Posts Tagged ‘York’

It’s pretty busy and pretty warm early doors, and there’s a definite buzz about the place which is filling up with black-clad beings who’ve seemingly crawled out of the woodwork (some possibly having lain dormant since Sulpher’s first album back in 2003).

The stage is set with myriad props and adornments, including a lectern, black helium balloons on strings, and a pigurine (that would be a figurine of a pig… wonder if the term might catch on?) for the arrival of Pretty Addicted – on this occasion, a solo performance by Vicious Precious, who enters dressed in white habit and cassock. These are both discarded within a couple of songs as she woks herself into an evermore frenzied state. During her set, a Marilyn Manson-aping effort which draws on every cliché blasphemy in the book as she bumps, grinds, writhes and spits endless profanities, she exudes a brutally aggressive sexuality. Musically, it’s pretty much by-numbers cybergoth: hard-edged techno beats pump relentlessly, and there’s little to distinguish between them. Still, as performance art, it’s striking and not one anyone will forget any time soon.

Pretty Addicted

Pretty Addicted

York’s Beyond All Reason have a big, big sound – as big, in fact, as singer Venno’s hair. Combining live and sequenced drums, they exploit dynamics and texture, and deliver it with an impressive slickness. And there’s no doubt they can play – although at times, the displays of technical proficiency overshadow the substance of songwriting, and the melodic epics are tinged with self-indulgence Venno belts out long high notes with gusto, and I half expect a cover of the Oxo ‘Shepherd’s Pie’ advert.

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Beyond All Reason

Dude, it’s a bass, not a bazooka: just because it’s got five strings… In terms of presentation, they’ve done their research with textbook legs akimbo rock god postures and axe-wielding guitar poses. It’s all a shade calculated and contrived to have resonance or lasting impact.

Sulpher, on the other hand, throw shapes (on the occasions they’re visible though the smog), but do so with swagger and a raw energy that positively crackles. It seems that bands who tour with The Sisters of Mercy acquire a taste for smoke – I recall I Like Trains playing in a pea-souper at the Cockpit following their jaunt round Europe with them – but Sulpher take it to the next level. Not only can I barely make out the band, I can barely see whoever’s standing next to me, and I sure as hell can’t see my way to the bar. In fact, by the end of the set, I can barely see my feet.

The dense atmosphere makes the room even hotter, and it’s the perfect setting for the trio’s intense brand of abrasive, industrial-edged rock, which they piledrive hard at it for a full hour.

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Sulpher

There’s a good reason they’ve been keeping a low profile for so long: Rob Holliday’s been pretty busy the last fifteen years, what with playing as a member of Marilyn Manson’s touring band, first on bass and later on guitar, as well as working extensively in the studio and live Gary Numan and The Prodigy, not to mention a three-year stint with The Mission. To say he’s been in demand would be an understatement, but inevitably, the day-jobs have left little time for the real work.

Given his experience of playing immense venues, I was interested to see how Holliday would handle a 120-or so capacity venue with a stage just 10” high. A lot of artists accustomed to larger venues struggle with more intimate crowds – Andrew Eldritch never looked more tense than at the Brudenell performing to 450 people, while at a distance of 20 feet, elevated and hidden by smoke in 2,000 capacity venues, he’s comparatively at ease. Holliday is more than fine with the small space, and the band as a whole seem to relish the experience, giving every ounce to deliver a real show, and succeeding.

At one point, Rob asks how many people own the first album: maybe three people raise a hand or call out. They ride it out: the grass-roots approach and strategy to land a major support slot next year is likely to achieve major reach, and besides, the music industry has changed beyond recognition in the last fifteen years.

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Sulpher

The set’s more or less a split between Spray and No One Will Know and it’s solid: a molten mass of seething rage that climaxes in a brace of old songs of a minute and a half apiece. The old material blends seamlessly with the new: they’ve still got that turn-of-the-millennium industrial vibe about them, with Ministry and Killing Joke providing the most obvious touchstones, but with blistering, memorable and melodic choruses in the mix, NIN offshoot Filter make for the most obvious comparison.

Wrapping up with ‘Scarred’ and ‘Spray’, blasted home in less than a couple of minutes apiece, it’s a ferocious finale to a meaty set. Sulphur are very much back.

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It’s the night before payday and I’m skint. I should probably be at home, sifting through the mountain of review submissions that have crashed into my inbox while I’ve been at work. I should probably be doing myriad other things. But having caught Dead Naked Hippies for the first time in Leeds a few months ago, I vowed to see them again at the first opportunity, and given that this was a free-entry show at a venue above a WMC two minutes’ walk from my house, there was no way I was going to miss this. And with bottles of Timothy Taylors’ Landlord at £3.20 a bottle, it wasn’t going to be a complete overdraft-smasher.

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I often experience a strange sense of déjà-vu, but tonight, I suffer a deep sense of disorientation on finding the room I’d previously watched bands perform in full of chairs, so I continue on up and lo, there’s a cluster of people, some of whom I recognise. Dave, aka Washing Machine Repair Man, who runs Young Thugs Records and it at the helm of the activities surrounding the Hovel – which is above a WMC in York’s South Bank, gives me a bit of a tour and shows me some of the changes they’ve made since I last visited. It’s impressive: the studio is now in a large, and rather plush room, and he’s excited about the potential of what was – and is, where he’s yet to begin work – a dilapidated but substantial space with a number of rooms.

And so I find myself in a room I’d previously sat in as a studio-in-progress, repurposed as a sort of rehearsal space with lights, before some kind of weird Japanese-made electronic organ / synth contraption from the early 80s. A dude in a cropped jumper and sporting a neatly-trimmed beard bounds about flamboyantly and chats entertainingly between songs played by the trio on said instrument. He’s accompanied by and shares vocal duties with a curly-topped chap in a bobble hat and a super-bouncy female singer / keyboardist in glasses. They sings off-kilter songs with pithy lyrics and groovesome rhythms and a certain retro vibe, which build a sort of narrative across the set. Welcome to the world of Drooligan. I haven’t quite made up my mind yet, but tonight they delivered something special, something engaging, something different. And something different is rare, which makes this quite the compliment.

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Drooligan

Being a small room, it doesn’t take many (half a dozen?) to make it feel quite full, and for it to get quite warm, and to describe the atmosphere of a gig venue smaller than my living room as intimate would be as weak an understatement as describing the sun as ‘quite warm’ or Brexit as ‘not the best idea ever’. But then, the Hovel Sessions aren’t really gigs in the conventional sense: the shows are filmed and serve more as a showcase performance and an ‘experience’ than your usual setup.

Casting sheets of paper to his feet like brutal and chunky confetti, live, clothed punk poet Henry Raby seems to have been taking performance tips from yours truly, and one of the three new pieces aired tonight takes cues in the opening segment from criminally underrated local performer Lawrence O’Reilly – but then, creativity in the postmodern age is all about drawing material from a wide range of sources and intertextuality isn’t simply about what’s written, and Henry’s style seems to be evolving. The last time I saw him was at that Dream Nails gig in a 400-capacity venue. It’s often more difficult to perform to a small audience, especially in a small space, but a seasoned performer, he does a decent job of it, firing out nuggets of socio-political commentary with energy.

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Henry Raby

Dead Naked Hippies are touring hard at the moment, and it was the fact I landed ‘Drain You’ for review last year that made me prick up my ears in the first place, before checking them out at The Belgrave Music all and Canteen supporting DZ Deathrays recently that ultimately brought me here tonight. As much as the music and the songs themselves, it was the band’s intensity – especially the electrical energy of Lucy Jowett – that makes them such a compelling act. Off stage, testing their snooker-playing skills, they’re an affable bunch, but give them instruments and amps and the fiery angst explodes instantly. The lumbering groove of new release ‘Rare’ sits neatly alongside the grungy ‘I Wanna Know Ya’ and some simple-but-effective rabble-rousing anti-work sloganeering.

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Dead Naked Hippies

It’s a fairly short set, but this much spikiness needs to be dispatched hard and fast for optimal impact. And in such a tiny space, the intensity is amplified. Maximum intensity: optimal impact. Blistering.

It’s not often that an evening of live music begins with spoken word poetry. It’s a shame, as the two media can often prove complimentary. John Cooper Clark supporting The Fall and KJ Farrington supporting Sleaford Mods stand out in my mind for all the right reasons.

Self-professed punk poet and nerd, Henry Raby, gets things going with a couple of pieces. A seasoned performer who seamlessly rides out any fluffed lines (and can turn forgetting a line into a plug for his book), he’s relaxed and emanates an energy that’s infectious, and which is paired with a disarming affability.

Katie Watson’s poetry is personal, confessional, brimming with anxiety and keen observations, and rendered with fine details and a certain self-effacing humour. Her delivery is superb: having previously caught her not s long ago at a spoken-word night in a small room, she seems to revel in the bigger space, the challenge of a larger audience, and being faced with a microphone.

What Henry has a knack of bringing to events he’s involved in is a spirit of inclusivity, of equality, of unity. We’re all misfits together here. So, the board gaming nerds, the varied shades of gender and a range of musical and literary tastes are all catered for here.

Crumbs describe themselves as ‘a post-punk pop party pack’ who like ‘pets and puns’ (and alliteration, on this evidence). The four-piece blend jangly 90s indie with a grunge sensibility. Pavement would be an obvious, but fitting touchstone, and at one point I find myself thinking about a collision between The Cure and Carter USM, while elsewhere, there’s a new song that boasts a chunky, funky bass groove and choppy, fractured guitar worthy of Gang of Four. It’s an eclectic and compelling mix. The guitarist has some of the dirtiest overdrive I’ve heard in a while, creating a strong contrast to the crisp, chiming tone that features in most of the songs’ verses. It’s a simple dynamic, but highly effective. Playing on the floor in front of the stage, the sound in the front rows is mostly backline, and this only heightens the experience of the band being in such close proximity to the audience.

Crumbs

Crumbs

Having only caught the second half of Dream Nails’ set at Live at Leeds, and found it to have been good fun, I was keen to see how they’d go over the duration of a full headline set.

They’re high-octane and high-energy from the get-go, and if there was any question over whether or not they could sustain it for a full set, they answer it with a resounding yes. There really is no let-up in their four-chord poppy punk thrashabouts. The lyrics veer between vulnerability and vehemence, and while they may lack overt depth or subtlety, the directness is part of the appeal. And behind the effervescent performance style, and the bouncy, accessible tunes, there are some serious issues, largely centring around the challenges of being a woman in the world today.

And these are the reasons why I’m here. I go to gigs to watch and listen to bands. As a music critic, I write about them, and because we live in a very visually-orientated age, pictures accompanying a review are often useful. But Dream Nails don’t like having their pictures being taken by men, and since I didn’t have any female company in tow to shoot a pic on my behalf, there’s no image here.

Men snapping away make them feel uncomfortable. Especially men in my demographic with certain types of camera (I’m 42, although the post on their Facebook page which appeared within a short time of the show’s ending would suggest they think I’m older, and I prefer t travel light). Fair enough. Although generally, if you’re going to implement a policy, such as no photography without consent, it’s better to state it up-front. But when that policy is called during the show, and applies only to a few – well, men, actually – the issue becomes rather thorny under scrutiny.

Nobody likes to be singled out, especially not based on an assumption, and even less when the assumption is incorrect – because that’s prejudice. To be singled out as one of two men with cameras, with the justification that they hadn’t given consent, and fuck the male gaze, was not comfortable. I can live with uncomfortable: I’m aware that my own performances have a tendency to evoke a very tangible sense of discomfort and awkwardness. But no-one is ever singled out or humiliated, and it’s not about ‘unlearning oppressive behaviours’.

But more than anything, I found not only the approach troubling, but what it represents. Now, the battleground of gender is one of which I have only a cursory knowledge, but I am acutely aware of the divisions and infighting between the various identifiers. But ultimately, being a straight white male, I’m in the bracket which is the worst of the worst on the enemy scale. As we mark the centenary of The Representation of the People Act 1918, which gave British women over 30 the right to vote, at the same time as picking through the fallout of the events that led to the #metoo campaign, it’s clear we’ve still got a long way to go and that male oppression is rife.

However, the ‘calling out’ of ‘creepy’ guys taking photos of a band performing assumes that all men are creepy and only go and see bands with women in because they want to go and ogle women. Which also seems to undermine the idea that as women making music, people –regardless of sex / gender (I’m aware the correspondence between the two varies considerably) – may simply appreciate their art, and, like so many others, shoot snaps for posterity or social media because it’s the age we live in. To judge an individual based on the behaviour of a number (not even necessarily a majority) is prejudice in action.

This – literal – finger-pointing may have been well-received by a sector of the audience, but even if it hadn’t been directed at me, it would still have sat uncomfortably on a personal level: publicly humiliating someone based on an assumption is very much a knee-jerk response, the likes of which result in heated arguments. My knee-jerk reaction was to omit Dream Nails from the review altogether, but precisely what would that achieve? Certainly nothing productive. First, what’s actually needed is rational debate and mutual understanding of commonality. Second, they played a decent set, and went down well with a crowd of a respectable size, which is no small feat – especially in York on a Thursday night.

Moreover, feminism, at its heart, is about attaining equality for women. To substitute misogyny with misandry is not a push for equality, but to simply invert and replicate the behaviours of the guilty, and thus perpetuate division. Dream Nails generously commented on their Facebook thread, ‘Also if u r a male fan who is feeling affronted by this, pls remember you are still always welcome at our shows without your cameras.’ So, credit where it’s due, they’re still espousing equality. But is conditional equality really equality? Not really. Obviously, I’m grateful for the concession to be allowed to attend their shows in the same way anyone else is.

I shouldn’t feel the need to state that I’m not anti-feminism; quite the opposite. Moreover, I’m fundamentally opposed to any -ism that promotes inequality, discrimination, prejudice. And so, while Janey Starling may have provoked something personal in her actions, my beef isn’t so much directed at her or the band, but at the way complex and difficult issues are addressed, without any attention to the details or any sense of nuance, with too many people shouting about the lack of consideration they’re shown by others without showing that same consideration in return.

They ended their set with a blistering rendition of ‘Deep Heat’.

Christopher Nosnibor

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

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

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Pak40

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

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Saltwater Injection

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

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Bone Cult

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

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Little Death Machine

Christopher Nosnibor

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

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

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

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Paint Nothing

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

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Brooders

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

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Weekend Recovery

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

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Weekend Recovery

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

Christopher Nosnibor

There’s probably not much to say or write about Lydia Lunch that hasn’t been said or written before. A cult legend in her own lifetime – a rare thing indeed – she remains one of the most formidable performers around. Tonight – performing the only northern show of three UK dates with Weasel Walter with her ‘Brutal Measures’ spoken word show (why said show happened to be in York… Those present weren’t merely grateful, but overjoyed, but those present were depressingly few in number), she’s uncompromising from start to finish.

Before Lydia and sidekick Weasel Walter who drums and generates all mind of noise to accompany her take stage, Leeds punk foursome Flies On You deliver a visceral, in-your-face set of primal punk songs. It’s a challenging and emotional show, a mere fortnight after guitarist and lad songwriter Andy Watkins’ sudden and unexpected death. Front man Doug Aikman clearly struggles at times, but still pulls of a storming performance. And while the basis of what Flies on You do is meat-and-potatoes old-school punk, there’s a distinctly post-punk vibe that borders on goth in their rattling basslines and screeding reverby guitar peels. Moreover, it’s delivered with passion and a certain degree of wit – and the refrain ‘Katie Hopkins in human form’ is a great line whichever way you look at it.

She may have mellowed with age, but Lydia Lunch is still infinitely more fierce in every way than pretty much anyone. It’s all relative. And she may not be large in stature, but her presence fills the room. Her voice is a cracked rasp for the most part, but she uses it to compelling effect. It’s not about being seasoned, either: this is her nature, who she is. Raw, real. Intense. Intense. Intense.

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‘Brutal Measures’ is an extended spoken-word piece set in a number of movements, split by segments of hefty percussion and augmented by extraneous noise passages. Or, as Lunch’s bandcamp page describes it, ‘a longform composition featuring tense spoken word versus manic free drumming outbursts, glued together by cryptic electronics’. Recorded live, there’s an improvisational aspect to the musical accompaniment to Lunch’s words, which she delivers alternating between two mics, one clean, one heavily reverbed. The twenty-minute recorded take stretches to a full fifty-minute set live. And yet there is no filler: the drum solos breaks are tight, taut, concise and blistering. The instrumental electronic passages and the extraneous noise which both accompany and intersperse the chapters are intriguing, and the beer barrels Lydia uses as a table for her notes double as percussion instruments in the sometimes cacophonous batteries of sound between spoken word passages.

She does get slightly pissed off when the stand for the clean mic slides down and is uncooperative, and the venue techs are slow to react – but then, who wouldn’t be? But she doesn’t make a deal of it, and continues her narrative stream regardless. She’s a performer, not a diva.

As a spoken word performer myself, I am in awe. For me, it’s a challenge, and one I sometimes struggle with. Even the good nights are challenges. Lydia is in a league of her own. She holds the room, even with a whisper. She silences the chatting tossers at the bar. Not because she’s dictatorial: she does it for everyone who’s paid to hear her and Weasel and the chat at the back.

Words fly every which way as Lydia sparks in all directions: she’s a relentless conjurer of images and ideas, with a perspective on everything. Even delivered slow, mean and low, it’s often hard to keep up with her endlessly swerving trajectory, but it all comes together to present a version of her world-view. And yes, it is pretty brutal, all told.

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It’s an early finish – but then, it’s a Monday night – but what the set lacks in duration, it more than compensates in intensity – did I mention intensity? If some spoken word performances leave the audience departing wilting because they’re a trudge, tonight is very different: Lydia Lunch and Weasel Walter create something utterly compelling, that leave the audience wilting by virtue of its immense force. Spoken word at its best.

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.