Posts Tagged ‘The Fulford Arms’

Christopher Nosnibor

Snakerattlers are BACK! Almost two years to the day since their last show, the ass—kicking psychobilly duo are back on the circuit, and landing in style to launch a new album, The Left Hand Path at the same time.

Snakerattlers have always embraced their DIY position as something that enables them to do things their own way, and this event is exemplary: whereas album launches are often massive blow-outs with loads of bands and balloons and gimmicks, which mean you’re knackered by the time the headliners take the stage, they’ve gone for something that’s truly special and personal, in the form of an afternoon show with no supports, playing the album live in its entirety for the first ad only time, with some talk about the inspiration for each song before its played. It’s also noteworthy that said album is only being released on CD and vinyl: no downloads or streaming. A proper album, old-school.

The times on the door list Doors as 2:30 and Snakerattlers 3-4pm, and it’s getting busy when I arrive at 2:40, and while I am not tall, I’m amazed by the fact that practically everyone in the place is a fucking giant, so I grab a pint and get down the front, quick. Dank ambient atmospherics rumble over the PA.I figure there’s probably not much point trying to photograph the scribbled set list since the pitch of the launch event is to play the new album through as a one-off. So I suppose this is something of an in-the-moment first-hearing album review as well as a live review.

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They’re punctual, and Dan’s grin is something to behold. He may be shitting his pants nervous, but I don’t think I’ve seen anyone look happier to be onstage before. As a band who usually play around a hundred shows a year, a two-year enforced break probably felt like having their limbs amputated.

They’re straight in with a swampy reverby tune with no lyrics beyond ‘wooh’ and ‘huh!’ by way of an intro, and it feels like they’ve picked up precisely where they’ve left off, although it very soon becomes apparent that there’s been a significant shift in the world of Snakerattlers as they start working through the album. That’s what happens when there’s a global pandemic and successive lockdowns, and Dan is a lyricist who very much writes about the moment, meaning there’s a lot of contemplation and a darker atmosphere across the album as a whole. And while Dan is the voice and the mouth of the band, Naomi’s contribution should never be underestimated. Quiet, serious-looking, she’s the perfect counterpoint in terms of character, while her drumming has a natural feel to it, and a nice, easy swing, even at pace.

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‘One Hand’ is a song not about wanking, but about friendships (or lack of) and in some ways, independence, echoing the sentiments of The Fall’s ‘Frenz’. It starts gentle and sensitive, then goes blamm! ‘No Friend of Mine’ continues the theme of friendship, “All relationships are empty and temporary,” Dan comments in the song’s preamble, nabbing a Mansun lyric in the process, before launching into a rambunctious country-punk knees up. It’s about a minute long.

The songs feel evolved, and show a keen attention to changes in tempo and pacing, and the album sequencing also feels considered – which corresponds with the formats of choice, with the jangly ‘Rattle in my Bones’ ahead of the darker, gothy ‘I Remain’, with hints of The Gun Club. It’s slower, and fully anthemic, and I find myself prickling with goosepimples. ‘In the Ground’ is a contemplation on death penned during the pandemic, and it’s mid-tempo, minor key punk, and utterly magnificent to boot.

Taking the “darkness dial to 10” as he puts it, ‘All Hope is Lost’ emerged from a dark place during lockdown. It’s tense, and while it’s not quite Joy Division, it’s pretty damn bleak – but still manages a hook. ‘Small’ is more old school rock ‘n’ roll, while ‘It Comes’ (if that’s what it’s actually called) is a churner about insomnia, while ‘Spooks’, which emerged last year is more standard Snakerattlers uptempo Fall-esqu rockabilly – or rattle rock, as they prefer to call it.

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There’s another switch with the twangin’ instrumental boogie ‘Wolf Dance’ that paves the way for the final double salvo of kick-ass tunes, culminating with the fast, angular ‘We are Your Hell,’ inspired by a dickish punter facing off to the band at their last gig in Leeds on 5th March 2020. It’s a storming finale to the album, and to the set. It’s been exactly forty-five minutes, and it’s been a blast from beginning to end.

And with that, they’re off to man the merch stall. Rock ‘n’ roll! Yes, Snakerattlers are most definitely BACK!

Christopher Nosnibor

Three years on from the original Lips Can Kill Tour, which took place in December 2019, these four likeminded bands reconvene to showcase their contrasting but complimentary styles around the UK, landing in York on the second night after kick-starting things in Birmingham. And, while ostensibly London-based acts, this is very much an international affair, and it’s this range of flavours and elements of cultural context that make this such an exciting proposition.

On the one hand, I feel that making a deal of the fact any band is female-fronted is unhelpful in the scheme of things, as if being female-fronted is something particularly novel or to be applauded in itself, or, worse still, a kind of virtue signal or positive discrimination. It’s more a hindrance to equality and detracts from what the band actually does. Female-fronted is not a genre. I say this because context matters, and the fact that all four acts on this tour are female-fronted is precisely the point: it’s a package deal of strong female frontspersons working in solidarity: stronger together. But stepping back from that, the fact of the matter is that it’s a package deal with four fiery guitar-led bands that you can’t really go wrong for the seven quid or so entry.

With a revolving running order, the stage times on the door simply list bands 1-4, and the first is on early, just fifteen minutes after doors. It’s Tokyo Taboo up first after some last-minute pole prep. Their act and image has come on a fair way since I last saw them way back in 2018, and their set now features unreleased material and singles released since 6th Street Psychosis. For the most part it’s chunky, spunky, punk rock with a pop edge. ‘Pussy Power’, dedicated to the women of the bands on tour is strong and empowering. The second half of ‘Self Sabotage’ is sung from back by the bar after Dolly totters through the crowd on heels that are practically stilts. As it began, so it ends, and they’re back to low-slung stoner riffage for closer ‘No Pleasure Only Pain’.

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Tokyo Taboo

Healthy Junkies are up next for what seems to be a depressingly middle-aged male-dominated crowd, and they’re on form on their second time playing in York this year. They sound denser, louder, more driven and energised and get people moving from the start. They’ve got the quiet/loud dynamics and beefy grunge/punk riffs nailed and kick the songs out with swagger and confidence, but without coming across as cocky. They’re proficient and efficient, lean and strong. It’s the first tour for their new bassist. He’s young and energetic and delivers some solid Rickenbacker action. Chat is kept to a minimum as they pack in the tunes and play them hard. ‘Tricky Situation is pure spirit of 77 with guitarist Phil Jones taking over lead vocals. They’re joined by Frog from PollyPikPocketz for closer ‘Mayday’. It’s got novelty value, but the green haired old punk’s Lydon ripping is a shade anticlimactic in its predictability. Still, they look like they’re having fun and the crowd love it, so maybe it’s just me being cynical and jaundiced.

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Healthy Junkies

The night steps up a notch or three with the arrival of Yur Mum onstage. They immediately up both the volume and intensity. Something about cutting down to a duo seems to have given the band – who already kicked arse as a trio – a fresh impetus and incentive to kick arse twice as hard. If it’s a case of overcompensating, then fine: it works. Anelis’ rib-shaking bass packs a massive, phat, buzzing, booming punch, and it’s matched every note by Fabio’s stick-flipping hard hitting drumming. The jarring, jolting frenzy of ‘Tropical Fuzz’ is absolutely killer, and brings all the cowbell, too. Then they’re straight into the jungle… and there’s more amazing bass, with fast fretwork but it’s not wanky for a second. They really turn up the heat with ‘Sweatshop’ and, for my money, are the band of the night.

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Yur Mum

PollyPikPoketz present an interesting dynamic – and pack a hell of a lot of energy. The guitar and bass are – specifically those wielding them – are old punk/metal with their Lemmy / Rotten stylings respectively, and are probably older than singer Myura’s parents. It makes for an odd dynamic, visually at least. Sonically, though, it works a treat, combining experience with sass and energy. They’ve got some killer riffs, too, and hit full-throttle gut churn at times, simultaneously calling to mind early Therapy? and The Adverts.

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PollyPikPoketz

In all, it stacks up for a quality night, and where many package tours feature bands who sound alike – which can get tedious pretty quickly, because no-one needs four shouty punk bands or instrumental post-rock acts back to back – Lips Can Kill 2 offers stylistic range sonically and visually, not to mention top-notch entertainment all night.

Christopher Nosnibor

I may have mentioned this before, the reason I like going down to The Fulford Arms, and in particular, why I enjoy checking out the Wonkystuff nights. Yes, the music – John Tuffen’s curated events guarantee a nice and eclectic but complimentary selection of leftfield sonic explorations – bit it’s more than that. The venue, and these nights especially, cultivate a sense of community. I feel at home here. I don’t always feel sociable, but knowing there will be people I know, and people who won’t judge if the interaction is only a ‘hello’ because we’re all here to see the acts is a big deal.

And as ever, the acts are diverse, but of a solid quality.

I’m always happy to watch Namke Communications: John Tuffen never disappoints with his experimental improvisations, which usually see a single longform work fill the allocated time. On this outing, elongated drones and plops and plinks of electronic extranea blend and juxtapose against one another, melting into a slow swirl. A wind whispers through, and an organ swells slowly and falls away again a crackle of static. Some of the glitchy intrusions are ugly, others more subtle. Beatless, abstract but certainly not ambient during the first half of the set, it’s dark and ominous, but not unpleasant. Beats build in the second half of the set, arrhythmic, stuttering, pops and thuds bouncing in all directions at once. I lose myself in it, and it’s joyous.

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Namke Comunications

Wonkystuff regulars TSR2 – all 3 of them – make for interesting viewing. Yes, they’re typical middle aged white guys with gadgets, including lap steel, but they actually create some fascinating soundscapes, rising to reverberating cathedrals of sound. Immense surges of synth sweep cinematic across the stage. Elsewhere, they swing between Krautrock and funk-hued space-age prog. It’s considerably better than it sounds on paper, trust me. They’re clearly enjoying themselves up there, too, and that enjoyment is infectious.

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TSR2

Next is, Leeds maker of noise, 13x. Is it supposed to sound like that or is your cable fucked, mate? Yes, it’s supposed to sound like that. Mangled to fuck overloading stuttering, glitching electronics, the sound of circuits malfunctioning, melting give way to a fucked up samples-riven S&M collision between Suicide and Donna Summer. Darkwave disco with punishing beats, static fizz and Portishead crackle block up against slow, grinding industrial grooves and fleeting flickers of woozy trance weave in and out of a varied, but ultimately abrasive instrumental set. And yes, it’s mint.

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              13x                                                                                       Sam Mitchell

Wrapping up the night is another Leeds artist, Sam Mitchell. Sporting straggly grey hair and beard, he emanates the vibe of ‘scene veteran’, and he clearly knows his way around his (comparatively minimal) kit. Technical issues briefly delay the start of his microtonal glitchtronic set, but once going, it’s all wow and flutter, flickering bleeps and bibbling bubbles. It’s spacious, expansive, layered, textured and easy to get lost in. By easy, I mean perfect, and it’s a perfect finale that makes for another Wonkystuff win.

Christopher Nosnibor

Almost invariably, when there’s a buzz building around a DIY act, they’ve had some kind of assistance or boost, either via a PR campaign or radio play, and / or some fortunate support slots. Not so Benefits, whose profile has grown with the speed of contagion of the pandemic: they’ve thrived during lockdown without management, any ‘proper’ releases, and next to no press (although that’s changing fast); but instead of them seeking out the coverage they’re the ones being sought out.

On paper, their appeal is limited: shouty sociopolitical spoken word paired with blistering squalls of electronic noise is kinda niche, right? Like Sleaford Mods only more noisy and a bit shoutier, right? Sociopolitical ranting aside, not so much. Mods have very much exploited the affront some people feel about their not being a ‘real’ band, and have turned the lack of performance into a schtick. Benefits are very much a band, and despite the swinging, rhythmic hip-hop style delivery of some of the lyrics, Benefits share more with harsh post-punk noisers Uniform than another other contemporary act that comes to mind.

Steve Albini perhaps sums up the two key, and seemingly opposing elements of what Benefits do in referring to the period of musical foment of the early 80s, with ‘the Crass/Pop Group ranting lefty/anarchist punks, and Whitehouse/TG/Cabaret Voltaire pure noise’. He’s not wrong when he writes that it’s ‘Been a while since something evoked that era as effectively as this Benefits track.’

But Benefits don’t only evoke that era: they’re a band that are precisely of the moment. During lockdown, people were on edge – and they still are as they emerge, blinking, into a world that has changed, and not for the better. More divided, more violent, it’s a difficult place to navigate. People are scared, and they’re also disaffected. Benefits channel and articulate all of this, and the buzz around tonight’s show was positively electric.

Feather Trade could easily be mistaken for being a ‘haircut’ band on face value, but their tousle-topped singer’s vocals invite comparisons to The Cooper Temple Clause’s Ben Gautrey, and the comparison to TCTC doesn’t end there as the trio blast through some jagged alternative rock defined by solid, meaty bass and gritty guitars. With a post punk vibe, great voice, the lineup may have been hastily-assembled, but they boast a truly great rhythm section. Switching between acoustic and electronic drums varies sound, and the line ‘fuck your trust fund’ from closer ‘Dead Boy’ is a sentiment we can get behind. Keeping the set to a punchy five songs, they made for a compelling opener, and I doubt I’m the only new fan they’ve won on this outing. I liked these guys a lot.

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Feather Trade

Some guys I never really liked are La Petite Mort: in fact, my last review of them was pegged to a single line in parenthesis. But this newly-resurrected iteration shows that they’ve evolved massively in the intervening years, transitioning from a novice sixth form indie band to something altogether more challenging, and altogether more powerful. If anything, there are shades of The Young Gods both sonically and visually. Now a duo with laptop and live drums, they’re dense, dark, intense. At some point, just as he has for Avalanche Party on occasion, Jared Thorpe whips out his sax and starts tooting away. No, it’s no euphemism. La Petite Mort embrace a slew of genre styles, and nail them to some tight, technical jazz drumming and lots and lots of reverb.

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La Petite Mort

This all leaves us ultra-hyped for the headliners, and they sure as hell don’t disappoint with their spoken word grindcore hybrid. With some brutal electronics from Robbie Major, they build from sparse, acappella hip hop to a blistering wall of noise. They build and build and rage so, so hard it’s savage. There are some smoochy hip-hop vibes, but they’re a stark contrast to the raving lyrics. ‘You get what you deserve’, Kingsley Hall warns, menacingly. Against the backdrop of Russia invading Ukraine as we look on, we hope it’s true. They venture into post punk / Sleaford Mods-ish territory just the once over the course of an hour-plus long set. Hall reads the lyrics to ‘Meat Teeth’ from his phone in a state of anguish. The song itself is stark, harsh, and it hurts. And yet this pain is what connects us with the band. Hall’s openness and honesty when he speaks between songs is like a body blow. This isn’t a performance, this is real. “What a fucking country, what a fucking state…. Sausage roll man… Tory cunt.” He admits to struggling with the whole being on stage thing, but it’s clear from the way he attacks every line, this is something he feels he simply has to do.

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Benefits

In a recent interview with Loud and Quiet, Hall explained, “I’ve got this pent-up anger and desire to speak and to shout and discuss. But how do I translate that?” On stage, that anger is anything but pent-up: it’s channelled into an eye-popping storm of words dragged from the very soul.

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Benefits

‘Flag’ steps up a level just when there seemed like no more levels to step up, with punishing percussion and snarling noise. It’s harsh, but so, so invigorating and cathartic. The encore / not encore is a perfect example of the way Benefits don’t conform, don’t play the game. And while doing things on their own terms in every way, they stand apart.

There’s no pithy one-liner to wrap this up: I leave, borderline delirious, simultaneously elated and stunned by what I’ve just witnessed – a show that was, frankly, nothing short of incredible.

Christopher Nosnibor

The clue’s in the name: Bdrmm started out as a bedroom-based solo project for Ryan Smith in 2017, but soon transitioned to being a proper gigging band. Like so many bands, their progress was severely hampered by more than eighteen months of no live activity, something that seems to have hit bands in the early stages of their careers the hardest, since they rely on performing in grassroots venues and supporting larger bands to build their fanbase.

This was one of many shows that got booked, rescheduled, and rescheduled over the course of the last eighteen months, during which time they’ve maintained a steady flow of releases, including their debut album and an attendant set of remixes and a number of singles, which have clearly done no harm to their profile, garnering glowing reviews from across the spectrum from NME to MOJO via Line of Best Fit. The Fulford Arms, then – sold out, although still operating at reduced capacity for ticket sales – is pretty busy even early doors.

It’s an interesting demographic, too, probably around a 60/40 split of twenty-somethings and forty-somethings – which isn’t entire surprising given Bdrmm’s referencing of the music that the older fans were listening to when they were around the age of the younger ones.

Having just two bands on the bill works well – not only allowing time to ventilate the room between acts – but to give the punters and their ears a rest, time to recharge glasses without a crush at the bar, and an early finish. After so much time out, it might take some time to rebuild the stamina for late nights for a few of us, and for those slightly further afield, public transport isn’t what it was a couple of years ago (or more).

Manchester’s crush – another band who, having formed in 2018 have a lot of early-days ground to recover – are on first. I was pretty sure there have been other bands called Crush, and it was only later I recalled Donna Air and Jayni Hoy’s short-lived pop career and the early 90s project featuring John Valentine Carruthers (formerly of Siouxsie and the Banshees) and Killing Joke drummer Paul Ferguson . The young four-piece are nothing like either. The set makes a shuddering launch into mid-tempo post-rock shoegaze with two guitars. Their sound is reminiscent of melodic 90s indie with a dreamy style, but still some drive too. There’s lots of texture and occasional bursts of noise. They may be lacking that slickness that playing often develops, but they can really play, and the closer comes on like Dinosaur Jr being covered by Slowdive, and it’s ace.

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crush

Crackling distortion yields to a driving motorik riff to announce the arrival of Bdrmm, and it’s immediately apparent that they’re a cut above, and that any hyp is entirely justified. The sound is immense. The drums are half-submerged beneath a heft wash of guitar. It’s a dense, throbbing, shimmering wall of sound. The percussion is a mix of traditional and electronic drum pads, and everything comes together magnificently. New single ‘Port’ drops early as the third song and it’s a brooding synth-driven beast, part My Bloody Valentine, but probably more A Place to Bury Strangers. There’s all the reverb, and all the volume: in fact the sound is great, and sound man Chris Tuke gets a deserved shoutout from the stage during the set. Because while it’s nice on record, and all the comparisons to Slowdive and early Ride are entirely appropriate, live, it really needs to be heard – and felt – at organ-trembling volume.

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Bdrmm

‘Happy, is a synthy swirl meshed with a gritty bass, and as the set progresses, we see the band peeling off blistering sheets of noise. Bent over, guitars practically scraping the floor, they don’t only do shoegaze but they also properly rock out. Near the end of the set they treat us to an immense, slow-building crescendo climax worthy of I Like Trains.

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Bdrmm

They leave us overheated, breathless, and stunned by the sheer power of the blistering noise of the guitars that howl and melt. No way should we have been able to experience this in a venue with a capacity of around 130, and I rather doubt we will again. Bdrmm are a Brudenell band at the very least: they have not only the songs, but that indefinable ‘fuck yeah!’ quality that comes from the wild exhilaration of seeing a band who simply blow you away.

Christopher Nosnibor

The return of live music remains on a balance beam of managing finances and staff / punter safety, especially in terms of what people are comfortable with. Every gig, therefore, is a gamble, and tonight’s is no exception: for while The Fulford Arms had spent lockdown not only working on making nots own space as safe and accommodating as possible, as well as campaigning hard for other local venues and live music in general, they’ve used the time to make improvements that had been longer-term plans, they still face the challenge of bringing punters in.

Tonight’s event benefits from a Lottery-funded two for one offer on tickets, which has encouraged a respectable showing for a wet Thursday night. It’s all good, but PINS have been struck by (non-Covid) illness and are two members down, and so are playing a stripped-back set as a foursome without a drummer. But they’re troopers, and so the show goes on, and Tides walk on to crashing waves and crystalline ambience, before launching into a set of jangly, melodic indie with a distinctly late 80s / early 90s vibe. The foursome are young, and while not especially outgoing in their performance, play with an assurance that comes across well, and they’re tight and solid, but still with much to learn.

They land the slowie early, with the emotive ‘You’ being third in an eight-song set. Revelling in their poppier leanings is a cover of Lizzo’s ‘Juice’, and it’s well-played, but bland, although well-received by their friends down the front. But two covers in such a short set isn’t best form: either they’re yet to accumulate enough original material or lack the confidence in what they have, but the less said about their competent but characterless rendition of Shania Twain’s ‘Man, I Feel Like a Woman’ the better, as well as the sixth-form handbag dancing it inspired. They feel like a band who haven’t fully decided their identity yet, swinging between a slick contemporary pop and more of a female-fronted Smiths or Wedding Present. Given time, they’ll hopefully figure out how to combine the two, but in the meantime, they prove to be a fun and competent support act.

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Tides

PINS are one of those bands I feel I should know but simply haven’t got to for various reasons, and so I won’t claim in any sense to know the tracks from their three albums – but the strength of any band is to deliver a set than has the capacity to not only please established fans, but to convert new ones from among an impartial crowd.

Admittedly, I took little convincing: the first song of the set lifts a 3-note motorik looping bass groove from Suicide’s ‘Ghostrider’, and they hold that insistent repetition into the second. It’s an instant grab. It actually sounds a bit like 90s indie / shoegaze / goth act Sunshot, who I revisited just the other week. It’s certainly no criticism, so much as an indicator of their post-punk/ shoegaze / crossover sound, propelled by sparse percussion with a vintage drum-machine sound. Landing in at the third track in the set ‘Bad Girls Forever’ brings a country / gospel vibe to the thumping new wave sound that’s counterbalanced by an abundance of electropop sass, while ‘Ponytail’ sashays and swishes through an easy pop that carries a sentiment of girl power 2020s style. They do political, too, with the stomping ‘serve the Rich’ snapping and sneering over a thumping bass groove.

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PINS

In terms of performance, PINS are the epitome of cool, with Faith Verne’s oversized shades positively screaming ‘pop icon’ and Lois MacDonald guitarist affecting the best bored face as she treads on the spot throughout the set.

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PINS

If the sound itself is a well-realised take on preexisting forms, it’s the multi layered vocals that really make PINS stand out here, and it all makes for an engaging show. The women who’d spent the set dancing down the front were up on stage for the final song, and there sense of togetherness was palpable. If any reminder was needed that there really is nothing like live music to nourish the soul, then PINS provided it here tonight.

Christopher Nosnibor

And here it is: live music, as it was. Not seated, no tables, so no table service. Too soon? No. Certainly not. So many have been affected in so many ways by the closure of venues and the suspension of live music, and while we all get the why, questions remain over why so many other ‘crowded’ places were allowed to reopen before pubs and gig venues. But those aren’t questions for now: we’re here, and The Fulford Arms is a venue I’ve long considered a home from home, and not just because it’s a fifteen-minute walk from home house.

During lockdown, proprietor Christopher Sherrington has poured all of his energy into campaigning for grass roots venues, and not just for the benefit of his own holding, but nationally, as well as working to support other venues in York and Leeds, creating the sense of a network of venues, instead of their being in competition with one another. This has been quite a revelation in a sense, although the sense of community among gig-goers has long been strong.

The last ‘proper’ live show I attended, on 14 March 2020 felt plain fucking weird, like the end of the world. On that landmark night, where hand sanitiser in the door was a new and strange thing, and bar staff worse surgical gloves to pull pints, Soma Crew were on the bill, so making them my first ‘normal’ gig back felt somehow significant on a personal level.

Some things are different – the box office being outside, the signs encouraging mask-wearing, the now-standard sanitisation gel, the bar behind Perspex, the removal of all furniture to create more space for the audience, which is at 70% capacity max to allow maximum space, the opening of doors to ventilate between acts – but overall, it feels the closest to normal I’ve seen anything since I can’t quite remember when.

Playing minimal music in low lighting, John Tuffen’s Namke Communications set has a subtle start – so subtle a lot of people don’t even realise he has started, but they’re gradually drawn in as he builds the set, a single, continuous piece of gentle krautrock tinged electro improv work that sits comfortably alongside Kraftwerk, worriedaboutsatan, and Pie Corner Audio.

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Namke Communications

Tremulous Monk – the current musical vehicle for Christopher J Wilkinson, who’s previously worked as Dead Bird and was a member of psychedelic shoegaze droners Falling Spikes – offers another shade of electronic music. His is altogether song-based, serving up some mellow retro minimal electropop. The last song has a sort of Inspiral Carpets vibe, with a dash of psychedelia in the blend.

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Tremulous Monk

It would appear that that last time I caught Black Lagoons was back in the summer of 2017, when I remarked that the band – at the bottom of the bill – were headline standard. Seems they’ve just continued to get better in the time since, too, although if they’ve matured they’ve certainly not mellowed. The gritty blues-based sound has evolved into a kind of grainy Country/grunge crossover with snaking, twangy reverb-heavy guitar driven by a stonking bass and crashing drums. Bringing on the sax, the frenetic attack is more Gallon Drunk than Psychedelic Furs, and it sure as hell ain’t jazz. The set just builds and builds to a blistering, sweaty climax and a slow blues post-climax that winds down to the finish. And a hat makes for a great silhouette against a smoky backdrop, making for memorable visuals to accompany a memorable sound.

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Black Lagoons

And so it is for Soma Crew to do their thing. And thing about Soma Crew is that whoever’s in the lineup, whether they speed things up or slow things down, they always sounds like Soma Crew. This is a good thing: they’re like The Fall or The Melvins of psychedelic drone. Christopher J Wilkinson, is filling in on drums tonight, for part two of Soma Crew’s album launch for Out Of Darkness / Into Light (which makes sense since the new album is really two albums). He provides a suitable no-frills motoric style of drumming that suits the band perfectly.

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Soma Crew

It starts with a blast of off-kilter guitar noise in a soupy sonic haze, and the set is vintage Soma Crew – at times a bit loose, a bit off-key, a shade ramshackle, but perfectly in keeping with the slacker / stoner vibe of their slow-twisting psychedelic drone. Besides, it’s a dependable fact that once they find a groove, they absolutely nail it, and merrily plug away at it for four or five or six minutes, three chords, no drum fills, no wanking around, just 12-bar blues and a massive fuck-off rack of effects. And it works every time. Elsewhere, they build layers incrementally while plugging away at a single chord… Which also works a treat with their execution. We got what we came for.

A whole bunch of people – mostly women, and Black Lagoons – properly got down at the front during the encore, and the looks of enjoyment were a joy to witness. We’ve missed live music, and it’s so, so good to be back.

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.