Posts Tagged ‘York’

Christopher Nosnibor

Lately, I’ve been contemplating the pros and cons of geography, particularly the fact that all the gigs seem to happen in London, and a lot of smaller London-based bands on a perpetual tour of the capital and rarely venturing far beyond. It’s hardly surprising, given so much recent coverage of the costs of going on tour – particularly with the added uncertainty of the ongoing matter of Covid. But then, here in the North, I can travel from York to Leeds in less time than it takes to cross a corner of London, and a pint is about half the price. And in a six-day span when Mclusky, Big | Brave and Melt-Banana all play Leeds or York, I feel pretty spoiled.

And so here we are at The Crescent, York’s answer to The Brudenell, which operates with similar principles of remaining true to its WMC origins with low-priced beer and a focus on decent sound. If you’ve ever wondered what a typical melt-Banana fan might look like, the answer is that there is no such thing. A mad genre-spanning noise band, it seems, appeals to anyone with an open mind and ears that are happy to take a battering, with punks, indie kids, goths, metallers and all sorts from ages twenty to sixty all gathered, and what a wonderfully pleasant, sociable lot they prove to be, and as so often proves to be the case, the more extreme the music, the more friendly the crowd.

Mumbles don’t really benefit from the sound with their primitive (post) punk. It’s played with frenetic energy and packs so many tempo changes they can barely keep up with themselves. It’s an eventful set, where the guitarist/singer’s austerity trousers aren’t the only things worthy of note: technical issues lead to an impromptu clarinet sol, and things get a bit jarring Avant jazz in places. I’m on the fence as to how well it actually works at times, but ultimately, they emerge triumphant. The guys are visibly nervous and some songs seem almost beyond their technical ability, although that’s not remotely a criticism: listen not live recordings of bands in the 70s and 80s, and this is what bands sounded like live. With more or less every band emerging super-tight and polished, it sometimes seems as if something has been lost, and Mumbles won themselves a fair few fans on this outing.

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Mumbles

It’s a welcome return to York for Cowtown and their breezy, caffeine-fuelled bouncy indie. The epic reverb on Jonathan Nash’s vocals adds a layer of depth to their up-front and punchy sound, and he too showcases some more dubious trouserage with plus fours and long socks. But, as always, they’re fun to watch, and the energy of their performance is infectious, getting the crowd warmed up nicely for the main event.

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Cowtown

And what an event it is.

Blam! Grraww! Whap! Pow! Yelp! I’ve absolutely no idea what the fuck is going on, and I’m not even convinced a detailed knowledge of their twenty years of output spanning eight albums would make any real difference. Fast and furious doesn’t come close: everything is a complete blur. The stage is piled high with amps and speaker cabs, so much so that despite it being a large stage, the pair have barely room to move. So much backline! So much volume! This is crazy! No bass, just squalling guitar racket propelled by programmed drums – that actually sound live – at 150mph.

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Melt-Banana

Only Japan could produce a band like Melt-Banana, who infuse high-octane whiplash-inducing grind with a manic pop edge, dirty great sawing guitars and sequencers controlled by some strange handheld device that looks like an 80s disco. For all the raging noise, the technical precision is astounding. Somewhere toward the end of the set, Yasuko Onuki announces ‘nine short songs’, and they’re played back-to-back are blistering grindcore abrasion and over in about three minutes. The mighty moshpit, which has been pretty intense throughout the set, simply explodes.

The atmosphere as the band leave the stage is electric. We’re all dazed, stunned, as if our brains have been used as punching balls for rapid punching exercises. It’s beyond rare for a set to blow away an entire packed venue – but then Melt-Banana aren’t rare, they’re truly unique. What an insane rush.

Christopher Nosnibor

Having been rescheduled after last November’s booking was cancelled, The Golden Age of TV are back in York on the eve of the release of a new EP.

It’s not the most promising start to arrive to find the doors locked, and Sea Legs are still soundchecking when they open the doors 25 minutes late. Something isn’t right with the mic in the kick drum, and it’s creating huge crackling distortion. But a change of mic, a change of leads, and things are back on track, albeit with a slightly later start.

It’s pretty quiet to begin, too, so the time between soundcheck and the start affords a bit of time just to sup a pint of Timothy Taylor’s dark mild and see the venue properly. I don’t think I’ve ever noticed that there’s still a fireplace and mantelpiece at the back of the stage behind the drum kit. It’s even more of an anomaly than the huge great radiator at the side of the room. These are reminders that The Vaults may be a venue, but still a pub at heart, and I’m drinking my hand-pulled pint from a real glass. There’s something comforting and gratifying about this.

Sea Legs’ melodic indie/alt rock stylings are easy on the ear, and occasionally fade into waves of ambience in between. There are some nice bass grooves too, not to mention some detailed and textured lead guitar work. They’re tight and tuneful: to my ears they’re nice enough but a shade ordinary, although that means they’re also exactly the kind of band that goes massive with the right breaks.

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Sea Legs

Pavillion’s front man’s beige chinos and shiny paisley shirt are a bit of a distraction from the music, although that’s probably just me as I realise he’s dressed how everyone dressed when I was their age, down to the early 90s curtains. I also realise the place is suddenly a lot busier, and it’s a shame their fans / mates thin out again shortly after their set, not least of all because they seriously missed out. If I was being harsh, I’d say their song ‘Terrifically Ordinary’ could be their signature, but they show real songwriting panache, with hints of Squeeze, and they play well, even if the visual aspect of their performance isn’t particularly evolved yet. Their lyrical vignettes are poetic and evocative, and well-constructed.

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Pavillion

All of this is just preamble, both in terms of the bands and the commentary. I’m here for The Golden Age of TV quite simply because the last time I saw them back in September, they absolutely blew me away with their sheer quality. Although they’ve been around a while, something seemed to have fired them up several notches during lockdown.

Tonight proves that their Long Division performance was not just a flicker post-pandemic exuberance, and that they really are a band who’ve achieved a new level of form. In a bold move, they open with the upcoming EP’s title track and lead single ‘Bite My Skin’ that merges motorik groove with choppy post punk and solid riffing.

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The Golden Age of TV

The energy they radiate is magical: they’re overtly nerdy in image, and they embrace it to the max. Rock god guitar poses (Ryan with glasses sliding off face, the guy plays every chord like it’s an absolute crushing stadium-blasting monster, Sam hard thrashing like he’s possessed) epic gurning and unashamed mum dancing, they are just so exuberant and joy to watch, and I keep finding myself grinning like a loon. Bea is a remarkably expressive vocalist with great presence. In all, they’ve got great tunes, tight and tidy with neat structures and finishes, and a great vibe. When a band are this into what they’re doing, it’s hard not to get caught up in it. The golden age of TV may have long passed, but their own golden age is now. Go see them: because recorded they’re ace, but it’s live where they really thrive.

Christopher Nosnibor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christopher Nosnibor

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

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

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

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Tokyo Taboo

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

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Healthy Junkies

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

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Yur Mum

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

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PollyPikPoketz

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

Christopher Nosnibor

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

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

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

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Namke Comunications

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

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TSR2

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

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              13x                                                                                       Sam Mitchell

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

Christopher Nosnibor

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

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

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

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

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

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Feather Trade

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

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La Petite Mort

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

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Benefits

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

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Benefits

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

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

Christopher Nosnbor

By this time in any normal year, I’ll have been to at least three or four gigs by now, but 2022 has got off to a slow start largely because the impacts of Covid-19 continue to hit live music harder than perhaps most industries. Planning is nigh on impossible when bandmembers find they have to quarantine as late as the day of a show. Plus, people – bands and punters alike – are still cautious, and the dilemma of to play or not to play, attend or not attend is one that’s understandable. But, having attended my first live music at The Victoria Vaults (a seated show) last August, I’ve been working to overcome any anxieties I may have by getting out more, at least incrementally, and it’s remarkably life-affirming to arrive early doors to find a fair few others have already turned up for what promises to be a top night out, with touring London acts The Kut and Healthy Junkies supported by local quartet The Bricks.

If the name suggests something unsubtle, and also blankly nihilistic, it’s halfway to a fair representation, in that The Bricks trade in dark, spiky goth-tinged (post) punk, with some busy but solid bass grooves. Gemma Kennedy delivers gutsy vocals at the lower end of the range but then rising to a scream, and brings real power to the songs, and she’s a compelling focal point for the band, too. Introducing one of the songs, it dawns on me that the three guys playing instruments probably remember the miner’s strike that one of the songs is or isn’t about, in contrast to the vocalist who very much doesn’t, but they work cohesively as a unit, and deliver a solid and exhilarating set, and they’re admirably tight.

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The Bricks

Healthy Junkies – a band who’ve been on my radar for a while as a band to see – don’t disappoint and kick ass from the outset. They power out of the traps channelling Pretty On the Inside era Hole sonically and visually (and perhaps Nina Courson brings a dash of Katie Jane Garside to the punk rock party too). They sustain full throttle, max energy, punky energy for the duration, and while their cover of ‘These Boots Were Made for Walking’ is perhaps a bit standard, it’s played with feeling as part of a set that builds. Recent single ‘Tricky Situation’ is but one of a number of standouts in a set delivered with real panache.

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Healthy Junkies

I won’t bang on about how long I’ve been listening to and covering The Kut, but will say that it’s been a long but rewarding journey tracing their ascent, and following the release of their long-awaited debut album, they’ve continued that upward trajectory. While it’s Princess Maha as the band’s principal member who’s driven this, it’s only been possible by building a grassroots fanbase through hard gigging, and regardless of lineup, The Kut have always been a strong live band, and this is never more apparent than tonight. It’s a different lineup from the last time I saw them at Verve in Leeds in August 2018, which is practically a lifetime ago.

In a set that rocks hard, post-album single cut ‘Animo’ lands second. It’s perhaps a shame that the ‘girls to the front’ shout suffers from the wall of male photographers making up the front row, but they’re not going to throw a Dream Nails strop about it: they’re clearly enjoying being up there in front of a respectable crowd, playing songs after so long away, and they’re on strong form. Maha’s vocals are scratchy in the throat, but actually sound really good against the backdrop of chunky rock guitars. There’s palpable pleasure on their faces as they rip through the poppier ‘Hollywood Rock ‘n’ Roll’, and the moshing down the front expands from a couple off people to a proper pit. Maha’s grinning and pogoing, and it’s a joy to witness, as is the kickass rendition of ‘DMA’, and ‘I Want You Maniac’ brings forth more solid riffing. The forthcoming album is well represented with a number of songs, too. Of these, ‘Burn Your Bridges’ is slower and more dynamic, and something of a standout.

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The Kut

Main set closer ‘Badman’ brings most of the moshers up onto the stage, and I realise that it’s precisely this that I’ve missed; people cutting loose, enjoying themselves, the whole gig principle of getting lost in the moment. I’m immersed in the performance, the show, the experience, and for a few minutes at least, this is the world. There is nothing more, and this is the entirety of the universe. If only life was always this way – because in there here and now, with a pint in my hand and a band blasting away, giving it their all, this feels like the best of living.

Christopher Nosnibor

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

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

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

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

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

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crush

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

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Bdrmm

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

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Bdrmm

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

Christopher Nosnibor

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

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

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

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Tides

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

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

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PINS

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

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PINS

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

Christopher Nosnibor

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

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

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

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

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

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Namke Communications

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

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Tremulous Monk

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

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Black Lagoons

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

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Soma Crew

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

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