Posts Tagged ‘The Fulford Arms’

Christopher Nosnibor

Ever since the moment I hit ‘play’ on the CD of the Chambers single, ‘Disappear’ that landed with me for review last year, I’ve been itching to see them. And when a band with as much buzz as Chambers are down at third on a four-band bill, you know it’s a solid lineup. Dom Smith and the guys at Soundsphere know their stuff, and the fact that the entry fee is less than the price of a pint in most gig venues, makes the whole thing doubly impressive.

PUSH are up first: the duo are young and full of raw energy, cranking out choppy, knotty grunge riffery, they display hints of early Pulled Apart By Horses. The songs are direct, and they’re unpretentious in their delivery, laying down some solid, gritty grooves. It was also pleasing to see them get a proper-length set, giving them time to show what they’ve got in their arsenal.

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PUSH

Chambers don’t disappoint, and if anything, exceed expectations. They’re also seriously fucking loud. Aeris Houlihan is a remarkable presence, stomping about the stage, wielding her guitar menacingly and dispatching salvoes of thick, overdriven noise that more than compensates for the absence of a bass. Yes, there are heavy hints of Brian Molko about the vocals, which are heavily processed with a sharp, metallic edge – but theirs is a sound which is dense, murky and menacing. None of this would work half as well without the thunderous drumming of Eleanor Churchill, and the pair demonstrate exactly why a duo can make for such a strong musical format.

Chambers

Chambers

I would have been perfectly happy if that had been it for the night, but that would have meant not seeing Glass Mountain. Now, my notes are somewhat sketchy about this Bradford foursome, who a) should in no way be confused with York-based  cock-ends of monumental proportion Glass Caves  b) draw their inspiration not from an obvious musical reference point, but from David Hockney, who they cite as ‘one of Bradford’s finest ambassadors’ with their name being taken from one of the artist’s etchings, and credit to them for actually being – as they put it – ‘bold and confident enough to have respectfully requested his personal blessing for their use of the name’. They do the name and the artist justice, too, with their melodic, FX-heavy grungy / shoegaze stylings. With a hefty, driving bass behind their epic riffery, they stroll confidently between spacious dreampop territory and neoprog. Their songs are hugely detailed and textured, with layer upon layer of sound wafting down in a smoky haze, and set-closer ‘Glacial’ is worthy of the ‘anthemic’ tag.

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Glass Mountain

Manchester’s False Advertising are straight in with a ‘hey!’ and some driving riffs. They’re a proper, full-tilt, grunge-inspired instrument-swapping power trio, and while Jen Hingley may look girly, she’s got some serious guts both as a guitarist / singer and drummer. Much of he set calls to mind Live Through This era Hole, with heavy hints of the Pixies in the mix, too. In short, False Advertising produce pop-infused grunge par excellence. When Jen swaps to take the drum stool, she proves to be outstanding again: she’s a hard-hitter. There isn’t a dud song in the whole forty-five-minute set: from the scuzzed-out slackerdom of ‘I Don’t Know’ to the sinewy grind of ‘Scars’ which blossoms into a killer chorus, everything just works. And Jen’s got nice teeth and a determined mouth, according to my notes.

False Advertising 1

False Advertising

There’s always a downside to watching bands play in pub venues that serve excellent beer at affordable prices. Still, if wonky – and in places illegible – note-taking is the worst of them, then it’s hardly a disaster.

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Christopher Nosnibor

It’s an interesting demographic spread in the Fulford Arms tonight, almost evenly split between middle-agers and young alt types. This will make perfect sense to anyone who’s already heard Hands Off Gretel: founded and fronted by 19-year old Lauren Tate, they’re the sound of youthful angst, raw and brimming with rage and entirely relatable to their peers. Their sound also bears more than a passing resemblance to early Hole, and in Lauren, there’s the wild energy of late 80s / early 90s Courtney Love that’s instantly recognisable to those who remember that far back. I’m conflicted: downcast at being reminded so starkly that I’m now in the middle-age camp, elated that I was there the first time around and also that there are young bands with this much passion and this much gut making music that’s real and fearless.

Humble Scoundrel kick things off and while they’re also young, they’re also seriously good. They’re fronted by a guy who looks kinda nerdy in his specs, but said front man is renowned Leeds band poster / flyer / t-shirt etc. artist Tommings, and they’re no flappy weaklings: the plaid-shirted power trio kick out a decent brand of rocking indie with some strong harmonies and some elastic 90s alt/rock basslines whacked through a BigMuff and cranked up to gut-churning levels to give them something special. The lead vocals are poppy, but countered by some crunching guitars. Somewhere around the mid-point, they drop a ‘quiet track. It’s built around a gothy Celtic guitar line over some thumping martial drumming, and it brings some well-placed variation in a strong set, and the between-song banter is genuinely amusing.

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Humble Scoundrel

It’s been just shy of a year since I last saw Seep Away play, and they’ve come on no end in the intervening months. Tighter, louder, more in-yer-face, it’s their increased confidence that really makes the difference, and this – and a triangle – is what drives their full-throttle bass-driven grindpunkthrash racket. Jay Sillence raves and lurches around like a man possessed, while the musical proponents of the band – Max Watt (guitar, backing growls), Dani Barge (bass) and Dom Smith (drums) – give it their all. I’m always drawn to bands who pour in every last ounce of energy into a performance, largely because it’s indicative of their passion and commitment, and to see a band who sound great but are clearly coasting just doesn’t provide the same excitement. That Dom’s on the brink of exhaustion by the last track, but powers through at a hundred miles an hour tells pretty much all you need to know about the frenetic force of their live assault. Carnage of the best kind.

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Seep Away

There’s a crush for the front at the little low-staged venue for Hands Off Gretel, and it’sno surprise: while their aural assault is quite something, they’re a live band you need to see as well as hear. Lauren – dressed in hot-pants and ripped tights, a tiara nestled in her long dreadlocks and ‘BURN’ scrawled onto her chest in makeup – is high-kicking and hollering hard from the start as they tear through a set which showcases the majority of their incendiary Burn the Beauty Queen album.

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Hands Off Gretel

Every track is a highlight (although I’m personally pleased to hear ‘Bad Egg’), and while Lauren is obviously the focal point and an immense presence on stage – not to mention a singer of immense power, with a terrifying, full-throated holler, and to describer her as a compelling performer would be an understatement – it wouldn’t work if they didn’t operate as such a cohesive unit. Hands Off Gretel are a band, an a strong one, who really work the quiet/loud dynamic, and when they break out into the chorus riffs, they really give it.

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Hands Off Gretel

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Hands Off Gretel

By the end of the set, the stage is awash with beer – on account of numerous spillages and the fact Lauren has a tendency to cool herself by pouring it over herself – and perspiration. Lauren’s makeup is smeared, and after a racketous rendition of ‘Oh Shit’, they don’t bother to leave the stage before encoring with a killer one-two of ‘Eating Simon’ and ‘My Size’. When it comes to blistering intensity, Hands Off Gretel have got it nailed, and judging by tonight’s turnout, there’s a real thirst for their brand of angst-laden rage.

Christopher Nosnibor

One of the UK’s biggest beer festivals may be in full swing a mile or so up the road, but a quality lineup is always going to attract a respectable crowd, especially when the headliners have spent the first months of their existence being careful to avoid overexposure. As such, a Stereoscope gig always has the air of an event about it, and tonight is no exception.

Singer / songwriter Meabh McDonnell is first up. Having turned solo after her previous ensemble, Bored Housewife, split, she’s been learning guitar and writing a set of new material. She’s nervous as hell, but makes it a part of the performance with herself-effacing chatter between songs. But she has a brilliant knack for penning amusing – and sometimes really quite sad – vignettes, lifted from the humdrum existence of daily life, and she really does have a lovely voice, and receives the warm reception she deserves.

Meabh McDonnell

Meabh McDonnell

Wolf Solent – former Federal and contributor to almost infinite bands around York, Danny Barton – is an old hand when it comes to performing, but still prefers to keep his presence on-stage low-key. Playing almost in darkness, a silhouette on the stage, he’s sporting a very dapper pale suit and some impressive Cuban heels. None of this really matters, though: what matters are his magnificently understated, lo-fi indie tunes. Despite having only three or four pedals, he conjures a vast array of sounds and textures from his guitar. It’s the perfect accompaniment to his laid-back but poignant vocal delivery.

Wolf Solent

Wolf Solent

Continuing the dark, stark mode of presentation, Stereoscope are a band who play in black and white. It’s a radical shift from their previous incarnation as Viewer: then, Tim Wright and AB Johnson would play concise, danceable pop songs, bursting with pithy social commentary, in front of eye-popping psychedelic visuals. Stereoscope play long, heavy, mid-tempo dirges built on repetition, with introspective and often deeply despondent lyrics in front of black and white videos of rivers and pavements. And they have a live drummer, which lends a whole new kind of aural dynamic to their performances. It helps that Martell James is a seriously good drummer, hard hitting and with precision timing.

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Stereoscope

They’re not going for the mass market here. And yet, ultimately, I prefer this. With Stereoscope, it’s clear they’re dredging deep into the depths of their innermost dark places. Johnson contorts himself into impossibly angular shapes as he wrings the angst from the corners of his slender frame. Immediately accessible, it isn’t, but with a slow-building intensity they grind their way through a powerful set that reaches its final destination: with the emergence of light and colour, it’s ultimately uplifting.

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.

Deathmace

Deathmace

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.

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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.

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((RSJ))

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.

Christopher Nosnibor

Is it wrong to review an event you’ve participated in as a performing artist? Very probably, but in the scheme of things, and in the current global socio-political climate, a minor display of poor etiquette really doesn’t amount to anything. Besides, this is more about what I – as a writer, reviewer, artist and site editor – believe to be the primary function of running a site dedicated to the coverage of non-mainstream music, namely to give artists and acts I believe in exposure. At times, focusing on a niche – albeit a pretty eclectic niche – feels like the audience are likeminded obscurists but I like to think there are things for those likeminded obscurists to discover here. So. I landed a spot initially to provide a spoken-word interlude to some bands – bands I like. The night before the gig, this evolved into a collaboration with one of the bands, one-man experimental noise act Legion of Swine. It was something I’ve wanted to do for ages.

So I rocked up while the soundchecks were getting going to discuss what we were going to do. The little pub venue was bursting with more kit than many all-dayers and everything was pointing to this being one loud night before anyone even got plugged in.

And the lineup! Five acts, three (and a half) over from Leeds for a measly three quid? You have to hand it to both the venue and first-time booker Jim Osman for the wild ambition here. There’s so much that could go wrong.

Neuschlaufen are only just soundchecking fifteen minutes after they’re due to play, and their bassist, Ash, has to be out and on his way to another gig by 7:45. Yet somehow they manage to pull it together and are churning out their heavy, hypnotic grooves in next to no time. Ash Sagar’s hefty, Jah Wobble-esque basslines boom out, underpinned by Jason Wilson’s uncluttered drumming. In cominationm they provide  a solid base for John Tuffen’s textured guitars, and while the set may be short, it builds nicely, going beyond Krautrock and into territories as yet unexplored.

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Neuschlaufen

Immediately after, everyone vacates to cool down in the car park, with its impressive beach art installation. It also serves as a sandy area where people can go and sit and smoke and buy cocktails and stuff and pretend they’re not in a car park in a city pub.

Consequently, I began spouting my first rage monologue (a recent piece entitled ‘Ambition’, if anyone’s interested) to an audience numbering half a dozen (plus sound man and bar staff), but – probably for the first time in the years I’ve been performing – people began to filter into the room by the time I left Legion of Swine to run the set to its natural conclusion of feedback and bewilderment (what other response is there to a man in a pig’s head and lab coat, ambulating the space with a condenser mic taped to his face and a battery-powered 3W Orange amp to his ear?) there was a substantial crowd. Most of them were confused, and more interested in the spectacle than necessarily enjoying watching a 40-year-old man spew vitriol and expletives into a mic, but I had an absolute blast. Literature is the original rock ‘n’ roll and the new rock ‘n’ roll, and the footage of the performance, for which I can take no credit whatsoever, is outstanding.

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Legion of Swine

https://player.vimeo.com/video/175067654

 

One of the benefits of being lower down the bill is that it’s possible to kick back, drink beer and watch the other acts, and while the temperature was steadily rising, it was a joy to sup a cool pint and listen to Fawn Spots road test a set based on their upcoming second album. I‘ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen these guys since they started out as a snotty York-based two-piece and it’s been a source of pride to witness their evolution to a Leeds-based four-piece with a debut album on Fire Records. Their hard-gigging work ethic is admirable, and they’ve got both songs and attitude. If the new material showcased tonight is a little less frenetic than the older stuff, it’s no less intense, and there’s every indication that album number two will be a stormer.

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Fawn Spots

It’s a little over a year since I saw Super Luxury play. Supporting Oozing Wound at the Key Club in Leeds, I’d been impressed by the power of their performance. However, as their gig photos and the anecdote I’d heard from a friend about front man Adam Nodwell delivering vocals for a large portion of a set from inside a box on stage, it seems they’ve been evolving the performance aspect of their show. They pulled out all the stops for this one, Nodwell arriving on stage cowelled in a hooded cloak, stripping it off to reveal some crazy man/badger legs thing that simply looked wrong. With confetti guns bursting all over and crowd-surfing and a general air of crazed mayhem, you might think the music was taking a back seat. But you’d think wrong: with enough back-line to shake a venue three times to size to its foundations, they blasted through a ferocious set with terrifying vigour and psychopathic precision. They may be zany in their presentation, but when it comes to the songs and slamming them in hard, they’re entirely serious.

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Super Luxury

Irk are pretty fucking serious, too. It’s barely been a fortnight since I caught their set in Manchester supporting Berlin’s heads, and while they were pretty ripping them, tonight they really do take things to another level. Of course, when I previously stated that they sound like fellow Leeds band Blacklisters, I meant it as a compliment: Blacklisters are one of my favourite bands of recent years. They’ve delivered two gut-wrenchingly hefty albums and are one of the most consistent live acts you’ll find. But it’s on this outing that I first truly appreciate Irk in their own right as the drum / bass / vocal trio lumber, lurch and piledrive their way through a full-throttle set. Jack Gordon – an affable, articulate chap off stage – comes on like a man possessed, hurling himself about the low stage amid crushing bass riffs and powerhouse percussion. While the power trio format is often lionised as the optimal band configuration, there’s even less room to hide when there are only two instruments and a vocalist. And so it is that Irk are tight as hell and double the intensity of the playing to compensate the absence of instruments and bodies on stage. In contrast to Super Luxury, here’s little by way of over showmanship on display here, and instead it’s all about whipping up a blistering intensity through directness and unadulterated force.

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Irk

With not a weak act on the jam-packed, super-value bill, and every act giving every last drop of juice to their performance, this is going to stand as one of the gigs of the year. The venue may not have been packed to capacity, but there’s no question that those who were there will be talking about it. That’s precisely how legends are made, and I’d wager that that at some point in the future, tonight will go down as one of those landmark events. And if I’m wrong… fuck it, it was a great night.