Posts Tagged ‘York’

7th July 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Another face on the Yorkshire electronic music scene, Ian J Cole is someone I’ve seen – and enjoyed – performing a few times. Obviously, not recently, nor probably any time soon, which makes the arrival of his new album, Black Scars Across My Back, most welcome.

Inspired by Bevin Boy John Copley, who died as a result of working down a Doncaster Mine in 1946, Black Scars Across My Back is a conceptual / narrative-based album in essence, although translating any concept or narrative to purely instrumental compositions means the scope for interpretation is vast. The expanse of the album is also pretty substantial, clocking in just shy of an hour and a half.

The details accompanying the album are minimal, but a spot of research show that Copley, who died aged 21, who is buried in York cemetery, was ‘one of the 48,000 ‘Bevin Boys’ (named after Ernest Bevin who was the Minister of Labour & National Service) who were conscripted to work in the UK coal mines between December 1943 and March 1948.

Then again, music alone can convey meaning and emotions in a way that resonate deeper and in ways that words simply cannot. And what’s particularly noteworthy about this album s that it focuses not on grand narratives, the political or even the personal, but a microcosmic sliver of local history, often neglected. Real history isn’t about wars and politicians, but the lives of the everyman, lived and forgotten about. Yet without these people, what would we have?

The album’s sixteen-and-a-half-minute opener balances elegiac piano with creeping swirls of ambience. It’s delicate, and softly transitions between spaces over the course of its duration, with richly layered washes of sound that interlace and interweave. What does it convey? Nothing… but everything. A certain air of simplicity, of airiness, unhurried and uncluttered breathes through the spacious arrangement, which subtly turns moods from optimism to shades of gloom via plain drifting.

There is only one Elvington Terrace in the whole UK, and located in the centre of York it measures a mere 90 metres: ‘2 Elvington Terrace’ is a haunting piece that drifts and wafts, ghostly and ethereal.

The shuffling groove of ‘Cook, Trowton and Simms’ is unexpected, and unexpectedly buoyant, introducing percussion to the album’s palette and upbeat, lively percussion at that – although there are thunderous rumbles and crashing waves in the distance, which twist the tome a little. Next up, the gloopy tension of ‘The Balloteer’ features looped samples amidst the electronic bubbling, calling to mind early Test Department and the like, and lines like ‘produce for victory’ bear remarkable parallels to the latest slogans like ‘eat out to help out’. Do we ever learn from history? It’s a rhetorical question, and I think you know.

‘Drift Sights’ is a conglomeration of clattering, industrial percussion and sparse notes, while the epic ‘The Bevin Boy’ is a constant flux of tempestuous ambience that’s far from tranquil. It provides a bleak backdrop to segments of spoken-word narrative.

The title track brings a chiming, glistening charm, as well as sprightly bright flashes of light, which bounce across the ripples and creaks of metal-cast shade, before the album’s last piece, ‘She Left Flowers on is Grave’ draws the curtain with a dolorous finality.

Black Scars Across My Back may not expressly articulate the life of its subject, but is highly evocative, and knowing the story, the context, imbues it with a sadness that’s affecting. It’s hard not to be touched by its quiet intensity.

AA

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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.

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.

James Wells

Largely eclipsed by the vast melting pot that is Leeds, York tends to exist some way off the musical radar. Years of acoustic blues and middling indie acts probably didn’t do much to promote the city, either, but lately, some interesting and angry bands have emerged, with Old Selves being the latest to throw down some fiery post-hardcore with debut single ‘Strength In Four’.

It’s 3’33” of roaring fury, which throws lashings of loathing inwards and out. It’s tightly structured, and pins down a nice alternating loud / quiet verse / chorus before erupting into a driving mid-section propelled by a springy bass. It’s solid, and says these guys are an exciting prospect for 2020.

AA

Christopher Nosnibor

Wading through gallons of sick on my way through the city centre, I’m reminded why I generally avoid town on a Friday night, especially when the races are on. But sometimes, it’ necessary to take risks and brake rules – right?

And so I arrive at a spookily quiet Spread Eagle. there isn’t even a band in sight ten minutes before the first act’s due on. But as is often the case, three minutes before time, people emerge as if from out of the woodwork.

Dullboy mine a deep seem of 90s alt rock / metal with grunge leanings, especially in the quiet/loud dynamics. A bit Alice in Chains with the harmonies, but also hints of Soundgarden… They’re accessible without being Nickelback, and anything but dull, but I notice the singer’s wearing a Fightstar T and realise I’m probably the oldest person here, including the mum of one of the adult band members.

My Wonderful Daze battle through some early technical difficulties which found them guitarless to power through a strong set. The guitarist – seven strings filling out the sound when the amp finally works – bassist and drummer are the lankiest buggers you’re likely to meet, but singer Flowers is the driving force and dominates the space. In their more melodic moments, they’re a bit Paramore, but when they really blast it, they’re more Pretty On the Inside era Hole: Flowers has a massive raw roar, and the unconventional song structures mark a distinction from other female-fronted alt-rock bands.

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My Wonderful Daze

I’ve managed to miss PAK40 the last half dozen or so times they’ve played in my vicinity, and I suppose an element of atonement and making up is behind my presence tonight. But mostly, I just wanted to see them again, and I’m very quickly reminded why. The first song is a soft, cyclical Earth-like trudge that erupts at the mid-point into doomy riffage. The monastic vocal passages in the second track call to mind Sunn O))) and Bong before they lumber into psych / prog territory in a ow seep of sludge. And they’ve got range: it’s not all noise, and occasionally they do groove too, and do it nicely.

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PAK40

The room’s almost cleared before Churis even start. Shame: the threesome make a massive jolting racket and are seriously fucking good. Swerving wildly between melodic harmonies and screeching angst, they meld math rock, grunge, hardcore, and (thankfully minimal amounts of) emo into a strong cocktail of guitar-driven goodness. Five-string bass action and sheer force fill out the sound, and they make for a worthy headline act. The few who witnessed it scored lucky, and those that didn’t, it’s their loss.

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Churis

Once again, it’s the little bands playing backroom gigs that provide the real excitement and prove that the lifeblood of live music is way below the radar. This isn’t about hipster snobbery, about obscuritanism, about superiority. It’s a matter of experience, and there is no substitute for standing mere feet from a band pouring their all into a set in a space the size of your living room as if it’s everything. Because it’s real, it’s sincere. It’s urgent. Chances are none of these bands will break out of anything, and they likely know it. They’re not in it for that. They’re not in it for the money. They’re in it because they need to be, because they love what they do. And that’s art.

We usually review albums and live shows. Sometimes we preview them. Following our involvement in the recent Humankind show in London featuring Bruxa Maria, Modern Technology, and Christopher Nosnibor vs Cementimental, this extends the departure into hosting and promotion….

Gig Poster 29 Aug 19

Facebook event? Yep… https://www.facebook.com/events/346436192966478/

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

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

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Grooving in Green

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

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1919

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

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Cold in Berlin

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

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

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Killing Eve

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

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

Christopher Nosnibor

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

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

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Weekend Recovery

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

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

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

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Purple Thread

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

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Filthy Filthy

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

Christopher Nosnibor

I keep seeing articles, usually shared on social media, about the plight of the small venue, how they’re struggling and their numbers diminishing at an alarming rate. Often, the emphasis is on how little venues are the lifeblood of the music industry, and without them, the industry would die, seeing as pretty much any artist starting out cuts their teeth in such places. I would also note another vital role played by small venues: they’re not all about the industry, or nurturing the talents of the next big thing, but cater to those who crave alternatives. Niche audiences collectively make up as great a proportion of the music-consuming, gig-going public as the more mainstream section.

I’ve just watched a beefy guy with a ruddy face and sweat pouring off him, screaming his lungs out while wearing only boxers and a pair of DMs. You’re never going to get that at an O2 Academy. But there’s undeniably a place, and an audience, for it. Yes, Manscreams make for an exhilarating and exhausting start to an evening – with free entry – that boasts a typically loud and varied lineup as curated by Soundsphere’s Dom Smith.

Their name describes their brand of grunged-up hardcore punk pretty much perfectly. And if the overtly masculine trio’s abrasive racket is superficially an excuse to air some testosterone, with Jon Donnelly’s performance making occasional nods to Henry Rollins, closer inspection reveals that for all the aggression, this is the tortured ventings of impotent rage. Exchanging words with a couple of the band afterwards, as Jon, dressed once more, retrieved his glasses and phone from his rucksack only confirms this: they’re pretty meek, ordinary guys for whom the music is their outlet, and their way of dealing with the fucked up shit that is life.

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Manscreams

Apparition showcase a fucked-up, massively overchorused guitar sound that’s straight out of 1984. We’re tripping onto obscure territory here, with the band landing somewhere between early Danse Society and Murder the Disturbed, and the songs are complex in structure, with accelerations, decelerations and tempo changes here, there and everywhere. They’re a barrage of treble, with two guitars, drums, synth and no bass, and assail the crowd with an analogue primitivism and angular aggression propelled by some thunderous drumming that’s centred around heavy use of toms and rapidfire snare work. There’s rough edges and even rough centres, and the singer is yet to fully master mic stand control, but this all adds to the charm and the sense of period authenticity, and I’m certainly not the only one in the room who’s totally sold on their style.

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Apparition

In many ways, there’s not a lot to say about PUSH: the full-throttle screamo punk duo (are they brothers? Twins) are on the attack from the first bar, thrashing out a fast-paced and frantic set. With elements to That Fucking Tank and No Age pushed to the fore and cranked up to eleven, if Pulled Apart by Horses had been a duo, they’d have probably emerged sounding like this. It’s all over in a loud, shouty blur.

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PUSH

Newmeds have totally nailed what they do. I had fairy low expectations given their presentation, mostly shiny new tats and black hoodies, but straight out of the traps, they’re a raging guitar-driven hurricane. Their stab at audience participation and encouragement to clap notwithstanding, their calls to move forward are met positively, enabling their front man to engage in some crowd surfing – which, given the height of the stage and the ceiling, and the size of the crowd, was no mean feat. But they emanate real energy and play with relentless power, and watching them rev up a small crowd like it was an arena show, it isn’t hard to see the potential. Maybe there’s something for the industry after all.

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Newmeds

The same is true of On The Ropes. I’ve known Jonny Gill for years, and seen him perform solo acoustic countless times, but never before with his band, On the Ropes. ‘I just run around a lot,’ Jonny told me before the show, and it’s a fair summary of his stage performance, most of which happens in front of the low stage.

I’ve been pretty venomous in my critiques of punk-pop acts over the years, and I won’t deny that OTR could easily be just another vaguely emotastic guitars and whines band. I also won’t deny that with the right PR, they’d be all over Kerrang! Radio in an instant. Whether or not it’s my bag shouldn’t detract from the fact they’re a cracking live act with some corking tunes. But more than that, being a cracking live act, I find myself completely drawn to them in the moment. Gill is a blur, and isn’t still for a second. It’s the energy, the sincerity, the emotional honesty, and the massive bass drive, and the way these elements come together to create a positive rush.

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On the Ropes

There’s much hugging and handshaking afterwards, and as much as I’m not a hugger or a handshaker or a fan of the kind of music played by Kerrang! the vibe is the key. we’re all here because we’re misfits together, and we’re all passionate about music, regardless of genre, regardless of, well, anything. This is the way it’s meant to be. Five bands for no money and beer at £3.60 a pint. It doesn’t get better.