QUICKSPACE and BEING DRAWN SOUTH
March, Aldershot West End Centre
As far as first gigs go, Being Drawn South were remarkably competent, displaying a high degree of confidence and clever tunes. The band were largely centered around crisp keyboard chords and chirpy harmonies, and whilst this created a quirkily unusual sound, the lack of guitar rendered them rather tiresome by the end of the set. Still ,much better than some local bands are after years of peddling their trade, Being Drawn South just need to inject a bit more substance into their sound.
It's a shame I hadn't ventured much into the world of Quickspace before this gig, because although I enjoyed what I heard, they produced the king of sounds that are so intricate and demanding that it would have been nice to familiarise myself with them beforehand. The performance however, was truly engaging, and it takes a rare gift to be able to switch between groove-infested pop to distorted ramblings with such ease. Gentle voices, harsh guitars, sullen mutterings, grinding bass, smooth keyboard effects, they've got it all ...I just want the album now.
DREYFUSS, EUGENE SPEED and PENFOLD
March, Aldershot West End Centre
This should have been the first moment of glory in Dreyfuss' increasingly exciting career. Instead, their debut headline show at the WEC turned into something of a farcical mess. There were evident tensions from the start, increased by the difficulties Mark had with his guitar sound. By the final song however, after numerous aborted attempts to start a tune, the frustrations came to a head with drummer Greg kicking over his drumkit and falling offstage, leaving the other members of the band looking bewildered in front of a confused audience. It was all a bit sad really, and ironically, despite difficulties with their sound, I thought the set was pretty ace. Apparently the band split up after the gig but will return in another guise...watch this space.
Maybe part of the reason that Dreyfuss were in such a foul mood was because their show had been stolen by Eugene Speed. Basically, the majority of the WEC crowd loved them. I personally thought they were a very professional, accomplished unit, but one that lacked any sense of experimentation. There's no doubting that, as a live band they were fiercely entertaining, but their standard rock sound is too ordinary to consider investigating into further. In contrast, Penfold were pretty sloppy, but just hinted at greater things to come. They're not sure what they want to sound like, switching regularly from chirpy pop to chunky rock, but they certainly possess some fine tunes from time to time that, with more live experience, will become stronger.
THE JUNKET and TWIST
March, Aldershot West End Centre
They uttered barely a word throughout their set, but Twist certainly left this punter, and many others, very impressed. The almost constant gigging they've done since last summer has seen them evolve into a much more exciting outfit than the one I saw supporting the Llama Farmers. Firstly, singer Emma has got bile, an she's not afraid to spit it out. Secondly, and more importantly in a live performance, they've got plenty of ragged, raw and twisted tunes. Songs like 'She Makes Me' combined these elements to perfection, making the lack of interaction with the crowd a mere irrelevance.
The Junket emerged onstage far too late, by which time many people had gone home. However, for those hardy souls who had managed to watch two appalling support bands as well as the blistering Twist, The Junket provided a suitably just reward. Describing them as awesome would be something of a hyperbole, but they weren't far off the mark. The songs from their debut mini-album were incredibly tight, resulting in sheer walls of aggressive guitar sound dissipating into nothing before reemerging with even fuller force. Personal favourites of mine were the hard-edged, angular pop of 'The Engine Man' and the infectious new single, 'Adolescence'. It may be superficial, but the band looked fantastic on stage as well. I managed to interview both The Junket and Twist after the gig...make sure you buy A&B#6 because these are two bands that you need to know about.
IDLEWILD AND BRASSY
April, Wolverhampton Wulfrun Centre
We got to the venue slightly late, arriving just in time for the last tune by a nameless indie band with a fat old trumpet player. They wern't too special. So forget I ever mentioned them. One of my more illiterate chums was expecting a band called Grassy to be up next. Perhaps he hoped they'd be a relaxed throwback to Dodgy, circa 1994, so he wasn't prepared for the energetic mish mash of Brassy's sound. Within moments the lead singer made sure everyone new who they were. Their mixture of indie and dance was initially quite fun, but too many cries of "BtotheRtotheAtotheStotheStotheY" etc. began to grate and it wasn't too long before we made a hasty retreat to the bar.
Idlewild were fabulous. Right from their opener, 'Little Discourage' they had the crowd leaping about in a frenzy. The songs 'You Don't Have The Heart' and the second one of the first album whose name temporarlily escapes me were amongst the better sweat inducing moments. There were chances to relax though and catch breath with some of the newer material. Idlewild were very professional and put on a great gig. They deserved stronger cries of "more" at the end, but the audience were young, and I'm sure they'll learn. (Greg)
BILLY MAHONIE, THE MONSOON BASSOON and URSA
April, Aldershot West End Centre
At any ordinary gig, Ursa would have stolen the show from the headliners. Straight out of Kingston, unheard of by even the most clued up of Aldershot punters, they proceeded to make the kind of controlled racket that is genuinely exhilarating. As a reference point, start with the Pixies, but then add elements of powerful nu-metal and scratchy lo-fi, along with a distinctive anglicized slant and you'll probably have a rough idea of their sound. It's really encouraging to see the local scene digging up bands like Ursa; someone's got to get them playing here again as soon as possible.
The Monsoon Bassoon had the potentially difficult job of following Ursa, but they remained as cool as ever, and delivered a set divided roughly between the album tracks that we know and love, and a selection of new songs. The material they've produced after their sabbatical is, on first hearing, slightly less intense than tracks like 'In The Iceman's Back Garden' but, knowing The Monsoon Bassoon, I'm sure it'll evolve even further before being recorded. Overall, another performance brimming with passion, theatrics and quality music. I've yet to see them play even an average gig.
Headliners Billy Mahonie played a massive seventy minute set, but never seemed self-indulgent. They just seemed to carry on playing because the audience were enjoying them so much, even stretching to an encore, a rare occurrence at the WEC. Despite being a strictly instrumental band, Billy Mahonie had an endearing sense of personality which was carried through the drummer's self-depreciating humour, and the guitarist's electric enthusiasm. It would be tough to choose a favourite track, but 'Glenda' is always outstanding, and their unrecognisable reworking of Seafood's 'Rot of the Stars' was intriguing. More gigs like this at the WEC please!
FOURTH QUARTET and PAVO
April, Aldershot West End Centre
This was the third date of a tour that these two bands from the Words and Works Rejected label roster embarked upon, and the first in which they played in front of a sizeable audience. People from London and Oxford hang your heads in shame; you've missed the opportunity to see two fascinating bands. Pavo came on first and proceeded to play a stream of swirling, abstract instrumentals. At points they created such a dense, absorbing sound it was hard to believe they were just a duo. You're unlikely to see anything else like them; two almost motionless men, making up for their lack of stage presence with some of the most innovative and evocative post-rock I've heard.
It took a couple of songs before Fourth Quartet overcame some technical difficulties, but the remainder of their set radiated the fragile beauty the local crowd have become accustomed to. The band are excellent on record, but it's in the live arena, where every pause seems to be elongated to evoke maximum emotion, that Fourth Quartet come into their own. A large selection of the set was made up of tracks from the new album, with the bitter, sprawling finale of 'Spread' being a particular highlight. It was also nice to hear a strong versions of debut single 'Less Of Me' and the foray into a more caustic sound that is 'The Hope Part'. Fourth Quartet are always playing up in London; make sure you don't miss them next time around, because the band are improving with every gig into something that deserves to be much more important than they currently are.
BONEBOX and MISTERHALL
April, Guildford Plantation Café
Debut gigs must be a nerve racking experience, but Misterhall managed to pull it off with an apparent confidence and ease with their surroundings. This was best demonstrated by lead singer Chris, who was unafraid to dance when the rhythm took him, and banter with the audience which consisted, admittedly, largely of friends. The band also proved themselves to be proficient musicians, with an overriding sense of attention to detail in their well-crafted songs. Where Misterhall did run into problems however, was what they wanted to sound like. The sound varied from the frustrated guitar abusing of 'Mainly' to the quirky pop of 'Mike TeeVee'; from the keyboard based, soaring dynamics of 'Ba Ba' to the dreaded ska-punk shout-a-long of 'Richard Morris'. Some of these tracks were highly impressive, the band perhaps choosing their finest moment, 'Monkeys on the Bridge' as the final song. What Misterhall need to work on however, is who they really want to be.
Sometimes it's the bands that you least expect that completely blow you away. I guess the moral of this gig experience was not to judge a band by its silly name. To be blunt, Bonebox were awesome. It's just a shame that more of Guildford's apathetic youth didn't turn up to see their quite thrilling blend of garage punk and atmospheric blues. There was six of them, but they appeared as a mere backdrop for the wonderfully charismatic frontman, Brother Jay, once of Goldblade. Once he'd sucked you into the performance, their was no escaping the fact that Bonebox were more than just personality; the songs swung from the tight-knit and intense noise of uncompromising garage rock, to the more laid-back, unstructured sound of swooning blues. All quite wonderful enough for the small audience to literally demand an encore.
THE JUNKET and CARETAKER
May, Aldershot West End Centre
Junket and Caretaker on a Friday at the WEC form a tasty prospect. Unfortunately, the crowd were mainly there to see the first band on, Widescream from Farnham. They were like a bad Bush meets the Stereophonics, i.e. not good. As normal, all their fans then left, leaving a pitiful few to see Caretaker and the Junket.
Caretaker were at their best, easily as good as they were at the Clean Shaven gig last year. They have a new 3 minute instumental which rocks (Entrance), and I saw the other instumental for the first time as well (now called 'Vicious Circle'). Chris played 'Safe As Houses' instead of 'Routine', and lost time a bit in 'Raze'. John snapped a string. Seb's bass died in soundcheck but the Junket fixed it for him. All this convinced Harry it was shit but it was far from it. Even the Iron Maiden fans jumped around a bit.
The Junket were also very good, easily better than the gig earlier in the year. 'Brother/Sister' and 'The Engine Man' were mindblowing. The drummer (Rik?) lost a drumstick halfway through the encore but proceeded to play with one, keeping time. Very fast. (Simon)
100 REASONS, MIOCENE, AUDIT
June, Aldershot West End Centre
They may hail from leafy middle-class Guildford, but youngsters Audit can certainly find issues to be angry about. Very angry. Essentially, their fierce sound revolves around the inane screaming of their lead singer, whilst the remainder of the band pump out an infectious blend of nu-metal rumblings and classic rock riffage. To keep everyone except the Slipknot fans intersted throughout the set, Audit also knew when to slow down the pace and incorporate some more experimental sounds. An explosive live band, it'll be intersting to see whether Audit can capture that energy on record.
Miocene were the weakest moment of a strong set which also included Ursa, but go and read the April live reviews to see how fantastic I think they are. It is impossible to fault Miocene's enthusiasm; their relentless barrage of claustrophobic noise metal was certainly intense, and they recieved a good reception from the mosh-pit. However, I felt their songs were hard to distinguish, and they all rather blurred into one. Tour partners and local rock sultans 100 Reasons showed them how it was done. The audience was left blinded by the sheer extremity of their tunes, which still managed to encompass ferocious melodies. Terrific slabs of discordant rock flew the five men onstage, who have a totally engrossing stage-presence. Vitality radiates from the band, and Colin's afro is worth the admission price alone. It's no suprise that 100 Reasons are the hotest new metal band around; they're frighteningly brilliant.
Issue 6 Summer 2000 © Tim Bragger