Posts Tagged ‘The Howl & the Hum’

Christopher Nosnibor

Although Covid really fucked up gig and festival scheduling really, really badly, Long Division Festival managed to pull together a cracking lineup and shift the 2021 festival from late spring to October, before managing to get things properly back on track for this year. You might have expected that two major events within the space of a little over six months would have meant that the 2022 festival might have felt a bit rushed, or been lacking in various ways – but remarkably, they managed to co-ordinate an event as good as any year, and one of the many admirable things about Long Division is its adherence to its original ethos, namely to showcase local and regional acts first and foremost, and to show what the city has to offer.

This year utilised no fewer than nine venues, several of which were new additions, and it’s simply incredible that a place this size should have so many fantastic gig spaces in which to host such an outstanding array of artists.

This year I arrived with the intention of taking things a bit easy – instead of packing the day absolutely solid and trying to see every act going in every venue, the plan was to see the acts I wanted to see, take in a few I was unfamiliar with who looked interesting, and take some breaks in between to sit in pubs, since Wakefield also boasts a number of decent boozers – where you can still get a pint on draught for less than four quid.

That didn’t mean I was going to spend the day supping pints instead of listening to music, and early arrival at The Establishment meant I got to be entertained by Terror Cult, an energetic trio cranking out riffs from the poppier end of the grunge spectrum. I clocked a couple of songs with overt leanings on ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ and ‘About a Girl’ in the chord structures, but mostly they sounded like Weezer. And they really went for it: if I was worried about being clobbered with a bass, I was equally elated to find a band emanating this much energy just after midday, and everyone filtered out revved for whatever their next act would be.

The popular choice was Low Hummer at Venue 23, and the large venue is busy – and they seem surprised. But then, a lot has happened since they played this same festival in the Autumn, not least of all the release of their debut album and a tour opening for manic Street Preachers. It’s pleasing to see that none of this has gone to their heads: although they very much come alive on the larger stage, they’re still low-key and unassuming in demeanour, while hammering out their brand of choppy post-punk with solid bass grooves (courtesy of new bassist Daisy) and the vocal interplay between the two vocalists is magnificent, with Daniel Mawer demonstrating hints of Ian Curtis and The Twilight Sad’s James Graham and making for an intense performance.

Low H

Low Hummer

Contrast counts, and it’s credit to the scheduling that I was able to hop over to Vortex to catch Straight Girl demolishing half their gear thanks to some particularly exuberant dancing during the second song of the set. They manage to style it out brilliantly, and with humour, and everything about their techno/goth/emo crossover is infectious and life-affirming, delivered with immense energy.

Offering something different again, Deep Tan prove to be an absolute revelation with their sparse, spindly, gothic tones, infusing Eastern influences and some dense bas, and just as I’m reflecting on this, my mate convinces me to head back over to Venue 23 for Pictish Trail. Faced with half a dozen hairy blokes in dayglo tops, I have my reservations. It’s a name I’m aware of, but not an act I’ve ever been enticed to investigate. My loss, it would seem. Perhaps it’s living in near-isolation on the sparsely-populated island of Eigg that makes Johnny Lynch so thrilled to be out, but he certainly puts on a performance, brimming with quality banter and droll humour – and some plain craziness. The guy’s a one-off, and a real performer, and he’s keen to promote the new album Island Family, with the rousing title track being something of a standout in an eccentric set of 90s indie / space rock crossover set with lots of electronics (and some autotune mayhem).

Deep Tan

Deep Tan

Pictish

Pictish Trail

Having been impressed by Household Dogs’ contribution to Leeds label Come Play With Me’s Come Stay With Me compilation, it was quite the experience to witness the six-piece playing upstairs at the rather towny karaoke and steak Counting House, with their brooding mumblecore assimilation of Nick Cave, Editors, and Gallon Drunk with a bold dash of T-Bone Burnett style country and with some epic slide guitar work that evokes the same fucked-up bleakness of the first series of True Detective. The singer brandishes his guitar like a rifle, and can’t stay in one spot for a second: he’s tense, wired, yet impenetrable, and he’s an emblem for the band and their sound, which is dense yet detailed, with a spacious sound with some meaty drumming behind it.

Dogs

Household DDoogs

The Howl & the Hum know all about spacious sound. It fills every cubic centimetre of Venue 23. Theirs is a big sound. A big, BIG sound… Bit Deacon Blue with Amy Green’s backing vocals. They’ve grown so much in such a short period of time: it wasn’t so long ago that they were a York band playing York pub venues, although it was clear from day one that they weren’t just another ‘local’ band, and lo, they’ve transitioned to headline shows at The Brudenell, and now this, their first Wakefield show, where the majority of the first three rows seem to know all the words, and sing them back throughout the set. Whether or not they’re your style, it’s impossible to deny the technical proficiency, the craft behind the songs, the confidence, the arena sound, and the power of smoke and lights. They played like headliners, and for many, they probably were.

HowlHowl 2

The Howl & The Hum

The epic wait back upstairs at the Counting House while Team Picture sorted their sound and monitors was a bit of a drag, especially as is was busy ten minutes before they were due to start. While I’d been keen to see them again, starting a thirty-minute set fifteen minutes late after faffing with mics and amps and what’s in each monitor at what volume isn’t best form, and ultimately sad to say it wasn’t worth it, since the monitor mix is in no way representative of what the audience hear out front, which was fine. There was nothing fundamentally wrong: their songs are atmospheric and dreamy, well executed but not especially memorable, and they doubtless suffered by virtue of comparison.

I wasn’t up for Field Music, so headed back to Vortex searching for something a bit less muso. And I got it.

Bored at My Grandma’s House is Amber Strawbridge, and she’s been making music the last couple of years because, well, the clue’s in the name I suppose. She sings songs with ponderous, contemplative, reflective lyrics, and live, with the backing of no fewer than five additional musicians, she delivers them with confidence and range, that’s predominantly dreamy indie, a bit shoegaze, but dynamic, and together they sound both better than the name suggests and than they look.

Bored

Bored at My Grandma’s House

Midway through the set, a couple of very drunk duck-lipped botoxed-up fake tan townies turned up and started busting moves down the front. The bassist had to keep looking away to stop laughing: they were both old enough to be his mum. They cleared off after about the sings to leave the band and fans to enjoy the remainder of the set, which concluded with a shimmering crescendo of guitar noise. And so where do you go from there?

For some, to Venue 23 for the recently-rebranded Sea Power. For me, home. Because trains, and because it’s best to quit while you’re on top.

Having covered a fair bit of ground, checked out no fewer than nine acts in half a dozen different spaces, and stopped off for pints in a brace of decent boozers – The Black Rock and Henry Boons – as well as enjoying a can of Yeastie Boys in the Mechanic Theatre bar, I felt I’d had sampled a food range of what Wakefield has to offer in 2022. I went for beer and live music, and I got exactly that – and the quality of both was outstanding.

South Bank Social, York, 28th August 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

You know it is with the underground. People in the know, know. Networking, word of mouth… and social media. So while …And the Hangnails had intimated a ‘secret’ gig at a venue tbc a few days previous, it wasn’t until the day of the event that The Howl & the Hum announced, via Facebook, a ‘last minute’ gig with a killer lineup in the dingy upstairs room in a WMC in York’s South Bank.

Call me a scenester if you like, although I’d rather say I’ve got my finger on the pulse. Moreover, this was a remarkably un-scenester gig in many ways. The peeling, mildewed walls in the room with a capacity in the region of 35 to 40, the unisex toilets hardly hollered ‘hip’ or chic and reflected a greater alignment with the DIY / basement club aesthetic of early 80s punk.

Events like this are a(nother) sign of the times. As small pub venues go to the wall, sold off by pubcos for conversion to flats or convenience stores, and other venues find themselves subject to noise abatement orders and other untenable licensing restrictions when finances are already tight, it’s increasingly difficult for bands – especially smaller ones – to find opportunities to play live. But as the cliché goes, necessity is the mother of invention, and folks are taking it upon themselves to become increasingly creative in seeking out underused, or even unused spaces. And I’m all for it. This is keeping it real, and in a universe parallel to the glitzy, mass-produced chart fodder churned out by bling-toting major-name acts with the backing of multi-billion dollar corporate labels, this is where the music that matters can be found.

A brief solo acoustic promo for the South Bank Suicide Club prefaced a belting set from Howl & The Hum The intimate venue setting was well-suited to their detailed sound: the textured guitar sound, tom-heavy and restrained drumming, paired with their knack for monumental crescendos draws parallels with early I Like Trains, although their style is very much more geared toward alt-country with a fiery rock twist. Intense and impressive, they have a ‘great things ahead’ aura about them.

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The Howl & The Hum

The last time I saw Tooth, they were so new they didn’t have a name, but they did have some great tunes. Having risen from the ashes of The Littlemores, they’ve ditched the ska leanings of their previous incarnation, and while there are still strong traces of Arctic Monkeys in their acerbically observational indie-rock, they’re flexing new muscles with some big choruses and chunky bass-leg guitar tunes.

Tooth

Tooth

Washing Machine Repair Man offers a brief acoustic interlude – by which I mean a detour into delirious and borderline deranged shouty anti-folk, augmented by double bass and green rubber wellies – before Bull are up. Having found the last couple of performances I’ve seen from Bull to be a shade lacklustre, it was uplifting to see them on such fine firm on this outing. Guitarist Dan Lucas seems to have learned pretty much everything he knows about solos from listening to Dinosaur Jr albums, and for that, he gets my vote. With shirts off and sweat running free in the tiny venue, they really step things up a notch, and carry the enthusiastic crowd with them.

Bull

Bull

…And the Hangnails are one of those bands who never get tired, who are consistently brilliant in their volume and intensity. And not only are they a great band, but they never put in less than 100%, with the same explosive energy being poured into intimate pub gigs as festival shows. Tonight is no exception, and the crowd get down accordingly. They may have turned the amps down a bit on account of the venue and its residential location, but when the room is such that if you’re not in the front two rows you’re in the back two rows, and you’ve got a drummer who hits so hard he can cause earthquakes with a single bash of the snare, it’s still ear-bleedingly loud. And these guys go for it, a hundred miles an hour, hell-for-leather, no let up, blasting out pretty much every last one of the highlights from their two albums. Crunching riffs, piercing vocals and immesne drumming are all pulled together in a molten heat into solid gold garage-influencd alt-rock classics. By the time they’re done, we’re all deaf and halfway transmuted to liquid form, and everyone is very happy indeed.

Trundling out superlatives to apply to the individual acts or even the night as a whole seems somewhat redundant: stepping out into the cool night air, tacky from head to with perspiration and ears whistling, the buzz isn’t coming from the beer, but from the exhilaration of living in the moment.