Posts Tagged ‘The Crescent’

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s a cold, wet, February night in York. The wind is howling and the air is bitter. It’s not much warmer in The Crescent, despite a respectable turnout for this incredibly good value five-band extravaganza hosted by Leeds promoters and label Come Play With Me (and while I’ve never asked or otherwise bothered to research, I’ve always assumed the name is taken from the 1992 Single by Leeds indie stalwarts The Wedding Present, rather than the 1977 sex-comedy movie).

Perhaps it’s because they play so frequently in and around York that I often pass up on seeing Bull play. As a consequence, I tend to forget just how good they are, and often feel as if I’m, discovering them anew when I do see them. Their breezy US alternative sound, which hints at Dinosaur Jr and Pavement is laced with a distinctly Northern attitude, and they’ve got a real knack for a nifty pop song. They make for an uplifting start to proceedings.

The ubiquitous and multi-talented local stalwart Danny Barton features among the lineup of three-piece Sewage Farm, in capacity of bassist. Their post-grunge style is a sort of hybrid of US alt rock and 60s pop: more New York than Old York. With nods to Sonic Youth, but equally, Weezer, they’re good fun and make a dense noise for just three people.

Looking around the venue, I observe a number of long coats and above-the-ankle trousers. It’s starting to look like 1984, while on stage it sounds like it’s 1994. Time is warping, history is bending in on itself. Clearly, I need more beer. While I’m at the bar, The Jesus and Mary Chain and Slowdive pour from the PA, setting the tone nicely for the next act.

While they’re setting up, I chat briefly to Adam Weikert, drummer with Her Name is Calla. I waffle a load of bollocks, and as he heads off to get warm and grab a beverage, I realise just how unbelievably fucking tired I am. Maybe if I drink enough beer I’ll perk up, or otherwise fall asleep at the table I’m sitting at to make notes between bands. Perhaps I’ll simply care less, and also develop a much-needed beer-coat.

Team Picture describe themselves as ‘One part post-punk, two parts fuzz’, and having been impressed by their single cut released by CPWM the night before, I was keen to check them live. Biographical details about the Leeds act is scant, and despite the positioning of old-school cathode ray tube television sets around the stage and the female singer being one of the hyper-retro bods I’d clocked, giving an air of hypermodernism of a vintage circa 1979, they’re really not an image band. They are, however, an exceptionally strong live act. The six-piece forge a layered sound that oozes tension: the monotone dual vocals and fractal guitars trickle brittle over strolling basslines and taut drums. The songs are magnificently composed and executed. Atmospheric segments blow out into expansive passages propelled by motoric rhythms. I’m totally sold: it’s a cert that this is going to be a band who are on an upward trajectory and 2017 could be a big year for them.

Team Picture

Team Picture

I’m still freezing my tits off, tired, and feeling disconnected and out of sorts, so I buy a third beer: surely an Old Peculier will unthaw my toes at least. The barmaid throws a friendly smile as she hands me my change. Inexplicably, I feel hopeless and empty, and now, I’m without a seat, as the girl who stood right at my elbow during Team Picture’s set, despite the venue being only a third full is now sitting with her mate at the table I was at previously. She looks vaguely familiar, but I’m not about to embarrass myself by attempting conversation. Perhaps it’s the chilly post-punk vibes lingering in the air spurring my existentialism; perhaps not. Regardless, I don’t go to gigs to socialise.

It’s a relief when Halo Blind begin their set. Another York band featuring another ubiquitous face on bass, this time in the form of former Seahorse Stuart Fletcher (currently rocking a look that says he wants to be Tom Hardy), they’re classic exemplars of post-millennium neo-prog, and they’re seriously good at it. Having just released their second album, Occupying Forces, they showcase an evolving, expansive sound. Layered, dynamic, melodic and harmony-soaked songs, rich in atmosphere and calling to mind the likes of Oceansize and Anathema, define their set. They explore dynamics fearlessly, building some sustained crescendos and executing them with admirable precision. During ‘Downpour’, I find myself drawing parallels with ‘Pictures of a Bleeding Boy’ by The God Machine. But if a band’s worst crime is betraying echoes of The God Machine, then you know they’re a band worth hearing.

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Halo Blind

Her Name is Calla: another tour, another lineup. Sophie Green is out (a shame, as she’s an awesome presence), making way for a return for Anja Madhvani (which is cool, because she’s a superb player). And that bearded guy at the back, manning a bank of electronics and hoisting a trombone: is that really departed fonder Thom Corah? Yes, yes it is, and they open up a tempestuous set with the rarely-aired single-only track ‘A Moment of Clarity’. I may be in a minority, but it’s one of my favourite Her Name is Calla songs, and as Tom Morris pushes his voice to the limit with the cry of ‘the crunch / is the sound / of a human spirit breaking’ as the band erupt around him, it’s a powerful and emotive moment.

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Her Name is Calla

The band play a varied set with intensity and vigour. Quiet and melancholy, ‘Pour More Oil’ is delicate and moving; ‘Meridian Arc’ brings an insistent throb, vlume and tension in spades. Tiernan Welsh’s bass coms to the fore and his complete immersion in the songs is compelling.

They close the set with ‘New England’. I stopped taking notes, beyond scribbling ‘fucking yes’ in a barely decipherable scrawl. One of the highlights of The Heritage¸ this is precisely the kind of slow-building, explosive epic that made the band their name, and to see them thrash wildly, with Tom gnawing his guitar strings with his teeth amidst a tumult of ever-swelling noise, is an experience that’s something special. There is no encore: there doesn’t need to be. There is nowhere to go from here: an awesome finale to an awesome night.

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Christopher Nosnibor

Ok, so despite there having been a fair few shows – and shows I was interested in – having been booked in what is, for York, a new gig space, this is my first time in The Crescent. And less than ten minutes’ walk from the train station, it’s a good space, in terms of size and capacity, with a well-proportioned stage, and a well-stocked bar. These things are important, and with a decent selection of bottled beers on offer, I went for a Jennings Snecklifter at £3.30 – a great beer for a cold night. It’s still early doors, but by the time I arrived, the place was packed with sixth formers and students. Or maybe I’m getting really fucking old.

Still, any band that can combine the garage firepower of The Strokes with the harmonies of The Beach Boys and the guitar solos of Dinosaur Jr and wrap it all up with a dash of Pavement and bring it to a new generation of music fans are ok in my book. Bull are that band, and on a good night they’re awesome. Last-minute stand-ins for the first scheduled act, turns out it is a good night, with a lively set that makes for a killer start to the night.

Broken Skulls almost threaten to derail things. They’re not bad by any stretch. But they are the musical embodiment of an identity crisis. The drum ‘n’ guitar duo can certainly play. Drummer Dan Sawyer is solid, and so is the guitar work, courtesy of brother Dan, although the guitar needs to be louder. Much louder. Leaping from chiming, weaving textured segments quite naturally, the songs themselves work. But it’s the chasm between what the band thinks it sounds like and what it actually sounds like that’s a sticking point. They think Black Keys. They think post rock rock. They think ‘kind of punk rock, kind of not’. But Dan has a U.S. heavy blues / hard rock, gritty, straining, vocal style that just doesn’t sit comfortably. Still, it’s not as awkward as the between-song chat, but still, it is early days and there’s definite potential on display here.

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Broken Skulls

Avalanche Party have even more potential. They seem to have their act nailed, and the material too. They know how to amp things up. Attitude, man, attitude. And pace: frantic pace. They’ve got both in spades. They’ve also got some cunty mates, unfortunately. I’ve got no gripes with moshing, but kids in bovver boots and braces, jeans rolled above the top of 12-hole DMs with suedehead crops rucking the fuck out of one another for sport, I’m not so sure about. ‘I think our behaviour was rather frowned upon’ I heard one of them say to his mate while dabbing a bleeding nose in the bogs after the set. I wasn’t sure if they’d actually paid much attention to what was going on on stage, sadly. It’s a shame, because the energy of the set and the quality of the material was top-flight. YTheir brand of driving indie rock may not be remotely revolutionary, and the guitarist may be sporting the most preposterous man-bun, but when it’s done this well, you can let such niggles pass. Doing brash with panache, Avalanche Party have the potential to be the next Arctic Monkeys, but not while their dozen or so tosser mates are in tow.

Avalanche

Avalanche Party

There aren’t many bands who can replicate the initial impact of the first time you see them. Sure, they’re good, but that first euphoric bang… Nah. …And the Hangnails are that rare band that does it every time. And more. With new material sounding absolutely belting, and established favourites like ‘Everybody’s Luck’ and ‘Fear of Fear’ (played with only five guitar strings) cranked out with blistering power, there really is everything to love about Hangnails. The songs – simple but effective, vibrant indie alt rock with a raw garage aesthetic – are great. But it’s all in the execution. They work hard, and crank it up to the max. Martyn Fillingham’s split-signal guitar given them a really full sound, but it’s the way it plays against Steven Reid’s insane drumming that really sets …And The Hangnails apart. He’s got more power than the national grid, and he’s fucking tight, too.

Hangnails

…And the Hangnails

To see four bands of such a calibre for a fiver seems like more than just a good deal, and it’s one hell of an avert for both the promoter, Please Please You, and the York scene as a whole. Given time, and a lighting rig that matches the sound and does the acts and the stage justice, The Crescent has the potential to be York’s long-awaited answer to The Brudnell.