Posts Tagged ‘The Fulford Arms’

Christopher Nosnibor

The Wonkystuff nights to date may have been a shade sporadic, but that’s what happens when the organisers have day-jobs and families, and more importantly, what they’ve lacked in regularity, they’ve more than compensated in quality, and that’s a major reason why there’s such a respectable turnout to a gig midweek, mid-January, in York. There’s also the warm, welcoming vibe: these nights may be musical showcases, but they’re also a coming together of an oddball community, where we’re all misfits together and it feels good and feels like home. Tonight’s lineup – as usual – demonstrates John Tuffen’s skill for bringing together acts who provide a satisfying balance of contrasting and complimentary.

It’s the Wonkystuff House Band – a collective rather than a fixed entity, tonight comprising Tuffen alongside Ash Sagar and Simon Higginbotham – who warm things up with a set consisting of permutational repetitions delivered by multiple vocals, delivered in a drab monotone over repetitive beats. Comparisons to Can, Cabaret Voltaire circa ‘Nag Nag Nag’, The Fall, Flying Lizards, Girls vs Boys, Young Marble Giants, and the more contemporary Moderate Rebels all make their way into my notes as I watch them crank out vintage synth and drum machine sounds. Cyclical bass motifs and whizzing diodes fill the air as they sit and twiddle knobs and read lyrics from clipboards and the historical leaps into the present for a while.

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Wonkystuff House Band

The start of TSR2’s set crackles and pops fireworks. The trio hunch over customised kit with wires all over to create warped undulations and machine gun fire beats that batter the speaker cones. The set builds into a dense, murky trudge. The second track, ‘What will be’ is more co-ordinated than the opener, and is solidly rhythmic, mechanoid and spacious, and metamorphosises into some kind of glam reimagining of Kraftwerk via DAF. Heavy echoes and tribal beats dominate the third track, and they very much find their groove at this point, at least for a spell, before the construction grows shaky despite solid foundations. Perhaps it’s the sheer ambition of layering up so much at once that’s difficult to keep together. Despite this, the discord and dissonance are part and parcel of an intriguing set.

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TSR2

Rovellasca takes the stage, quietly and understated and stands behind a bank of kit. So far, so standard. The set begins with deep, dark, rumblings, and very soon builds into something shatteringly immense. It’s dense. It’s loud, and fills the room like a thick, suffocating smog. The sound is thick, immersive. Time passes. Unexpectedly, elongated mid-range notes sound out and the underlying dense noise builds. I’m no longer listening: my entire body is enveloped. This is the effect of sonic force. Noise wall without the harsh. Burrs of static, pink and brown noise lurk in the immense billowing noise. The shifts are subtle, and gradual, but present over the course of the single, continuous half-hour piece. People start to become visibly uncomfortable after a time others vaguely bored. I’m loving it, and could listen all night. A slow fade to finish. The hush is deafening.

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Rovellasca

It’s a hard act to follow, but See Monstd – the new musical vehicle of radiofreemidwich’s Rob Hayler is an inspired choice, in that it represents something completely different that thus prevents any risk of comparison. There’s a lot going on here: the set starts with a sample, then breaks into what my notes describe as ‘wtf noise’. It subsequently settles into heavy harsh ambience, with dense, grating drones providing the body of sound, with swerves off trajectory for spells of audience participation, with a phone being passed around for members of the crowd to repeat lines from the sheets circulated prior to the set. This is one of those performances where you never know quite where it’s going to go, and is all the better for the element of unpredictability.

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See Monstd

And this, in a nutshell, is everything that’s great about the Wonkystuff nights.

Christopher Nosnibor

In what has been a difficult time for small venues – meaning it’s also been a difficult time for bands who aren’t massive to get gigs – The Fulford Arms in York has gone from strength to strength and while other venues have – sadly – come and gone in the city they’re not only still here, but have built an admirable reputation.

The fact it’s independent and well-run (that is to say professional but also wonderfully friendly), has great sound, and decent beer at the more affordable end of pub prices counts for a lot. That they cater to a remarkably broad range of audiences is another key: it’s easy to stick to tried-and-tested crowd-pleasers like tribute acts or be a ‘rock’ venue, but often to diminishing returns. It’s the only venue in the city you’ll find oddball electronic nights, big-name acts, local acoustic artists, and spoken word events in a single week. Their accommodating approach to new and unusual acts has made the place a real hub for the city’s music scene.

Tonight’s show marks the sixth anniversary of the venue being taken over by its current owners, Christopher Sherrington and Chris Tuke, and it’s very much a celebration of everything that makes The Fulford Arms a great venue. The lineup is very much focused on local acts, and celebrates the diversity of bands active in and around York right now.

Early doors, Miles. sees multi-instrumentalist Michael Donnelly follow the trajectory of his previous band, Epilogues, to a more minimal end. Oh stage, he’s a striking figure, with floppy fringe, specs, above-ankle trews: he’s an 80s/90s hybrid visually, but musically, his delicately-crafted songs are of no specific time, and are perhaps even worthy of being described as timeless. Subtle ambient drones and throbs provide depth to his understated picked acoustic guitar and magnificent soaring vocals on introspective, emotion-rich songs.

Miles

Miles.

Kids today! With their shit clothes and shit music, not like in my day… You hear it all the time, and not just from crotchety old bastards who remember when punk broke, or even slightly less old bastards who remember when grunge broke, but from people barely in their 30s. That may be true of the crap that gets played on the radio, but beyond the mainstream, we’re in a time where the guitars are getting louder, heavier, denser than ever. And REDFYRN go all out for loud, heavy, and dense, with a breathtaking juxtaposition of floating ethereal folky vocals and punishing sludgy/grunge riffs, with comparisons to Big | Brave and Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard not being unjustified, although there’s also a more direct grunge-orientated aspect to their sound, which is more than straight stoner / doom / sludge and all the better for it. Apart from the bassist, they look pretty straight, especially the drummer, but looks are deceptive. They’re heavy and mega-riffy from the first chord, and when they announce the third song as being heavier, they’re not wrong: the bass positively barks and snarls its way through a grating grind of guitar before spinning into an extended blues jam by way of a midsection.

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REDFYRN

Percy don’t piss about. They’ve been at it long enough that they can pretty much plug ‘n’ play, and you pretty much know what you’re going to get from one of the most consistent bands on the circuit: workmanlike is by no means an insult in context of their Fall-influenced kitchen sink grouchfests. Does the delivery help or hinder? It’s probably appealing and offputting in equal measure – like they give a fuck. In so many ways, it’s business as usual for them: tight even when loose, scratchy guitars clang over busy rhythms as Andy Wiles, centre stage on bass throws all the Peter Hook poses. And they’ve got some cracking tunes: in fact, the current set is bursting with them, and it’s apparent that something has changed in the Percy camp of late, and they’re producing the best songs of their career right now. They really step up the intensity on the Fall-does-dance Middle Class Revolt style ‘Rubbernecking in the UK’ followed by the fiery politicking ‘Will of the People’, which ends in a squeal of feedback. They seem more energised than at any point in the last 20 years, and this is probably the best I’ve seen them in all the years since I first caught them back in 97 or 98.

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Percy

My Wonderful Daze take the stage with the guys looking doomy in smeared makeup. My notes for the evening peter out rapidly at this point as ‘m lost in the performance: the band have an incredible dynamic. Amalgamating some hefty grunge with a deftly accessible side, with bursts of noise and fury erupting from simmering tension they’re in some respects quintessential alt-rock, but don’t sound quite like any other band around. Raw but melodic, and with a compelling focal point in the form of Flowers who channels a gamut of emotional range, they’re solid and exciting at the same time.

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My Wonderful Daze

Cowgirl are a fitting headliner, and so very representative of the core of the York scene, featuring the ubiquitous local legend Danny Barton (who must be in or have been in at least two dozen acts who’ve garnered some appreciation in their hometown and beyond) and another former Federal Sam Coates. He’s sporting some heinous tassels on a fawn suede coat, and a bootlace tie. Who on earth wears those these days? The look is somewhat at odds with the band’s Pavementy slacker indie rock, but they’ve got the tunes and the knack of delivery. A lot of it’s the confidence of seasoned performers, but equally, a lot of it’s down to tidy songwriting, and these guys can kick ‘em out effortlessly and copiously. The penultimate song of set is an extended psych workout that’s not only a departure but the highlight of the performance because it’s good to see them cut loose.

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Cowgirl

What do you say to round off a night like this? There should probably be a pithy one-liner, but I’m all out: the Titanic Plum Porter is top-notch and I tumble out into the cold January night with its full moon, happy that things are good on the scene in York, and that while there may be infinite shit to wade through in life and in 2020, The Fulford Arms will continue to provide an oasis of musical joy.

Christopher Nosnibor

Yeah, yeah, I know it’s not the done thing to review a show you’ve performed at, let alone one you’ve had a major hand in organising and promoting, but what’s not done sometimes just needs doing.

This was a lineup I’d been excited about – seeing it take shape around the initial basic concept of curating a show and giving …(something) ruined – a platform while showcasing other acts we like.

…(something) ruined coalesced into a formal unit following a one-off experimental collaboration back in May following a shout-out on Facebook from racketmonger Foldhead for recommendations for someone to provide vocals to compliment / contrast his wall-of-noise power electronics. My name was put forward by a handful of sonic sadists, and so it came to pass we brought a new level of brutality to an unsuspecting audience at CHUNK in Leeds. The idea for a showcase came before we’d decided anything else. Orlando Ferguson were top of our wants list, and promptly agreed, before we’d even decided exactly what we were doing, both for the gig and as a band. We didn’t even have a name. Truth is, we were deafened and buzzed on adrenaline and beer and before we’d even dismantled the kit, had decided it was going to be a thing.

The rest of the lineup coalesced largely through Paul (Foldhead’s) immense network of far-out acts. This was always going to be niche, an event that was about putting on a gig we wanted to see, regardless of who else’s tastes it would likely appeal to. This is where venues like The Fulford Arms are vital to the arts, and are sadly few and far between. Midweek in York, as long as the cost of paying the sound guy is covered one way or another, anything goes. Selling some pints beats no pints. As a totally underground, completely DIY operation, it’s only this kind of opening that makes catering to more outré tastes and providing a space for artists with a minority appeal.

So we went up first. I was only our second show after all. We’d failed to get the Paul’s visuals projected behind us, so they played on the screens at either side of the stage. Not ideal, not the impact we’d been hoping for, but sonically, it came together, probably.

…(something) ruined

How did we do? Alright, for sure. We’d spent five minutes planning the shape of the set and how it would build over the first few minutes, and Paul’s awareness of my delivery led to a set given to more undulations in comparison to the blazing wall of noise that was the first outing. The broad consensus was that we were brutal, but loud enough? The majority seemed to think so, but no-one fled the venue crying or with their ears bleeding, and I could even hear my own vocals in the monitors for 70% of the set, albeit only when I shouted so hard I felt like my throat would erupt – so probably not. Then again, could we ever be loud enough? Again, probably not. But I did shift a hell of a lot of books.

Primitive Knot, over from Manchester, are showcasing material from the latest release, Puritan. I use the plural because Primitive Knot is a band, although on this outing, it’s just front man Jim doing the work and creating the sound of a full band. It’s impressive to witness him playing synths and churning out grinding guitars over sequenced bass and drums, while also performing vocals.

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Primitive Knot

Said vocals are often single words, shouted, with heavy echo, reverberating into a churn of metallic overdrive, repetitive cyclical riffs, strongly reminiscent of the industrial grind of Godflesh, complete with thunderous mechanised drumming. It’s dense, oppressive, harsh, relentless. And as the only guitar of the night, PK’s set provides an essential contrast, standing out for all the right reasons.

Continuing to forge further contrasts, standing starkly against the regimented, heavily rhythmic attack of Primitive Knot, Territorial Gobbings’ freeform improvisational irreverence is different again, and then some. The new album, Sausage Chain, is a mess of random noises, but doesn’t really prepare the recipient for the crazed performance art that is the live show. Theo Gowans is nothing if not a showman, and one who doesn’t care about popularity or reception: tonight’s set begins with swinging mics and clanking beer bottles and concludes with cables and kit and the artist in a messy heap strewn across the stage. People watch perplexed, uncomfortable. Good. Art should challenge, be awkward and uncomfortable. And this is extremely awkward and uncomfortable – which is precisely why it’s ace.

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Territorial Gobbing

John Tuffen and Ash Sagar, of more bands than I’ve had pints on a big night, are Orlando Ferguson. They sit twiddling knobs and looking intently at their kit, and don’t actually look like they’re playing chess this time around. It’s the bigger table and side-by-side positioning.

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Orlando Ferguson

Tonight’s set is so much more than electronic drone, and the long, sweeping notes that provide the foundations create an expansive field in which they conjure an atmospheric soundscape. Sonically, they explore an array of textures and tones, and their improvisation is magnificently intuitive. It’s a pleasure to watch, and an even greater pleasure to hear, and following the raging tempests of weirdness and noise from the preceding acts, their altogether more tranquil approach provides some welcome calm and relief to round of a varied yet complimentary array of far-out music. And if you missed it – as most did- you missed out.

I can’t remember the last time I was in a dark room with so many people wearing shades. But then tonight The Fulford Arms is Old Goff central. It’s always the case when luminaries of the 80s scene play: they seemingly emerge out of the woodwork to descend on venues under the cover of darkness. Although with early doors and an early start, its not that dark when Grooving in Green hit the stage.

They’ve been knocking around for over a decade now, and Mick Mercer may be a fan but in a game of one-word reviews, ‘derivative’ would be theirs. Singer General Megatron Bison rocks snakeskin jacket and trousers. Their clunky lyrics and blatant appropriations from left, right, and centre (the first song repeats ‘awayyyyy’ in a bad rip of The Sisters of Mercy’s ‘Walk Away’) are paired with a theatrical, melodramatic delivery that doesn’t sit with the jovial banter, and their sub-Mission ordinariness makes The Rose of Avalanche look and sound strong and innovative. Tron has to hype himself into each of his rehearsed poses, and the overall effect is just… wincey.

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Grooving in Green

1919 originally formed in 1980, split in 84, and reformed five years ago, although the current incarnation features none of the founding members, or even anyone who featured in the 80s lineups. They’re from the punkier end of the goth spectrum, and musically, they’re not bad, with a solid rhythm section and some nice guitar work that switches between chunky chords and spindly chorus-drenched pick-work. Viewed from one angle, front man Rio Goldhammer has energy and presence, but ultimately, when viewed from any other angle, is a bouncing, irritating tit. And only a bozo would wear that jacket. Never mind the vest and braces.

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1919

Cold in Berlin are the clear exception to the billing tonight, being from the new wave of spiky post-punk acts. And it shows: this is a band that brings edge and vitriol back to the table, spitting and twitching. They’ve been on my radar and to-see list since they snared me with 2010’s pulverizingly sharp debut Give Me Walls, which channelled the best of Siouxsie and the Banshees and Skeletal Family an X-Mal Deutschland with its steely, serrated-edged guitars. Since then, they’ve evolved: they’re darker, heavier, doomier, but they’ve lost none of that early edge or the spark of nihilistic rage that defined them. The set may be dominated by doomy, slowed-down riffs, but they’re as much ‘Reptile House’ era Sisters and Sabbath in their grinding riffola. ‘White Horse’ is delivered at around a third of the pace of the studio version, but it’s still blindingly intense.

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Cold in Berlin

Maya makes frequent forays into the audience, from amongst whom she continues to deliver her full-lunged blasts of angst, while Adam (guitar) and Laurence (bass) step forward to the front of the stage to emanate maximum presence. They don’t just play: they perform. Not in a pretentious, posturing way, but in that all four band members operate as a unit and channel the force of the songs with a passion and intensity that far exceeds the sum of the parts. Band of the night by a mile.

Killing Eve are very much in their formative stages, and only have a demo EP to their credit an on the merch stand, but they have immense pedigree. Tim Brecheno, covering bass duties, emerged as the guitarist for All About Eve (his new project’s name a clear statement of a separation with that aspect of his past) before finding a place in the Vision Thing era iteration of The Sisters of Mercy and then forming XC-NN (who were actually pretty good in a trashy postmodern way) and subsequently Tin Star. Meanwhile, Anne-Marie Hurst was the face of Skeletal Family before the formation of Ghost Dance with Gary Marx on the explosion of the original Sisters. And this is why all the old goths have emerged tonight: these people are significant, and I can’t help but feel a certain reverence awe simply being in their presence.

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Killing Eve

From watching the show and watching the room, my perspective is clearly not necessarily representative. But then, how do you pitch this? I may be a fan and a critic, but I tend to write as a fan first and foremost, and it’s as a fan I let feeling disappointed. It’s tough to see icons of your formative years growing old, stepping down a league or two to the ranks of part-timers.

Something about tonight’s performance says they’ve been out of it for a while, and that given more road-testing, they’ve got the potential to regain some of their prior greatness. But then again, the material lacks bite and sounds a bit ordinary, on first listen at least. And any criticism is less about ageism than reducing edge over time: they still play with passion and perform with sincerity and energy and there’s no sense they’re going through the motions. But equally, there’s a certain absence of edge, punch, abrasion. They’ve got some solid tunes, but on first hearing, nothing really bites. But they seem to be enjoying themselves, as do most of the audience. And I’m not going to knock that – because fun is important.

Christopher Nosnibor

Scheduled headliners Ming City Rockers have had to pull out due to a bout of laryngitis. I’m distraught, as I’d been itching to see them again. Thankfully, with Filthy Filthy – a band so filthy they had to name themselves twice – stepping up to fill the slot, we were treated to an alternative choice of middling band with an overreaching sense of self-worth. You can’t please all of the people…

Having headlined the venue not so long back, Weekend Recovery’s first trip to York of 2019 finds them in the strange place of propping up the bill on the night their new single is scheduled to be payed on Kerrang! Radio, after an airing on Radio X the night before. Yes, it really is all happening for the Leeds four-piece right now. And, over the last 18 months, the AA staples have evolved on a massive scale, and they’ve emerged as one of the most solidly consistent live acts around.

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Weekend Recovery

Tonight, they don’t seem to be quite firing on all cylinders, at least to begin with, and back-catalogue single  ‘Don’t Try and Stop Me’ strikes as an unusual choice of opener, but things definitely pick up as the set progresses. Lori is jogging and lunging by the time they power into the grungey thrashabout ‘Why Don’t You Stay?’ and the guitars start sounding denser and meatier. They wrap up with new single ‘Bite Your Tongue’ and it’s not hard to glean why it’s been piquing radio interest: it’s got mass appeal, but rest assured, it’s not R1.

I’ll admit it: I don’t feel entirely comfortable here. After the whole Dream Nails shitstorm, I’m often self-conscious of being a straight white male in his 40s at the front of the stage taking notes and snaps of female-fronted bands. I’m by no means the only one tonight for either Weekend Recovery or Leeds foursome Purple Thread who’ve stepped in as last-minute additions to the bill.

Liz Mann owns the stage from the second she walks on, busting moves every which way, and leads the band through a tight set of what they call ‘funky punky glitter-drenched rock n’roll’ on their Facebook page, and which to my ears combines elements of classic 70s rock with sassy poppy punk in the vein of Blondie. And yes, there is a bit of a funk groove woven into their guitar-led workouts, but it’s so well executed, I’ll let it pass: they’re so confident and comfortable with what they do, melding the vintage vibe with a contemporary attitude, and they really do work hard. The one minor detraction s that the sound is a bit muffled and lacking in definition, although I gather they didn’t get much, if any, soundchecking in, which means credit is due to both band and sound man for pulling it together. There’s a gutsy swagger to closer ‘Back to New York City’ that says they’re a band well worth seeing again.

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Purple Thread

Filthy Filthy trade in old-school punk: four middle-aged dudes cranking out thudding four-chord riffs with enthusiasm, if not always an equal level of technical proficiency, and that’s fine: it’s punk in the well-worn style of Sham 69 at al, and it’s very one tempo, one attitude, one song. It has its place, but we’re in the territory of punk that’s essentially pub rock with attitude and the amps up, and it’s hard to get excited about it in 2019.

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Filthy Filthy

Still, it’s serviceable, and besides, two outta three ain’t bad.

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.

Christopher Nosnibor

You know what I appreciate, less as a critic but first as a fan of fringe music? Promoters and venues that can see beyond the bottom line, who appreciate and support art, and actually support grass roots music and artists who exist so far outside the mainstream they’re probably lucky if even their mums have heard of them, just because. The Fulford Arms in York is a rare venue indeed, and in booker Dan Gott they’ve struck gold. Facebook may have only shown there were 17 attending in the hours before and as I approached the venue, but there were at east three times as many actually in attendance, proving Facebook is a measure of nothing other than Facebook users’ capacity to click buttons on a whim. Actions very much speak louder than clicks, and the turnout alone says York isn’t as dead, conservative, or disinterested as all that.

Tonight’s lineup is a classic, with Gott’s own band, Snakerattlers – more of whom later – as the main support.

But first up, Gillman, a solo artist playing guitar and drums. Have I ever seen a drums-and-guitar one-man-band before, apart from the ancient busker who’s been on the streets of York paying awful Elvis covers for the last 30 years or thereabouts? I really don’t think so. Gillman looks harp in suit and bootlace tie and just-so oiled hair and does fucked-up rockabilly country stuff that got some real grit and a 60s psych twist. With minor chords and shedloads of echo, not to mention some deep twang, it’s like David Lynch meets Gallon Drunk. A plume of smoke rises from the edge of the rum kit, and he looks like he’s delivering a final sonic sermon from the top of a pyre. It’s pretty intense.

Gilman

Gillman

Tensheds proves that looks can be deceiving. Tensheds – pianos and gravel and whisky vocals extremely reminiscent of Tom Waits and assisted by an anonymous but extremely able drummer – looks uber-goth, but the majority of their set is given to knees-up theatrical piano-based blues songs. Said piano at times is given a different voice, and a bit of crunch and overdrive and sounds more like a guitar as the pair power through some glammy stompers. And Tensheds are definitely better than seven, although I’m taking a risk saying that in York.

Tensheds

Tensheds

On my arrival, Snakerattler Dan told me how their tireless touring had really tightened them up and that in many ways, the band has come on a long way in a short time – and watching the husband/wife duo tonight, for the first time in a few months, it’s very much apparent that this is very much true. Naomi’s drumming may still have a loose-limbed swing to it, but she’s hitting harder and tighter, and Dan’s very demeanor, and not just his playing, is tripwire tense. Every song is a short, sharp blast of adrenalised rockabilly garage. They’re not just playing the songs any more, they’re fully performing them, attacking them, and channelling the musical energy with every thread of their beings and at a hundred miles an hour. It’s proper, powerhouse stuff. Primitive, simple and stompy, Snakerattlers’ songs grab you by the throat and shake, rattle and roll. Ferocious and fun, this is truly the essence of rock ‘n’ roll.

Snakerattlers

Snakerattlers

Less straightforward is Mark Sultan, who’s responsible for an immense body of work both solo and with almost countless bands over the last 20-plus years. Musically, well, it’s rock ‘n’ roll too, with a strong punk element, but the execution brings all levels of bizarre as he walks on stage and sits behind the drum kit, brandishing a guitar, decked out in a snug-fitting hooded top adorned with eyes and sequins which my seven-year-old daughter would have loved. He proceeds to talk at length about problem gas and divulges that he’s farting freely while performing (there’s even a tour poster depicting beans on toast with the header ‘Mark Sultan’s UK Fall Flatulence’, and he spits a lot, mostly down his own front. Such openness and lack of pretence is unusual, and perhaps it unsettles a few people. Some leave. It’s their loss, as we’re in the presence of a true eccentric and a rare talent: Mark Sultan really puts on a performance, and works hard, playing with tireless energy and enthusiasm.

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Mark Sultan

I realise that while two hours ago, I’d never seen a drums-and-guitar one-man-band before, apart from the ancient busker who’s been on the streets of York paying awful Elvis covers for the last 30 years or thereabouts, I’ve now seen two and they were both bloody great.