Forever In Debt / Wax Futures / Dead Houses / Deep Shade @ The Ferret

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.

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Handmade Festival: The good, the bad, the ugly

May day bank holiday weekend was spent at Handmade Festival in Leicester – a truly epic weekend, packed full of great music… far too much music to write about in fact so, this blog is going to be a little shorter than usual and attempt to briefly sum up the weekend and my thoughts about the event in general.

The Good

  • The line-up was epic. Check it out – Screenshot_20180510-203527.png
    A ton of bands I know and love (Dinosaur Pile-Up, Turbowolf, IDLES, Drenge, The Wytches, Gender Roles, Indoor Pets and Black Peaks), bands that I’d heard of and wanted to find out more (Future of the Left, Kamikazee Girls, Strange Bones) and then loads of unheard of’s that are always fun to check out.
  • Of all the bands I made the effort to see, no one disappointed… Strange Bones unfortunately pulled out the day before their appearance, but even their last minute replacement Kagoule turned out to be one of my highlights of the weekend. Other great surprises were Crosa Rosa and Timmas.
  • The venue was conveniently compact. My initial expectation was that I’d end up dashing around Leicester between different venues to catch all the bands I wanted to see, but it transpired that the stages were all actually located in one complex at the University of Leicester.
  • The tickets were great value. I bought tier 3 tickets at £40 – this isn’t a camping festival, so I still had to pay for accommodation on top of that, but I still thought that £40 was an absolute steal.
  • Definitely a big shout out to the developers of the companion app, which allowed you to plan which bands you wanted to see when and helped easily identify any clashes.

The Bad

  • The Union Square stage wasn’t really a music venue… they decided to transform the student union foyer into a performing area. It felt weird, with a Starbucks barricaded off to one side. It’s also glass fronted and has a glass ceiling, and with the baking hot weather, got very hot. During Indoor Pets performance singer Jamie developed giant sweat patches on his knees, whilst Beth from Kagoule and Chris from Turbowolf both looked a little uncomfortable on stage. It certainly looked like hard work for any act appearing before around 8pm, when the sun started to disappear behind the buildings.
  • The Union Square set-up seem to affect the atmosphere somewhat, and crowds felt subdued for most of the weekend. I guess it’s great that they expanded the capacity of the festival, but if that’s at a detriment to the vibe of the event I’m not sure it’s worth it.
  • Set times felt too short. I guess I’m used to the set times getting progressively longer throughout the day, so whilst the small opening acts might only get 25 minutes, by the time you reach the evening and the bands are more established acts the set times are getting towards 40-45 minutes, with an hour reserved for the headline act. This was half hour slots for everyone, apart from an hour for headline acts. The Wytches on Saturday night was just starting to get going, when it felt like their set was cut short. Turbowolf have just released their third album, and they’re Sunday night slot didn’t really feel long enough to showcase enough of their back catalogue. Likewise, Dinosaur Pile-Up played a really well paced set, but it still felt a few songs short by the time it reached the end.

The Ugly

  • My weekend finished on a slight downer when I decided to move from watching IDLES on the Union Square stage to go catch the last 20 minutes or so of Black Peaks playing on the Scholar Stage. After Black Peaks, I planned to move back to the Union Square stage to say a few goodbyes to certain people I’d met and chatted to over the weekend and maybe give a quick hello to the bands too. However, once  IDLES and Black Peaks had finished their respective sets, security locked down the venues, and wouldn’t let people move between them, despite the fact that the festival was still going on in the main Academy room with Circa Waves closing the weekend. It was just a bit miserable really, and denied the opportunity to share some last moments of camaraderie with people who had been involved throughout the weekend.

Conclusion

So on the drive back up to Lancashire, the question me and my friend Pie asked ourselves, was whether we’d go back again next year? Personally, if the line up was good enough, yes I probably would. However, given that most of my absolute favourites played already this year, it’s unlikely that the line up will be as attractive next year.

Contrast that with 2000 Trees; I was a bit underwhelmed when they made their first band announcements for 2018, but I decided I’d go along anyway because the event itself had such an awesome atmosphere about it when I went last year (…and then they smashed the bands announced in the second and third waves, so I’m really excited about the line up now!).

Handmade felt like it lacked something and almost didn’t really feel like a proper festival to me. The crowds seem to lack energy, the security staff didn’t really feel like they were a part of the event and I felt slightly short changed by lengths of some of the band performances.

I still had an enjoyable weekend, and I wouldn’t deter anyone from getting along to this event in the future, but I haven’t come away feeling enthused about going back again next year either.

Haggard Cat @ The Alma Inn

One thing’s for sure, I never intend for this blog to get too serious, and I’m definitely not going to let the fact that I plan to write a review afterwards actually get in the way of me enjoying myself at the gig in the first place. With that in mind I can only apologise if details of last Thursday’s Haggard Cat show at The Alma Inn in Bolton are a bit hazy.

I met up with a mate I’d not seen in ages for a bite to eat and a few beers beforehand. When we got to the Alma, given that the venue is sponsored by Fireball Whisky, and given that Haggard Cat frontman Matt Reynolds also works for said cinnamon flavoured liqueur company, we figured we’d do shots …and we went on to do them every round …and I’m pretty sure the venue threw in at least one complimentary round as well. The morning after was pretty hungover.

This was my first visit to the Alma. They put on some pretty decent acts, and I’d intended to get down for a while, but never gotten the opportunity. It’s much smaller than I was expecting, with bands playing at floor level in a sunken area of the pub that must only hold 40 or so people when it’s full. Tonight’s performance is to an audience of only around a dozen or so, but that’s exactly the way I like it.

Mr Shiraz take the stage before Haggard Cat. The five piece from Huddersfield play an upbeat and tight set, but the show is totally stolen by their frontman, whose banter and antics in between songs has me and my mate in stitches. It’s a fun way to get the night started.

Haggard Cat didn’t take the stage until gone 10pm, which means I had plenty of time to get more drinks. For anyone not familiar with the heavy blues two piece, they were originally a side project of Matt Reynolds and drummer Tom Marsh from post-Hardcore rockers HECK (previously known as Baby Godzilla before big wigs from the Japanese film industry had something to say about it). They have a record available online, ‘Charger’ which was supposedly recorded in one night long drinking session back in 2013, and with HECK deciding to call time on the band last year, it seems Haggard Cat has now been resurrected, with a new album ‘Challenger’ released earlier in April.

It’s my second time seeing the guys perform, having seen them on tour with Jamie Lenman last May. On that occasion the set focussed mainly on new and then unreleased material. It’s a really pleasant surprise this time round to see them throw in a few more tracks from ‘Charger’.

The set opens with single ‘The Patriot’ which was released early last year and was the first signs that Haggard Cat (originally called Haggard Cat Bothday Present, and then briefly being known as HCBP before settling on Haggard Cat as their name) were re-emerging. We get performances of all of the singles taken from ‘Challenger’ to date, including the mind boggling riff of ‘Goldberg’, bop-alonger (and cowbell banger!) ‘Boneshaker’ and latest release ‘Bad News (Travels Fast)’. Mid set sees ‘Intro’ and ‘Alligator Tightrope’ the opening two tracks from ‘Charger’ which are two of my personal favourites, and a real treat as I thought that the ship had sailed on me seeing either track performed live.

There were definitely some other songs too… maybe ‘Gravedigger’ and I’m sure there was another ‘Charger’ track as well, but I was having too much of a good time having a drunken one man mosh pit to pay enough attention!

The set ended with ‘American Graffiti’ which is my stand out track from ‘Challenger’ and made for a great finish.

So, a fun night with good laughs, good music and too much booze. Will definitely check out Mr Shiraz again, and will be good to see the HC boys at 2000 Trees in July.

 

Gender Roles @ Nation of Shopkeepers

So, what to do with yourself when you find yourself accidentally two hours early for the gig? That was the position I found myself in when I rocked up to Nation of Shopkeepers in Leeds this past week. The advertised start time of 7pm had in fact been pushed back to 8pm, and having driven for over an hour to be there, I now had time to kill.

Well, the food was good – I had a New Age Hippy burger with fries. And then I nursed a couple of pints of Becks Blue shandy. Had a chuckle watching the Gender Roles boys hang their banner… Two band members are legit giants. In fact, if it hasn’t happened already, I sincerely hope these guys play with fellow Brighton band Tigercub sometime soon – and they should swap frontmen, because Gendercub would probably be the hugest band on the planet (…in terms of height, not record sales), whilst Tiger Roles would be well dinky! Anyways, seeing the tall guys leave the banner hanging to the little dude helped keep me amused.

Live music finally begins at 8:30, and it’s two-piece Bad Idea who get proceedings underway. I’d listened to some of their stuff ahead of the gig, and what I heard were catchy, laid back, well written indie-pop songs that perhaps lacked the extra oomph to get me really excited. The live performance was slightly different though, with the drums coming through more prominently, their drummer using the rims of the kit almost as much as the drums to create various clinks and dings. Combined with guitar that seemed to have a heavier tone than in their recordings, they come across with more of a garage rock sound that is right up my street. It’s an enjoyable set and a really good way to kick things off.

Next up are Hora Douse, a three-piece hailing from Manchester. They definitely do not lack the extra oomph! At times they channel Biffy Clyro, whilst in other moments they remind me of American emo bands (though that doesn’t seem right as I never really liked any of those bands, but I really like these guys). I get another lesson in “cool shit guitars can do these days” as the set opens with synthesiser sounds that are all played with a guitar through an effects pedal. For the most part the songs are loud and catchy, but the mid-set performance of newest release ‘Outgrow/Anything’ (see the video here) is something really special. Dealing with mental health issues and the effects this can have on relationships, the track opens with ghostly synth tones and delicately plucked guitar before erupting into a gloriously upbeat guitar riff that continues to build towards a second verse before the tempo picks up once again and the songs finishes with a triumphant crescendo of noise. It’s a really awesome song, and front man Tom Lee delivers it with a passion and vulnerability that show how much it means to him. They finish the set with songs from their ‘Crash’ EP, ending the show with ‘Speak’ which sounds a bit like a younger sibling to ‘Outgrow/Anything’ and is a great end to the set.

And so to the main event; Gender Roles. Without doubt the three-piece are my favourite new band of the last 12 months. I saw them supporting Big Scary Monsters’ label mate Jamie Lenman earlier in the year, but Mr Lenman was courteous enough to announce his support acts a gazillion months in advance, so I’ve been listening to them longer than that. I fell in love with debut EP ‘Planet X-ray’ the first time I listened to it, and subsequent singles released over the last 6 months or so haven’t disappointed, culminating in the release of new EP ‘Lazer Rush’.

At any given time they can be performing sickly sweet pop-punk riffs, or singalong lo-fi indie, or grungy walls of noise accompanied by guttural screams (and that tends to be all within the confines of one song) that overall gives them a Pixies vibe, without them necessarily sounding like the Pixies. In fact I’ve only very recently been introduced to the band Wavves, and at times Gender Roles sound eerily similar (though personally I’ve found Wavves less memorable).

They open with old and unreleased song ‘Pay Rise’ before moving on to material from the two EPs including ‘Gills’, ‘Plastic’, ‘Chemicals’ …ah actually, it’s quicker to just say they played everything except ‘First’. There’s also a new song thrown in to the mix, which I have no clue of the name of, but sounds good on first listen. At this point, normal Mixing Up the Medicine etiquette is to pick a highlight from the set, but I honestly can’t as I just fricking love all of the songs! The band seem to have a great chemistry on stage, drummer Jordan’s dry banter in between songs keeping the set flowing. In fact the only thing disappointing is the Sunday night Leeds crowd, who all seem a bit miserable to be honest (a couple of people sat at a coffee table next to the stage ?!?!) – sober me is content to hover near the front and bop along to myself, but I’d love the chance to have a proper rock out with a room full of people who are really up for it – personally I think the energy in the performance deserves it.

Guitarist and singer Tom breaks a string during the penultimate song ‘Teeth’ which means set closer ‘Skin’ is performed on his spare guitar, a godawful looking blue Wesley  that looks like it should belong in the bedroom of a teenage 80’s metal fan. Not that this is likely to get much further than my 50 strong instagram following, but if perchance somebody in the industry does happen across this blog, please, can someone sort Tom out a decent second guitar? …or maybe I should get something crowdfunded for him? What do we reckon?

Anyhow, ‘Skin’ is an awesome end to what turned out to be a really good night. Shout out to promoter Dirty Otter for organising it all. It was great to see one of my favourite bands, but also great to get two new acts on my radar too and I’ll definitely keep an eye on both Bad Idea and Hora Douse. And Gender Roles? Well, I get to see them at least twice more this year as they play Handmade Festival and 2000 Trees. Watch out, because beer fuelled me might well get a proper pit started!

 

IDLES @ Bootleg Social

So how do you get in to new music? Personally, I’ll listen to recommendations from Spotify, or maybe I’ll see an unknown band announced on a tour with a band I love so I check them out, or sometimes it’s just bands I love showing love for other bands that gets me listening. Early last year, one of my favourites God Damn put out a gushing endorsement for IDLES recently released album ‘Brutalism’. The rave review was well earned – ‘Brutalism’ is an awesome record, and IDLES instantly became a band I had to go see live… and it seems the rest of the world had the same thought!

Last April they played a gig at The Ferret in my home town Preston which sold out (I tragically had to miss it due to being at conference in Telford with work anyways) but when they announced the Unity tour this spring, I figured I was finally going to get my opportunity to see them… and then within a blink of an eye that bloody sold out too… like six months in advance.

Fortunately for me an extra date was added at Blackpool’s Bootleg Social, and with the seaside town potentially not in the forethoughts of most alternative music fans, tickets were a little slower off the shelf, allowing me to get mine bought (…though the show did go on to sell out once again).

And so, on a murky April Sunday night I made the trip along the M55 to finally scratch my IDLES itch. I’d never heard of the venue before the gig was announced. It’s a basement bar/nightclub off of Blackpool’s main strip, with a small stage at the back. It felt like it was going to be a pretty intimate gig, though the low ceilings and large crowd in a subterranean setting was always going to make for a sweatbox.

Opening the night were Lice, a four piece art-punk band. Their lead singer seemed to alternate between two personas: one that sings (well it’s more like frenetic spoken word) in a slightly unhinged see-the-whites-of-my-eyes manner reminiscent of John Lydon, the other, in between songs, coming across as a suave toff. He certainly had a stage presence, and was backed by thudding and melodic bass lines from the jump suit and stetson wielding bass man, whilst the guitars took on a jangly psychedelic surf rock sound that reminded me of The Wytches. It was an intriguing watch. The band are part way through releasing a duo of EPs on IDLES record label, Balley Records, the first of which ‘It All Worked Out Great, Vol. 1’ available for download now, volume two following shortly.

By the time they come to the end of their set the venue is heaving, and it’s a bit of a struggle to get back to the bar. The sense of anticipation for the main event was growing.

Now I’m normally one for getting down the front at a gig. Not right down the front against the barrier, but maybe 4-5 rows back, where you feel you can interact with both the band and the crowd. But this place was totally packed out, and by the time IDLES take the stage it’s hard to get within 10 rows. Opening with ‘Brutalism’ opener ‘Heel / Heal’ the set is fantastically well paced, mixing the songs everyone wants to hear from their debut album with new tracks due on their forthcoming second record. By the time they play ‘Mother’ the crowd is buzzing and that first 10 or so rows is sucked into one big happy dancing pit (and I’m thrown about from anywhere between the 3rd and 10th rows). This is followed by new song ‘Samaritans’ which talks about mental health issues amongst males, and although I’ve never heard it before, it already sounds like an IDLES classic.

There’s something about the performance that makes all the songs feel really important. IDLES are not afraid to reference politics in their music, but they come across as having a real social conscience, and a refreshing outlook on life that seems to be really punk rock but with an attitude that screams “FIX THE SYSTEM!” rather than “F*CK THE SYSTEM!”. Frontman Joe Talbot seems to give a bit of a commentary about what each song is about, and it’s always something that resonates with the crowd, be it aforementioned mental health issues, the NHS, immigration or just about celebrating community. And that sense of community is really reflected in the crowd, who are rowdy, yet everyone is looking after each other.

The walls in the packed out venue were bouncing, and the sweatbox alluded to earlier does indeed transpire, even getting to the point where guitarist Bobo decides to strip down to his undies, before taking a stage dive into the crowd, thus treating the fans to an up close and personal encounter with his sweaty, Calvin Klein adorned butt.

The ‘Brutalism’ tracks ‘Faith in the City’, ‘1049 Gotho’, ‘Divide & Conquer’, ‘Exeter’, ‘Benzocaine’ and ‘White Privilege’ all get an outing and the crowd lap them up, but the handful of new tracks such as ‘Scum’ and a track I assume called ‘Unity’ all going down well too.

‘Well Done’, the bands most anthemic track to date, is the penultimate song of the night, before finishing with ‘Rottweiler’ introduced as another new track and featuring a chorus that asks the crowd to “Go wild” – an invitation that’s duly accepted!

An awesome night and what feels like a special event to be a part of. I’m looking forward to the release of the new IDLES record so I can get to know the new stuff even better, and grateful that I get to catch them again in a few weeks at Handmade Festival.

(photo credit to Lindsey Melbourne, stolen from Bootleg Social’s Instagram feed – unfortunately I was having far too good of a time to take any decent ones of my own)

7th April, part 2 – Sœur and Demob Happy

So the British underground rock scene only went and bloody did it again didn’t it?! I was already all over it when Demob Happy announced the tour to promote new album ‘Holy Doom’. By hook or by crook I was gonna make it to a show; and then they only go and bloody announce Sœur as the support act!

I bloody love Sœur! They’re ace! Out of last years 2000 Trees line up they were the one band that I accidentally saw (…there were many other great bands and great performances, but these were one of the few acts I hadn’t planned on seeing) that genuinely blew me away. I’ve been listening ever since, and been desperate to see them live again. They did a free entry tour back in November, and heart breakingly I couldn’t make it to any of the shows. I was super stoked that I was finally going to get a chance now.

So what’s so good about them? They sit firmly in the middle of a blossoming British alt scene, and I challenge anyone who enjoys any variant of rock/grunge/punk/alt music not to like them at least a little bit. But rather than fade in to the bushes (<– Homer Simpson reference) amongst what seems to be becoming a fairly crowded scene, they shine out with their own original take on the genre.

What’s different? Well, where do I start? The three piece consist of two guitars and drums (no bass, though admittedly the odd bass line does crop up via an effects pedal). Their riffs contain chord changes that would sit very comfortably on a decent metal record, yet they’re delivered via a sludgy baritone guitar aesthetic that sets them apart from a more cliched metal sound. They use really clever changes of pace, mixing unpredictable moments of the quiet/loud/quiet dynamic with occasionally syncopated rhythms and clever pauses. And they’re vocals are shared by their two female guitar players, but in a unique take on the dual-fronted format whereby neither singer ever seems to take the lead – they’re either harmonising, exchanging alternating lines in a verse, or on some occasions even competing against each other whilst singing different words to a different melody. All of this adds up to an intriguing but in my opinion extremely effective sound.

I rock up to The Deaf Institute in Manchester with just enough time to sling my bag in the cloak room and buy in a round of beers. Sœur are opening with ‘Put You On’ just as I get my change from the barman. Full disclosure: having been at Falsestival all afternoon (see 7th April, part 1 for details) I may have had a few drinks by this point. Add to this a round of Jagermeister supplied by my mate DT and it’s safe to say that any gig going inhibitions had been well and truly shed, and I spend the entire set in my own little Sœur-loving dancing bubble at the front of the room. I had such a good time though!

As well as other songs from their EP ‘What Separates Us’ we’re treated to recent stand alone single and personal favourite ‘No Fire’ before the middle of the set comprises of a couple of new songs. I can kind of sympathise with audiences watching Sœur for the first time, because their unpredictability potentially makes them a difficult watch if you’re not familiar with their songs. That being said, I’m kind of predicting the unpredictability, so I definitely took time during this section to chill and take in as much as I could. I hope these songs make it on to a release sometime soon and I’m looking forward to the chance to hear them again. The set closes out with the anthemic ‘Slow Days’ followed by a triumphant ‘Left Living’ that leaves me with a beaming grin. It was really nice to have a catch up with the front ladies Tina and Anya afterwards, and I’m unapologetic about being a tragic fanboy as well as regurgitating a lot of the same superlative sentiments used in this blog entry. I can’t wait to see them again!

Phew! Deep breath needed… I’m not even at the main event yet… Similarly, on the night I took myself out to The Deaf Institute’s terrace for a breather, but was back in the venue just in time for the start of Demob Happy’s set.

I saw Demob three times last year when they supported label-mates Dinosaur Pile-Up (yep, that’s me bleating on about DPU again… one of my absolute favourite bands that are gonna continue to get name dropped on this blog). Their debut album ‘Dream Soda’ is a really good listen, and whilst they were a band firmly on my radar, the DPU tour was the first time I’d seen them perform. They did that annoying thing where they hardly played any of the songs you know and instead opted to use the tour to test drive new material. On the first show in London, once that annoyance had subsided, I was really enjoying the new stuff. By the third show I went to, I was singing along and absolutely hooked!

There were pretty much four months between those shows and the eventual release of album number two ‘Holy Doom’, but listening to those songs again on release day felt a little like unearthing that forgotten record from your youth you hadn’t remembered you loved so much. The new record has a totally different vibe to ‘Dream Soda’. I’ve heard other people describe it as sounding similar to early Queens of the Stone Age (‘I Wanna Leave (Alive)’ is very nearly a rip off of QOTSA’s ‘Quick And To The Pointless’), however, whilst I can’t disagree with that sentiment, personally it wasn’t the first thing that struck me about the new Demob Happy sound. The fuzzy bass, tripped-out guitar sounds and vocal harmonies really remind me of 60s psychedelic rock, channelling supergroup three piece Cream as well as, dare I say it, The Beatles.

As good as ‘Dream Soda’ is, I think ‘Holy Doom’ is definitely an upgrade and the new sound gives Demob Happy a uniqueness that will help set them apart from that aforementioned crowded scene.

The live performance is a real treat and the crowd are really up for it. My little Sœur-loving dancing bubble is soon turned into an energetic happy dancing mob. The set starts with album opener ‘Liar In Your Head’ and we get to hear most of the tracks from ‘Holy Doom’ including ‘Fake Satan’, ‘Loosen It’, ‘I Wanna Leave (Alive)’ and personal favourite ‘Maker Of Mine’ as well as a really awesome (and unexpected) rendition of ‘Runnin’ Around’, which is the type of album track you think will never make it to a live show. There’s also room for stand alone single ‘Dead Dreamers’ and a little ‘Dream Soda’ nostalgia with crowd favourite ‘Succubus’ as well as ‘Junk DNA’ (go watch the music video for this, ‘cos it’s great) making the set too. The set rightfully ends with Demob’s biggest and arguably best hit to date ‘Be Your Man’, the crowd being whipped into a frenzy and the night ending on a real high.

And so an epic day came to an end (well, not strictly speaking true… I had another two hours until my bus home, so hit up a few bars with DT, but that was the end at least from a live music perspective) . Part 2 of 7th April was possibly even more epic than part 1 with me getting to fully immerse my self in drunken sweaty appreciation of two up and coming bands who I adore – here’s to the opportunity to do it many more times in the future.

7th April, part 1 – Falsetival

Saturday 7th April: a day so epic it needs two blog entries. I ended up going to two separate gigs, and one big fat blog post just ain’t gonna do the epicness justice.

First up was Falsetival, an all dayer at Manchester’s Soup Kitchen curated by three piece alt rockers False Advertising. I happened across False Advertising really randomly after they hash-tagged Dinosaur Pile-Up in a selfie after their last Manchester show. I gave them a quick listen and was hooked. Their last EP ‘ I Would Be so Much Happier If I Just Stopped Caring’ is a great little record and I definitely recommend giving it a listen, especially if you’re a fan of grungey slacker pop.

I’d never seen the band perform, so when Falsetival was announced, I got pretty excited. I’ve been to a few of these all dayers before. They’re normally a great chance to see 2-3 bands you know and love, whilst also giving the opportunity to uncover some hidden gems. As well as False Advertising slated to headline the day, I was really excited about seeing Forever Cult, Dead Naked Hippies and Calva Louise, all bands featuring on various playlists I have dotted about.

Peaness, Darma and JOHN were the other acts appearing and all were duly downloaded and binge listened to before the big day.

Then a slight problem arose; Another gig came up. A gig I knew I couldn’t miss. The solution? Go to both. It would mean missing False Advertising (genuinely gutted by this) plus one or two other bands, but with Falsetival starting at 3pm, I could still get to see most of the lineup whilst giving my support to an independent and DIY event (evidence of the DIY-ness provided by the fact the False Ads guys actually spent most of their day on the door collecting and selling tickets).

Sadly Forever Cult were a late drop out, but fortunately were replaced at the last minute by not one, but two bands in Civil Service and Wax Futures.

It’s Civil Service that kick off proceedings. They only play three songs, which may make the set sound short, except two of them are double-digits long instrumentals. To be brutally honest, this is not my cup of tea. Whilst the musicianship seems competent enough, I personally feel that I need more engagement from a band, especially if I’m hearing them for the very first time, and none of the songs are particularly memorable (nor do I have a clue what any of them were called, as they weren’t introduced).

Next up are Wax Futures. The first thing that strikes you is the thought “how the hell did they persuade comedian and tv personality Justin Lee Collins to play drums for them?” but that quickly pales in significance when you realise they have Hollywood A-lister Seth Rogen on bass. Bad look-a-like jokes aside, my first impression was that these guys are far too good to be on so early in the day, but then that really is just a testament to how good a line up had been assembled.

I really enjoyed their set. Stand out track for me was ‘(My Body is a) Landfill’ which is an anthemic chunk of post-hardcore, math-rocky goodness, but there’s definitely an honourable mention for ‘The 90s Called It Wants Yr Misspent Youth Back’ which is accompanied by an introductory story about the fact that the guy who invented 90s kids toy Boglins is a bit of a dick. The face melting opening riff to the track subsides into an upbeat pop ditty, that I probably shouldn’t like, but with witty lyrics about being a 90s kid I also can’t fail to love.

I wouldn’t say that Wax Futures sound like Reuben, but they definitely remind me of them, and I don’t think I realised until the day after how much of an impression they made, as they seem to be the band I keep wanting to go back and listen to after the event. Turns out they’re playing in my home town, Preston, next month, so I can turn up and freak them out by standing at the front and singing all of their songs back at them. They are officially my new band to get slightly obsessed and become a fanboy about!

Next up are JOHN a two piece band consisting of two guys called erm… John. I’d really enjoyed listening to their stuff in the run up to the gig, so this was one of the performances I was most looking forward to. They didn’t disappoint! I hadn’t realised that in fact it’s John the drummer and not John the guitarist that does all the singing. This is even more impressive given the energy behind the vocals, whilst in some ways also making a lot of sense in terms of the angry shoutyness of it all (the vocals are like an even angrier and shoutier Joe Talbot, from IDLES) – in fact there’s something really primal about watching some one give it their all with their voice whilst pounding the crap out of the drums (and the drums were literally falling apart by the end of the set).

By this stage in the day I was a few beers deep, so apologies if details around the performances start to get a bit fuzzy. JOHN definitely played some songs… some of those songs were definitely from their album ‘God Speed In The National Limit’ (make sure you check it out). Those songs definitely included amongst them, ‘Balfron’ and ‘Squad Vowels’ which are two of my favourites… There was a new song (I tried to have some banter about making sure they didn’t f*ck it up… I got shot down). There were definitely other songs too.

It was all awesome though, the band being the first of the day to try and get the crowd and bit gee’d up. Amongst the guys I went to the gig with, we all agreed, it was THE stand out performance of the day.

Darma were next on. When the line up was announced I wasn’t very excited about this band… turns out that’s because I was confusing them with a different band of a similar name. Darma have everything I love! Kind of a Bleach era Nirvana, crossed with some Alice In Chains and also elements of the godfathers of grunge revival Nine Black Alps. They’re not the most talkative bunch, and again, it’s hard to namecheck any of the songs because they didn’t really introduce them but they were still really entertaining, choosing to fill gaps between songs with little improvs… their guitarist changed to a differently tuned guitar part way through the set, so the rhythm section jammed out Led Zeppelin’s Moby Dick whilst he was sorting himself out. The set is also ended with a brave but hugely crowd pleasing medley of more recognisable riffs, Rage Against the Machine’s ‘Bullet in Your Head’ and Royal Blood’s ‘Out Of the Black’ both featuring. It looks like it’s been a few years since Darma have released new music. Hopefully a new offering is in the pipeline soon, as I’m looking forward to hearing them more.

Leeds post-punk trio Dead Naked Hippies are next to grace the stage. Once again, I realise that listening to a band on record has fooled my interpretation of their line up, and I hadn’t realised that sassy front woman Lucy Jowett is only accompanied by guitar and drums. Their eponymous EP is another must listen record. Jowett’s performance is very reminiscent of Karen O of Yeah Yeah Yeahs fame. I’m not sure what it is about the show though, but there seems to me to be a lack of a connection with the audience. ‘I Wanna Know Ya’ is an absolute banger of a track and I really enjoyed it, but the rest of the set leaves me feeling a little bit underwhelmed, without quite being able to put my finger on why (maybe it was me starting to flag at the late afternoon/early evening slot?). Definitely a band I’ll continue to listen to though, and I wouldn’t shy away from seeing them again.

And so to my last slice of the Falsetival cake, Calva Louise. I’ve seen Calva Louise once already this year, supporting Spring King at the Brudenell in Leeds. I think a sign of a good band is when you listen to unreleased music live for the second time, and the songs still feel instantly familiar. That’s very much the case here, the quirky pop rock sound being instantly memorable. Alongside ‘Getting Closer’, which is a cracking song and readily available on all the regular streaming platforms, I find myself eagerly bopping along to other tracks currently unavailable anywhere other than live in the flesh. I really can’t wait for these songs to be released so I can make them a much more regular feature of my life. Unfortunately the set is only 3-4 songs in when it’s time for me to leave… Waiting outside for our UBER the gig is still plenty loud enough to hear, so I get a little bonus Calva Louise, but before you know it, it’s on to gig number two (..stay tuned for the next blog instalment).

Before signing off I think it would be remiss of me not to give one last shout out to False Advertising for organising such an awesome event. The lineup truly was immense, and it was also really encouraging to see a good crowd down for most of the day (I’ve been to bigger events that struggled to attract as captive an audience early in the day). I also need to issue a grovelling apology for not staying for the whole event, but offer sincere thanks for the elements of the day I could get to and hopefully I can support a Falsetival 2 at some point in the future. Hopefully one day I’ll finally get to see False Advertising play too!