After all the rock stars, commercialisation and thousands of people at the Reading festival, which better venue to provide an antidote to this glamour and remind me what going to gigs is really all about than The Star in Guildford, a mere five minute walk from my house. Floor were supposed to headline, but they pulled out, so the top slot went to Angel. They were okay, but to be honest their grunge-lite rock sounds rather dated. Much better were teenage metal act, Audit. They were explosive, blending crunchy guitar riffs and a vocalist who screamed his lungs out. Impressive stuff, especially when it's only a few metres away from you. Dreyfuss played too, and although they played most of their best songs, the limitations of the pub equipment didn't do them any favours, and they were a bit rough sounding. Anyway, more of them later.
The long awaited follow up to `Splatch!' finally took place at Guildford Civic in September. `Mish-Mash', catering for more eclectic and underground sounds, was a fantastic event. Opening proceedings on the main stage were Hotel Lounge, who played about four extremely long and complex songs. I think the singer's beautiful voice elevated them just above the rudimentary `epic' label. Later on the stage were headliners The Monsoon Bassoon. They looked amazing up on the large Civic stage, and sounded equally as good. It was cool to see `Wise Guy' whip up a mosh-pit with an enthusiastic audience. On the acoustic stage, Fourth Quartet impressed with their delicate lo-f, and kept a large part of the audience completely captivated, even though some people at the bar insisted on chattering even through he most poignant of moments. Grrr! Mindwire were good too, they come into their own when playing acoustically, the singer is just so passionate, and some of their songs are sublimely brilliant. As a whole then, Mish-Mash served as a showcase for some of the area's most diverse and talented bands, and I can't wait till the next one!
Snakebite City nights at the Aldershot WEC are usually fun, and this one was no exception. First on were Lunch, and I really enjoyed their shouty girl-boy pop sung by two very nervous looking singers over a backdrop of agitated guitars that occasionally screamed into action. A new band to look out for on the London circuit for sure. Dreyfuss were in fine form too; twisted, bitter, furious songs full of pop hooks. Is it me, or have they got meaner and heavier over the summer? They rock that's for sure. Headliners The Samurai Seven rounded off events. They've got a new image, now they're wearing matching US police shirts, very nice. Their set was quite good too, but somewhat lacking the vitality that impressed me so much last year. Oh yeah, the Holy Roman Empire played too but I don't want to write about them, they were just so awful beyond belief.
My first gig in London for a while was a bit of a special one, Uresei Yatsura at the Camden Falcon. This may be a shocking revelation for a fanzine editor, but I'm not actually very familiar with their material. Still, the band managed to impress me and a lot of their set was made up of new material anyway, which is sounding very promising in a kind of fragmented, deranged, poppy kind of way. Apparently they were much better than last year's lacklustre performance at the Reading Festival too. Support band Fiji, featuring Jamie, once of Scarfo, were cool too. As in his former band, there were angular guitars and breathy vocals aplenty, but some tracks veered in a more acoustic direction which was a nice surprise.
Back at the Aldershot WEC, and a superb gig organised by Pete from Clean Shaven fanzine. He encountered numerous problems in getting bands to play, with Hiremeka Hi-Fi splitting up and Fourth Quartet being in America, but eventually the line-up was sorted and very strong it was too. One of the area's finest new bands, Caretaker were on first. They were ace of course, but how do you describe their sound? Ooh, if I say melodic hardcore mixed with a bit of sonic experimentation I'm probably halfway there. Yes, that good. Go and see them. Reynolds were rather more fragile, sometimes almost whispering through their set before surprising their audience with boughts of frenzied discord. Mariachi blew me away with their powerful metal. Occasionally they played full-on, angry rock, other times more sensitively, before inevitably exploding. An excellent night was rounded off by Billy Mahonie. They construct abrasive post-rock over rhythms that seemed to be almost jazz based. And they are also a tremendously exciting live act, full of venom. It was a shame I had to miss some of their set to catch the train back home really, but I made sure I purchased their album the next day.
Yes! A cool mainstream band headlining at the Guildford Civic again, the first for at least a year. It's a shame that The High Llamas had to begin proceedings with their dull, piano-driven, harmonious workouts. Some of the songs began quite promisingly, but usually they fizzled out into blandness. Three cheers therefore for the fantastically eclectic Super Furry Animals. Basically they divided their set in two. The first half consisted of their more poppy efforts and shorter album tracks. It was all really enjoyable, of course, because they have so many fantastic songs. However, things got even better during the second section when the band played their more diverse material including the gloriously psychedelic `Move Any Mountain' before finishing off a very long set with fifteen minutes of blasting techno. Weird and wonderful stuff.
Gig of the year, anyone? Okay, maybe not quite, but this was a fantastic night out in frosty north London at the Garage. Opening act Crashland warmed the audience up nicely with their furious concoction of discordant riffs and pop sensibilities. It didn't always sound perfect, but they're showing a lot of promise. On the same subject, Seafood are a band that are really beginning to fill everyone's very high expectations. They're still wildly shambolic, but they now know how to enthrall an audience: ragged pop singles, exciting new album tracks, masses of feedback, that version of `Walking in the Air'. And Santa hats. I don't think Cay quite matched up to all that, but they still rocked. The singles went down the best with a highly energetic moshpit, but album tracks like `Senseless' are where the band define themselves best. A highlight of the set was when Cay were joined onstage by all-bass minimalists Rothko. Slowly, a Cay track evolved into nothing, before burning into the sound of four pulsating basses. It was slightly eerie, but completely fascinating.
At nearly every single gig I go to at the Aldershot WEC, Dreyfuss seem to play. That's no bad thing though, they're one of the area's finest new bands and there's a real buzz surrounding them at the moment. I didn't think they were at their best on this particular night, but the audience loved the band's glam influenced lo-fi pop tunes. The Flying Medallions were enjoyable for about.... ooh, ten minutes, before I realised that three men shouting incessantly over a slightly funky hardcore sound did not a great band make. Maybe I'm being too cruel, but I got really bored. The single `Lemon' sounds good on the radio though. It was cool to see Inter again. They played a mixture of old favourites and new material, all of which sounded brilliant. If you've seen them live, you'll know what a mad experience Inter can be, and this was another of them. Apparently they played some Christmas songs at the end as well, but unfortunately I had to leave fairly early.
Issue 5 Contents
Issue 5 Winter 2000 © Tim Bragger