Posts Tagged ‘Viewer’

The Crescent, York, 14th March 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

It doesn’t seem real now. It was the night before everything changed, before everything changed again a couple of days later. While cancellations were accelerating, advice and clarity was sparse, and what constituted ‘the right thing’ was very much a matter for debate. The Crescent were very much doing ‘the right thing’ based on the advice: punters were steered to washing their hands on arrival at the venue: those without e-tickets advised to pay by contactless card, while also paying contactlessly at the bar, being served by staff in gloves, pints being served in cans or single-use plastic vessels. Social distancing wasn’t yet a specific thing, and there was scant information which suggested that in excess of 15 minutes in close proximity may increase the risk of transmission. We greeted with elbows and nods. In the main, we respected the guidelines.

I’d be interested to know how many of those who attended have subsequently fallen sick with Covid-19. Not all of us were in the ‘young’ demographic; none of us was being wilfully irresponsible. The virus has become divisive in the way that Brexit was: on social media, in particular, anyone leaving the house risks being subject to vilification, abuse, and even police interrogation. We now live in a climate of fear – an unprecedented climate of fear, dominated by an unprecedented overuse of the word ‘unprecedented’.

The middle of March: a mere month ago, but another lifetime. Gig attendances were already beginning to drop off sharply as the fear spread. And with everything amping up, there was a certain sense of occasion about this: I sense that many of use attended as much out of a sense of solidarity and support: solidarity and support for the bands, the venue, the local scene, and one another. And because we knew, if only subconsciously, that the opportunities to convene like this would be numbered. Gatherings like this are what keep communities together, and keep many of us sane. I’m elated to see numerus friends, including some I’ve not seen in far too long: we catch up about parenthood and our concern for our elderly parents under the creeping shadow of the virus. We drink beer, and we watch bands.

Viewer haven’t been out in a while, and apart from time down the pub, have almost been on a self-imposed isolation for I don’t know who long. I’m not even sure Tim Wright would notice a 12-week lockdown. But here he is, hunched over a laptop, cranking out beats and backings and migraine-inducing visual backdrops while AB Johnson – still suffering the effects of concussion and sporting a black eye and struggling to remember the lyrics after a recent accident involving his face and the pavement – pours every ounce of energy into his performance. They’re the primary reason I’m here, and given the quality of the songs, the visuals, and the people they’ve dragged out of the woodwork, every moment is a joy. Johnson’s lyric sheets are scattered around the stage and his difficult relationship with mic stands is evident tonight. But despite any shakes or glitches, they remain one of the most essential acts around, and just need for the world to catch up.

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Viewer

Soma Crew are showcasing (another) new lineup tonight, with a minimal drum set-up and lap steel dronage and slide bringing new dimensions to their deep psych chugging repetitions driven by varying between two or three guitars. My notes begin to descend into sketchy incoherence around this point, but the memory-jogging ‘RRR’ reminds me that they’re masters of the three ‘r’s – repetition, repetition, repletion, and they slug away at three chords for five or six minutes to mesmeric, hypnotic effect. It seems that every time I write about Soma Crew, I remark that they’re better every time I see them. And yet again, it’s true. They’re denser, more solid, more muscular, and tighter than ever, and on this outing they feel like a band who should be playing to way bigger crowds, capable of holding their own at the Brudenell or the Belgrave.

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Soma Crew

Leeds’ Long-Legged Creatures are new on me, and they impress, with a fluid bass and big washes of texture defining the sound. An eletro/post-rock/psych hybrid, they lay down some hypnotic grooves, and my sketchy, increasingly beer-addled notes remind me that their performance is frenetic, kinetic, with some strong – and complex – drum ‘n’ bass / jazz drumming driving the songs.

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Long Legged Creatures

Things take a major left-turn when some poet guy steps up to the mic and spews lines and rhymes like John Cooper Clarke on a cocktail of drugs. A spot of digging suggests he may be Joshua Zero, but I may be wrong. He’s a compelling presence, though: he’s wild, he’s crazed, and his staggering vitriolic attacks are in stark contrast to the coordinated post-rock jams of the band. It’s as exhilarating as it is unexpected. It’s great.

Maybe you had to be there. Maybe you were better avoiding it. But I’ve no regrets. I miss gigs, I miss pubs, I miss live music, and I miss people. At least my last experience of all of these was truly wonderful and encapsulated everything I love about this.

The Fulford Arms, York, 14th January 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Two weeks into the year and I haven’t had a single night off writing CD reviews to drink beer and check out some live music. The simple fact is, times are hard and I’m in the mod to hibernate. But tonight’s extravaganza is one of four nights of epic showcase events to mark the fourth anniversary of the current management – Messrs Sherrington and Tuke – taking over the venue. It’s something that deserves to be celebrated.

Time was that there was nothing much to be found in York apart from acoustic blues. York became synonymous with blues. You couldn’t walk into a pub without some bloke with a guitar doing blues. Some of it was good. Some of it was extremely good. Some of was less good and the less said about the remainder, the better. It’s all too easy to have too much of a good thing, let alone a middling samey thing. The Fulford Arms, as was, was integral to the scene for a time. Then, everything changed. Under new management, The Fully Arms really started putting on proper gigs. Taking chances with less obvious artists. Sorting out proper lighting. And with a decent PA, upping the volume.

Tonight is one of four gigs showcasing the expansive range of local talent which is anything but centred around gentle acoustic blues. Of the four nights, this is perhaps the most eclectic, with everything on offer from quirky, theatrical avant-art folk pop to droning psyche, via hard-groove electro and post-punk pub-rock.

Having still been cooking with my own fat spatula at 6pm, I’m too late to catch the band Fat Spatula. Shame, because their brand of US-influenced alt-rock / indie is rather cool. I was also too late for the electro pop of Short Dark Stranger who I heard good things about. I suspect he was the gut standing to my left in the conspicuous silk shirt while I supped my first pint to the strains of Jonny Gill’s acoustic alt-rock which furnished the space between sets ahead of the arrival of Percy. These guys have been knocking around since forever, and still hit the mark (E. Smith) with their post-punk, Fall-influenced sneering takes on the workaday life.

In fact, the first time I heard Percy was circa 1998, at a pub just over the river. They were on the same bill as a band called Big Vicar, who were fronted by AB Johnson, who now forms one half of tonight’s headliners, Viewer, who meld sociopolitical lyrics and indie sensibility to driving dancefloor-friendly beats courtesy of Tim Wright, who in another world is the seminal TubeJerk.

There’s so much more than blues, and so much more than Shed fucking Seven going on here. Meabh McDonnel’s self-effacing kitchen-sink folk tunes are good fun: she’ll probably not take the compliment, but her voice is superb and her lyrics are funny and often poignant, and unstintingly honest and direct. The delivery is an integral part of the charm of her performance: it’s not about polish, but relatability and being real.

Soma Crew’s set is abridged due to apparent technical difficulties but out front their psych-drone attack had been sounding good, while Naked Six – the closest to blues it gets tonight – crank out the kind of vibrant, full-tilt set melding AC/DC and Led Zeppelin with a grunge twist that they’ve made their standard.

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Naked Six

It’s been a while since we’ve seen Viewer, seeing as they called it a day before re-emerging as Stereoscope a while ago – and playing in darkness for the majority of their set, or otherwise illuminated only by stark backlit images. I’ve watched – and reviewed – these guys more times than I can recall, and not because I invariably drink too much beer at their shows (AB is one of those guys who is just the best for sinking pints and talking bollocks with – but, miraculously and ever the professional, he always manages to deliver the lines, cast the poses, and, just as miraculously, stay upright during their sets). They’re late starting, but this seems to work n their favour: the audience is even more buzzed up and ready and they groove hard as Johnson throws his shapes and wry commentaries into the space before him. They get down, albeit a bit tipsily – to Wright’s insistent beats and grinding synths. And Viewer were – are – ace because they straddle the line of playing dumb and acting up to dumbness.

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Viewer

Every single last one of the acts playing on tonight’s bill could go far given the right breaks and adequate effort. But this is the time to simply celebrate a landmark moment for a venue that’s spent the best part of its four-year existence punching well above its weight (Ginger Wildheart? Wayne Hussey? The March Violets? to name but three) while providing a space for some far-out and emerging acts. Hell, they’ve even had me on, more than once. But this is what small independent venues are for. It’s so hard to get a break these days, and it’s venues like this, with open doors and open minds, which keep new music alive.

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.