Posts Tagged ‘RSJ’

Christopher Nosnibor

I’m struggling here. I know that people standing texting, Facebooking, taking selfies and shooting videos while dancing is immensely irritating for a band. It’s immensely irritating for other people in the audience, too. But I’m struggling to think of a scenario when it would ever be acceptable to harangue a woman in the front row with the line ‘get off your fucking phone, bitch!’. Or, indeed, to interrupt a lengthy and rousing right-on speech about inclusivity, about how it’s ‘bullshit’ to hate someone for being black or gay, etc., with ‘get your fucking hands in the air, bitches!’ (followed by a head-shaking ‘Shit, women!’). I’ll let that sit for a moment because I’m here for the supports, Raging Speedhorn and local monsters of noise, RSJ.

Arriving at 7:35 for a show with an advertised door time of 7:30, I’m a little surprised to find the place heaving and RSJ half-way through their thunderous set. But I’m able to worm my way to the front as they piledrive their way to the set’s climax, ‘Play it Again, Sam’. Look up ‘intensity’ in the dictionary, and you’ll probably find a picture of RSJ playing live.



Things have been a bit unsettled in camp Speedhorn recently, with Frank Reagan being forced to sit the tour out on doctors’ orders. And so RSJ’s Dan Cook is filling in, and despite playing back to back sets, his energy – and intensity – is unwavering. Cook looks comfortable and the dynamic between the two vocalists is on-point as they go all-out on the confrontation (and occasional off-the-cuff banter) which is integral to their shows. Building the tension by drenching the venue in howling, humming feedback, they erupt onto the stage, John Loughlin opening a bottle of beer with his teeth and spitting the cap to the floor before the band assume their places to commence the set with the customary menacing stare-out.


Raging Speedhorn

These guys are good: they never fail to build their sets to a point of total frenzy. Slam-dancing breaks out during the second song, ‘Bring Out Your Dead’, but the band goad, harangue, hassle and coerce the audience, with both encouragement and abuse, and it works: the crowd get closer in, and they get moving. ‘Motörhead’ is utterly ball-busting, and Cooke’s menacing presence and lighting-rig climbing antics make for one hell of a show. By the end of their too-short set it’s mayhem.


Raging Speedhorn

While they’re setting the stage for Skindred, the rammed crowd are getting down to Red Hot Chilli Peppers blaring from the PA. I’ve always detested them, and the funk groove of ‘Suck My Kiss’ epitomises everything I loathe about them. I’m no purist, but some crossovers simply aren’t meant to be, which is primarily the reason I’ve spent the entirety of Skindred’s career avoiding them. The Queen singalong orchestrated by some bozo near the front is beyond embarrassing: isn’t this supposed to be a metal gig? Queen aren’t even rock.

But Skindred’s Benji Webbe harps on endlessly about ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ during their set, which is every bit as vibrant as their reputation would suggest. However – and please, (s)top me if you think that you’ve heard this one before – if Brexit and the advent of Trump (and the success of Oasis, for that matter) tell us anything, it’s that popularity is no measure of artistic merit. The crowd lap it up. No, more than that: they go absolutely fucking ballistic.

I get the deal of being ‘in the moment’ at a live performance. It’s why I live for live music. Even when reviewing, I will, often, forget to take any notes and will return with only a handful of photos because I’ve been enjoying the music, the performance, the atmosphere, soaking it all up and immersing myself in the show from the same perspective as everyone else. I may be a music writer, or critic, but I’m a fan first and foremost. Skindred, I witnessed as a detached spectator. I simply could not get into the moment.



The union jack pegged to the mic stand set me on edge for a start. In the current climate, it’s a divisive symbol. For a band fronted by a big black guy to flout, it’s clearly intended as a signifier or unity and collectivism, of being black and British, but even so. There’s a certain incongruity there, just as there’s an incongruity in a Welsh metal band fronted by a guy sporting a pair of sequinned hammer pants. The trouble is, it’s neither challenging nor funny. It’s therefore not funny when Webbe plays the race card, taunting the audience – being a packed-out crowd who’ve paid £20 to see his band – with ‘black guy on stage… what’s he saying? I don’t understand what he’s saying’. I would say it was insulting and patronising the audience’s intelligence, but they’re all in the moment and aren’t taking a critical stance on this. It’s banter, innit?

Musically, from a detached, distant, and critical perspective, it’s a fucking mess. Based around a metal / reggae crossover more heinous than the funk / metal hell of RHCP, Skindred also drag in elements of hardcore punk, dancehall, jungle, ska, hip hop, drum and bass, dubstep, and they do so clumsily, their sub-RATM stylings, and with endless calls of ‘C’mon! C’mon!’ all ripped into some horrible stew which simmers the bones of House of Pain, Shaggy, and Funkadelic into a stinking, foamy broth.

Amidst the sea of ubiquitous metaller beards, the ratio of XY to XX chromosome is uncommonly high. But this makes the beaming grins and the willingness of the female segment of the audience to buy into and participate in the band’s crudely-executed agenda, laced with sexism and misogyny, all the more perplexing. Sure, the Newport Helicopter – a ritual which entails the majority of the audience, regardless of sex, removing their t-shirts and rotating them above their heads, regardless of the danger to those around them – is pitched as symbolic of unity and empowerment. But when you’ve got Webbe up there yelling ‘get them titties bouncing!’ and so forth, it sounds more like a guy playing the rock star and getting his rocks off by exploiting the crowd than a true moment of collective liberation. And, in context of everything else, it’s deeply unplasant.

RSJ and Raging Speedhorn were ace, though.


Christopher Nosnibor

What began life earlier in the year as one man’s seemingly crazy idea to organise a festival showcasing York-based bands, tentatively mooted on Facebook to see if there was any interest gained traction pretty swiftly, and a few short months later here we are: 18 bands across two stages. And not only is it a killer lineup, but it’s free. So while I fully intended taking the day off just to soak it all up, socialise, drink beer and watch bands, I figured that since Dan Gott and some of his mates put in so much work to make it happen, then the least I could do was record the occasion.

With bands alternating between the indoor stage and the second stage in the car park from 1.30 to gone 11 (with a civilised break for dinner), it wasn’t an event to race round and pack ‘em in as much as going with the flow, meaning that while I didn’t watch all of the bands on the bill and took some well-earned time out to kick back on the beach (yes, this summer a portion of the car park has been converted to an urban beach of golden sand) or on the grass in the beer garden, I got to see, and hear, plenty.

Anyone who complains that York doesn’t have much to offer, or that it lacks diversity isn’t getting out enough: with only a smattering of indie bands and even fewer acoustic performers, the quality and range of acts on the bill is impressive by any standards. And while it’s about the ‘local’ scene, many of the bands playing are making – or already have made – an impression in much wider circles, building audiences nationally. York may be a small city, but when it comes to its bands, parochial it ain’t.

It wouldn’t be a York event without Boss Caine, and Dan Lucas’ solo set gets the afternoon session going in glorious sunshine on the outside stage. In fact, it’s the perfect way to start a festival: there’s barely a breath of wind, it’s baking hot, but there’s plenty of cool beer served well (the Milestone Brian Clough was nice and refreshing, but it eventually ran out, forcing a shift to the Sunny Republic Shark Head Friesian Pilsener, which was superbly crisp and hoppy), and the sound is excellent.

With each act having a 20-minute slot, no-one outstays their welcome and everything runs smoothly, even giving ten minutes between acts to get to the bar and all the rest. It’s fair to say there wasn’t a duff act on the bill, but noise-rock duo Push provided an early highlight. Fusing choppy guitars with the dynamics of Nirvana and kicking out songs with titles like ‘Kitty Basher’ and ‘Moggy Wrecker’ with maximum scuzz, they’re anything but wet indie and make for an exhilarating experience. Putting on the full-throttle raging racket of Deathmace at four in the afternoon was a bold move, and ultimately a stroke of genius. The purveyors of ‘repulsive thrashing death’ are fully committed as they growl and grind their way through a set that’s a relentless onslaught of rage and monumentally heavy. Just the way it should be.



How I’ve managed to avoid Fat Spatula this long will forever remain a mystery, but hearing the hard-gigging alt-rock foursome leaves me confident I’ll be back for more, and soon. Having a genuine American-born frontman gives their Pavementy post-hardcore / noise pop / surf rock an air of authenticity. The scratchy guitar sound may be lo-fi but it’s eminently listenable and there are some strong melodies that provide earworms galore.

Soma Crew, meanwhile, I’ve seen a heap of times and it’s no secret that I dig their scene. On a good night, their psychedelic drone hits a perfect groove to hypnotic effect, and on this outing they really hit their stride.


Soma Crew

After the break, Naked Six provided another of the day’s highlights. Again, a band who’ve bypassed me on the live circuit up to now, it’s not hard to grasp why there’s a buzz about them right now. They’re a classic power trio with a sound that’s rooted in that classic vintage, steeped in blues rock and with a big Zeppelin vibe and delivered with incredible panache. Making inroads into London and with backing from BBC Introducing, they’re a band on the up.

Naked Six

Naked Six

The last three acts on the bill have all been building reputations further afield and as a killer bam-bam-bam three-way finale, it works well: the power-punk of The Franceens gets things moving down at the front. As is standard for them, they’re on fire and their blistering energy turns the already hot room into a sauna.

The Franceens

The Franceens

It may be their second set of the day having pegged it back to York after playing at Hull’s Street Sesh festival earlier in the evening, but if they’re in any way weary, it doesn’t show. Martyn Fillingham plays the first half of the set, which boasts a cluch of new songs, with a guitar that could reasonably be described as ‘stripped back’: the body’s sawn down to minimal size, with just enough wood to house the essentials, namely the pickups, wiring and controls. It still yields a barrage of noise, it’s treblesome clang pinned down by Steven Reid’s superhuman drumming.

And the Hangnails

…And the Hangnails

And then there’s ((RSJ)). They may not be your everyday family-friendly festival crowd-pleasers, but the this isn’t your everyday festival, even though it’s been very family friendly all day: there’s no doubt they’re the biggest band on the bill, and have the biggest sound o match. That they’ve toured and played with Raging Speedhorn, Orange Goblin, Funeral For A Friend and American Headcharge, and opened for Slayer gives a fair indication of their stature, and to see them in a place this size is something else. Current single ‘Hit the Road Jack’ features John Loughlin of Raging Speedhorn (making it a kind of RSJ / RSH collaboration), and it’s suitably punishing. When it comes to delivering thunderous, sludgy riffs that hit like a juggernaut, ((RSJ)) are absolute masters. They’re also consummate showmen, and the in-yer-face delivery really amplifies the intensity of the material. There’s been much beer drunk and the floor is awash with at least half a gallon, and the moshpit erupts, but remained good-natured. It’s only fitting that toward the end of the set, Dan Cooke should be borne aloft and traverse mere inches below the venue’s low ceiling: because while everyone is melting, they’re also loving every moment, and it’s an uplifting experience indeed.



In all, a great day / night, not just as of and in itself, but also in terms of what it represents: a casting aside of all genre differences and a coming together of bands and fans. There is strength in unity, and in diversity, and Fully York is a triumphant celebration, which reminds us that ultimately there are only two kinds of music – good and bad. And at Fully York, it’s all good.