Posts Tagged ‘The Fulford Arms’

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.

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Christopher Nosnibor

The 13th of July is a Friday. It seems like an appropriate date for a show hosted by The Trembling Hellish Infernal Nightmare Generator. And besides, an event that involves standing in a dark pub venue being aurally assaulted by four noisy bands in sweltering heat represents the perfectly antithetical alternative to the populism of a city swarming with racegoers.

It might not exactly be packed for Pak40, who begin their set with a claxon and bass hum, before thumping in with some tom-heavy drumming and thunderous, super-low bass growl that comes on like early Earth, only with percussion. While the duo’s focus is firmly on the creation of maximum noise, the stylistic manifestations are varied, with classic rock elements churned through a cement mixer and a vocal style characterised by elongated vowels that range from pysch-tinged prog to something closer to Bong. The final track is sludgy as hell, but ups the pace considerably, inviting comparisons to Fudge Tunnel.

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Pak40

Saltwater Injection are another drum / bass combo. As last year’s debut single, ‘Vinegar / Cuntryfile Part 3’ revealed, they’re noisy, too, cranking out a mesh of grindcore noise interspersed and overlaid with trebly, distorted samples from films and whatnot. It’s not about innovation, but execution, and after a lengthy intro, the bass feedback howls and they go full-throttle to deliver a set of high-octane aggression. It’s stick-twirling drummer Paul Soames who provides the vocals – predominantly guttural barks to their frenetic attacks. There are flickers of pop, but they’re transmogrified into roaring slabs of rage that go off like a clusterbomb.

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Saltwater Injection

Nottingham’s Bone Cult have been on my radar for a while, and I’ve been quite taken with their brand of hard-edged technoindustrial crossover music. Visually, they’re on a whole other level: with dense smoke, neon skull-masks, a crisp, clinical sound, and laser lighting shooting every which way, they transform the 120-capacity pub venue with a stage a foot high into an academy-type gig experience. They’re so slick, so tight, so immense. For all the intensity and aggression, they do seem a shade lightweight in context, mining more the Pretty Hate Machine era sound of Nine Inch Nails and aping the electro end of the Wax Trax! roster circa 1988. Still, in terms of entertainment, they’re hard to fault.

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Bone Cult

The same is true of headliners, London three-piece Little Death Machine. They neither look nor sound like a band on the lower rungs of the circuit. They’re mechanoid tight, and have a set packed with killer tunes, delivered with nuance, passion, emotion, and panache. A spot of research suggests that this is a new lineup, and while I lack the reference to compare to the old one, they seem to have gelled well. Yes, they do sound a lot like Placebo. A LOT like Placebo. But old Placebo, which is A Good Thing. It’s a punchy set, packed out with songs with massive drive and killer hooks and crackling energy. It’s also the perfect climax to an exciting night.

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Little Death Machine

Christopher Nosnibor

There’s no such thing as a night off. I may habitually tweet that I’m taking the night off for beer and live music, but that’s simply my way of telling the world I won’t be posting any reviews, I won’t be active on social media and probably won’t be responding to emails either. Watching bands and drinking beer has been a hobby of mine for a long time now, and I still enjoy it, but even when not guest-listed for reviewing, I tend to take notes and photos out of habit and for posterity. I’m naturally assuming my memory won’t be able to store all of the live shows I’ve attended when I get older, give that I struggle now, so the reviews are rather like postcards to my future self.

The WonkyStuff nights aren’t so much niche as ultra-niche – and that’s a good thing. The mainstream is oversaturated, and to cater to those tastes is a huge gamble. Focusing on a niche and knowing it well means that while there’s a very definite ceiling on audience potential, those being catered for are far more likely to actually bother. And so it is that on a hot Wednesday, around thirty people take seats in front of the stage to witness a smorgasbord of the most far-out experimental music you’ll find anywhere.

My future self, if presented with a photo of New Victorian Architecture’s performance would likely be ‘Christ, you have seen some weird shit’. Which corresponds with the multiple texts I received bearing the letters ‘wtf’ in response to sending pictures of said performance to friends. Certainly, the visual aspect – luminous yellow fishing kit, hood up, dust mask and heavy-duty latex gloves in blue – is striking, and if anything trumps the music or its delivery. There’s a lot of silence: some just awkward pauses, others more protracted periods of hush. At one point, he checks his phone, is momentarily animated as she scrabbles around the pile of pedals before him, then stops, stands (most of the set is spent kneeling) and addresses an inaudible question to the audience. Met with silence, he shrugs and resumes. The whole spectacle is odd – which is, of course, the idea.

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New Victorian Architecture

How Buildings Fail – the musical vehicle of Simon Hickinbotham – brings a different kind of odd, and one that’s much more song-orientated. The array of DIY and customised kit packed onto a small table includes an inverted Pot Noodle carton (chicken and mushroom) which appears to contain a set of controls. The material’s centred around the grainy and the granular, analoguey synthy sounds are modulated into gloopy oscillations and swerving sine waves which collide with overdriven, clattering drum tracks. Hickinbotham rattles off rants about philosophy and reading comics. It’s a weird, nerdy clash that lands somewhere in the field next to The Fall, Meat Beat Manifesto and Revolting Cocks. ‘Creative supply is outstripping demand!’ he calls by way of a refrain in the final song of the set. He’s right, but those gathered tonight are appreciate of their demands being catered for.

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How Buildings Fail

They may look like they’re playing chess, but Ash Sagar and John Tuffen are in fact pondering a rack of effects units on the table before them. The pair sit, almost motionless, mannequin-like, expressionless, and decked entirely in black. Tuffen, another self-solder gear enthusiast, appear to be playing open circuit boards, while Sagar tweaks at a more conventional-looking mixer unit. It’s difficult to determine the actual sources of the sounds which they sculpt expansive, glitchy drones that crackle and hum. Not a lot happens over the course of the set: instead, the emphasis on slow-evolving sonic shifts, and the focus is on detail rather than drama. Distortion ruptures smooth sonic arcs and beats like bursting bubblewrap forge subtle dynamics which balance grind and levity to immersive effect. It’s a meticulous performance, and for a few moments, time stands still.

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Orlando Ferguson

Stocker / Eyes – that’s Canadian-born percussionist Beau Stocker and multi-instrumentalist Ben Eyes – are celebrating the release of their new album, Earth Asylum. However, they showcase quite a different sound live in comparison to the album, which is extremely mellow and almost of a post-rock persuasion. Their set, driven by jarring, stop-start drumming and soaring, layered guitar and sweeping synths, and occasionally punctuated by jolting, halting guitar bursts, is certainly a strong contrast with the other acts on the bill. But for all of this, their set feels, perversely, the most conventional, working as it does established experimental / avant-jazz tropes. Although overtly improvised and fluid, and perhaps a shade overlong, there’s a clear sense that they have a tight rein on their performance, and it’s hard to find fault technically.

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Stocker/Eyes

In fact, it’s hard to find fault with the night overall: WonkyStuff pitch a varied but perfectly complimentary set of acts, the likes of whom will never achieve anything beyond cult status (if even that), and provide an essential platform for the oddballs and fringe performers. And essential is the word: in an age where capital and homogenisation is killing pretty much everything but the lowest common denominators, culturally, we need nights like this.

Christopher Nosnibor

The fact the word ‘fan’ comes from ‘fanatic’ is perhaps worth bearing in mind. A band can probably be considered to have achieved a certain level of fan appreciation when they see the same faces in the crowd at venues around the country on a given tour. As one of those fans who’s attended multiple (although never more than a couple or three) dates on a tour for several bands, I’ve found it interesting to observe how audiences in different cities react, and also how those reactions feed into the performance. And, of course, there’s a certain curiosity about a band’s consistency. And in my capacity as a critic, the same is true – although it’s fair to say that as far as my second time of seeing Weekend Recovery in a month is concerned, I’m attending as both fan and critic. Having just unveiled their debut album, their touring schedule has amped up considerably, with almost three months of dates around the UK now to promote it, followed by a cluster of festival dates in the summer.

But here are now, this does mean I’m playing compare and contrast with Leeds on a Friday night where Weekend Recovery are the main support, and York on a Thursday, where the band, with their origins down south and now based in Leeds, are headlining. It’s hardly like-for-like. Much as I love York and its music scene, there is a conservatism which runs deep in the city’s gig-going community. Local bands will fair ok, but any act from out of town who isn’t well-known will, more often than not, find there’s a lot of space in the room. So it’s credit to Weekend Recovery that while the place is far from packed, there’s a respectable turnout, especially given that it’s the week before payday.

Maybe it’s my age. Maybe it’s my rage. Increasingly, I’ve come to respect and admire and enjoy bands comprising guys of or approaching middle age ranting about the mundane. They’re not all even a fraction as good as Pissed Jeans, but Paint Nothing, while endlessly ripping off The Fall up to 1983, occupy the same office-based miserabilist territory as Scumbag Philosopher. The singer’s wide-eyed intensity augments the spitting anger. The audience may be divided, but those who don’t dig these four shouty, balding midlifers ranting about stuff clearly haven’t lived.

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Paint Nothing

Brooders are probably young enough to have been parented by Paint Nothing, and probably were busy being born when grunge was all the rage. But having built themselves up as a live act with some impressive support slots and single release ‘Lie’ on Leeds label Come Play With Me imminent, the trio bring a finely-honed fusion of abrasive noise and not-so-abrasive melody. When they hit optimal heavy, they’re in the territory of Therapy? in collision with Fudge Tunnel, and the clean guitar sound, that’s awash with chorus and flange is lifted wholesale from Soundgarden’s ‘Black Hole Sun’. At times they get pretty and it’s more indie than grunge, and with a psychey / shoegaze twist. There’s never a dull moment in their varied but relentlessly riffcentric set.

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Brooders

Last time I saw Brooders, it was supporting Hands Off Gretel at the same venue, so it’s perhaps fitting that Weekend Recovery’s front woman Lorin’s sporting a short dress, holed tights and knee-length white socks, passing a note to the now-classic 90s kindergarten whore look.

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Weekend Recovery

Their set isn’t radically different from the one in Leeds last month, and kicks off with a driving rendition of ‘Turn It Up’ which encapsulates the up-front grunge-orientated sound of the album, which marks a distinct evolution from their previous work. ‘Oh Jenny’ sees the titular character introduced as a ‘colossal slag’ after I’d chatted with Lorin before the show about the merits of ‘colossal’ and ‘massive’ as adjectives (we have a colleague who’s a colossal pussy; my boss is a massive cunt) and the set closes with ‘Why Don’t You Love Me?’ as is now standard, and it’s delivered full-tilt and brimming with a balance of desperation and sarcasm.

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Weekend Recovery

In between…. Lorin may not pogo as much or appear as bouncy in general as the last time I caught them, but bassist Josh (wearing the same outlandish shirt as at the Leeds gig – not that I can comment on outlandish shirts) and guitarist Owen throw lunging, leg-splaying poses all over. But this isn’t mere posturing: they’re really giving it all the energy. And the crowd appreciate it. Did they get what they came for? Of course.

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.

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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.

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.