False Heads @ The Ferret

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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.

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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!!!

2000 Trees 2018

WHAT. A. WEEKEND.

This was my second year at 2000 Trees festival in Cheltenham. Last year, I’d heard so many good things about the festival that I booked my tickets before any bands had been announced. Subsequently a line up that included all my very favourite bands was released including Pulled Apart By Horses, Dinosaur Pile-Up, Tigercub, Jamie Lenman, Black Peaks, Puppy and Milk Teeth amongst others. I had a superb weekend away.

This year, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go back or not. Having seen such an amazing line up the year before, surely this year couldn’t be as good? So I decided to wait until the acts were announced… and when they were, I was pretty underwhelmed. Out of the first wave of bands revealed, only Turbowolf caught the eye. Yet I knew how special the festival was. It has a really great atmosphere and a crowd of people that are genuine music enthusiasts, as opposed to just wanting to go get wasted all weekend. I still didn’t want to miss out.

So I made a compromise, and decided to volunteer as a steward. Stewarding involves working a 4 hour shift each day of the festival; a morning, an afternoon and an evening. It means your ticket only costs a fiver, plus you get fed a meal during each shift and you get access to the VIP facilities.

In the lead up to the festival, more bands were added to the bill, and more names that I knew I’d want to see, but ultimately by the time the stage times were announced, there were only 5 performances across the entire weekend that I knew I wanted to go to. Stewarding still seemed like a decent option.

As a steward you’re also required to travel to the festival a day early, which meant being on site Wednesday evening when England played their World Cup semi-final versus Croatia. Luckily they screened the match for us, as well as providing a welcome barbecue and even some free drinks. On checking into the stewarding office they were happy to try and work around the bands you want to see, and I got assigned a shift pattern that meant I could go watch all of the acts I most wanted to.

The next day my festival kicked off with the early stewarding shift from 8am to midday. I got to be the ‘Family Camping Police’ having to tell arriving festival-goers not to camp in the family section unless they had kids. Having finished at midday, the festival didn’t actually officially start until 2pm, so I had chance to wander around and reacquaint myself with the Upcote Farm site.

Music for me started with Haggard Cat doing a short, unannounced set of Nirvana covers on top of a beer van. An awesome start to the weekend.

I got to see so many awesome bands over the 3 days. Too many to properly review, but in short there were two main groups:

  • Bands I already love who smashed it  included Turbowolf, Press to Meco, Sœur (twice), Black Peaks, Haggard Cat (also twice), Gender Roles and a very hungover Demob Happy.
  • Bands I didn’t really know before, but definitely need to hear more of such as Avalanche Party, Forever Cult, Basement and Fangclub (who closed their set with a ridiculously good cover of ‘Heart-Shaped Box’)

My other stewarding shifts were the Friday afternoon, which I spent welcoming new attendees and handing out wristbands, and then Saturday night from 8pm-Midnight which I got to spend at the Forest Stage supporting security. I felt very lucky to see so much good music in-between all of that.

But whilst ‘Trees is soooo much about the good music, I’ve also come to realise that this isn’t what makes it special. I really think the people who go (as well as people working there) help create a really special vibe and almost a sense of community.

For instance, though I went to the festival alone, I actually ended up camping with two guys I’d camped with last year. They were really welcoming the year before, and seeing them again was like bumping in to old friends. We actually ended up hanging out more this year (they were there to steward too), and a few other guys (all strangers before the weekend) also joined in with the group.

Then there were the people inside the arena who just enjoyed good music. I had 2-3 moments during bands when kindred spirits who were in to the same song would make eye contact and before you know it you’re sharing hugs and high fives and maybe even a drink (…props to the guy that was feeding me Red Stag during Sœur’s Neu Stage set!).

And you even get to enjoy some camaraderie with the bands too. I had drinks and even some silent disco dancing with various bands that I’ve come to know throughout the weekend. And that wasn’t even using my VIP access, that was just bumping in to them in the arena, as they seemed to be really enjoying the festival too.

For anyone who’s considering it, I’d definitely recommend stewarding – it’s a really nice way to have some involvement in the festival and without volunteers the event will struggle. Having said that, I’m not sure I’ll do it again, as there’s so much going on over the weekend even if the band line up isn’t to your taste, and it was pretty tiring fitting everything in as well as putting in a shift.

I came away from the weekend with such a buzz. I think I watched less music at this year’s festival, and there were definitely fewer bands that I really knew, yet I somehow came away having an even better time than the year before. And as for next year? Well, I went and bought my ticket already! See you next year ‘Trees!

 

God Damn @ The Flapper

God Damn are one of the bands that have reignited my passion for live music. I first saw them opening for the Foo Fighters at Old Trafford back in 2015, a show where I also realised that stadium shows are just not my thing. As iconic as the Foos are, live music when you’re packed in with 70,000 other people just doesn’t work for me. I was already hooked on God Damn’s debut album ‘Vultures’ by that point, and their performance was the highlight for me that day.

Fast forward a few months and I got to watch them again, this time at Manchester’s Soup Kitchen. The dank underground venue a stark contrast to that first gig, and I reckon there were probably less than 50 people there – it was awesome, and one of my favourite gigs to date.

I saw them once more a few months later as part of an all-dayer in Leeds along side Dinosaur Pile-Up and Heck. That’s over 2 years ago now, during which time the band have released a second album (2016’s ‘Everything Ever’) and recruited a third band member. Since then I’ve managed to cruelly miss every opportunity to see them again, shows always being in the wrong place or at the wrong time.

So, having been quiet for a while, they announced that they would play their only show of the summer at The Flapper in Birmingham as part of the venue’s closing party. I didn’t want to miss out again, so a road trip was duly planned, keeping it classy with a four hour Megabus journey there, and then the night bus home again at 2am.

I’ve never been to a gig in Birmingham before, let alone The Flapper. The venue is located on the canal, split over 2 floors, but you enter on to the first floor via a bridge, with stairs taking you down to a canal side yard and the gig room. With the UK in the midst of a truly epic heatwave, the yard was absolutely rammed. The people of Birmingham are so friendly though, and myself and friend David were invited to sit with some of the locals, who kept us company most of the night.

Venturing inside, the gig room is tiny. The stage is more of a step and the roof is ridiculously low. So many great bands have played here in the last few years including Demob Happy, Tigercub, Dinosaur Pile-Up and Future of the Left. Kind of gutted that I’ve missed out on the chance to see so many of my favourite bands in such an intimate setting.

The land the building sits on is due to be developed in to flats, with the weekend I was there supposed to be being the last the venue sees in operation, but at the 11th hour they’ve been given a 12 month extension on their lease. Moves are still on going to try and secure a longer term future. So rather than a closing party, the weekend was rebranded as a celebration of being awarded the extension.

The line up for the event seemed to have chopped and changed a half dozen times, and unexpectedly first band on are You Dirty Blue. I was only able to catch a couple of their songs, but really enjoyed what I heard, the two-piece producing fuzzy blues rock with a modern twist.

Ghosts of Dead Airplanes are next up, delivering a punky but powerful set. Their frontman plays melodic but heavy guitar whilst he delivers clever lyrics that provide a commentary on modern life, his eyes fixed on the crowd with a slightly unhinged stare. The energetic bass player bounced around behind him in between backing vocal duties, and pounding drums completed the trio. Really loved this set, the band have a real edgy feel to them and I definitely hope to catch them again some time.

After a break for a show from a fire performer in the yard, it’s time for the main event: God Damn. The room was packed. Frontman Thom takes to the stage alone, and greets the crowd with the opening to ‘Skeletons’. Surely one of GD’s best tracks, I’m used to seeing this deployed as the finale to a set. However, rather than the punch in the face that normally greets you at the start of a God Damn show, this felt like a friendly welcome, and it’s evident how many fans are present as everyone sings along to the stripped back and mellow intro… already there seems like a special atmosphere in the room. Drummer Ash and keyboard player James take there place on stage just in time for the track to explode in to the main riff, the crowd also jumping in to life.

What an awesome start to the set, the room absolutely buzzing and the energy levels through the roof. The entire set stayed at this intense level. There was a really good mixture of tracks with a few new ones thrown in to the mix along with several tracks from the ‘Vultures’ album and a couple from ‘Everything Ever’. Personal highlights were ‘Dead To Me’, ‘Silver Spooned’ (which was introduced with the instagram sensation ‘I don’t remember how this song goes’) and oldie ‘Heavy Money’.

This really was the perfect storm of a gig. Band I love, playing in a tiny, dirty, sweaty venue, to a packed audience of proper fans. Thom spent a lot of time in (or in fact crowd surfing on) the crowd, whilst set closer ‘Vultures’ sees a large chunk of the audience invited up on to the stage to sing (and mosh) along. One gig reviewer put it far more eloquently than me (see her version of events  here) when she described it as “there is no us and them tonight, the band and crowd are one, fuelling off one another and having the time of their lives” – the night really did have a feel of community about it.

The world needs gigs like this, which means we need venues like The Flapper. Hopefully planners in Birmingham will see fit to allow the venue to remain. Pretty drunk, drenched in sweat, and with a giant grin on my face, this was definitely a night that’s going to stay long in memory.

 

Liverpool Calling 2018

I attended Liverpool Calling last weekend, but after a hectic week in between it’s only now that I’m getting around to capturing my thoughts about the event. And first thoughts are, wow, what an event. I had an absolute blast! I’d seen announcements about the line up knocking around for a few months, and whilst there were many bands I fancied seeing, I wasn’t sure I was up for the fact the shows were going to be spread across the city at several venues – however, when the stage splits and times were announced it turned out that all the bands I really, really wanted to see were playing the same stage anyway. The only choice left to make was whether to just get a ticket for Saturday, or go along Friday night too for an extra fiver.

I decided I’d drive for the Friday, and the plan was to jump on the train for Saturday and enjoy a few beers.

In principal, this felt like it ought to be a similar event to Leicester’s Handmade Festival, which I went to in May. Myself and the friend I went with both came away from Handmade feeling slightly unfulfilled, without quite being able to put a finger on why. It had an awesome line up, but something about the venues and the atmosphere just didn’t quite click.

There was no such problem in Liverpool – to be fair I only saw a slice of what was on offer, visiting 4 of the 9 venues used, but that covered all the acts I wanted to see, and the crowds at each one were great. The festival had 2 halves really – Friday night was a showcase of local and emerging bands playing small, independent venues in the city centre, whilst Saturday was an all day affair, moving to the Baltic Triangle at the outskirts of the city to see the marquee bands play bigger stages.

My Friday night was spent mostly at The Jacaranda, which has a low ceiling’d basement stage that’s tiny and filthy – exactly the kind of venue I love. My Saturday was spent at Constellations which seemed to be some kind of abandoned factory building which hosted the main stage, but also had a really lovely outdoor yard which had a second smaller stage where mostly folk and acoustic acts played through the day.

I watched an awful lot of bands, so in the interests of brevity I’ll keep the reviews short and sharp. My weekend panned out like this though:

Friday

Exoskeletons – travelling up from Kent, these guys stage banter was so terrible it was actually quite good. I really enjoyed the dual vocal element. Definitely check out their album ‘We Are Here to Make Things Better’, their track ‘Holes’ is going to get added to pretty much every playlist I’m going to make going forward.

Wife – I really enjoyed Wife, their heavy bass driven songs accompanied by various screeching and howling effects. A bit of a sonic assault, but an intentional one. Their drummer was probably the most animated drummer of the weekend, and I love it when a drummer gets a good gurn on. Their frontman needs to stop negging on the band and making out to the audience that they aren’t very good.

Forever In Debt – fast becoming one of my favourites of the North West scene, they played to a jam packed room. There were some technical problems, with the microphone failing for opening song ‘Billy’, and the at various other points in the set pieces of equipment seemed to want to try and unplug itself, but it was still another performance full of energy and banging grunge tunes

Strange Bones – I nipped across to the bigger Phase One venue to catch the first half of Strange Bones set. They’re basically Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes, except from Blackpool. They’re hugely entertaining, with a great sense of theatre and the use of several props during the performance. Frontman Bobby Bentham is a bona fide rock star in the making (if he doesn’t class as one already), spending a lot of his time performing in the crowd, whilst moments on stage saw spectacular scissor kicking jumps. I need to listen to this band more!

Chambers – I saw the sister’s of doom duo in Leeds a few years ago and was really impressed, but they’ve kind of passed me by since then. Was great to reacquaint myself with them, and remind me why I liked them in the first place. They’re heavy, sludgy and intense and the performance sounded really tight. Yet another band I need to make sure stays on my radar.

Sweet Deals on Surgery – having listened to their record ‘The Snake and the Snoozer’ previously, I was undecided on SDOS. Now that I’ve seen them live I feel that I ‘get it’ with the raw, punky edge coming out a lot more. Despite obviously being unhappy with their sound set up, and their drummer and bass player having a small falling out on stage, I still thought they sounded really good, and definitely ended up implanting a few earworms, none more so than set closer ‘Take My Hand, Punch Me In The Face’. Will definitely be back for round 2 of SDOS soon!

Saturday

Echolines – best described as “not Dead Houses” who I’d purposely shown up early to see. Turns out Dead Houses had pulled out last minute, and whilst I was trying to figure that out, I probably didn’t give Echolines the attention they deserved, with me ending up leaving before the end of their set so I could go and check in to my accommodation.

Eyesore and the Jynx – I was back in time to catch the back end of their set. Their bass led art punk type sound isn’t particularly my type of thing, and consequently they didn’t really leave much of an impression.

Elevant – my first nice surprise of the weekend, Elevant were right up my street. A nice grungy backbone laced with an element of rock’n’roll swagger, their frontman was a real performer, and I loved his wobbly-legged dancing, whilst watching their bass player working her fret board was impressive. My only complaint would be the lack of that one knock out song that you can tell everyone about, but I will definitely listen to Elevant more and get to know their stuff.

SPQR – quite a big crowd gathered to watch SPQR, and there’s definitely a bit of a buzz about this band. I’d had recommendations from 2 different sets of friends to make sure I go watch them, and I can understand why. They have a great set of songs which have a slightly quirky sound to them and largely play on the quiet/loud/quiet pattern, except the quiet bits are really tender and heartfelt and with sense of vulnerability, which only makes the louder moments sound even more brutal. Definitely check out their EP ‘The House That Doubt Built’.

Peaness – perfectly pleasant pop ditties largely about rather mundane things such as food waste, Wagamamas and living in Chester. Not really one to mosh to, but catchy and upbeat. I loved how smiley the trio were, seeming to be absolutely loving being up on stage performing, and their harmonies were ridiculously good.

Pale Rider – I didn’t really get it. The guitar was overly fuzzy and hard to distinguish and the vocals also seemed drowned out. Three of the band wore smudged black face make up, though apparently the bass guy was too cool to join in. They struck me as being a bit “style over substance”.

Sœur – I’m fast becoming a tragic Sœur fanboy, but I don’t care. I think they’re ace. I was several beers deep at this point, and went and did the same thing I did last time I saw them, which was to head to the front and dance away to myself. Gutted there wasn’t a bigger crowd for them. New song ‘Fight’ to end the set sounds a bit special, gradually building and building to a dramatic finish – can’t wait for new material to be released later this summer!

Will Varley – I’m a big fan of the folk man, but I wasn’t really here to see him today. Was a nice bonus to see him do a couple of songs out in the yard, including ‘Talking Cat Blues’, before I headed in to watch Demob Happy. I already have tickets to see him on tour in October and he’s playing a couple of other events in between that I’m gonna be at, so hoping to take in a a lot more of him over the summer.

Demob Happy – come the end of the year, somebody, somewhere is surely going to give ‘Holy Doom’ an album of the year award? Such a great record, and I love watching the tracks from it live. I got a bit giddy during the set and decided to start making friends with the rest of the audience, and then I danced around the front of the venue without a care (probably looked a bit of a douche, but meh). The crowd really grew in to the set and there was a real buzz about the place by the time they finished with ‘Be Your Man’.

The Wytches – second time this year I’ve seen them live, and the second time I’ve come away feeling underwhelmed. I love The Wytches, but the set seemed short and unengaging, which is a shame, because I’ve seen them really tear it up when I’ve watched them as headliners.

Pulled Apart By Horses – ace! Still absolutely buzzing that they played ‘Meat Balloon’, one of my favourite PABH tracks and a song so old that it precedes them landing a record deal. I’ve never seen them do it live, and kind of presumed it had been retired from their live sets. The whole venue bounced for their performance, and it meant the event ended on a proper high!

And so it ended… There was an after party back at one of the venues in town afterward, but I was well cooked by that point. Hats off to the organisers, because I thought it was a great weekend. Big enough to feel like a proper event, but small enough to retain a certain level of intimacy that helps make these kind of things feel more special. My decision to go along this year was pretty last minute, but I’ll be keeping an eye out for announcements about next year and if they can deliver a line up with a similar vibe I’ll definitely look to get onboard earlier as it was such a great experience.

Wavves and Dune Rats @ Gorilla

Last Wednesday I went to a gig with a little bit of a difference for me. Most of the time I go to watch bands I love. Bands whose back catalogues I’ve listened to to death, and to whom I can sing every word and bounce along to ever beat. But even though they’re a band that have been around for a while (last year’s ‘You’re Welcome’ was their 6th album release) Wavves are new to me. My obsession with Gender Roles led a friend to recommend I give them a go, and I agree that in parts, especially they’re earlier stuff,  they do sound eerily similar. However, they’d thus far failed to make a similar impression on me.

Having said that, when I was asked along to the gig I figured I’d give it a bash. I was free that night, and it was the first time the Californian surf punks had been across to Europe in a while, with them only set to play three shows in the UK. I had a gut feel that with them being a bit of a niche act that it was going to be a special show.

It was also my first time visiting Gorilla, which is located under the railway arches at Manchester Oxford Road station. Tickets listed doors at 7:30pm so we figured that bands wouldn’t start until at least 8 o’clock, but as we walked in at 7:45 opening act Dune Rats where just starting their set. The room itself was a really nice size with the bizarre feature of having toilets and one of the bars actually behind the stage. This means you can get a spot with a viewpoint from actually behind the band, where you’re really close to the action without getting sucked in to a sweaty mosh pit (and it did get very hot).

Dune Rats are an Australian three-piece who had previously toured with Wavves down under. I was pretty surprised at how busy the venue was so early, and also the number of Dune Rats t-shirts knocking around… it looked like these guys had a bit of a cult following of their own!

As always, I’d listened to some of their stuff in the lead up to the show. They play pretty simple, but also extremely fun punk rock songs, with one guy in the crowd who seemed to be more interested in the beer than the music trying to rib them about sounding like Blink-182, which was perhaps a little harsh. The songs are kind of dumb, mostly talking about drinking beer and smoking weed, but they’re also extremely catchy.

Shouting along to beer drinking anthem ‘6 Pack’ whilst swigging from my own can of Red Stripe was great fun and there were are a ton of other really good sing-a-longers in there, such as ‘Scott Green’ (about trying to find weed at a party “Who’s Scott Green?”), ‘Bullshit’ and set closer ‘Dalai Lama’. The crowd really were in to it too, with a large section singing along the whole time. It was a really fun performance and I’m glad we got down early enough to see it.

It’s a pretty quick turnaround in between bands, and befor we know it Wavves are taking the stage. Frontman Nathan Williams is dressed top to toe in Adidas sportswear, including the classic 3 stripe track pants that all 90’s teens owned and even a pair of sambas for trainers. He also walks on with a litre bottle of Jameson’s whisky that he looks to have made a pretty big dint on already, and proceeds to pour himself a large measure. He announces that he’s come dressed as a “scally” and also that he’s pretty wasted.

The crowd get going pretty quickly, and I surprise myself with how many of the songs seem to have stuck in my head. They play ‘King of the Beach’ from the album of the same name really early in the set, which is probably my favourite track, mostly because it’s the one that was my first introduction to Wavves and also because it’s one of the most Gender Roles-esque tracks. But it’s their newer stuff, from last years album ‘You’re Welcome’ which I thought I wasn’t so bothered about that I seem to enjoy most, with ‘Daisy’, ‘You’re Welcome’ and ‘Million Enemies’ amongst the highlights for me.

The band look to be having great fun on stage – a guitar strap breaks early in the set and Nathan has to swap guitars and then in one of the most chaotic moments (and you might have had to be there to understand this) he manages to accidentally throw the replacement guitar across the stage, snapping another guitar strap and breaking a tuning peg as well as smashing in to the pedal board of second guitarist Alex. It’s a genuinely hysterical moment. It seems that they’re travelling light on this tour and so he only actually  had two guitars with him… luckily the guitar tech has mended the first one in the mean time, though there’s still a slight delay whilst Alex sorted his board out and the set was able to continue.

It’s a really great crowd there. At one point me and my friend Pie were worried we were going to be the old foagies amongst a bunch of teeny boppers, as Wavves are quite pop-punky at times, and whilst there were definitely some sections of the crowd like that, it was genuinely a really good mix, with people coming far and wide to check out a band who don’t seem to make it across here all that often.

Having spent most of the set having a dance to the side of the stage in our little faux-backstage area, we also ventured into the pit towards the end of the set too, where the atmosphere was electric, the room erupting into one big hot sweaty pogo-ing mess!

I took myself off for another drink just before the end of the set, but my mate stayed in there to take part in Nathan going for a crowd surf, entering the crowd via a somersault.

And then it was all over… a fun packed, laugh out loud, energetic performance, with a really good crowd and a venue that I think might become one of my favourites. Really glad I went along, and perhaps a reminder that you shouldn’t necessarily be put off going to a gig just because it’s a band you don’t know so well.