Fangclub / Big Spring / Ronda @ Jimmy’s

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Fangclub are one of those bands that I only got into because they supported another band I like. They toured with Milk Teeth earlier in the year and as I was planning to go to one of the shows, I gave them a listen on Spotify. Events conspired against me and unfortunately I couldn’t make it to any of the Milk Teeth shows, but by that point I’d heard enough from Fangclub’s eponymous debut album to know their fuzzy-grunge was right up my street.

And then they kind of fell off my radar a bit. With a thriving British alternative rock scene at the moment there are so many bands to listen to and so many shows to get to. I did however make a point of watching their set at 2000 Trees – and I was blown away. They’ve been in my rotation a lot more since then, and I’ve been dying for the opportunity to see them live again.

So I was chuffed to bits when they announced a short UK tour. I was even more chuffed when they announced that Big Spring would be supporting them for the Manchester show. Big Spring’s bass player Alex also works as a sound engineer and I’d seen on Fangclub’s Instagram feed that they’d been working together on some material. I commented at the time that a Fangclub x Big Spring show would be awesome, so to see it come to pass was super sweet.

First up on the night were Ronda, who although are from my home town Preston, I’d never come across before. As I tend to do, I listened to some of their tracks on Spotify in the lead up to the show. I was a little underwhelmed, their sound probably being a bit too indie for my taste. However, their sound live seemed a lot more beefed up and they came across as having a more garage rock type sound that’s more my kind of thing. I really enjoyed their set, and it was a good start to the night.

Big Spring have the dubious honour of being the first band reviewed on this blog, having seen them opening for Turbowolf back in March. Since then they’ve released a new EP ‘New Wave’. The set opens with the title track from that EP, the fuzzy pulsating bass line ensuring a dramatic start.

Since that March show lead singer Ollie has started playing second guitar on some of the tracks, which works really well, giving some extra depth to sections where lead guitarist Jack can concentrate on adding more intricate accents. Ollie also had to contend with a dodgy guitar strap and a microphone stand that didn’t seem to want to behave itself, but he managed to get through the set ok in the end.

I’m not sure that the second mic was set up properly though, and unfortunately bassist Alex’s backing vocals were really hard to hear. It didn’t hinder the set too much though, the band running through most of the songs from their repertoire including older songs ‘Cold Foot’, ‘Coming Down’, ‘5th of July’ and ‘Buzzards Leave the Bones’ as well as all of the songs from the new EP. The new material seemed to go down particularly well, with the set closing with ‘On a Bamboo Sleeping Mat’.

Another really enjoyable set from the Brighton band. They’re doing a headline tour in April and there’s a promise of more new material on the horizon too. Hopefully I’ll be at their Manchester show at the Castle Hotel on 10th April.

I was at the gig with a couple of guys Ben and Chris, having met Ben at the last Dinosaur Pile-Up show I was at (turns out he’s as big a DPU nut as I am). Whilst we waited for Fangclub to take the stage we tried to second guess what song they’d open with. Ben earned the bragging rights, successfully guessing ‘Knife’, with singer Steven taking a trip in to the crowd with the mic stand to round out the song. It really got the crowd fired up. Opening up with such a big tune, I wasn’t sure they’d be able to keep up that level of intensity… I was wrong. The set was intense. Relentless even.

Fangclub occupy that space occupied by so many of my favourite bands where their music is heavy but still really melodic. As much as I love so many of their songs, it was only when strung together in a set like this that I realised how many great big riffs there are. Riffs for days… Riffs on riffs… Like ordering a double riff burger and asking for extra riff on the side.

True to form, I’d had a few beers at this point… and I’d washed down those beers with a few jack and cokes too, so I might not remember all the songs (I definitely won’t remember them in the right order) but they definitely played:

Knife… BANGER

All Fall Down… BANGER

Better to Forget… BANGER

Sweater Forever… BANGER

Heart Is A Landmine… BANGER

High… BANGER

Best Fake Friends… BANGER

Coma Happy… BANGER

Lightning… DOUBLE BANGER

Bad Words… BANGITY-BANGER

There were two new songs in there too. ‘Hesitation’ sits comfortably amongst the rest of their back catalogue but I thought ‘Fever Violence’ really stood out, with a fast and frantic staccato opening riff that explodes into a loud chorus and verse. Definitely one to look forward to on their next release.

There was great interaction between the band and the crowd and a good set of lads down the front getting really in to the show helped add to the atmosphere.

The show ended with ‘Bullet Head’ with Steven taking another trip in to the crowd at then end whilst adding a brutal outro to the song.

Even after the set finished, there was bonus material, with a piano cover of Nirvana’s ‘Heart-Shaped Box’ played over the PA, which I only found out later was performed and recorded by the band (…please, please I hope they release this!).

Have to say, I was pretty knackered by the end, but it was a really fun night and has definitely made me an even bigger fan of the band. Can’t wait for more new songs and my next chance to go see them!

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Jonah Matranga @ The Frog & Fiddle

So I took a field trip down to Cheltenham last weekend, all because I really, really wanted to see Jonah Matranga on his latest tour.

This year is the 20th anniversary of the album ‘Water and Solutions’ by his former band Far. To mark the occasion, he’s been performing the album in its entirety. Now, I am definitely old enough to be a fan of this album first time around, and 20 years ago Far would have been right up my street. In fact in 1998 I saw the Deftones touring with Will Haven, who were both also from Sacramento and part of the same scene as Far.

However, I have to admit that at the time, the band completely passed me by. I am familiar with some of Jonah’s solo work, since he’s performed at 2000 Trees previously, but the reason ‘Water and Solutions’ came on my radar is all off the back of an episode of the podcast ‘That’s Not Metal’ and an interview with Jamie Lenman. Himself a bit of a Trees Demi-god, Lenman picked WS as his ‘album club’ pick and so based on that recommendation, I had to give it a spin. And it turns out, it’s an absolute banger. Brutal, yet melodic; tender, yet savage.

At this point, the 20th anniversary tour hadn’t even been announced, but when it was, a performance at this year’s 2000 Trees was included in the itinerary. I went along to that performance, and it was awesome, enjoying it so much that WS all of a sudden became an even more regular fixture in my rotation.

So I was chuffed when Jonah announced a second visit to the UK and one final leg of his WS celebration. I knew I wanted to get along to one of the shows, the only problem being, all of the shows for the north of England were on dates I couldn’t make.

However, I was free on the Saturday of the Cheltenham show, and my wife was also able to donate a free hotel room for me via loyalty points she’d earned through travelling with work. The last little nudge to convince me to go to this show was the fact that for this one date of the tour Sœur were going to be one of the support acts. The trip was on!

Turning up on the day the venue itself is a cool little bar with a very obvious alternative vibe, with a converted barn at the back acting as the gig room for bands.

First on were three piece Blank Atlas. At the start of the set there were about 5 people in the room. Bonus points to the bassist who was extra energetic, jumping around the stage as if he was performing to thousands, as well as unleashing some moments of pretty evil slap bass. They soon caught people’s attention, and more and more people started to filter into the room. All three band members sing, and their harmonies are pretty impressive. My first thought was that these guys are a poor man’s Press To Meco, but then I realised that’s me being really bitchy. Press To Meco set a very high bar, and in fact these guys are really good, with plenty of big riffs and some of that good ‘ole loud/quiet/loud dynamic.

Ironically, having slagged off instrumentals in my last blog, my stand out song from Blank Atlas was the infectiously catchy riffasauraus instrumental that they unleashed a few songs into their set (…didn’t catch a name for the song, but with one solitary cry of “Oh Baby!” being the song’s sole lyric, I’m thinking that’s probably an apt title).

Next on were Sœur. Should they have been higher up the bill? For my money yes, but it didn’t stop them pulling in a crowd, the room being noticeably busier for their set. And that larger crowd seemed to respond to the performance really well. I’m not going to say too much about them as I’m running low on fangirl credits already this month, but they were bloody brilliant as always. Their new EP ‘Fight’ is out this week. Make sure you listen to it as it’s absolutely beautiful.

Third band up were I, The Lion. They set up the stage with a light show, and also had a laptop playing samples accompanying the songs. Have to say though, it all felt a bit gimmicky to me. Vocals were shared between the guitarist and bassist, and again, kudos for the tight harmonies, but other than that none of the songs really gripped me.

Oxygen Thief were the next act. First of all, what a name for a band! The WS tour is billed as ‘Jonah Matranga and Friends’ and Oxygen Thief are the friends for the night’s performance (some previous nights on the tour Jonah had Nottingham band Merricks Tusk as his backing band, whilst the set at Trees was performed with Witching Waves). However, before performing with the headliner the band get to perform a set of their own material.

The band definitely have a following and there were several Oxygen Thief t-shirts amongst the crowd. Front man Barry Dolan reminds me of a cross between Pulled Part by Horses’ Tom Hudson and the aforementioned Jamie Lenman (and he even has few mannerisms of Lenman whilst he performs too). I was particularly taken with his bright blue Doc Marten boots, which were an awesome clash with his bright orange t-shirt.

I’m trying to figure out how these guys have also passed me by. Big, meaty, catchy riffs plus poignant, often political lyrics with plenty of grunt in the mix (and even some double kick drum thrown in for the proper metal heads) – in fact very Reuben-esque to add to the Lenmanisms. I really enjoyed this set and now I feel like I need to get far better acquainted with their back catalogue (plus they also have a new album ‘Confusion Species’ dropping this week).

And so finally to Jonah Matranga. Now, I’d kind of seen the set before, and again he explained to the crowd that the album won’t be played in order, but instead will build through the tracks in terms of their intensity. Initially he took the stage alone and the sets starts with those mellower, quieter tracks from ‘Water and Solutions’ such as ‘Another Way Out’, ‘Nestle’ and ‘In 2 Again’. There’s something very tender and heartfelt about the way Jonah performs the songs. You can tell they mean a lot to him, and these first few songs, with just him and a guitar on stage add to a sense of vulnerability.

Oxygen Thief joined him on stage part way through ‘Waiting for Sunday’ as the track built to its heavy and upbeat finale. As promised, the pace and energy of the set built and built. ‘Really Here’ is the perfect bridge from the slower songs to the more upbeat numbers. ‘Man Overboard’ and ‘Mother Mary’ are great for a singalong, and I’m jumping about like a loon when personal favourite ‘I Like It’ comes on.

The brutal triumvirate of ‘The System’, ‘Bury White’ and title track ‘Water and Solutions’ sees Jonah discard his guitar, the tender vocals now giving way to guttural screams whilst he jumped around the stage and even took some trips in to the crowd as well. Whilst that sees the end of the WS tracklist we’re treated to a couple of extra songs in ‘Dear Enemy’ and the very punk ‘Love, American Style’ to sign off the set.

The whole set was captivating with Jonah giving a very raw, passionate and emotional performance. Having become more accustomed with ‘Water and Solutions’ since that 2000 Trees performance, I’m really glad I got to witness the final leg of the anniversary tour. Watching Jonah is a real treat and I hope he makes it over to these shores again.

Sœur @ The Ferret

I’ve written about Sœur on this blog a few times before (you can see my attempt to describe their sound in this review from April). They’re one of my absolute favourite up and coming bands and it’s great to see them starting to get recognition from a wider audience now, with them getting national exposure through the likes of Steve Lamacq on BBC 6 Music and Daniel P Carter’s Radio One Rock Show.

They have a new EP due to drop on the 17th of this month and they’re putting on a nationwide tour to help promote this. I was chuffed to bits to see them announce a show in my home town at The Ferret, just down the road from me… and then I was filled with anxiety over whether the show would get the support it deserved. My last show there was the embarrassingly quiet False Heads gig, and I didn’t want Sœur to travel up from Bristol to perform to one man and his dog (…and me obvs!).

I’m happy to report that there was a decent gathering! This was one of the free shows that The Ferret hosts, and they often play around a bit with the line up, so the “headline” act doesn’t necessarily play last, but normally 3rd out of 4 bands, when the pub is likely to be busiest from natural footfall. Speaking to band member Anya after the show she said that they didn’t feel that would be fair on the last act, and so they decided to play last, even if that meant playing to fewer people. It was awesome to see that not only were there significant numbers who stuck around to see Sœur, but the pub was definitely at its busiest for their set, despite them not taking the stage until gone 11pm.

Opening up were Blackpool band Oceans Over Alderaan. Their guitarist had a plethora of effects pedals and gizmos, and I could tell they were going for an experimental sound, but personally I found the vocals were drowned out and to be honest the band failed to hold my attention.

Next were local lads Three Headed Monkey, and the 4-piece definitely did grab my attention, mostly via their pulsating and groovy bass lines. The bass player (who kinda looked like my tattooist) occupied the front and centre of the stage, and he was awesome to watch, the band churning out tunes that I thought combined the Red Hot Chili Peppers at their funky best, with Rage Against the Machine-esqe moments and definitely more than a wee bit of early Biffy Clyro thrown in to the mix. I really enjoyed it.

A long way from being just another local support act, next up were Pipapo from Leipzig in Germany. They get a bit of a mixed review from me, because their instrumental math rock was kind of cool, the guitarist having the mother of all pedal boards to eek out every conceivable effect you could think of, but instrumental bands are a bit of a bug bear for me. Personally I need a vocalist, otherwise it just feels all too self indulgent and ultimately unengaging. Whilst I find it hard to put aside my instrumental prejudice, one of the guys I was with is a big fan of that style and he loved it, claiming them to be the highlight of the night.

The main event for me was always going to be Sœur though, and I took myself towards the front so I could have a bop along. I’m very much use to them opening their set with ‘Put You On’ which has an unassuming intro before smashing you in the face with a sledge hammer when the chorus kicks in. They didn’t play it this time, which on the one hand made me a little sad, but it is good to see them keeping the set fresh. What they did instead was play a slow and moody intro that then kicked in to their standalone single ‘Left Living’ – it was an unexpected and cracking start to the set.

Early on in the performance it seemed that dual vocalist/guitarist Tina was having a few issues with her in-ear monitors, and those paying attention would also notice that Anya was obviously suffering with a bit of a head cold, but it didn’t seem to detract from the performance and the harmonies were still tighter than a nun’s chuff.

Meanwhile drummer Jim just went about his business at the back with an assured coolness. I used to have a thing about wanting to watch drummers who are really animated, but Jim’s drumming style is far more laid back which is quite an achievement given the dynamic nature of Sœur’s sound. I’m no drumming expert, but the constant stop/starts combined with the changes of pace and switching from quiet to loud strike me as a difficult shift for a drummer to put in, so kudos to him for making it look so easy.

The set showcased all of the songs from the upcoming EP. ‘Track Back’ is really upbeat with almost a bit of a ska/reggae feel to it, whilst recent single ‘Out Again’ makes great use of the dual vocal element of the band. Some of the songs from the upcoming release still aren’t in the public domain, but are still familiar to me having seen them played earlier in the year – the stickability of tracks that have only been performed live to date always impresses me.

There’s also early single ‘No Fire’ which is one of my favourites, and ‘Just Yet’ from debut EP ‘What Separates Us’ which, with it’s duelling vocals, is another great example of the bands uniqueness – the heavy outro to this song in particular highlights Sœur at their brutal best. The anthemic ‘Slow Days’ also from that debut EP is a great change of pace, and again shows the band’s versatility.

The set is finished with title track from the new EP ‘Fight’, which again is one of my favourites (damnit I love’em all!), but really is a great finale with its spoken word lyrics accompanying slowly building layers of drums and guitar culminating in a loud and frantic finish.

It was good to have a catch up with all three band members afterwards as they’re all good eggs (I pester them way too often, but they’re dead nice about it).

I struggle to come up with enough superlatives to say how impressed with this band I am, and I’m genuinely excited to see where their journey takes them. Their tour continues throughout the month and I definitely recommend going along to see them if you can.

Will Varley @ The Montgomery, Sheffield

 

So this gig was a bit different to the usual fair you’ll find on Mixing Up The Medicine given that it was essentially a sit down folk music gig in a theatre, so a little different to my usual pit fest. To make it extra different for me, I even took my wife AND my mum and dad.

I’ve been a fan of Will Varley for a few years now, having happened across him on the line up at a festival I was at. Somehow this ended up being my fifth time seeing him this year, having seen him touring his latest album ‘Spirit of Minnie’ back in February and then by crossing paths with him at three other festivals this year.

I think he’s a really great song writer, with a varied repertoire that covers musings on modern life, history and current affairs with a mixture of styles ranging from comedic talking blues right through to poignant and heartfelt ballads. Consistent throughout it all is an amazing knack of telling a great story.

Opening the night was local lad Ben Ibbotson, and he seemed to take his task of getting the crowd warmed up very seriously! He had a cracking voice and his indie-esque songs were very catchy. He did his upmost to get the crowd involved, evening managing to get a bit of a singalong with his set closing ‘These are the Days’.

Next up was Dubliner Ailbhe Reddy (…don’t worry, I don’t know how to say it either). She cut a somewhat diminutive figure on stage at first, but soon grew in to her set and seemed to warm to the audience as she went on. Her songs consisted of intricately plucked guitar melodies on a rather fetching 1950s style hollow body electric guitar, accompanied by a beautiful and delicate singing voice. It was a very different vibe to the opening act, but the audience were more than happy to listen and absorb the songs, which whilst introspective, were still absolutely captivating. A really enjoyable set from an artist that I really didn’t know anything about.

And then on to Mr Varley. A lot of the shows he’s performed this year have been with an accompanying band, with ‘Spirit of Minnie’ consisting of several songs that probably need accompaniment to bring them to life. Tonight however, it’s just Will and a nylon strung Spanish guitar and it’s ace.

He played a 90 minute set, but if it weren’t for my bladder insisting on a rest room break part way through, I don’t think I would have noticed (…and having to get up to go to the loo when it’s a sit down gig is proper awkward!!!).

As always it’s a really entertaining show. The songs alone are great anyway, but there’s also a great rapport with the audience and it’s not unusual for him to break off mid-song to tell a little story or joke about him messing up the words. There seems to be a lot of older material covered with favourites such as ‘Seize the Night’, ‘Weddings and Wars’ and ‘We Don’t Believe You’ all played as well as a few more obscure tracks such as ‘February Snow’ and ‘Advert Soundtrack’. In fact I don’t think he played any songs from that most recent album. As always the heartfelt ‘The Man Who Fell to Earth’ is beautifully done, though I do have to say that the arrangement on the full band version of the song is stunning if you ever do get chance to catch it.

The crowd seem most enthused for the comedic songs in the set. ‘I Got This Email’ is a genius song, brought up to date with refreshed political references, and there’s a new song also about what might happen if the internet broke. As popular as these songs are though, it would be doing the quality of the songwriting a disservice to think of these as where Varley excels and I think the beauty of the set is probably the effortless ease from which he can switch from making you laugh out loud to making you want to cry and think more deeply about what life is all about. The show ends with my favourite song ‘King for King’ and it seems a fitting end to a cracking performance.

Having had a hectic touring schedule this year, Varley has announced that he’s planning to take an extended break to spend time with his wife and their recently born daughter, but he’s vowed he will return, and I know I’ll be sure to get along to more shows if his as soon as he does.

False Heads @ The Ferret

First bit of advice: Listen to False Heads new EP ‘Less Is Better’. It’s an absolute banger. In fact you should take the time to listen to their entire back catalogue, because it’s crazy good. In a recent interview, FH’s frontman Luke Griffiths described his songwriting as “somewhere between Kurt Cobain and Noel Gallagher”. That seems like a pretty bold claim, but listen to False Heads and he does kind of have a point. There’s a raw punk rock energy that keeps grunge fans like me happy, whilst simultaneously there’s the melody and swagger of Brit Pop thrown in there to help keep their sound more accessible, with doses of The Libertines and Queens Of The Stone Age also in the mix for good measure. It makes for a great concoction that’s seen them start to gather a fair amount of attention from the British music press.

Second piece of advice: if False Heads play a show near to you, make sure you go along. Unfortunately the people of Preston didn’t heed this advice for the last Saturday in September. Myself and a handful of friends had purchased tickets for this show several weeks in advance, fully expecting that this was likely to get close to selling out (hey, it does happen at The Ferret!!! Manchester rockers The Blinders have sold out the venue for their show there next month). However, with a few days left before the gig the promoter put out a message to say the gig was now going to be free entry, seemingly in an attempt to try and get some bodies through the door. Even then, barely anyone turned up, and of the small crowd gathered I’d be surprised if there were even a dozen that were actually there because they wanted to watch the band.

Opening the night were local band All Hail Hyena. Given the effort these guys put in to putting on a show it was a great shame there weren’t more people there to witness it, taking the stage wearing matching pyjamas and adorning day-glo facepaint, highlighted by the black light they’d set up on stage. There was an assortment of oddities displayed across the front of the stage, and they even handed out songbooks to the crowd in case anyone wanted to singalong. Their song ‘Licky, Licky’ was preceded by lollipops being given out to everyone, so we all had something to lick along with.

The songs themselves were a mixture of catchy poppy rock songs and quirky plinky plonkers that reminded me quite a bit of Everything Everything, with some heavier guitar thrown in there every now and again too, and even a brief stint of death metal vocal. Many of the songs ended abruptly and unpredictably, until the point in the night where the abrupt end became really predictable, but I still enjoyed it and will definitely be along to watch them again some time.

Widnes wrestling loving alt rockers Salt The Snail were due to appear next, but unfortunately had to pull out of the show on the day. A real shame, as they’re another band who are a spectacle to watch, and were one of the reasons I opted to go to the Preston False Heads show and not the sold out gig in Manchester the night before. Again, if STS play a show near you, make sure you get along. You won’t regret it.

And so onto Londoners False Heads. I’ve said for a while now, one true test of whether a band are any good live is whether they can turn it on when the crowd aren’t all that interested. In truth, it’s a test that normally applies to opening acts, the support acts that people aren’t interested in because they want to see the main event. It’s a little strange to apply the same test to the headliners. This was my first time watching False Heads, but having followed coverage of their other gigs I knew what to expect – their incendiary live performances are a large part of how they are managing to grow their following.

I’m happy to report that they didn’t disappoint. Luke was really energetic on stage, writhing about and dropping to his knees, or climbing on the seating to the side of the stage or even up on top of his amp (…please, someone buy him a bigger amp! It will help make the amp climbing so much more dramatic!), whilst Barney Nash on drums provided really tight backing vocals as well as being spokesman in-between songs and keeping the set flowing. Jake Elliot completes the trio, coolly delivering the bass whilst Luke flings himself around the stage.

The set opened with ‘Yellow’ the lead single from ‘Less Is Better’ which with its fast paced punky riff is a great start to proceedings, and set the tempo for the night. They play my absolute favourite FH track ‘Slew’ with its taunting chorus of “You’ll never learn” and outro that showcases the band at their most brutal QOTSA-esque best.

‘Twentynothing’, also from their debut ‘Gutterpress’ EP also gets an outing, as does ‘Help Yourself’ from ‘Less Is Better’, which really reminds me of The Presidents Of The United States Of America, and is another personal highlight. There are also several new songs sprinkled through the set, and my impression is that these all leaned towards the grimier rocky end of their spectrum, which is right up my street.

The one-two punch of ‘Retina’ and then ‘Wrap Up’ were a great end to the show… well kind of… with it now being a free gig and an open door policy there were a handful of drunks who staggered in for the last 5 minutes of the set who then demanded an encore… having seemingly caught the band a bit off guard, there was a slightly awkward few minutes where they were originally going to do a reprise of ‘Yellow’, before deciding instead to close out with a bit of a jam session. It was a pretty awesome jam, and it will be interesting to see if it ends up being developed into a full song – whilst it felt kind of special to watch, the drunken antics of the late arriving punters left a slightly sour taste and I was kind of a bit embarrassed given it was a home town gig for me. The band packed up and left pretty sharply after that.

I really enjoyed their performance though, and it’s left me desperate for a chance to go see the band again, hopefully with a room full of people that will appreciate them a bit more. I really do think False Heads are on the verge of big things, and hopefully one day I can look back in fondness on the time I saw them play such a small venue.

I also hope the people of Preston can wake up to the fact that we’re lucky that a venue like The Ferret puts on so many good bands and if we’re not prepared to support shows like these, the music scene in Preston is going to end up being poorer for it.

Dinosaur Pile-Up @ The Parish

Anyone who’s read this site regularly will notice that despite the fact I’ve never dedicated an entire blog post to them, the name Dinosaur Pile-Up has come up pretty often. It’s fair to say that I’m a big fan. In fact despite being nearer to 40 years of age than 30, and the fact that I work a mundane job in IT, have a mortgage, and am married with two young children, it’s probably a better description to call me a completely tragic fan-girl.

What’s so good about them? I find it really hard to put my finger on it. I don’t think they’re a revolutionary, mould breaking, genre defining type act. Some people write them off as grunge wannabes. But personally…. I f*cking LOVE DPU! I still remember really vividly the very first time I listened to them. I came across ‘Mona Lisa’ on You Tube (it’s a really cool video, you should check it out here) at the back end of 2010, and I remember listening to it in my kitchen. Within the first 30 seconds of hearing the song I knew they were right up my street. I binged listened to as much as I could get my hands on online, and ordered their recently released ‘Growing Pains’ album straight away.

When it turned up I was not disappointed. It’s an absolute banger of an album packed end to end with big riffs and awesome tunes. I spent my teens listening to 90s grunge, and then rather than fall in to the Brit Pop camp got into nu-metal later on. Off the back of this, I find the music I love the most is music that’s really heavy but still holds a decent melody. ‘Growing Pains’ fitted the bill perfectly, and quickly became my go to album. I went and got tickets to go see them perform as soon as I could, my first show being at Soundcontrol in Manchester in March 2011… And it turns out live, they’re pretty f*cking awesome too.

I’ve been hooked ever since. Album two ‘Nature Nurture’ is a bit more pop-punk, but is also f*cking amazeballs and album three, the slightly darker and heavier ‘Eleven Eleven’ continues the legacy… Unlike other bands that have released awesome first albums but then faded away, DPU have never let me down.

That still doesn’t really do justice to why I like them so much. I guess listening to a banging DPU riff is like someone’s plugged directly into the dopamine receptors in my brain and turned them up to 11. It just makes me happy. Going to a show, jumping around like a loon and singing my heart out to all the songs puts a massive grin on my face and makes me even happier!

But anyways, I’m probably supposed to be reviewing a show or something… Ah yes. DPU announced the massive news this year that they were going to be playing the main stage at Reading/Leeds festival. HUGE!!! To see a band you’ve followed from early on make it to the big stage is amazing, and makes you kind of feel proud. But no way was I going to hit up either festival… I’m waaaaay too old for that shit! They did however, also announce a warm up show the day before their Leeds appearance at The Parish in Huddersfield. WIN!!! They also teased that this show would be the first outing for some of the new songs from their forthcoming fourth record. BONUS!!!

The chance to hear new stuff made me extra excited. Sometimes, watching a band you love playing new stuff is a total drag. You just want them to get on with playing the songs you know and love. I feel differently about DPU though, firstly because, as mentioned already, their new material has never let me down, but also because I have such fond memories of them playing unreleased stuff before. When they were touring ‘Growing Pains’ they used to play ‘Should’ and I remember being really into it from the very first listen. I also have fond memories of “Radvent” where in the lead up to Christmas front man Matt Bigland released previews of demos recorded for ‘Nature Nurture’. ‘In My Room’ and ‘Thread’ (later known as ‘Hanging by a Thread’) were both posted up on Soundcloud, and again, I loved both songs on first play… the only shame being that none of the above songs actually made the cut when ‘Nature Nurture’ was finally released (though thankfully all three can subsequently be found on the ‘Nurtured’ EP that was released a few years later).

Anyways – my ticket to the Huddersfield show was duly purchased. This was my first visit to The Parish. Living in Lancashire, most of the gigs I go to are in Manchester, but I do get across to Leeds pretty regularly. Huddersfield is in between the two, so I’d had my eye on The Parish for a while as a venue I wanted to visit. They book some pretty decent bands, but DPU was the first one that made sense for me to go along to.

The gig space itself seems to be a converted garage at the back of the pub. It’s tiny! Again, regular readers will note that I love a small venue! Despite me being in double digits in terms of DPU shows, this was definitely the smallest venue I’d seen them at. It was a sell out show though, so it was also packed. Perfect!

Opening up were California rockers Teenage Wrist. I’d listened to their album ‘Chrome Neon Jesus’ before the show and I’d enjoyed it without necessarily being blown away by it. Their live performance though carried extra energy, and made it one of those performances where all of a sudden the songs make more sense. There seemed to be a few bona fide Teenage Wrist fans in the audience, but the whole crowd gave them a really good reception, set closer ‘Stoned Alone’ being a highlight.

Then on to the main event. Even during sound checks the crowd were getting excited. Off the back of DPU’s last UK tour a bunch of guys started up a DPU Fanclub page on Instagram (there meme game is hot, you should check them out here). The lads that run it have managed to build a bit of a community around the page, and folk that attend DPU shows regularly are all starting to get to know each other. There was a gathering of that community right at the front. Chatting to guys I found out people had travelled from the likes of Milton Keynes, Birmingham and Manchester to be at this one off show… I once made a three hour round trip to Carlisle to catch a DPU midweek show, so it’s kind of nice to realise I’m not the only DPU nut. There was genuine excitement amongst people about hearing new stuff.

The set opened with ‘Arizona Waiting’ and the crowd were in to it straight away, screaming the words and bouncing along. It was followed by ‘Peninsula’, a song I wasn’t so into when I first heard it, but it’s a live staple and a crowd favourite that I’m now hooked on, and then on to ‘Birds and Planes’ which is the opening track from ‘Growing Pains’ and one of my all time favourites.

Throughout the set there was a decent mixture of stuff from ‘Growing Pains’ (‘My Rock and Roll’ and ‘Traynor’ also got a play) and from ‘Nature Nurture’ (including ‘White T-Shirt and Jeans’ and title track ‘Nature Nurture’) plus a cover of Weezer’s ‘Say It Ain’t So’. I only realised afterwards, that aside from anthemic set closer ’11:11′ there weren’t any other tracks from third album ‘Eleven Eleven’ – perhaps after three years of promoting the record the band are a bit fed up of it.

And then of course there was the new stuff. The band played three new tracks: ‘Thrash Metal Cassette’, ‘Around The Bend’ and ‘Pouring Gasoline’. And they were all face meltingly awesome!

‘Thrash Metal Cassette’ starts with a fast frantic shouty verse that kind of reminded me of the Foo Fighters’ ‘White Limo’, before hitting a more upbeat chorus with a melodic and harmonious “heeeeey”, the best bit being a dramatic pause in the middle of the song where Mike bashes out a beat and then, even though no one had heard the song before, everyone knew exactly the moment the riff was going to kick back in, the room bouncing as one (it gave me a serious goosebumps moment!).

‘Around The Bend’ was another upbeat effort, definitely channeling the band at their Weezer-esque best and ‘Pouring Gasoline’ was more of the same good stuff.

Speaking to all the die hard fans after the show, everyone was really pumped about the new stuff, and I have to admit, Bigland and the boys have done it again.

The very next day a UK wide November wide tour was announced (with Gender Roles as one of the support acts no less) …I’d hoped to get to a handful of the shows, but it transpires that my wife is going to be abroad at the same time, meaning I have to stay home and adult instead. So it looks like I’ll only be able to make the opening night of the new tour in Leeds. I can’t wait to get that next DPU fix though and the chance to hear all the new stuff again. And fingers crossed album four is not far away. Really exciting times for the band. I love watching them grow and go from strength to strength!

 

Pulled Apart by Horses / WEIRDS / JOHN / The Hiding Place @ The Sugarmill

It feels like aaaaaages since I’ve written a blog entry and even longer since I’ve done a proper gig review as opposed to an overview of a festival. I was certainly feeling an itch that needed to be scratched, so when this show in Stoke came up on my Instagram feed, I knew I had to try and get along.

I’m not sure how I missed this one off show in the first place as it’s been promoted for a few months now, but with three bands on the bill I’m a huge fan of, it felt like one I shouldn’t miss, so with a last minute ticket purchased, I set off down the M6 for the 1hr 20min journey.

This was my first ever visit to Stoke and The Sugarmill. There was a car park just over the road from the venue that was only £1 for the evening which was a bonus. The venue itself is big enough to feel like a proper venue, but still small enough to get that intimate feeling, and definitely somewhere I’d be happy to visit again to go watch bands.

First up were local band The Hiding Place. In all honesty they’re weren’t really my cup of tea. They had a kind of emo mixed with hair metal/post nu-metal edge that kind of reminded me of the likes of Thrice, Avenged Sevenfold or Bullet for My Valentine. Their lead singer has a serious set of pipes though, his vocal range being really impressive and almost operatic at times, and the set was pretty tight, even if stylistically it wasn’t my thing. If you are a fan of that style of music they are definitely worth checking out.

Next up were JOHN, one of the main reasons I decided to take the trip. I’d seen them earlier in the year in Manchester and really enjoyed them, and have continued to listen to them since. Based in London, they don’t manage to get up north very often, and in fact myself and a friend were even thinking about trying to get across to Europe in the autumn so we can catch them playing on tour with IDLES.

So how are they best described? Loud. Frantic. Raw. I’m still amazed how much noise they make for a two-piece, and I’m still sure no other drumming front man is as energetic as drummer John, whilst guitarist Johnny cooly goes about his business banging out the riffs.

Opener ‘Balfron’ is a great start to the set and sets the pace for the rest of the performance. Still early in the night, and JOHN still being a relatively obscure act (though hopefully more exposure on tour with IDLES will help with this) the crowd are a little tentative with only a few of us gathering near the front. I enjoyed toe tapping and singing along with the set which included a host of songs from their album ‘God Speed In The National Limit’ including personal favourites ‘Squad Vowels’ and ‘Ghost Printer’ (a song I randomly heard over the stereo in a bar in Bristol the other week!), as well as a new song thrown into the mix (…I’m officially crap at paying attention when a band introduces a new song, so no idea what it was called).

Another really enjoyable set from them and one that’s definitely rekindled the pipe dream of getting out on the continent to try and catch them again.

Next were WEIRDS from Leeds. I find it really difficult to try and pigeon hole this band. A quick internet search brings up the term “psych grunge”, which I’m not sure is a real thing, but if it is, WEIRDS are pioneering it. They combine rhythmic bass lines, dark and eery synthesisers and jangly guitars that break out of to grimy, heavy riffs. I’ve seen them play a handful of times now and the musical cacophony is only bettered by the intensity of the performance. Singer Aidan is not averse to taking a wander into the crowd screaming in the faces of his audience whilst stomping around in an unhinged manner. This was the first time I’d experienced the bass player and guitarist also jumping in to the crowd to finish the set.

I’ve only ever seen WEIRDS in support slots (guttingly, I was abroad when they did a headline tour to promote debut album ‘Swarmculture’ last year) so hats off to them for making sure they put on a real show every single time – these guys never just phone it in. ‘Old World Blues’ and ‘Phantom’ stand out for me as the best mosh-alongers, though I do love the changes of pace and dance beats used in ‘Valley of Vision’, and ‘Weird Sun’ is becoming the customary set closer that sees the performance get more chaotic.

They seem to have been a little quiet of late, so was great to see them back out performing. I’m looking forward to more from these guys in the future.

And so on to Pulled Apart By Horses. By all accounts this was to be the last PABH headline show before they go in to hiding to put together album five. I’ve been a fan since their debut album, but it took until last year and the release of fourth album ‘The Haze’ for me to actually see them perform. This was my fourth time watching them since then though. It really is a cracking album and it’s a testament to it that most of their set comes from it. ‘The Haze’, ‘The Big What If’, ‘Hotel Motivation’, ‘Flash Lads’ and ‘Prince Of Meats’ all get an outing. There are nods to their older material too with ‘V.E.N.O.M.’ and ‘Lizard Baby’ from their respective second and third albums. That first, eponymous album was for me one of THE albums to reignite the British alt rock and underground scene, so I was really glad to see songs from it performed also with ‘I Punched A Lion In The Throat’, ‘Meat Balloon’ (again! …they played it at Liverpool Calling and I thought it was gonna be a one off) and iconic set closer ‘High Five, Swan Dive, Nose Dive’ all being played.

Again, every time I see PABH play they seem to put in so much energy. Guitarist James Brown is like a coiled spring that periodically explodes around the stage, whilst frontman Tom Hudson is also a really animated performer head banging and contorting his body in time to the music. Hudson is another frontman who seems to like spending time in the crowd, but tonight was the first time I didn’t see this happen, as the Stoke crowd were noticeably subdued, unfortunately not seeming in the mood to reciprocate the energy on the stage. There was no barrier between the stage and the crowd, yet strangely a weird little pocket developed that kind of disconnected the band from the audience. Especially during ‘Meat Balloon’, a song I love losing my sh*t to, I tried to gee people up and try and get people more in to the gig, but it wasn’t to be. Are all Stoke crowds like that? Or did I just catch them on an off night?

Ultimately it didn’t spoil the show for me. I can happily go in to my own little moshing bubble when I’m listening to heavy music I really love, but gigs where the crowd connect both with the band and with each other do definitely leave you feeling more fulfilled at the end of the night.

So it sounds like this will be my last chance for a PABH fix for a while. I’ll await news of album five eagerly, and hoping there’ll be more to come from the WEIRDS and JOHN camps too.

As for Stoke, I’m sure I’ll be back. The Sugarmill seems a really decent gig space and if they can continue to attract line ups like this, I doubt I’ll be able to stay away, but c’mon Stoke peeps, sort your sh*t out and get up for it!!!