Posts Tagged ‘Santiago’s’

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

Tonight’s bill represents a Sheffield invasion of Leeds, with four noisy bands packed in back-to-back. And they may only be from across a county border, but it’s apparent these guys aren’t from around these parts (and I say that as someone who’s ventured from North Yorkshire, where things are different again). I mean, since when did thick silver neck chains become a thing? There’s a proliferation of them on stage tonight.

It’s a small stage and a small venue, and a four-band lineup means it feels busy even before any punters turn up, and it’s one of those sweaty, drinking-like-it’s Saturday night intimate gigs that has something of a party vibe the moment you walk in, and it’s made all the better by a sound man who isn’t afraid to crank it up.

Spaff are on first, and their name certainly sets the bar low in terms of expectation. And visually… The singer’s questionable choice of office trousers and wifebeater vest (and seemingly obligatory chain) is paired with an iffy haircut. But the trio prove they’re not a load of wank, slugging hard and sound infinitely better than they look. Slamming down driving grunge riffs, they get properly heavy in places, while in others they’re more overtly punk. They showcase some particularly impressive drumming, with facial expressions to match, playing every beat with his mouth and manic eyes. There’s some innovative stuff going on with the arrangements, too, where the groovesome bass sometimes doubles as guitar, and it’s a solid sound. The last song is by far the best, with a genuine hook.

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Spaff

Apparently making their ‘technical’ debut after a number of previous debuts, Sickboy show off more questionable style, although it’s probably not intentionally an homage to Trainspotting: the drummer appears to be wearing scrubs while the bleach – haired guitarist has a knitted tank-top-cum-waistcoat, but again, musically they’re gutsy and loud, and they sound immense, with gritty guitars to the fore. The stage is a bit tight for four of them, so the singer spends much of the set in front. He prowls, hunched, menacing but awkward, anguished. There is a kinda 90s vibe with occasional hints of rap/rock crossover, and throughout they’re channelling a lot of angst, and in places sound a fair bit like Filter.

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Sickboy

Caesar Did It have one hell of a lot of effects and incorporate sequencers into their thick, post-grunge sound. It’s so dense, but also melodic, even a shade Alice in Chains or Soundgarden. Going slower, heavier, they venture into stoner rock territory, driven by some hard-hitting, expressive drumming. The guitarist has a short-sleeved t-shirt over a long-sleeved t-shirt that’s pure 90s, and has a chunky silver chain. He and bassist Kane share vocal duties to create a sound that nicely balances layers and thick, dirty overdrive.

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Caesar Did It

Another gig, another lineup as Weekend Recovery continue their heavy live schedule in promotion of their new EP ‘No Guts, All the Glory’. Lori’s gone for some permutation of the superhero outfit, only it’s her bra rather than her underpants on the outside. I’m not sure it’ll take off, but stranger things have happened. The band’s true superhero tonight is stand—in drummer Elaina from Caesar Did It, filling in for Dan (not to be confused with bassist Dan) who’s out due to work commitments (damn those dayjobs!), Playing two sets back to back is pretty hardcore, and best of all, she’s a good fit, being a hard-hitter and super-tight.

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Weekend Recovery

Dan’s bass is dominant in a good way: it fills out the sound and he plays with passion, throwing some shapes and lofting his instrument in true ‘axeman’ style, and everything looks and sounds cohesive throughout this punchy set. ‘In the Mourning’ is an early rocket, and ‘Yeah’ is back into the set after not featuring on their last trip to Leeds in January.

If ‘There’s a Sense’ feels a bit flat and short on breath, the crowd are too busy bouncing and throwing themselves about or falling over to notice, and they immediately pick up the energy and power on through and end with a searing rendition of ‘No Guts’. It’s a ripping finish to a fiery set.

There are probably going to be some sore heads in the morning.