Posts Tagged ‘On the Ropes’

Christopher Nosnibor

I keep seeing articles, usually shared on social media, about the plight of the small venue, how they’re struggling and their numbers diminishing at an alarming rate. Often, the emphasis is on how little venues are the lifeblood of the music industry, and without them, the industry would die, seeing as pretty much any artist starting out cuts their teeth in such places. I would also note another vital role played by small venues: they’re not all about the industry, or nurturing the talents of the next big thing, but cater to those who crave alternatives. Niche audiences collectively make up as great a proportion of the music-consuming, gig-going public as the more mainstream section.

I’ve just watched a beefy guy with a ruddy face and sweat pouring off him, screaming his lungs out while wearing only boxers and a pair of DMs. You’re never going to get that at an O2 Academy. But there’s undeniably a place, and an audience, for it. Yes, Manscreams make for an exhilarating and exhausting start to an evening – with free entry – that boasts a typically loud and varied lineup as curated by Soundsphere’s Dom Smith.

Their name describes their brand of grunged-up hardcore punk pretty much perfectly. And if the overtly masculine trio’s abrasive racket is superficially an excuse to air some testosterone, with Jon Donnelly’s performance making occasional nods to Henry Rollins, closer inspection reveals that for all the aggression, this is the tortured ventings of impotent rage. Exchanging words with a couple of the band afterwards, as Jon, dressed once more, retrieved his glasses and phone from his rucksack only confirms this: they’re pretty meek, ordinary guys for whom the music is their outlet, and their way of dealing with the fucked up shit that is life.

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Manscreams

Apparition showcase a fucked-up, massively overchorused guitar sound that’s straight out of 1984. We’re tripping onto obscure territory here, with the band landing somewhere between early Danse Society and Murder the Disturbed, and the songs are complex in structure, with accelerations, decelerations and tempo changes here, there and everywhere. They’re a barrage of treble, with two guitars, drums, synth and no bass, and assail the crowd with an analogue primitivism and angular aggression propelled by some thunderous drumming that’s centred around heavy use of toms and rapidfire snare work. There’s rough edges and even rough centres, and the singer is yet to fully master mic stand control, but this all adds to the charm and the sense of period authenticity, and I’m certainly not the only one in the room who’s totally sold on their style.

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Apparition

In many ways, there’s not a lot to say about PUSH: the full-throttle screamo punk duo (are they brothers? Twins) are on the attack from the first bar, thrashing out a fast-paced and frantic set. With elements to That Fucking Tank and No Age pushed to the fore and cranked up to eleven, if Pulled Apart by Horses had been a duo, they’d have probably emerged sounding like this. It’s all over in a loud, shouty blur.

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PUSH

Newmeds have totally nailed what they do. I had fairy low expectations given their presentation, mostly shiny new tats and black hoodies, but straight out of the traps, they’re a raging guitar-driven hurricane. Their stab at audience participation and encouragement to clap notwithstanding, their calls to move forward are met positively, enabling their front man to engage in some crowd surfing – which, given the height of the stage and the ceiling, and the size of the crowd, was no mean feat. But they emanate real energy and play with relentless power, and watching them rev up a small crowd like it was an arena show, it isn’t hard to see the potential. Maybe there’s something for the industry after all.

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Newmeds

The same is true of On The Ropes. I’ve known Jonny Gill for years, and seen him perform solo acoustic countless times, but never before with his band, On the Ropes. ‘I just run around a lot,’ Jonny told me before the show, and it’s a fair summary of his stage performance, most of which happens in front of the low stage.

I’ve been pretty venomous in my critiques of punk-pop acts over the years, and I won’t deny that OTR could easily be just another vaguely emotastic guitars and whines band. I also won’t deny that with the right PR, they’d be all over Kerrang! Radio in an instant. Whether or not it’s my bag shouldn’t detract from the fact they’re a cracking live act with some corking tunes. But more than that, being a cracking live act, I find myself completely drawn to them in the moment. Gill is a blur, and isn’t still for a second. It’s the energy, the sincerity, the emotional honesty, and the massive bass drive, and the way these elements come together to create a positive rush.

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On the Ropes

There’s much hugging and handshaking afterwards, and as much as I’m not a hugger or a handshaker or a fan of the kind of music played by Kerrang! the vibe is the key. we’re all here because we’re misfits together, and we’re all passionate about music, regardless of genre, regardless of, well, anything. This is the way it’s meant to be. Five bands for no money and beer at £3.60 a pint. It doesn’t get better.

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