Shwin Bandari took this gig in, and came up with these words:
Ah sweaty basement shows, the deafening loud PA system, the longing for water and fresh air, the inability to move without being crushed against the tiny platform they call a stage, and the bruised elbows as a result of fending off stage divers. Nothing else like it eh?
Being the busy Uni student I am, I took some time out of my very busy schedule of self loathing and pity to see Dads at a venue 5 minutes away from my apartment block. While sadly I didn’t get there in time to watch Bluebird, I did get to see Hindsights, a four piece outfit from Berkshire with enough twangy guitar sections with distortion pedals and melancholy vocals to really hit you in the feels. They played a variety of songs off of 12inch record that they released through Beach Community this year, and although the crowd reaction wasn’t anything special (other than a few obligatory nods) they left enough of an impact to warm things up and set the tone for the rest of the night.
Nai Harvest for some reason are very popular with “hardcore kids” in the UK, which makes it somewhat amusing to see people wearing tough guy windbreakers and Breaking Point t-shirts angrily finger pointing along to fast paced and upbeat emo lyrics. They open with their title track off the latest release Whatever with everyone in the room courageously singing along without a care in the world, play 3 or 4 new songs that no one has a clue about yet, then finish with the classic ‘Distance Etc’. All in all a very enjoyable set.
And finally, Dads (9) emerge, opening with their post-rock anthem My New Crass Patch, and then straight into Breakfast at Piffany’s,where a reasonably sized pit opens up behind me, and I fall onto Dads guitar pedal. Ouch. Not to worry though, they carried on regardless of my pain. Their drummer John Bradley comments on how the bartender did ‘the nicest thing ever’ by putting a lemon in his water, as well as the fact that their bass player George Bush wasn’t there at the show. Gosh darn it. Their guitarist didn’t speak much, but the noodly riffs encompassed in concluding tunes such as “Get To The Beach” and “Shit Twins” more than made up for the lack of on-stage banter.
it’s been a while since i visited the Portland Arms. my tattered memory suggests that the previous occasion was possibly 10 years ago, when bluetip played. and cortina. cortina was a band featuring guys from tribute. they played indie / emo, like christie front drive or something. sadly, there is no demo that i am aware of. if you are aware of it, please send it to me.
anyway, on to more recent events. i really like the Portland Arms, even though it seemed perilously small, or perhaps because of that. it’s cosy, has a nice bar and good beer. after sampling a little of the latter, we made our way into the back room where norwich loocals boys, Pennines, set about opening up and impressing everyone. yes yes, Pennines, stray a little close to American Football’s formula at times, it’s all pleasant guitar twiddling and nice songs – but they do this so much better than their many contemporaries by actually having some song writing smarts and crafting good tunes instead of just widdling away techinically. maybe it’s because they are norwich lads and therefore i have a sympathetic soft spot for them, but i think there is more to it than that. Pennines are good. they also got my hopes up momentarily by playing the first few notes of A Picture Postcard. i quizzed them on this later and it turns out that it wouldn’t take too much prompting for them to play an entire Promise Ring covers set. they’re just lacking a Davey. better get to work on my lisp.
after Pennines was the main attraction for me, the mighty Teenage Cool Kids. belying their cringe inducing monicker, these guys have cranked out two fine LPs already. the first is a youthful, joyful romp – the kind of album that can only be made as a debut. bereft of pretension or a desire to be hip, it simply ropes together the best elements of 90s indie rock, and then uses it as a bungie. this summer’s follow up somehow improved on the formula, showing off a band fully in control, and moulding the clear influences into something very special indeed. would they manage to do this live? would they ever. the gig tonight was one of the most enjoyable i have witnessed in the past few years. they romped through every song i wanted to hear, including the one with the awesome promise ring bass riff off Queer Salutations, you know the one i mean. each song careered off after the previous finished, it could only have been better if we’d all been wedged in the band’s hometown basement with sweat dripping off the pipes. at times i felt like i was the only fool who was really getting into it, but what the heck. TCK were brilliant, exceeded my expectations and had me grinning like a child. one guy in the band even wore a sinaloa shirt. ace.
after all that was algernon cadwallader. algernon cadwallader do not click with me. i think i am probably a bit old, but pretty much everyone else present tonight was hog wild for them. to me, they sound like a mish mash of some bands i really like, but without doing anything remotely interesting with the sound. i am also a little jaded to see that if a band is influenced by late 90s midwest emo, they stop at cap’n jazz and american football. that is a depressingly small amount of influence to take from the most furtile period of indie rock. anyway, i skipped a bit on algernon. i mooched at the bar with Mike to discuss Dillinger 4 and Mike’s forthcoming appearance in the NME. i mooched at the back to discuss the Promise Ring with Jem, and i mooched outside to post pointless messages on the internet via my phone. algernon cadwallader simply was not for me. it’s all a bit dudemo, young guys hi-fiving and back slapping and twiddling their guitars. i don’t get it.
and on that less than upbeat note, i call this entry to an end. i did really enjoy my evening, good people, two great bands and a good venue. i hope it is less than 10 years before i set foot in this place again.
Now that’d be a crazy lineup and a half wouldn’t it? Instead it was a 3 day booze fueled jaunt by myself and long time Collective-Zine forum denizen, Victor Lazaro, taking in the sites and sounds of London and Cambridge. Things were to begin and the rickety little den that is the Windmill in Brixton. I had not been here since around 1999 or so, the fateful day that I met Chris Bress for the first time, saw Alkatraz, and scored a bunch of cool emo sevens for not a huge out-lay. This time around, mostly we hung around outside waiting for the Strange Boys to start. The support bands failed to capture the attention and the names of both have long since departed my brain. Instead me, Vic, Alex Deller and James Deller hung around outside like grumpy 30 somethings do, talking about the olden days, although James later told Alex that listening to us talk about records was like listening to people speaking in code. Regardless of our anti-social nerdery, we made our way inside to check out Texan foetuses, the Strange Boys. This beguiling foursome have a combined age of 9, yet play music that sounds like it should come from the instruments of hoary old bluesmen. The only hint on record that these guys are youthful are the slacked jawed vocals of pure youth. The rhythms and guitars however are classic ye olde time American, and this band played for around 40 minutes, not even coming close to outstaying their welcome. There was barely a word uttered, and no hint of an encore (I wish more bands dispensed with an encore, don’t tease us), and they cranked it. Very few hipsters in attendance either, though a couple of oafs elbowed their way to the front near the end, presumably to be seen or something. We all rather enjoyed the Strange Boys, and you should ensure you pick up their LP on In the Red post haste.
The next day saw me and Victor wander around London in the heat, sleep in Hyde Park, wind up in Camden, leave our bags at a scummy hostel that charged us a mere tenner for a nights sleep.
Then it was on to Camden, to try and find a pub that did not want upwards of four pounds for a pint. Duly successful, we had the nutritionally satisfying dinner of “a plate of nachos”, before we hit up the Camden Electric Ballroom to witness the mother fucking Get Up Kids. What were we thinking? I have detested this band since the 10″, and Vic is not much more tolerant than I. Nevertheless, things looked up when they opened with the impetuous “Coming Clean”, maybe things would be OK after all. Sadly, it was a false dawn. Although they treated us to a solid rendition of “Woodson” that I was happy to air guitar stupidly to, and try and sing a long to the bits I remembered, it was like watching a Get Up Kids covers band. It was a complete farce. At one bit they even made everyone cheer for the bloody keyboard player. To me this was the gravest insult, once that dude joined the band it was all down hill. Me and Vic retreated to the smoking area. I have asthma. That’s how bad the Get Up Kids were. I probably took 5 years off my life to avoid seeing them play a few shitty songs. At some point they played a dub song. A fucking dub song! We returned to yell out of tune at “Don’t Hate Me” and some kid walked past me and said to his pal “That’s Andy Malcolm, I used to buy records off that guy”. He was gone before I had a chance to stop him. Very odd. The Get Up Kids struggled on to the end, playing a couple of dire covers (how bad is it that a band on a reunion tour plays 2 covers, yet only 2 songs off their best LP?), and it was embarrassing. Not nearly as the site of me drunkenly singing along to “Is This Thing On?” with Vic and no-one else at the Camden Barfly later, one bright, requested spot amidst a torrent of Fall Out Boy and MTVmo smashes. We were later to return to the Camden Inn and pass out, but not before laughing at some girl in the cooridor, who was trying to get to the toilet. I am not sure why were laughing at her. She did not look that impressed by us.
After that shocking evening, I woke up at 8am and left to wander Camden and shake off the fuzz of too many lagers. A lucozade later and Vic stirred, we were off to Cambridge, feeling a little worse for wear. Vic encountered a naked 50 year old man in the showers, and was feeling a touch off colour. “Good morning!” was the nudists pleasant greeting, but Victor was not in such high spirits. I shunned the showers, and waited to see what erstwhile friend of the C, Toby Canham-James had to offer in the way of hot water and no naked 50 year old guys. It proved the correct decision. So, off to the Junction in Cambridge, a venue I had not visisted since I saw the Wildhearts in 97 or something. Again we turned our nose up at the support and arrived at 8.45, just in time to see a few roadies tuning up guitars. At approximately 9.15pm, the old bastards that make up Dinosaur Jr sauntered on stage. And proceeded to blow us away. It was 75 minutes of pure belligerence. My ears may no longer be ringing but the frequency range is certainly diminshed. The band pummeled us into submission. Barlow pounded bass, and Jay sleepily played towering solos. They were having a whale of a time. Many old hits and new classics from the two excellent recent LPs. This was as good a band as I have seen in years, the sound was perfect, the set was great, and the music was untouchable. Thank you Dinosaur Jr, after the inexcrable performance of the once mighty Get Up Kids, you have shown that it is possible to grow old and fat and not forget how to be any good. A beautiful evening, I didn’t stop grinning.
Thanks to all the bastards involved in making this a brilliant three days! Except for the Get Up Kids. Screw you guys.
This was probably going to be my last chance to see the mighty Robots, so I had to go really. London traffic and the elevated temperature got me in the right frame of mind – pent up and aggressive.
Dopefight continued my emotional arc with their gnarly downtuned stoner sludgecore. I’m sure they’ll come up with more and more killer riffs at this rate, which is what it’s all about really, because it’s not an overly deep genre. I really enjoyed it, although I did need to nip out after a few songs to get a beverage to combat the oppressive heat.
I was expecting boring crusty punk from Hello Bastards, and while they have an aesthetic that may suggest that on their shirts and records, they certainly surprised me with some ripping near-grind in places and playful powerviolence. Wicked drumming, and even wickeder gurning, but could it do with a bass in there and less singers?
BOW359 are a total (Borg-like?) machine nowadays, with lots of people onstage to observe which is fun. Some tuning issues aside, it was dense and heavy and the mental fast bits were offset with lovely, crushing slow bits. Sure it’s a formula that they keep repeating, but it works bloody well. Another kickass drummer too.
And finally AOFR. It would be a sad moment but they’re totally angry and vicious and treat every gig like it’s their last anyway, so it’s not long before they’re blasting out track after track like they always have, one difference being that Henry has turned into a ball of hair with some eyes and a nose placed on it. The crowd go nuts, and Luke’s the most kickass drummer of the entire night!
AOFR play Supersonic Fest on 24th July, and have a farewell gig in Nottingham on August 7th. Don’t miss out. And buy the CD I put out by them while you’re at it.
Although Newport is a bit of an armpit, Le Pub is an absolutely wicked venue and a haven from the outside world, and it’s not even that far from Bristol. A half-hour jaunt across the architectural wonder of the Severn Bridge makes for a nice drive, although the toll seems to go up 30 pence each time we go over. Bastards.
Spider Kitten sound a bit Godflesh-y thanks to some chunky drum machine beats, dense riffs and hoarse vocals, but it’s dead plodding and they keep trying to sing and do melodic bits which tend to fall on their arse. Ghast plough through some black metal and pay their respects to the classics of the genre but it’s a bit much for me on a Sunday evening so I hide downstairs to nurse a soft drink.
Moloch are up next and they’re something of a Nottingham supergroup now. Chris is still singing, with Henry and Craig from Army Of Flying Robots (Henry’s drumming here, his genetically modified power-calves positively stamping down on the kick pedal) and Steve from Gramercy Riffs helping out. They sludge it out with some big riffing and a nice hardcore vibe running through it all, providing a homegrown alternative to bands like Fistula, Rue and 16. They’re not quite as memorable as those bands yet, but they will be soon I’m sure, and they rock it live.
Thou are from Baton Rouge in Louisiana, and as such have that swampy sludginess running through their veins. They are quite the tight unit having got all that practising, gigging and recording under their belts in what seems like a frighteningly short period. Straight from the off, they blow us away with a seriously loud, seriously satisfying bit of downtuned chug, but the key thing is that they don’t dwell on anything too long, and before you know it, the songs have flowed into embellished sections of psychedelic, winding, trebly, duelling guitars. Super.
A quick glance at the tour poster tells me Coalesce are really getting about on their first ever jaunt across the pond. Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague, Zurich, Hellfest in France… but Plymouth?!?!! Someone’s fucked up real bad here.
So as expected it’s not as rammed as it should be, with some blissfully unaware locals, some fans from the slightly hotter musical bed of Exeter, plus a gaggle of morons willing to drive from Bristol on a schoolnight (i.e. me and some chums dragged along to keep me awake). We arrive mega-late due to Google map miscalculations only to find no bands have played yet, our relief at not missing Coalesce offset by the fact that we’ll be getting home at a correspondingly late time. There’s only one support band, Cornwall’s Crocus having pulled out due to the drummer being on holiday. Local chunners Castor Troy (not the defunct one from the Midlands with Montana folk in) tickle the cochleas prior to the main event with their tight but utterly run-of-the-mill haircut hardcore and have the good grace to play for 20 minutes, though it did seem longer.
Coalesce seem like grizzled dads and nice dudes, highlighted by them dishing out a tray of free whisky shots from their rider prior to starting. A couple of songs in however, and they then seem like apeshit lunatics when they short circuit the lights and Jes Steineger flips the tray of remaining shots ceilingwards with his guitar, all of which combined with the dense ferocity of their mangled metal hardcore creates a fairly terrifying experience. I’ve never had whisky in my eye before and it hurts. The band gives it their all, especially Steineger who is either on the floor or on the audience, slamming the hell out of his suffering body and guitar. Ingram’s thick, phlegmy roar holds together well, and the rhythm section kills us all.
Somewhere in the melee they played a select bunch of songs from the entire back-catalogue: Have Patience, cowards.com, Jesus In The Year 2000, A Disgust For Details, One On The Floor, You Can’t Kill Us All, A Safe Place and 73-C all featured, in amongst a bunch of new ones from “Ox” which sounded great too. Well worth the 13-year wait even if my head hit the pillow at 4 a.m.
Bugbrand is a man called Tom, an enigmatic Bristol resident who spends a lot of time mucking about with circuit boards and soldering irons to make boxes and machines that make a massive array of weird analogue bleeps and bloops. His former incarnation as Knowledge Of Bugs was a highly enjoyable noise act, creating a pleasing ambience that pulsed and phased through a variety of soundscapes, but also stepped outside of the nerd-crouched-in-front-of-laptop live setting schtick by actually showing you how those sounds you were hearing were being created in real-time, be it contact mikes on slinkys, e-bows on guitars, laptops played through toy megaphones, and so on. Bugbrand on the other hand seems to be a step away from this involving approach, with Tom utilising a single box with tons of sockets, connecting wires in an ever-increasing tangle and twiddling knobs in a manner that ultimately distanced the audience through the incomprehensible nature of the performance. Ultimately, the monotone bleepsand cycled drones (together with sporadic guitar that was soon dropped) didn’t contain enough light, shade or structure, seemingly appearing random and accidental rather than part of any great plan.
Aethenor is a supergroup worthy of the term. As much as I’d like to hate Stephen O’Malley, you can’t deny he’s in some cracking bands, and maybe the issue I really have is how much certain fanboys fawn over every single fart he produces. With SOMA on guitar, you also have the keyboard player from Guapo, a geezer from excellent Swiss experimental rockers Shora on noise, and, best of all, the drummer from Ulver, so there are certainly no slouches here. Having only recently got into Ulver, especially the later stuff, I was extremely pleased to see that the latter’s skills were exemplary, very jazzy and intuitive, providing an absolute base for what seemed to be a largely improvised bout of pleasing ambience, soon building to stoned freakouts. Usually this stuff really sinks or swims live, but for some reason, on a school night in the intimate surroundings with forty or so other people, it worked. It was nice, loose and exploratory, and clearly made by a bunch of proficient like-minded souls in tune with one another.
finally, a gig in norwich. i wasn’t exceptionally optimistic about this one, but i had little else to do on a mediocre saturday night and managed to trick a friend into attending, despite him having no prior knowledge of any of the 3 bands due to play.
fever fever stepped up first and played a solid burst of post-gunge riot grrrl punk. fairly standard, and, as was to be the case with all the bands tonight, completely wasted on such a big venue. in a sweaty beer pit, this would have been an inspired performance but the arts center is a cavernous auditorium, and the spirt of fever fever was rather lost.
next up was men, featuring norwich folk who have served time in bands such as the captain, that band that carl did with neil and some other guy, and fun yeah. men displayed a nous for pop punk mixed with post punk mixed with funk mixed with braid. they did not dally, five songs, on and off. good banter, good times. they sold a cdr demo for 20p to cover costs of the cdr purchase from WH Smiths 2 years ago. men’s best songs were the well drilled ‘calculators’ and the pop punk dynamo of ‘re: your rebranding’ which is a stomping master piece. this 3 piece is tight and hefty and they should go down well elsewhere in the country and i look forward to seeing them again shortly as they are utterly entertaining.
i expected to have no interest whatsoever in this band, but they stole my mind and heart with a slightly overlong set of primal garage. a 3 piece drum kit with no cymbals, no guitar and at least one bass (sometimes two), saw these 3 long fringed lasses hurtle headlong into garage barnburners that i would liken to miss alex white and the red orchestra. this was ramshackle, blistering and intense. good shit. i couldn’t fathom why they had no records for sale. go see these people if you can, they are up to no good.
and so, i left with satisfaction, this was a fine evening, better than my jaded self expected. investigate these bands if you see them in your local gig listings.
i had the temerity to show up for a gig last night, at the soultree in cambridge. this venue is a new one for me, and first impressions swayed wildly from appreciating the intimacy and lack of stage, to being a bit bewildered by the inability to see any band member unless you were 7 foot tall or stood directly in front of their face for the entire gig. as i arrived, the pony collaboration were in full ‘swing’, featuring noted cambridge band whore, ian scanlon. they play downbeat miserable indie not a million miles from the likes of codeine, but perhaps a bit poppier. it sounded ok to my ears but i was not in the mood for this kind of slow swaying on a friday night. i treated myself to a disappointing bottle of beer and wandered around a bit in a vein attempt to find people i was supposed to be giving records too. for some reason this gig was running 8 til 10, so everyone turned up late.
second band on was shrag which was a bunch of boys and girls playing what sounded like an english indie pop band ripping off an american indie pop ripping off an english indie pop band. i found them crushingly mediocre, rather bland and lacking in choruses or excitement.
the pains of being pure at heart were the main draw and they had gathered a fair crowd in this cosy little venue. i managed to find a suitable spot a little too close to a speaker and proceeded to enjoy the next 30 minutes. they were a good live band but perhaps they have been touring a while because they seemed a tiny bit jaded and content to just reproduce the lp note for note, it wasn’t too much different to sitting at home with the lp on, and with 150 people in your living room, some of them gurning and dancing a bit. pains did a good job but with little chat to the crowd and not a huge amount of charisma, but then again what should i expect from an indie pop band? the highlights were the same highlights from the record, they played half an hour and that was about right, then they came back and played two more, which wasn’t really necessary in my opinion. afterwards some people asked them for autographs. i raised my eyebrow and slunk off into the… WHAT THE FUCK IT WAS ALMOST LIGHT OUTSIDE…
Annihilation Time / Gurkha / Valdez
Bristol, The Croft – 9th June, 2009
Locals Valdez are playing as I enter. I’ve somehow never seen them, maybe because I don’t go to ’77 street-punk kinds of gigs as a rule, but they’re serviceable within the genre and cover The Freeze.
Gurkha are up next and make a hell of a lot more noise, based in crust but unafraid to really let wail with some metal solos. They’ve even gone totally Sabbath in places, which is to be applauded, plus Joanna Lumley’s a big fan I hear.
I stood in the correct place for Annihilation Time, as the guitarist and bassist stage left looked to be concentrating a bit too hard and standing too still. In front of me, the other guitarist was having a bloody whale of a time, totally nailing those notes, flailing his hair and grinning from ear to ear. The singer seemed pretty goddamned drunk. In fact I think they all were, but they were still mercilessly tight. They also played that wicked first track from the second album, calling it their “pop song”. Black Flag meets Thin Lizzy equals exactly what’s needed on a school night.