This blog is almost three months old now, yet this is the first time I’ve covered a show at my local music venue The Ferret in Preston. It’s a crying shame, because The Ferret is a great little venue that’s previously put on some great bands. I’ve watched The Wytches and Allusondrugs there, but looking back through their past events on their Facebook page makes for depressing reading when I realise all the awesome bands I’ve missed out on including IDLES, Strange Bones, False Advertising, Demob Happy, Fizzy Blood, Indoor Pets (when they were still called Get Inuit) and, believe it or not, even Royal Blood.
It’s a peculiar little venue because it’s such an odd shape. Kind of an inverted ‘J’ that curves around a half-horseshoe shaped bar that leads to a conservatory and beer garden. It serves a really good selection of craft beer and also does amazing smoked barbecue food (I had a giant beef rib with chicken wings before the gig). The entrance and stairs to the toilet and kitchen are located to the right of the knee-high stage and anyone arriving at (or indeed leaving) the venue or wanting to use the loos has to walk directly in front of the bands. It’s also a strange sight to see a band mid-set when a waiter walks right in front of them with a giant smoked hotdog. It does however get a crowd of good people in it, and combined with the live music it’s a place I genuinely enjoy visiting.
Now anyone who has followed this blog may have noticed that whenever I’m describing something I like, the word ‘grungy’ pops up quite often. I was at The Ferret on the Friday of spring bank holiday because the line up announced that night had a particularly grungy feel to it, so I didn’t want to miss out.
First up were Widnes band Forever In Debt. I hadn’t heard of them before I’d registered an interest in this show, but they’ve recently released an EP ‘Forget Me Knot’ on the label Society of Losers, and listening to them I was really impressed. Now I’m not afraid to admit that I am a huge, huge Nirvana fan. Forever In Debt absolutely remind me of Nirvana, but not the Nirvana that ‘ordinary’ people know. Not the Butch Vig produced, MTV played, radio friendly unit shifting Nirvana. I’m talking about scuzzy, dirty Nirvana that’s hidden away on obscure bootlegs or buried on compilations of b-sides and rarities. For the more mainstream fans, think ‘Bleach’ and the quirky parts of ‘Incesticide’ mixed with the rawest parts of ‘In Utero’. It’s f*cking awesome!
The band open with ‘Billy’ the laid back bass exploding into a rough and ready punk rock riff, before falling into the loud/quite/loud dynamic familiar of so many awesome grunge songs, the track really reminding me of Violent Soho. Amongst other songs the set also includes ‘Without a Sense of Summer’, the opening track from the EP, which for me is the stand out track and more than any other song captures that early-Nirvana vibe. ‘Boyfriend’ is more poppy and upbeat, and then I realise (I think) it’s actually a cover of Avril Lavigne’s ‘Girlfriend’ but with a sledgehammer taken to it. (EDIT: nope… word from the band, it’s not a cover, but an original from their 2016 debut EP… note to self – stop drinking so much beer before the show!)
The most impressive thing is the amount of energy the performance is delivered with, their frontman putting everything into both the guitar playing and the frenetically screamed vocals. It must be hard to do that when you’re the first band on and no one is really paying attention yet – they soon were paying attention though!
They close with ‘Rabbit Hole’ the thudding and hypnotic drumming accompanied by a fuzzy bass and guitar line that builds up to an ear bashing chorus followed by a wall of distorted guitar noise, before fading down to whispered vocals and then one last explosion of noise. Forever In Debt are a band I’m really excited by, and I’ll definitely make the effort to see them again, hopefully in a tiny, sweaty murky room full of people who are really in to it.
Next up are Wax Futures, the band who first drew my attention to this show. It’s my second time seeing them, having caught them at Falsetival in Manchester last month. Typical of me missing out on bands that play The Ferret, this is at least the fourth time the band have played there. I’m going to compare my experiences of watching Wax Futures to sex: the first time I didn’t really know what was going on, but I really enjoyed it, but now, second time around and with more experience I can enjoy and appreciate it even more.
Wax Futures made a massive impression on me after Falestival. Their mini-album ‘The Museum of Everything’ is a wonderful little gem that’s been on constant rotation in my music listening since that Manchester show. Their previous record ‘A History of Things to Come’ contains songs of a similarly high standard.
Stylistically they’re very much of the post-grunge, post-hardcore, English early noughties type sound, reminiscent of the likes of Reuben, Hell Is For Heroes and Hundred Reasons (in fact they’d be a great addition to this years 2000 Trees line up, which seems to be paying a bit of a tribute to that era).
To compare them to bands from a 10 year old, half dead scene seems really unfair though. At the heart of it they’re an alternative rock band with a collection of really well written songs, that sound familiar without sounding cliched. There are pop-punky elements that make it accessible, but never too sugary sweet, and there’s always a face melting metal riff lurking around the corner to make you stand up and pay attention, as well as a decent scattering of witty lyricisms.
I position myself near the middle of the room and sing along all night for tonight’s show, which includes amongst it (and not necessarily in this order), ‘Laser Eye Surgery’ which is a fast paced upbeat number that plays out to an awesome ear crunching guitar riff and ‘(My Body is a) Landfill’ which is just a HUUUGE tune and my personal WF favourite. ‘The 90’s Called It Wants Yr Misspent Youth Back’ bucks the trend for ending with an awesome metal riff by abruptly opening with one instead, the lyrics very much reminding me of my own misspent 90s youth (though to be fair I had a privileged suburban upbringing, and playing too much Alex Kidd in Miracle Land was probably about as misspent as it got). ‘Sandcastles in the Snow’ is another absolute banger, and there’s also a new song which has a title that sounds like ‘Wind In the Willows’, but isn’t that. It’s reassuringly familiar, and I’m pretty sure I heard it in Manchester too. ‘Wreck of the Hesperus’ is the penultimate song, the simple but catchy bass riff being joined by scaling, layered guitars that move into a catchy verse before building to an ending with a brutal metal riff.
The set closes out with ‘Breadcrumbs’, another fast paced song that builds layer by layer. There’s a brief comedy moment when the guitar amp cuts out, but luckily it’s perfectly timed during a quiet pause in the middle of the song, that allows the band to pick up the pace again and build towards the song’s end. It’s a great track to end with, those many layers of sound being gradually withdrawn until the song ends with a solo drum rhythm. So another thoroughly enjoyable Wax Futures show – I only wish I could some how give them a vehicle to get their music out to a bigger audience, as I think there’s definitely a crowd out there that would really appreciate them.
The third band are Dead Houses, another band putting out music on the Society of Losers label. Having listened to their stuff prior to the gig, I have to say, they looked different to how I expected. They have a very bass heavy sound, with eery guitars layered over the top and almost operatic singing that overall has quite a gothic sound that reminds me a little of The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster, so I was expecting a band that looked more like that to turn up. These guys looked way more ‘normal’. It’s an electrifying performance though, their lead singer bouncing around the stage, or sometimes in the crowd, moving and contorting his body to every chord change and drum beat. Beyond the gothic material I’d already listened to, the band also have a metal edge and the gothic crooning gives way to guttural screaming in places, that reminds me of Black Peaks – in fact I think Dead Houses would make a great opening act for the Brighton rockers!
They play both tracks from their recent release ‘Like to Know’ and ‘Greys’ which are both cracking songs, as well as a host of other material that keeps the crowd transfixed. A really enjoyable set in a style of music that I might not ordinarily listen to, but I definitely won’t shy away from going to watch again.
Last on are Deep Shade from Wigan. It’s late by this point, pretty much midnight. I’m not sure how deliberate this is, and whether Deep Shade are supposed to be considered “headliners”, or in actual fact they’re just background entertainment as the venue winds down towards the end of the night. Unfortunately not many people stuck around to watch them and they end up performing to perhaps less than a dozen people.
The blurb on their website sounds mighty impressive citing a “formidable grungy alternative-rock sound that takes from the fundamental elements of Nirvana, Queens of the Stone Age and Alice in Chains”; this sounds right up my street. What you actually get is more of a classic rock sound that very much reminds me of Guns N’Roses.
All three members strike me as very good musicians, and at one point I was quite fascinated by watching their bass player working his fret board. The singer also has a great voice reminiscent of Chris Cornell (though perhaps a touch heavy on the reverb during this performance) – the songs however lack any kind of edge, and although well constructed, don’t really do much for me. If you are a GnR fan (I’m not), I’d definitely recommend them, and the performance is at least tight, just not in a style of music that I personally get excited by.
And so the night came to a close – grunge followed by post-grunge followed by goth-grunge followed by anti-grunge… I might even have been grunged out if such a thing were ever possible. More new bands to get excited about and a really enjoyable night that reminds me that I need to get myself down to The Ferret way more often.