Posts Tagged ‘York’

Christopher Nosnibor

It says a lot about a gig’s lineup when the band at the bottom of the bill are of a clear headline standard. It’s clear, then, that Dan and Naomi Gott, the pair behind the Behind the White Door promoter’s outfit, who also happen to be Snakerattlers, are determined to give their album a decent launch tonight.

Local lads Black Lagoons, sporting a selectin of shirts worse than my own, start out with some fuzzy bass and heavily tremolod guitars, leading into a raging slab of punk-tinged desert psych. The bulk of the set’s dominated by gnarled-up blues boogies thrashed out at a hundred mile an hour. It’s a hell of a ride, and I’m reminded a little of early Gallon Drunk: it’s not just the sharp haircuts, but the furious, frenzied take on rock ‘n’ roll which yields an intense, immersive wall of sound.

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Black Lagoons

London’s Sly Persuaders, on the face of it, offer a more straight-ahead brand of punk rock, but as the set progresses it’s clear there’s a lot more going on. They’ve got some swagger behind a stack of sinewy guitar lines and rugged, serrated bass tones, carrying hints of The Screaming Blue Messiahs in places, as well as the spiky grit of various Touch & Go bands from the early 90s in others. It’s invigorating, and it’s also getting bloody hot in the low-ceilinged pub venue.

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Sly Persuaders

The problem with ‘fun’ bands is that everyone has a different idea of fun. Naturally, some modes of fun are more populist than others, and it perhaps goes without saying that punk in itself isn’t exactly the mainstream. Pete Bentham and the Dinnerladies churn out pub rock punk with lyrics which leap from wry sociopolitical critiquing to observations on ‘modern’ art (although I’d probably bracket avant-garde provocateur Marcel Duchamp as a proto-postmodernist myself).

Pete himself doesn’t look a day under 50, and resembles a young Mark E Smith. He’s backed by a band considerably younger, and augmented with the performance element of ‘the dinnerettes’ a couple of buxom women with red gingham overdresses with fried egg patches sewn onto their boons, who make choreographed gesticulations to illustrate the lyrics. Or, sometimes, they just jog on the spot as during the ska knees-up about Uri Geller. They end up in a writhing heap in front of the stage at the end of the end of the set and everyone applauds because it’s a right laugh. The sax does give them a bit of a Psychedelic Furs vibe, though, which is a plus.

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Pete Bentham and the Dinnerladies

Snakerattlers haven’t been around long, but since losing their drummer and disbanding The Franceens, Dan and Naomi have wasted no time in pulling together a set, a busy gig diary and now an album. To launch it, they play a set comprising everything they’ve got. And they play it hard.

As a two-piece, theirs is a minimal set-up – Naomi has a simple, three-piece drum kit consisting of tom, snare and cymbal, and Dan fill out his guitar sound with a fuckload of reverb, plays through two amps (guitar and bass) and cranks it up LOUD. Their sound is s wild rockabilly blues country rock ‘n’ roll surf hybrid, with many of the lyrics consisting of hollers and whoops. Dan works up a sweat, while Naomi has a more nonchalant, easy style, swinging her arms and hips in a way that looks effortless, but she hits hard and keeps it tight.

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Snakerattlers

In many respects, the simplicity is the key to what makes Snakerattlers a great band: there’s no clutter, either about the sound or the performance. There’s not a whole heap of banter and the songs are cut down to the bare essentials, meaning they get their heads down to the business of kicking out high-octane garage rock. They do low-down boogie; they do guitar lines with strut and swagger; they do hooks. They do it all with force, and it’s appreciatively received, ensuring Rattlerock is well and truly launched.

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Christopher Nosnibor

“I’ve fucked my wrist – chipped a bone in rehearsal.” I’m talking to Dom Smith, drummer with Seep Away. His band are due on in ten minutes. Should he even be playing? He’s not exactly a gentle percussionist. But as he and the rest of the band take to the stage to Hole’s ‘Doll Parts’, it’s clear he’s adrenalized and up for going all out. Screamer Jay is kitted out in full mini-skirted drag and looking killer. Seep Away get harder, heavier, denser and louder with each outing, and tonight, Jay is even more manic and confrontational than ever, writhing on his knees among the front rows.

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Seep Away

Brooders might have a tough act to follow, but if it bothers them, they’re not showing it. They may be young – they certainly look it – but this power trio are solid as they come. They knock out some driving grunge tunes, which are dark, dense, and weighty, but also so much more. They pack in some neat and hooky melodies alongside the chunky, bass-driven noise: in many respects, they’re the quintessence of 90s alt-rock, and they know how to nail down a hefty Nirvana-inspired riff.

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Brooders

Hands Off Gretel have drawn a decent crowd, particularly for a Thursday night that’s blessed with beer garden weather. In fact, it’s a battle to get a decent spot down the front on account of the clamour of folks with their phones out, filming. It’s not hard to see – or hear – why: they’re a killer live band, who combine a raw, ragged energy with a musical tightness. And there’s simply no sidestepping the appeal of Lauren Tate.

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Hands Off Gretel

I’ve been criticised on occasion for commenting on the physical attributes of women in bands, because despite the fact I’m equally likely to comment on the physical aspects of a man in a band, it’s not really the done thing. But Lauren Tate doesn’t so much invite the eyes to focus on her, but demands it. If the powder-blue hot pants and matching top, accompanied by knee-high socks, is sort of cutesy-sexy, the heavy eye makeup, smeared lipstick and truly ferocious full-throated vocal is terrifying. It’s the perfect paradox of appeal and repel, the cheerleader slut who’ll murder you and play with the blood. This, of course, makes her the embodiment of the grunge style; the oppositional elements of quiet / loud, melody and discord, introspection and screaming rage. And the songs encapsulate all of this perfectly. Yes: let’s not forget the songs, or the rest of the band. Both are equally essential to the band’s appeal.

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Hands Off Gretel

Tonight, airing a set built around debut album Burn the Beauty Queen, the band positively tear into the guts of those songs, channelling every ounce of fury into those angst-filled aural assault. Dropping ‘Be Mine’ as the second track of the set, it’s a shuddering, full-on bass-led attack. ‘Bad Egg’ is served with a huge dose of venomous self-loathing, and ‘One-Eyed Girl’ is pure Live Through This era Hole – although unlike their forebears, Hands Off Gretel don’t sound ropey, and you can be pretty confident they’ll make it all the way through the set. And by the end of the set, everyone’s a sweaty mess, uplifted by the joy of catharsis.

25th April 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

National Instruction is Soma Crew’s debut album. This is something of a technicality, as they rebranded shortly after the release of Another Dead Insect in 2015. And while all of the defining features of their previous incarnation remain, Soma Crew, having solidified with their current lineup, can be seen to have made marked progress since then.

The sonic haze which hangs heavy over all of their previous recordings and which defines their live sound is present and correct. On National Instruction, there’s also a wilful raggedness to the performances, with guitars and vocals titling off-kilter every which way, often to quite disorientating effect. It’s also by far the best-realised representation of what Soma Crew are about, showcasing a dense, murky sound, and a climax-centric approach to forging layered songs which plug hard at a single cyclical riff, nailed tight to a simple, repetitive drum pattern. Yet it’s also the work of a band who are evolving, and National Instruction marks a clear progression from their Soma EP release last autumn.

Si Micklethwaite’s vocal style isn’t conventionally tuneful, but then a melodic attenuation is by no means a prerequisite for singing in a rock band. Given the atonal drone elements of Soma Crew’s compositions, which are more focused on creating an atmospheric dissonance than a technically precise, melody-driven musicality, it works, and, bathed in reverb and a kind of fuzzy-edged soft-focus, he sounds more comfortable than on any release he’s featured on thus far.

‘Got It Bad’ features what is probably one of their most overtly catchy choruses to date, with a more clearly defined structure than any previous song – but it’s perfectly offset by a guitar line that heaves off to the left during one of the chord changes which launches said chorus. The nine-minute ‘Pyramids’ finds the band locking into the kind of groove they work the best. A spindly echo-drenched lead guitar wanders, spider-like over a chugging rhythm and spare, motoric beat that typifies their slow-burning brand of Black Angels-influenced psychedelic rock. Elsewhere, ‘Dangerzone’ is tense and angular, with eddying swells of abstract sound and feedback building into a cyclone of immersive noise close to the end. This is something they’ve got a real knack for.

Having heard a fair few of the cuts on Natural Instruction played live, it’s gratifying to observe just how well they’ve replicated the spirit and energy of the live sound on songs like ‘Remote Control’, which carries a shuddering, ramshackle Fall-esque vibe within its jagged two-chord battery. The album’s second eight-minuter, ‘Westworld’ starts of slow, sedate, but simmering: it’s never a case of if it’s going to break, but when, and while maintaining a pedestrian pace, it’s almost halfway through before the drums thud in. And then the guitars get up the volume… and then… and then… By the end, it’s still plodding away but the layers have built up and it’s a big old racket.

There’s something of a trickle toward the tranquil on the last two tracks, with the closer, ‘Maps and Charts’ being a particularly sedate – not to mention accessible indie tune. But rather than being an anti-climax, it reveals newly emerging facets of the bands, perhaps hinting that future releases will see them further extend their range.

 

Soma Crew - National Instruction

Christopher Nosnibor

Forget the ‘failed musician’ angle: any serious music writer (journalist might be stretching it, certainly where my own work is concerned) is likely to be a music fanatic first and foremost. PIG is a band who’ve inspired a degree of fanaticism on my part for a long time: since I first discovered them as the support for Nine Inch Nails on the Downward Spiral tour back in 1994. The nature of their scattered catalogue makes tracking down even a reasonable chunk of their discography extremely difficult, and they hold the perhaps dubious honour (through no fault of the their own) of being the band who I’ve paid the most for an album by, with the (then) Japanese-only Genuine American Monster skinning me for some £50 over eBay back in 2000.

It really has been 23 years since they last toured the UK, and it’s fair to say that York on a Monday night struck me as an odd choice. Suffice it to say the 400-capacity venue wasn’t exactly rammed, but the double-header tour did manage to attract a devoted bunch of oddballs.

Glasgow trio Seraph Sin made a decent fist of opening. With smeared makeup and lank locks, there’s a black metal element to the presentation of their grindy, metal-edged industrial rock riffage. Delivering some full-tilt noise, they play the ‘menacing’ card nicely. While there are some clear and quite accessible choruses to be found in songs which are perhaps a shade, dare I say, obvious, they boast a gritty, earthy guitar sound which really cuts through, especially when heard from a position close to the front, where the full force of the back-line has maximum effect. And their drummer sounds like a machine, which is admirable.

Seraph Sin

Seraph Sin

Also admirable are Mortiis. It transpires that shunning the band on account of the eponymous front man’s prosthetics – something I considered to be rather cheesy – has been my loss all these years. Still, the advent of Era 0 and the latest album, The Great Deceiver, has marked a shift of both style and sound, marked by an absence of prosthetics and an abrasive technoindustrial sound reminiscent of Ministry.

They’re still big on the theatrics, though, from the big, moody intro of drums and grinding guitar before the entrance of the man himself, to the smeared corpse paint. Håvard Ellefsen strolls on, barefoot and resembling a decayed suicide, and proceeds to stomp around the stage radiating petulant energy. Despite the absence of a live bass, the threesome forge a throbbing sonic intensity with a dense and murky sound counterpointed by a bright, ear-shredding top-end. The set is drawn predominantly from the latest album, which both makes sense both promotionally and in terms of rendering a cohesive performance, and it’s a performance which is powerful and intense. Yes, there are clear elements of rock posturing in evidence, but it’s played knowingly, and manifests as an aggressive channelling of a deep fury, making for an uplifting catharsis.

Mortiis

Mortiis

For a man spitting fury and venomous rage, Ellefsen smiles a lot. Granted, with the makeup, his grin takes the form of a maniacal, murderous leer, but it’s clear that this a man who’s having a pretty good time channelling his demons into his art and releasing it all on stage. It’s not hard to determine the reasons: as his skeletal guitarist, who has highly vascular arms, peels of sheets of blistering noise it’s all coming together perfectly out front, and Mortiis are a band on top form.

PIG crank up the rock posturing to the power of ten: Raymond Watts is a man who not only gets irony, but breathes it and chews on it slowly, savouring the flavour, as he throws his shapes around the stage amidst a musical tumult and a whole kitchen sink melange of electronica and grinding guitars on full thrust. He enters the stage in a preposterous fur number and gives it the full works on the posing front for the set’s slow-burning opener ‘Diamond Sinners’.

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PIG

I’m immediately transported back to 1994: supporting Nine Inch Nails at Wolverhampton’s Civic Hall, where they audaciously opened with ‘Red, Raw and Sore’ over any of their throat-grabbing, up-front crowd-pleasers. But then, the appeal of PIG has always been their perversity and their stubborn refusal to do anything obvious. Having supported Nine Inch Nails, they could have been propelled, if not to a stratospheric level, then perhaps the upper strata of the troposphere. But, as I subsequently discovered, their material was almost impossible to locate, especially in a pre-internet age, and it’s a situation which hasn’t really changed over the last two and a bit decades.

As with Mortiis’ set, there’s a heavy leaning toward the latest release: the accessible industrial pop chop of ‘Found in Filth’ is dropped in early, but then there’s a reasonable plundering of the back catalogue, too: ‘Everything’ lands as the third song on the set list, and the atmospheric spoken word work ‘Ojo Por Ojo’ prefaces a pounding rendition of ‘Wrecked’ (which more than compensates the fact it doesn’t lead in to ‘Blades’ as it features on The Swining by virtue of its throbbing intensity). Really, it’s absolutely fucking blistering. The same is true of ‘Serial Killer Thriller’ from 1995’s Sinsation.

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PIG

The fact that the current line-up features both En Esch and Gunter Schultz not only makes this incarnation of PIG something of a supergroup, but also illustrates the expansive nature of the musical family centred around KMFDM to which Watts belongs. And while there’s also a shared territory in musical terms, PIG have always sounded unique, and continue to do so. Watts’ showmanship is something else, and while there isn’t a weak element in the band’s performance, he’s indisputably the focal point, radiating a charisma that elevates the band to a different level. He’s a tall, limby guy, and he uses this to fill the stage and to dominate the space around him.

It’s a triumphant, and above all, thoroughly enjoyable show. Here’s just hoping it’s not another 23 years before they return.

Christopher Nosnibor

Ever since the moment I hit ‘play’ on the CD of the Chambers single, ‘Disappear’ that landed with me for review last year, I’ve been itching to see them. And when a band with as much buzz as Chambers are down at third on a four-band bill, you know it’s a solid lineup. Dom Smith and the guys at Soundsphere know their stuff, and the fact that the entry fee is less than the price of a pint in most gig venues, makes the whole thing doubly impressive.

PUSH are up first: the duo are young and full of raw energy, cranking out choppy, knotty grunge riffery, they display hints of early Pulled Apart By Horses. The songs are direct, and they’re unpretentious in their delivery, laying down some solid, gritty grooves. It was also pleasing to see them get a proper-length set, giving them time to show what they’ve got in their arsenal.

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PUSH

Chambers don’t disappoint, and if anything, exceed expectations. They’re also seriously fucking loud. Aeris Houlihan is a remarkable presence, stomping about the stage, wielding her guitar menacingly and dispatching salvoes of thick, overdriven noise that more than compensates for the absence of a bass. Yes, there are heavy hints of Brian Molko about the vocals, which are heavily processed with a sharp, metallic edge – but theirs is a sound which is dense, murky and menacing. None of this would work half as well without the thunderous drumming of Eleanor Churchill, and the pair demonstrate exactly why a duo can make for such a strong musical format.

Chambers

Chambers

I would have been perfectly happy if that had been it for the night, but that would have meant not seeing Glass Mountain. Now, my notes are somewhat sketchy about this Bradford foursome, who a) should in no way be confused with York-based  cock-ends of monumental proportion Glass Caves  b) draw their inspiration not from an obvious musical reference point, but from David Hockney, who they cite as ‘one of Bradford’s finest ambassadors’ with their name being taken from one of the artist’s etchings, and credit to them for actually being – as they put it – ‘bold and confident enough to have respectfully requested his personal blessing for their use of the name’. They do the name and the artist justice, too, with their melodic, FX-heavy grungy / shoegaze stylings. With a hefty, driving bass behind their epic riffery, they stroll confidently between spacious dreampop territory and neoprog. Their songs are hugely detailed and textured, with layer upon layer of sound wafting down in a smoky haze, and set-closer ‘Glacial’ is worthy of the ‘anthemic’ tag.

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Glass Mountain

Manchester’s False Advertising are straight in with a ‘hey!’ and some driving riffs. They’re a proper, full-tilt, grunge-inspired instrument-swapping power trio, and while Jen Hingley may look girly, she’s got some serious guts both as a guitarist / singer and drummer. Much of he set calls to mind Live Through This era Hole, with heavy hints of the Pixies in the mix, too. In short, False Advertising produce pop-infused grunge par excellence. When Jen swaps to take the drum stool, she proves to be outstanding again: she’s a hard-hitter. There isn’t a dud song in the whole forty-five-minute set: from the scuzzed-out slackerdom of ‘I Don’t Know’ to the sinewy grind of ‘Scars’ which blossoms into a killer chorus, everything just works. And Jen’s got nice teeth and a determined mouth, according to my notes.

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False Advertising

There’s always a downside to watching bands play in pub venues that serve excellent beer at affordable prices. Still, if wonky – and in places illegible – note-taking is the worst of them, then it’s hardly a disaster.

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s a cold, wet, February night in York. The wind is howling and the air is bitter. It’s not much warmer in The Crescent, despite a respectable turnout for this incredibly good value five-band extravaganza hosted by Leeds promoters and label Come Play With Me (and while I’ve never asked or otherwise bothered to research, I’ve always assumed the name is taken from the 1992 Single by Leeds indie stalwarts The Wedding Present, rather than the 1977 sex-comedy movie).

Perhaps it’s because they play so frequently in and around York that I often pass up on seeing Bull play. As a consequence, I tend to forget just how good they are, and often feel as if I’m, discovering them anew when I do see them. Their breezy US alternative sound, which hints at Dinosaur Jr and Pavement is laced with a distinctly Northern attitude, and they’ve got a real knack for a nifty pop song. They make for an uplifting start to proceedings.

The ubiquitous and multi-talented local stalwart Danny Barton features among the lineup of three-piece Sewage Farm, in capacity of bassist. Their post-grunge style is a sort of hybrid of US alt rock and 60s pop: more New York than Old York. With nods to Sonic Youth, but equally, Weezer, they’re good fun and make a dense noise for just three people.

Looking around the venue, I observe a number of long coats and above-the-ankle trousers. It’s starting to look like 1984, while on stage it sounds like it’s 1994. Time is warping, history is bending in on itself. Clearly, I need more beer. While I’m at the bar, The Jesus and Mary Chain and Slowdive pour from the PA, setting the tone nicely for the next act.

While they’re setting up, I chat briefly to Adam Weikert, drummer with Her Name is Calla. I waffle a load of bollocks, and as he heads off to get warm and grab a beverage, I realise just how unbelievably fucking tired I am. Maybe if I drink enough beer I’ll perk up, or otherwise fall asleep at the table I’m sitting at to make notes between bands. Perhaps I’ll simply care less, and also develop a much-needed beer-coat.

Team Picture describe themselves as ‘One part post-punk, two parts fuzz’, and having been impressed by their single cut released by CPWM the night before, I was keen to check them live. Biographical details about the Leeds act is scant, and despite the positioning of old-school cathode ray tube television sets around the stage and the female singer being one of the hyper-retro bods I’d clocked, giving an air of hypermodernism of a vintage circa 1979, they’re really not an image band. They are, however, an exceptionally strong live act. The six-piece forge a layered sound that oozes tension: the monotone dual vocals and fractal guitars trickle brittle over strolling basslines and taut drums. The songs are magnificently composed and executed. Atmospheric segments blow out into expansive passages propelled by motoric rhythms. I’m totally sold: it’s a cert that this is going to be a band who are on an upward trajectory and 2017 could be a big year for them.

Team Picture

Team Picture

I’m still freezing my tits off, tired, and feeling disconnected and out of sorts, so I buy a third beer: surely an Old Peculier will unthaw my toes at least. The barmaid throws a friendly smile as she hands me my change. Inexplicably, I feel hopeless and empty, and now, I’m without a seat, as the girl who stood right at my elbow during Team Picture’s set, despite the venue being only a third full is now sitting with her mate at the table I was at previously. She looks vaguely familiar, but I’m not about to embarrass myself by attempting conversation. Perhaps it’s the chilly post-punk vibes lingering in the air spurring my existentialism; perhaps not. Regardless, I don’t go to gigs to socialise.

It’s a relief when Halo Blind begin their set. Another York band featuring another ubiquitous face on bass, this time in the form of former Seahorse Stuart Fletcher (currently rocking a look that says he wants to be Tom Hardy), they’re classic exemplars of post-millennium neo-prog, and they’re seriously good at it. Having just released their second album, Occupying Forces, they showcase an evolving, expansive sound. Layered, dynamic, melodic and harmony-soaked songs, rich in atmosphere and calling to mind the likes of Oceansize and Anathema, define their set. They explore dynamics fearlessly, building some sustained crescendos and executing them with admirable precision. During ‘Downpour’, I find myself drawing parallels with ‘Pictures of a Bleeding Boy’ by The God Machine. But if a band’s worst crime is betraying echoes of The God Machine, then you know they’re a band worth hearing.

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Halo Blind

Her Name is Calla: another tour, another lineup. Sophie Green is out (a shame, as she’s an awesome presence), making way for a return for Anja Madhvani (which is cool, because she’s a superb player). And that bearded guy at the back, manning a bank of electronics and hoisting a trombone: is that really departed fonder Thom Corah? Yes, yes it is, and they open up a tempestuous set with the rarely-aired single-only track ‘A Moment of Clarity’. I may be in a minority, but it’s one of my favourite Her Name is Calla songs, and as Tom Morris pushes his voice to the limit with the cry of ‘the crunch / is the sound / of a human spirit breaking’ as the band erupt around him, it’s a powerful and emotive moment.

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Her Name is Calla

The band play a varied set with intensity and vigour. Quiet and melancholy, ‘Pour More Oil’ is delicate and moving; ‘Meridian Arc’ brings an insistent throb, vlume and tension in spades. Tiernan Welsh’s bass coms to the fore and his complete immersion in the songs is compelling.

They close the set with ‘New England’. I stopped taking notes, beyond scribbling ‘fucking yes’ in a barely decipherable scrawl. One of the highlights of The Heritage¸ this is precisely the kind of slow-building, explosive epic that made the band their name, and to see them thrash wildly, with Tom gnawing his guitar strings with his teeth amidst a tumult of ever-swelling noise, is an experience that’s something special. There is no encore: there doesn’t need to be. There is nowhere to go from here: an awesome finale to an awesome night.

Christopher Nosnibor

I’m struggling here. I know that people standing texting, Facebooking, taking selfies and shooting videos while dancing is immensely irritating for a band. It’s immensely irritating for other people in the audience, too. But I’m struggling to think of a scenario when it would ever be acceptable to harangue a woman in the front row with the line ‘get off your fucking phone, bitch!’. Or, indeed, to interrupt a lengthy and rousing right-on speech about inclusivity, about how it’s ‘bullshit’ to hate someone for being black or gay, etc., with ‘get your fucking hands in the air, bitches!’ (followed by a head-shaking ‘Shit, women!’). I’ll let that sit for a moment because I’m here for the supports, Raging Speedhorn and local monsters of noise, RSJ.

Arriving at 7:35 for a show with an advertised door time of 7:30, I’m a little surprised to find the place heaving and RSJ half-way through their thunderous set. But I’m able to worm my way to the front as they piledrive their way to the set’s climax, ‘Play it Again, Sam’. Look up ‘intensity’ in the dictionary, and you’ll probably find a picture of RSJ playing live.

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RSJ

Things have been a bit unsettled in camp Speedhorn recently, with Frank Reagan being forced to sit the tour out on doctors’ orders. And so RSJ’s Dan Cook is filling in, and despite playing back to back sets, his energy – and intensity – is unwavering. Cook looks comfortable and the dynamic between the two vocalists is on-point as they go all-out on the confrontation (and occasional off-the-cuff banter) which is integral to their shows. Building the tension by drenching the venue in howling, humming feedback, they erupt onto the stage, John Loughlin opening a bottle of beer with his teeth and spitting the cap to the floor before the band assume their places to commence the set with the customary menacing stare-out.

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Raging Speedhorn

These guys are good: they never fail to build their sets to a point of total frenzy. Slam-dancing breaks out during the second song, ‘Bring Out Your Dead’, but the band goad, harangue, hassle and coerce the audience, with both encouragement and abuse, and it works: the crowd get closer in, and they get moving. ‘Motörhead’ is utterly ball-busting, and Cooke’s menacing presence and lighting-rig climbing antics make for one hell of a show. By the end of their too-short set it’s mayhem.

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Raging Speedhorn

While they’re setting the stage for Skindred, the rammed crowd are getting down to Red Hot Chilli Peppers blaring from the PA. I’ve always detested them, and the funk groove of ‘Suck My Kiss’ epitomises everything I loathe about them. I’m no purist, but some crossovers simply aren’t meant to be, which is primarily the reason I’ve spent the entirety of Skindred’s career avoiding them. The Queen singalong orchestrated by some bozo near the front is beyond embarrassing: isn’t this supposed to be a metal gig? Queen aren’t even rock.

But Skindred’s Benji Webbe harps on endlessly about ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ during their set, which is every bit as vibrant as their reputation would suggest. However – and please, (s)top me if you think that you’ve heard this one before – if Brexit and the advent of Trump (and the success of Oasis, for that matter) tell us anything, it’s that popularity is no measure of artistic merit. The crowd lap it up. No, more than that: they go absolutely fucking ballistic.

I get the deal of being ‘in the moment’ at a live performance. It’s why I live for live music. Even when reviewing, I will, often, forget to take any notes and will return with only a handful of photos because I’ve been enjoying the music, the performance, the atmosphere, soaking it all up and immersing myself in the show from the same perspective as everyone else. I may be a music writer, or critic, but I’m a fan first and foremost. Skindred, I witnessed as a detached spectator. I simply could not get into the moment.

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Skindred

The union jack pegged to the mic stand set me on edge for a start. In the current climate, it’s a divisive symbol. For a band fronted by a big black guy to flout, it’s clearly intended as a signifier or unity and collectivism, of being black and British, but even so. There’s a certain incongruity there, just as there’s an incongruity in a Welsh metal band fronted by a guy sporting a pair of sequinned hammer pants. The trouble is, it’s neither challenging nor funny. It’s therefore not funny when Webbe plays the race card, taunting the audience – being a packed-out crowd who’ve paid £20 to see his band – with ‘black guy on stage… what’s he saying? I don’t understand what he’s saying’. I would say it was insulting and patronising the audience’s intelligence, but they’re all in the moment and aren’t taking a critical stance on this. It’s banter, innit?

Musically, from a detached, distant, and critical perspective, it’s a fucking mess. Based around a metal / reggae crossover more heinous than the funk / metal hell of RHCP, Skindred also drag in elements of hardcore punk, dancehall, jungle, ska, hip hop, drum and bass, dubstep, and they do so clumsily, their sub-RATM stylings, and with endless calls of ‘C’mon! C’mon!’ all ripped into some horrible stew which simmers the bones of House of Pain, Shaggy, and Funkadelic into a stinking, foamy broth.

Amidst the sea of ubiquitous metaller beards, the ratio of XY to XX chromosome is uncommonly high. But this makes the beaming grins and the willingness of the female segment of the audience to buy into and participate in the band’s crudely-executed agenda, laced with sexism and misogyny, all the more perplexing. Sure, the Newport Helicopter – a ritual which entails the majority of the audience, regardless of sex, removing their t-shirts and rotating them above their heads, regardless of the danger to those around them – is pitched as symbolic of unity and empowerment. But when you’ve got Webbe up there yelling ‘get them titties bouncing!’ and so forth, it sounds more like a guy playing the rock star and getting his rocks off by exploiting the crowd than a true moment of collective liberation. And, in context of everything else, it’s deeply unplasant.

RSJ and Raging Speedhorn were ace, though.