Archive for the ‘Live Report’ Category

Paul Gambuccini recently claimed that “the rock era is over” but it would seem that the legions of fans and performers, young and old, that flocked to a sun-blasted Victoria Park in London for the second annual High Voltage Festival, didn’t receive that particular memo.  Sponsored (and probably curated by) Classic Rock Magazine, this celebration of all things Rock laughed in the face of such ludicrous claims with the a line-up that contained both established and up and coming bands — some of which, as you’ll find out later, have begun to write their own chapter in the Rock n Roll bible.

Saturday

Kicking off the weekend festivities early on Saturday, Finnish superstars The Von Hertzen Brothers (7) took to the Prog stage and delivered a high-energy, if slightly theatrical set.  Taking cues from Pop, Metal and eccentricities of Prog, this quintet were probably deserving of a higher slot on the bill as they definitely knew how to work the stage and the crowd. In their native Scandinavia they’d probably headline, but they clearly reveled in delivering their music to a UK audience. It went down well too,  the sheer infectious nature of their stage presence blowing away those initial Saturday morning cobwebs and any lingering skepticism.

Amplifier (8), probably the most aptly named band of the weekend, quickly followed on the same stage, arriving dressed in uniform suits and black ties stitched with their enigmatic Octopus emblem.  With only 30 minutes stage time, this Mancunian quartet had to cherry-pick the best songs from their last record, which clocks in at a mammoth 2 hours long. And they did just that, treating us to some of thickest riffs this side of Tool and trippy Hawkwind-like choruses about Space and Time and other dimensions.  In other words, they were brilliant.

Rival Sons (6) are currently big news in Rock circles.  Is their Led Zeppelin swagger a mere copy or is it a homage to their heroes? Are they just media hype (their new record ‘Pressure and Time’ looks set to steal the show at the Classic Rock Mag Awards later this year and they’re also in the running for best new band too) or are they the real deal? .  It was difficult to tell with their mid-afternoon Main Stage slot.   Their sound is undoubtedly classy, they’ve got the hooks and they know every trick in the book, but much of their output was lost in the wind (though I gather this was a common complaint of that particular stage) and they were, perhaps, over-awed by the occasion.  As it would transpire later, they were able to redress the balance.

Following a quick stop at the beer tent, a mammoth detonation of metallic proportions somewhere in the distance soon had us heading towards the Metal Hammer Stage, where Ravens Creed (7) set about pulverizing our brains into mush with a barrage of brutal riffs, pounding drums and devastating roars.  They were undoubtedly one of the heaviest bands of the weekend, yet there was something positive and heart-warming about their message even though it was difficult to decipher what they were on about!

With Thin Lizzy flogging their dead horse on the Main Stage, those with a bigger sense of adventure could be found with their jaws on the floor witnessing one of the finest bands they’re ever likely to encounter.  Triggerfinger  (10) barely warranted a footnote in the festival billing amidst heavyweights like Dream Theater, Slash or Judas Priest, but this suave, impeccably dressed Belgian trio delivered the set of the weekend in my view.  A spectacular 45 minute performance sealed with panache and passion and everything you could possibly wish for from a Rock n Roll band. Their tightly-performed, bluesy songs rock in all the right places and are not without a sense of self-deprecating humour, with their Guitarist/Frontman toying with the crowd during and between songs via witty stage banter and sharp dance-moves, adding to the fun.  While they’re definitely moving in their own direction, loose reference points would include Jon Spencer’s Blues Explosion and Rory Gallacher.  However,  mere words simply cannot do these guys justice it should be your new lifetime ambition to witness this trio live.

Though it was tempting to see former Guns N Roses guitarist Slash over at the main stage, a flyer found on the ground soon pointed us in the direction of the small and unadvertised Ace Cafe Stage, where the God of Hell Fire himself Arthur Brown (9) performed an up-close, personal and high energy set.  Backed by a youthful and supremely talented band, Brown wowed a packed tent with his superb, falsetto voice, crazy energy and eccentric songs.  Following on from Triggerfinger this was another major and unexpected highlight.  To see a performer of this quality on such an intimate setting was nothing short of sensational and he would have given any band on the Prog Stage a run for their money.

The disappointment of not being able to see Electric Wizard, who were stuck in Norway following last week’s tragic events was soon tempered by the news that Rival Sons (9) were to stand in with an impromptu headline set on the Metal Hammer Stage.  And they took to it like ducks to water just as the sky began to darken, providing the perfect setting and atmosphere for The Sons to blow away any doubts and misconceptions from their earlier main stage set with an incendiary performance of the highest order.  Perhaps this was the moment when they finally arrived?  See the video below for hard evidence, believe the hype.

It takes all kinds of devotion to head into the 13th Note’s dingy basement venue at the best of times, but when the Sun is splitting the trees outside and temperatures begin to touch 20°C only true musical worshippers need apply. At just £5, this 11 band all day event was more than value for money with the Cave ov Lights people offering up a veritable feast of doomy delights, nascent noise and devastating drone-rock.

Edinburgh-trio Parallax Scrolls (pictured above) hit the stage first powering though a succinct set that had notes of Hovercraft, Sonic Youth and a touch of No Age.  It was decent fayre too, with an edge of dissonance combining well with the angular chords structures and forceful drums.  One-man wrecking-crew Guanoman swiftly followed bringing with him a brand new long-form track. His purposefully over-blown doom prog, with over-driven riffs and scathing solos played over a backing track  also went down well.

13th Rung (below) provided some warmth with their swirling mass of tranquil ambient guitar sounds.  This duo impressed me quite a bit, reminding of the more introspective parts of Mono, while an understated ominous edge building beneath the melancholic guitar and effects added tension and was a nice touch.  I was pleased to be handed a beautifully packaged handmade CD-r from this duo and I’ll hopefully review it soon.

Nacht Und Lebel (Night and Fog apparently) entered the fray with an array of pedals and effects units and set about trying to deafen those in attendance with a barrage of noxious, vitriolic noise, screeching static and colliding sounds. Space Victim were next to inflict some serious damage on our ears with a punishing set consisting of one long-form drone created by bass and guitar, with this girl and guy combo using an e-bow over severely distorted guitar.  There’s not a lot of info on the web about this two-piece, but they both cropped up later in a couple of other bands.

The Cosmic Dead (below) were the main reason I was in attendance and delivered accordingly with the set of the night in my opinion.  Glasgow finally has a band to rival what’s going on over the other side of the Atlantic (Cave, Oneida, Pontiak etc) and I reckon these guys could hold their own in any company.  A juggernauting, cathartic set as heavy as a rhino, with this quartet motoring through four tracks purposefully setting the controls for the heart of the sun — their drummer on particularly phenomenal form (a trick he would re-produce later in the evening).  Worth the admission fee alone.

A late addition of Skullwind’s guitar and acidic vocals performance paved the way for a seriously ultra-violent set from Mancunian trio C.S.B (Cryptic Salve Band).  After 15 years of gig-going experience, I like to think I’ve seen it all, but even in my battle-hardened state nothing could have prepared me from C.S.B’s extreme assault on the senses.  Their frontman spent most of the time in crowd barging into people, screaming into faces and at one point even knocked a poor bystander to the floor and proceeded to wrestle with him, which was somehow taken in good form.  I don’t really know where to start with these guys to be honest, perhaps a bit of Raging Speedhorn or Eyehategod in their vicious sound.  One thing is for sure, I’ve never seen anything like it.

Geordie troupe Obey restored a bit of order, at least on the violence side.  A collective featuring members of Space Victim, Skullwind and Masterslave, introduced yet more powerful, acerbic  sludge gathering the biggest crowd of the day in the process.  Dundee trio The Wildhouse came next, changing things up a little with a sound that reminded of Magik Markers or ‘Sister’-era Sonic Youth.  It was still plenty noisy and there were some interesting guitar sounds emanating from the soundsystem amidst the driving drums.  Incidentally, I also picked up a CD of theirs.

Which left Masterslave (below) to close proceedings with The Cosmic Dead’s brilliant percussionist joining the guitarist from Skullwind and the bassist from Obey midway through a mind-melting improvised drone, powering the band towards an epic, loud as hell finale, which left my ears with a ringing sound that I can still hear vague hints of, even as I re-cap the events for this blog.

Live Report: Kyuss Lives

Posted: April 5, 2011 in Live Report
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Venue: O2 ABC Academy, Glasgow (04/04/11) It’s safe to say that this was an event of a lifetime, Glasgow’s ABC was packed to the rafters and easily the busiest I’ve ever witnessed there. The Kyuss circus finally rolled back into town after all these years when their cult status has literally exploded. The fact that the whole UK leg of this tour is sold out speaks volumes.  It’s also safe to say both support Burden and Blood Cargo wouldn’t be around if wasn’t it for Kyuss’ legendary desert grooves.

I only caught the tail end of German 5-piece Burden’s set but was mightily impressed, with their thick as syrup riffs and frontman Thorsten’s gravelly roar which took on a deeper tone to that of Louis Armstrong’s. Hairy, sweaty and heavier than a rhino, Burden are my type of rock band. They’re not re-inventing the wheel or anything close and their sound is indebted to all the usual subjects (Kyuss, Down, Sabbath, Alice In Chains et al) but they do it very well. They are also featured on Classic Rock’s track of the day at the moment and are well worth checking out.

After and inconspicuous start, Norwegian outfit Blood Cargo hit their stride and soon had the crowd eating out of their hands thanks to, in no small part, their hard-working vocalist who really helped ratchet the atmosphere. Which was no mean feat, as they were only given a paltry 20 minutes to perform as the venue started to fill up with expectant Kyuss fans. Their sound is slightly more typical, taking cues from the likes of Pantera with a more blues-orientated direction. They’re also a band who know how to work a crowd and rock hard, a succinct but thoroughly impressive performance, that gained deserved rapturous applause at the end.

While much has been made of original guitarist Josh Homme’s absence from the Kyuss Lives! reunion, you wouldn’t notice such was the wave of anticipation and excited chatter that swept the venue, just before the band made their entrance via some dramatic, classical music.  Launching headfirst in ‘Gardenia’ with its bassline that can clot blood, infectious guitars that snake up your body and exit your hands and legendary frontman John Garcia in fine form, with that bluesy howl of his sounding as potent as on record, the band then raced into the whirlwind of ‘Thumb’ then onto ‘One Inch Man’ in quick succession, pulverizing the crowd with a dense soup of sound.

Performing ‘hit’ after ‘hit’, it’s probably easier to work out what they didn’t play.  There was no ‘Demon Cleaner’ or ‘Mondo Generator’, but there was ‘Tangy Zizzle’ with bassist Nick Oliveri looking particularly demented while powering the band on.  The epic ‘Whitewater’ and ‘Supa Scoopa and The Mighty Scoop’ both proved this band are as tight as ever with drummer Brant Bjork pummeling us into submission on the latter and stand-in guitarist Bruno Fevery proving to be a more than an able deputy.  The highlight, however, was clearly the devastating ‘El Rodeo’, which came complete with manic strobe effects that just about turned the audience into a puddle of mush before segueing into the equally brutal ‘100 Degrees’.

There was no way the crowd were going to let Garcia and the boys leave like that and their demands for an encore were answered with not one but four tracks, including ‘Allen’s Wrench’, which the fans greeted like an old friend .  A Kerrang! journalist once famously wrote that Kyuss were ‘worth selling you legs to see‘ and I couldn’t agree more. Thankfully, I was able to keep mine for what is probably the only chance we’ll ever get to see them live, but part of me is hoping that this incarnation keeps together and records some new material — there’s something special brewing in this circus once more.  Kyuss Lives!

Venue: 13th Cafe/Glasgow (29/03/11) With Her Name Is Calla arriving in Glasgow on a breezy otherwise unremarkable Monday night,  for what must be their umpteenth tour of Britain’s small, basement venues in the last year and a half, I couldn’t help but wonder when the penny is going to drop and people  start to attend these gigs in their droves, allowing this band to grace the bigger stages they so richly deserve. Still I admire their diligent enthusiasm, as this Leicester quintet clearly love performing live.  But let’s leave that for later in the article.

First up on this three-band-bill-for-£6 night at the kind of rundown 13th Note, were Glaswegian youngsters Analogue of the Sun.  I’m 99% certain they used to be called Redword and I have reviewed them before, stating that they had a lot of promise but needed to iron out a good few rough edges.  Though they try hard to be different and keep the audience on their toes with jarring chords, superfluous screams, quirky time signatures and even quiet trance-like keys/synth work, there’s still something all too familiar with their sound.  Blurring the line between Prog, Post-Rock and Post-Hardcore and throwing in extra helpings of Mike Patton-esque weirdness for good measure, There’s plenty of light and shade in their mix, but they definitely need to work on vocals, especially when harmonising and perhaps add a touch of variety into their setlist.

I’m going to cut Birds of Passage (Alicia Merz) some slack, as we were later told her timid performance was perhaps down to the fact it was only her second gig…ever.  There was some pretty vinyl featuring her LP, courtesy of Denovali Records, at the merchandise table, though I decided to abstain since I wasn’t over impressed by her performance.  Although she has a nice voice, each track soon followed a similar path with breathy vocals over either sparse Labradford-like guitar and synth lines and/or pre-recorded music and beats emanating from an Apple Mac, wit Merz digitally layering each part atop of one another.  For me, there needs to be more in a live performance, though like I said it was only her second ever show.  Nice enough, as the songs on her soundcloud page show, but not really my cup of tea.

Which leaves Her Name Is Calla’s monumental performance to talk about.  Playing latest album ‘The Quiet Lamb’ almost track for track, until it was intercepted by new single ‘Maw’, immediate highlights included a spine-tingling ‘A Blood Promise’ which fully showcased frontman Tom Morris’ rich vocal range and a stunning rendition of ‘Long Grass‘, where the band opted out of using the PA, dragged the crowd closer to the stage and proceeded to perform it in its beautiful, acoustic and harmonic glory.  A raucous, but slightly rough, 15+minute version of ‘Condor And River‘ is always welcome in these parts, with the melancholic violin really coming to the fore along with the added trombone and later screams/sounds from multi-instrumentalist Thom Corah, but it seemed the band were saving themselves for a surprise ending of older track ‘New England‘, which was particularly visceral and rather loud — closing off another excellent performance from the Calla troupe and worth the admission fee alone.  A quite special show that less than a hundred people were lucky enough to witness.   Which is my one regret of the evening, more people need to see this band live because on this form we cannot afford to lose them.  Judge for yourself with the free download live EP below.

Venue : O2 ABC Academy (25/03/11) An air of trepidation greeted us on arrival at the ABC.  Frontman Pete Hammill performing with his seminal band for the first time in Glasgow for 6 years, following a pretty serious heart-scare, while integral member David Jackson has decided to hang up the saxophones for good.  Either he’s lost the lung capacity to blow two horns at the same time (just one would have been fine Mr Jackson!) or he’s had a serious fall out with the rest of Van Der Graaf Generator.

Still, Hammill and co performed admirably without him, though even still, a few days after this gig,  a lingering feeling remains that there was a certain flourish missing to the odd track.

While 2007’s Trisector had Van Der Graaf tentatively finding their feet following Jackson’s departure, A Grounding In Numbers,  in contrast, has them back in full tilt.   Firstly, Hammill himself is a one off, rake thin with a polite demeanour: in short, a totally unique individual.  It’s easy to see why the likes of John Lydon and David Bowie borrowed (i.e. stole) heavily from him. A precocious talent with a huge voice to match, strange mannerisms, even stranger lyrics and an unorthodox guitar style that’s very much his own — given such a performance you really had to wonder if he actually suffered a heart-attack?   With synth/organ/keys man Hugh Banton picking up much of the slack for the missing saxophone and flute parts, the unsung hero of the show was  clearly sticksman Guy Evans,  who is simply an absolute world-class drummer, up there with any percussionist you could care to mention.

Highlights, at the show, included the monumental ‘Lemmings‘,  with the band seemingly all playing different things before catching it all and erupting with a thunderous roar, all held together by Evans’ astute playing.  New tracks, ‘Busho!’ and, a world-premiere of,  ‘Mathematics‘ also went down very well, both very complex tracks with Hammill literally squeezing his plentiful lyrics into rhythms that probably shouldn’t be!

However, it was penultimate number ‘Songwriter’s Guild‘ that stole the show, just when you thought you had a handle on the band’s groove, Van Der Graaf would veer off into a completely new and unexpected tangents on a regular basis, almost schizophrenic-like. With fans demanding an encore, the band duly obliged with ‘Nutter Alert‘ and although it was performed brilliantly, it really did miss Jackson’s saxophone drive and in hindsight they probably should have excluded a reprise.

Pete Hammill’s last solo gig in Glasgow at Oran Mor, left me feeling a little deflated giving melancholic atmosphere at that gig.  Van Der Graaf, though, was the exact opposite, leaving me to feel resurgent and passionate and bloody glad I got a chance to see Hammill and the boys again, as I gather there was some serious soul-searching when they lost David Jackson. An enigma of a band with absolutely no peers, a total one-off.  There has never been a band like Van Der Graaf Generator, nor will they ever be.  If you ever get the chance to see them perform, please take it.