementimental, and I take the floor – literally. We’re playing in front of the stage at 8:20. The plan really is as simple as ‘you do what you do, I’ll do what I do. I’ve got maybe 15-18 minutes of material including gaps, and I’ll drop the mic and walk off when I’m done.’ And we stick to the plan. It works better than I could have ever dreamed.

Nosnibor v Cementimental

Nosnibor vs Cementimental – photo by Phil Mackie

I’d been genuinely concerned about my ability to perform, wrestling with a cold that had affected my ability to speak for a full week. Friends had advised me not to perform, but I don’t ‘do’ defeat. I don’t know how long we played for, but I managed all six of the pieces I’d planned – ‘Thoughts for the Day’ / ‘News’ / ‘Ambition’ / ‘Punk’ / ‘Cheer Up… It Might Never Happen’ / ‘Alright’. Tim’s racket was punishing, and spanned broad sonic range, tapering down and going full nuclear with remarkable intuition. It was brutal, and it broke me. And we went down a storm: I was inundated with people – perfect strangers – enthusing about the set, how well it worked. They were all incredulous when I croaked, squeaked, or barked at them that we’d not even met properly, let alone rehearsed even once beforehand.

Lump Hammer – whose front man James I’ve has been sending me stuff from his label for review for a while, but who I’d also not met in person previously – are a different kind of punishing. With pounding drums, and guitar – churning, overloading with distortion – providing the music from the stage, James is in front of the stage with some kind of sacking over this head and eyes. He’s a tall guy with big presence and a lot of hair, and he howls impenetrable anguish into the churning aural abyss of dirgy downtuned grinds, some of which last an eternity. And yet for all the agony, the unremitting catharsis, there’s something immensely enjoyable in this kind of torture.

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Lump Hammer

Exploiting the limitations of a drum ‘n’ bass (no, not that kind) duo arrangement, Modern Technology focus heavily on the rhythmic and the low-end. It’s the perfect backdrop to Chris’ dramatic vocal style: there’s an arch-gothic hint to it, and it lends a sense of detachment and alienation to the heavyweight blasts of disaffection and desolation. Tonight’s show is the first of three of a mini-tour to officially launch their debut EP, and while on record they’re intense, live, they take it to another level. There’s nothing fancy, or even pretty about their performance. There’s no great showmanship, no empty chat between songs, just hard riffs played at hard volume.

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Modern Technology

Things are starting to catch up with be a bit during Bruxa Maria’s set: I get to witness it from the front row, next to the right-hand speaker stack, which is both an optimal spot and handy as my voice is so fucked I can barely speak. And Christ, they’re noisy and intense. The guitars are dirty and distorted, and they play fast and furious, a relentless frenzy of punk and no-wave that tears your ribs open and punches your intestines, laughing at the blood. Gill Dread may be diminutive but she’s one hell of a presence – just on the other side of deranged, her raw-throated scream goes right through you. If I was close to being finished before, I’m utterly spent by the time they bring their set to a roaring close.

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Bruxa Maria

People hang around afterwards to chat, and the merch stall does steady trade. I’m struck by the levels of enthusiasm and appreciation for all of the performers, and not only has the evening drawn a respectable turnout, but a bunch of really great people, the likes of whom collectively demonstrate that however bad sit gets, not everyone is bad shit.

We have more beer, and Owen finds a late-night wrap joint where I join him and the Lump Hammer guys for what I realise is my first proper meal of the day. It’s 3am when I finally hit the hay. Rock and fucking roll. Yeah!

Christopher Nosnibor

3pm on a Sunday afternoon may seem like an odd time for a noise gig, but one of the many great things about this rehearsal space that sometimes puts on live music is that being truly independent, it can do whatever the fuck it pleases. Noise aficionados tend to be undercatered for in general, and while it’s fair to say the Leeds scene is pretty healthy, even the most nocturnal of creatures have crawled out of the woodwork for this afternoon’s session of sonic torture. And being in the middle of an industrial estate, they don’t have to worry about the neighbours, meaning they can really crank it up at CHUNK.

The thing about a small scene is that you get to know or otherwise at least recognise people, and while we’re all misfits, we’re all misfits together, and the atmosphere – as promoted by the organiser, Theo, who incudes a ‘no bigots!’ stipulation on the poster – is inclusive, accommodating, and friendly. And we’ve all brought our own booze. I exchange dialogue with strangers and friends alike, and it’s incredibly relaxed. There’s a lot to be said for the fans of more extreme music – mostly that most of them are really decent people.

Duo Black Antlers are making their first appearance here and there’s no information to be found about them anywhere. Thunderous echoing beats and stray bleeps coalesce to form a dreamy but solid backdrop to emotive vocals buried in all the reverb ever. Some crisp electropop is massacred by wall of echo and murk which has an intensity when delivered at ear-shredding volume. Their singer is given to performing some form of interpretive dance when she’s not pacing and singing, and has a strong yet understated presence. It’s a stunning debut, and the warm reception is well-deserved.

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Black Antlers

Long, spacey tones, rapid bleeps and blistering noise, paired with slow bass beats and explosive sampled snare cracks dominate a dizzying, disorientating wall of digital noise that flies off in all directions. This is Early Hominids. They know all the most brutal, pain-inducing frequencies, with blistering treble and squalling feedback howling from the speakers. Bleeps, blips, twitters, wow and flutter are crushed into an excruciating wall of distortion for what feels like a torturous eternity. They endlessly dick about with swapping bits of kit and moving wires, and while this isn’t a conventional ‘rock’ performance, there is an element of deconstructed performance to something like this.

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Early Hominids

My notes become shorter as the afternoon progresses: partly because I hadn’t really considered that 7% Polish lager on an afternoon might have quite an effect, but moreover, because it becomes increasingly difficult to consider note-taking when you’ve got brutal noise blasting in your face and you’re so immersed in the experience that documenting it seems vaguely futile. Because as a fan, it’s about being present, feeling it. Process and assimilate later – if at all. And this is something you feel even more than you hear, where sound takes on a physicality.

Glasgow’s Stable serves up looping echoes, woozy synths and relentlessly thudding uptempo beats… Hints of Suicide, only nastier glitchier, treblier performed by a guy with a mask with two faces… Slightly disturbing… Harsh. Noise. Stop / Start. Brutal. Unintelligible vocals.

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Stable

Headliners PURPURA are not so harsh, but definitely crank out a noise wall. It’s punishing, and it hurts. Burrs of blistering treble break through the speaker-breaking noise.

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PURPURA

It feels far later than the hour, and my brain and ears feel they’ve been thoroughly assaulted when I leave. And it’s been great: if ever a lineup reflected the diversity of the brad umbrella of ‘noise’, while hosting a show in a great space with a great vibe, it’s this.

Christopher Nosnibor

The Ocean certainly don’t do things by halves. The progressive metal act aren’t afraid to go large, delving wide and deep into major concepts, producing music with a sound to match. The band’s website explains ‘The Phanerozoic eon succeeded the Precambrian supereon, spanning a 500 million-year period leading to the present day, and it has witnessed the evolution and diversification of plant and animal life on Earth, and the partial destruction of it during 5 mass extinction events. Conceptually and musically, The Ocean’s Phanerozoic is the missing link between the albums Precambrian and Heliocentric / Anthropocentric.

Only, they do sometimes do things by halves: their most recent album, Phanerozoic I: Palaeozoic released in November is half of a two-album project that evolved and gestated during the five years spent touring Pelagial.

One suspects the current set of dates for the Phanerozoic tour won’t be the last, especially not with the second phanerozoic album due for release later this year or sometime next.

For all that, I’m actually here to see Herod, having been sold on the gut-churning abrasion of Sombre Dessein, released last month. The inclusion of the Swedish metallers makes much sense in context, given that the album explores the idea of ‘the end of our Judaeo-Christian and thermo-industrial civilisation’. What’s more, vocalist / guitarist Mike Pelat was a member of The Ocean Collective between 2007 and 2009, so there’s almost a sense of community reunion here, which is reinforced when current Ocean singer Loïc Rossetti joins them to complete the carnage at the end of the set – and it’s a strong set, which doesn’t disappoint.

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Herod

With dark, heavy atmospherics emerging from the darkness, they pile in with the first series of crushing power chords as the lights – minimal, blood-red – flare up to illuminate the band. They’ve got three guitars, and about 25 strings between them, which makes for a full, dense sound that brings a fully-weighted assault.

In contrast, with standard guitars, Downfall of Gaia sound a little thin at first, but once the ears have adjusted to the relentless blast of overdrive, they erase any trace of lesserdom. Having entered the stage to a low churning emanating from the PA, they play hard and fast, with the three-way alternating vocals providing texture and a constantly-shifting focus in terms of attention, there’s a lot going on. Frequent changes of tempo and blistering volume interspersed with ambient interludes and subtle piano passages make for a gripping set that’s something special.

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Downfall of Gaia

The Ocean’s legendary lightshow is truly something to behold, and in the intimate setting of The Brudenell, it’s blinding at times. again, they build the atmosphere for a grand entrance: smoke…. Minimal lighting…. A sound that sees Tubular Bells melting into ambience before a booming bass note sounds out and the band filter on stage to appreciative applause – which they repay with epic chords on a grand scale.

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The Ocean

It’s easy to understand the appeal and the reason why fans aren’t only singing along but constantly reaching out to shake hands with the band: their set is varied, textured, expansive, ranging from the deeply proggy, to the gnarly: it’s palatable but powerful and packs no shortage of abrasion, offset with moments of breathtaking grace. And while Loïc Rossetti has possibly the most flexible neck in metal, and displays a most affable demeanour he still plays with aggression and edge. It’s a perfect balance.

Christopher Nosnibor

“Are you a journalist?”

I nod. I don’t like talking when a band is playing. I don’t like other people talking when a band is playing, so why would I do it? It’s rude. And I’m there to watch the band. And so I don’t explain that no, I don’t consider myself to be a journalist or a music journalist, but a writer who happens to write about music often.

She’s already asked me what I’m doing and tried to get a look at my notes – a spidery scrawl barely legible to myself, to which I’d responded by wordlessly waving my A7 pad at her.

Some people just don’t get hints.

Following on from opening acts Steve Hadfield, who’ delivered a set of proficient but slightly static electronica and Dean McPhee, who performed some ethereal, atmospheric guitar instrumentals with the assistance of a bank of pedals that almost filled the venue’s small stage, worriedaboutsatan built their set nicely. One of their trademarks is intelligent structure, and while they’ve woven segments of their latest album’s more delicate parts into their set, they swiftly transitioned from drifting ambience through subtle rhythmic pulsations to propulsive beats, all the while conjuring rich layers of atmosphere. Gavin Miller’s guitar sounds even less guitar-like than ever, as he conjures rippling waves of sonic abstraction from six strings.

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Steve Hadfield

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Dean McPhee

It’s been a long and taxing day, and I’ve consumed more beer than intended, than is wise, I’m switching between tenses, and I’m trying to decipher the narrative of the film projected at the back of the stage. It’s intercut with various black-and-white footage that conveys nothing in itself, but is evocative in its bleakness, and there are flickering light segments, too: beyond this, they play in darkness, visible only in silhouette. Their stage show hasn’t changed dramatically in recent years, but it’s visually striking and effective, and places the immersive music to the fore.

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worriedaboutsatan

Then, halfway through, a couple of women appear at the front and get down to some mum-dancing: fair play, but they don’t need to be exchanging comments about it. I have my earplugs in and am in the zone, perhaps more even than usual in my state of inebriation. It’s the short, chubby one who starts nebbing at my pad – not that I’d have been any happier had t been her taller, slimmer friend.

“Who do you write for?” she shouts in my ear. It’s a shame earplugs only reduce volume and cut top-end rather than muting irritants.

“Me.” I want to tell her to fuck off, but even seven pints in, I’m mindful of manners.

This throws her but she seems to think it’s cool, and she asks yet more questions, and then she starts going on about how she’s worried about my eyesight, writing in the dark and all. I appreciate the concern, but my liver and blood pressure and anxiety are probably more of an issue than my eyes, and besides, I’m wearing tinted glasses at a gig, and if perfect strangers feel the need to worry about anything, I’d say climate change, Brexit, the stranglehold of capitalism, and the simple fact we’re all doomed are more worthy of that worry. Ok, so I don’t appreciate her concern one bit.

Eventually, she leaves me in peace and I’m able to watch the guys bring their set to a triumphant climax to an appreciative response from a home crowd. And deservedly so: the fact they don’t tour often, and when they do, they’re reliably solid, consistently engaging and dynamic in both set formation and performance, and perform with such incredible energy, makes an intimate show like this all the more special.

Christopher Nosnibor

Scheduled headliners Ming City Rockers have had to pull out due to a bout of laryngitis. I’m distraught, as I’d been itching to see them again. Thankfully, with Filthy Filthy – a band so filthy they had to name themselves twice – stepping up to fill the slot, we were treated to an alternative choice of middling band with an overreaching sense of self-worth. You can’t please all of the people…

Having headlined the venue not so long back, Weekend Recovery’s first trip to York of 2019 finds them in the strange place of propping up the bill on the night their new single is scheduled to be payed on Kerrang! Radio, after an airing on Radio X the night before. Yes, it really is all happening for the Leeds four-piece right now. And, over the last 18 months, the AA staples have evolved on a massive scale, and they’ve emerged as one of the most solidly consistent live acts around.

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Weekend Recovery

Tonight, they don’t seem to be quite firing on all cylinders, at least to begin with, and back-catalogue single  ‘Don’t Try and Stop Me’ strikes as an unusual choice of opener, but things definitely pick up as the set progresses. Lori is jogging and lunging by the time they power into the grungey thrashabout ‘Why Don’t You Stay?’ and the guitars start sounding denser and meatier. They wrap up with new single ‘Bite Your Tongue’ and it’s not hard to glean why it’s been piquing radio interest: it’s got mass appeal, but rest assured, it’s not R1.

I’ll admit it: I don’t feel entirely comfortable here. After the whole Dream Nails shitstorm, I’m often self-conscious of being a straight white male in his 40s at the front of the stage taking notes and snaps of female-fronted bands. I’m by no means the only one tonight for either Weekend Recovery or Leeds foursome Purple Thread who’ve stepped in as last-minute additions to the bill.

Liz Mann owns the stage from the second she walks on, busting moves every which way, and leads the band through a tight set of what they call ‘funky punky glitter-drenched rock n’roll’ on their Facebook page, and which to my ears combines elements of classic 70s rock with sassy poppy punk in the vein of Blondie. And yes, there is a bit of a funk groove woven into their guitar-led workouts, but it’s so well executed, I’ll let it pass: they’re so confident and comfortable with what they do, melding the vintage vibe with a contemporary attitude, and they really do work hard. The one minor detraction s that the sound is a bit muffled and lacking in definition, although I gather they didn’t get much, if any, soundchecking in, which means credit is due to both band and sound man for pulling it together. There’s a gutsy swagger to closer ‘Back to New York City’ that says they’re a band well worth seeing again.

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Purple Thread

Filthy Filthy trade in old-school punk: four middle-aged dudes cranking out thudding four-chord riffs with enthusiasm, if not always an equal level of technical proficiency, and that’s fine: it’s punk in the well-worn style of Sham 69 at al, and it’s very one tempo, one attitude, one song. It has its place, but we’re in the territory of punk that’s essentially pub rock with attitude and the amps up, and it’s hard to get excited about it in 2019.

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Filthy Filthy

Still, it’s serviceable, and besides, two outta three ain’t bad.

Christopher Nosnibor

It may only be nine minutes on foot from the station according to Google Maps, but despite having probably been maybe twenty or even thirty times, I still find myself struggling to find it, even with GPS assistance. I have no idea why: it’s like I have some kind of mental block, or the venue has some kind of cloaking device that blocks my internal geographical radar. And so I’m disproportionately pleased when I find myself within yards of the venue without taking a single wrong turn. And then I remember the bar doesn’t take cars, and despite having intended to get cash at York station, then Leeds station, then en route, I’ve sailed past all of the cashpoints and only have about four quid on me. Even with beer at £2.80 a pint, I might be a bit thirsty at the end of the night.

I still make it back, with cash, before doors, and they’re not quite done soundchecking. The fact I’m considering plugging up just for the soundcheck brings a small buzz of anticipation: we’re here for some hefty riffage, and it’s best experienced at an appropriate volume. If it doesn’t hurt, it’s not loud enough.

Leeds drums and bass duo Calm are an interesting proposition on paper, consisting of John Sutcliffe from Canvas, Humanfly, Kings, Natterers, and Paul Handley from The Plight, Kings and Ladies Night. In the flesh they’re interesting, too: at the opening, oscillating sequenced synth lines bubble along beneath woozy bass before the distortion crashes I like a tidal wave of sludge. The drums are more energetic than the low-BPM grind of the chords. Structurally, the compositions are segmented and almost sound like three or four pieces glued together, but the transitions make for a set that holds the attention well, and as Sutcliffe, on drums, intones mystical droning incantations into a sea of reverb against a wall of low-end that sends vibrations through my steel-toed boots, the experience takes on an almost spiritual quality.

Calm

Calm

A Headless Horse bring a much more sedate atmosphere with mellow female vocals and delicately layered, meticulously structured songs. Their songs are keenly focused on texture and melody. In contrast to Calm and the rest of the lineup, there’s significantly less weight, and less emphasis on volume overall: that isn’t to say they’re quiet, but when they bring in the riffs, they’re not obliterative, but simply denser. Comparisons aren’t everything, but The Cure and Cranes provide fair touchstones here, and Headless Horse demonstrate that they’re capable of delivering mathy post-rock with emotional resonance. Given that this is only their second outing, they show a lot of promise.

A Headless Horse

A Headless Horse

There’s a proliferation of beards tonight, and Dystopian Future Movies are very much a beard band (singer / guitarist Catherine Cawley clearly excepted). They’re also a very much an atmospheric band, and a band who exploit the dynamics of volume to optimal effect, as abundantly demonstrated by the choppy stop/start lumbering riff of ‘Dulled Guilt’ which opens the set powerfully. Their description of themselves as ‘taking a Sonic Youth approach but arriving at some dark place between Neurosis and Chelsea Wolfe’ is pretty accurate, and they pull the listener in with slow-burning ethereality that yields to punishing riffery, without at any time falling into the trap of formula.

Dystopian Futuere Movies

Dystopian Future Movies

This four-date joint tour sees DFM and Grave Lines unveil a collaborative / split EP, and they’re joined on stage by Jake Harding for a killer rendition of ‘Beholden, which begins a brooding whisper, almost folky in feel, before erupting into thunderous power chords The vocal duet is magnificent: the two singers intertwine with Hardin’s baritone croon underpinning Cawley’s graceful, evocatively gothic intonation to conclude a mesmerising set.

Grave Lines stand out as being very much different from their peers by virtue of the exploration of extended quiet passages that are as much dark folk as post-anything, while exploiting tropes commonly associated with post-rock. This imbues the songs with a palpable emotional depth, and when they crash in with the u-to-eleven distortion, it hits hard.

With ragged hair and beard, wrists and shoes wrapped in grubby shreds of bandage, and a dingy off-white vest, Jake Harding cuts a dramatic and tortured figure as he spews anguish and nihilistic fury, his body tense and wracked, over low, slow sludginess; then again, guitarist Oli, with Alan More hair and beard and sporting a torso so tatood as to appear to be wearing a heavily patterned shirt brings a stoic intensity that’s in stark contrast to the laid-back drumming of Julia Owen, who has an airy style of playing that belies the force with which she delivers stick on skin.

Grave Lines 2Grave Lines

Grave Lines

And yet it’s when Harding ceases words and spits a guttural ‘urrggh’ that most succinctly articulates all the pain and frustration the band channels.

Caroline from Dystopian Future Movies returns the favour of providing additional vocals on Grave Lines’ contribution to the new EP, the epic ‘False Flame’, and they take things right down for the penultimate track of a remarkably concise – but suitably hard-hitting – set with the minimal ‘Loathe / Disgrace’, pairing a droning organ sound which quavers against a vulnerable, melancholic vocal performance.

My notes blur to nothing as the band drive the set home with crushing force with ‘The Greave’. And in this high-volume release lies the uplifting joy of catharsis.

Christopher Nosnibor

Casting an eye back to my reviews from last year, I discovered that it took me until 14th January to lug my carcass to see any live bands, and that was just up the road to see some friends play. Well, it’s friends playing that has forced me out of my hole for my first gig of 2019, too. For this, I’m grateful to the Wharf Street Galaxy guys: I don’t fare so well at this time of year, and the urge to hibernate all too often overwhelms the will to socialise.

After the hike from the station to Hyde Park Book Club, I’m pleased to find them near the bar sipping soft drinks and coffee, although I’m ready for beer and the Northern Monk Heathen IPA (purchased before realising it registers an ABV of 4.2%) does the job nicely as we riffed about various methods of making coffee and matters of male grooming – rock ‘n’ roll over 40s style.

Tonight’s show is the 50th birthday celebration of Neil Gumbley, guitarist in the first band on the bill: apparently, he’s not keen on birthday celebrations, but is keen on gigs, so decided to put one on with bands he likes.

The scrappy, scant nature of my notes is less as a result of the beer, but more as a result of being too busy enjoying the bands and conversations in between acts, although Vat-Egg Imposition make enough of an impact to not really require any notes to jog the memory. Musically, they’re all about the Fall-like repetitions, which is cool, but nowhere near as striking as seeing a bloke dressed as an egg and lofting a yellow carrier bag. It transpires the bag contains packets of crisps, which are distributed to the audience before they perform ‘I Bought You Crisps’, a tale of everyday heartbreak that’s both sad and funny. For entertainment, they’re top-notch, and I might even say egg-shellent.

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The Vat-Egg Imposition

Wind-Up Birds aren’t bad either. I’m understating here. Choppy post-punk guitars and a stonking rhythm section propelled by some tight, crisp drumming define the sound. Somewhere between The Fall and The Wedding Present, they do ranty, political, etc. You get the idea. They’re bloody good at it, too. And the theme for the evening is pretty much set solid.

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The Wind-Up Birds

‘Fuck me,’ my spidery scribble says. ‘There are people here in WSGB T-shirts!’ And they’re not members of the band! This is likely to be the band’s last show for a while, given that D. Procter (Message) is heading off to Scandinavia for PhD-related pursuits for 8 months very soon, although with more related projects than even they can count, the other members won’t exactly be twiddling their thumbs in his absence. And as a final show before their hiatus, it’s a stormer: yes, they’re on fine form. ‘Freedom to Comply’ (which pursues the theme of totalitarian conformity under the auspices of free capitalism and as such stands as a complimentary counterpart to ‘Organised Freedom is Compulsory’ from the first EP) is hammered out over a single chord augmented with strains of sculpted feedback, and the low-down, sleaze-funk of ‘Sex Master’ is delivered with audacious panache. I struggle to contain my mirth, and I’m laughing with rather than at them: this is a band that gets the ironic juxtaposition of middle-aged men in red boiler-suits doing pseudo-slinky.

Yes, ‘Hector and Harangue’ always gives me cause to smirk a little, the title and lyric lifted from an early review of mine, and it provides a well-placed change of tempo and tone with its faster pace and shouty, hooky chorus. No, they’re not so big on choruses.

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The Wharf Street Galaxy Band

There may be something of a dearth of puffins in tonight’s set, but ‘Ritual something-or-other’ (I can’t decipher my own handwriting or trust my own ears – it turns out to have been ‘Transgalaxial Time Travel (Slight Puffin Return’) boasts thumping tribal beats and a scratchy guitar reminiscent of The Fall on ‘Muzorewi’s Daughter’, and Procter finally melts into hollering harassment against Ash’s (Throb) slow-drip bass groove. And they play their slinky cover of ‘Warm Leatherette’, too.

On the journey back to York, WSGB’s John (Visual Balance) gives me a proper introduction to early OMD, whose work I’d never explored based on my lack of enthusiasm for ‘Enola Gay’. I offer some pointers for 90s Depeche Mode albums and probably talk a lot of bllocks because I’ve had three 440ml cans of Heathen, but it’s all good and I’ve never been more pleased to have forced myself out of the house instead of wallowing in the winter blues. Winter motorik grooves is definitely the way to go.