Archive for August, 2011

Dillinger @ The Garage, Glasgow, UK – 5 August 2011

Posted in Gigs with tags , , , on August 22, 2011 by Noise Road

Vocalist Puciato parted the Garage’s violent Red Sea, before hurling his body into the void.  Like Moses placing God’s chosen people on the seabed, the Dillinger vocalist sets up the mic stand for your favourite part of any Dillinger show.  Puciato disappears as the dam bursts back on him.  2,000 punters scream “Destroyer!… There’ll be another just like you!”

In the last 18 months Noise Road has caught the Dillinger experience in Belgium (read here), France (read here), Leeds (read here) and Southampton/London (read here).

So now that we are catching a DEP show in our new Weegie base, what original thoughts can we possibly have left in the tank?  Did we ever have any original thoughts?…

Halfway into the set my head hit the floor of the Garage.  It hit hard.  My head tried to assess the situation, while a member of the band passed above.

As the kids hauled me back to my feet, I considered that I might be getting a little too old for the pit.  Dillinger is the only show where I join the mosh.  As such it has been about half a decade since I’d found myself in a daze on the floor of a show.  Thankfully the kids looked after me.  The kids are alright.

When the first notes of Farewell Mona Lisa hit to start the night, I had half a beer still in hand.  In my binge drinking prime, I would have necked it and joined the pit.  However as my stay in Scotland grows I have traded in binge beer-drinking for slow-burn whisky-alcoholism.  As a result, I wore the half a glass of beer as the show began.

The kronenbourg in my shirt soon disappeared in my sweat and the sweat of my friends in the pit.  My soaked jeans stuck to me as I walked from the show.  If I was ever going to get away with p!ssing myself in public, tonight would have been the night.

A Dillinger pit is a mix of violent catharsis and good energies.  There is a sense of community with the band as guitarists, Weinman and Tuttle, and Puciato frequently launch into the crowd.  Weinman accuses a punter of fisting him mid-solo as he returns to the stage.  We try to avoid Tuttle’s erratic assaults and we yell into Puciato’s mic whenever we can.

But this isn’t just some sloppy sideshow.  The intricate music is tight despite the excursions into the crowd.

The community isn’t just with the band but with the other punter in the room.  Sometimes this good-will-to-all-men vibe goes a little too far.   At the merch desk, a kid kissed me on my forehead to demonstrate what he had done to Puciato in the pit.  I’m not that comfortable with my sexuality that I want strange, sweaty men kissing me on the head.  In fact, in general, I don’t like strangers touching me at all.  Everyone has little personality defects – that’s one of mine.  If I don’t know you, and you’re not Natalie Portman, I don’t want you hugging or kissing me.

More so than previous Dillinger shows, tonight has a party atmosphere.  For the first song of the encore, the chief musical force, Weinman, switches his guitar for Rymer’s kit.  A buzzy cover of Nirvana’s Territorial P!ssings followed.  Smiles abound on stage.  Weinman in particular seemed in good spirits.  He spent much time in the crowd and he seemed more at ease bantering with the punters.

In previous reviews we have praised Dillinger’s mix of intricacy and energy.  Tonight was more of a good time feel.  They missed more notes as they threw themselves into the crowd, but it made for a better experience.

Good Neighbor (I have to admit it hurts to spell Neighbour in the American way) closed a joyous, sweaty night.  Dillinger seem to be in high spirits, enjoying playing together.  I would not be surprised if their next long player had more than a tinge of a big fun rock record.

Tombs @ Belfast – 6 August 2011

Posted in Gigs, Travel with tags , , on August 21, 2011 by Noise Road

Or

Chaos Reigns!  Scenes from a Weekend in Belfast

At an £18 flight each way, a £13 hostel bed, and a 25-minute hop across the Irish Sea, Belfast was merely a Guinness distribution point and the cheapest and closest town to catch Tombs.

Eyehategod showed us Sheffield. Napalm Death brought us to Wolverhampton.  Now Tombs lands us in Belfast.  Bands are taking Noise Road to destinations off the usual UK hit list.

However, Belfast should be on your UK hit list.

Belfast made me think hard.  Belfast made me rock hard…  and Belfast made me drink a little too hard.  Apologies to Tombs’ Mike Hill and Carson James if I was a few Guinness too heavy by the end of our post-gig chat.  I am grateful for the insight and inspiration that they passed on.  Hopefully I wasn’t all slurry in return.

I have never had extended conversations with so many new people in 36 hours.  Tombs‘ Mike Hill and Carson James spared me large hits of their time before and after their great performance.  I met new friends from Germany, Slovakia and Ireland in the hostel…  and throughout my stay the locals talked to me as if we were old friends.  Even more so if they had a pint in their hand.

I met my first new friend within minutes of landing in Belfast.  A few hours kip had not dulled the ringing in my ears.  The Dillinger Escape Plan had brought their unique brand of awesome to Glasgow the previous night.  Just a few hours later, Noise Road was now shouting at some poor Irish lad just to hear ourselves over the ringing.

It was before 8am and the two of us has just missed the shuttle bus into town.  He suggested splitting a cab, and a 40-minute conversation followed.  This is the friendliness of the Irish that I have encountered in a weekend in Dublin and in hostels throughout the world.

So, it was somewhat jarring to turn through pages of sectarian incidents in the local paper.  With little open before 9am on a Saturday, I sat down to a coffee and a fry up from a university quarter cafe.  I grabbed a discarded paper and read about a 15-year-old boy shot outside a Catholic school.  He was not even Catholic.  There were two separate incidents of members of the public arrested for attempting to instigate a riot.  These are not the stories that you read in the smaller cities of other parts of the world.  I know these people to be incomparably friendly, yet there is this legacy of violence here.  Armoured vehicles patrolled where regular cop cars should be.

I was naive to expect a trouble-free Belfast after over three decades of sectarian violence between Catholic Nationalists and Protestant Unionists.  On later reflection, it is remarkable how little violence there is now.  It is remarkable that Belfast functions at all.  On the Catholic side of the wall there are murals depicting fellow causes for independence – the Palestinians in the Middle East and the Basque in Southern Europe.  Can you imagine a Palestinian and Israeli government sharing power in the manner of the Protestant/Catholic power-sharing government in Northern Ireland?

I explored Belfast by foot and bus.  However, the taxi is the most important mode of transport on a short visit to Belfast.  You must take the black taxi tour.

The hostel manager organised four strangers from the corners of the earth into the back of the London-style cab.  For the next couple of hours our driver, Paddy, described what the locals euphemistically call “the troubles”.  The cab drove us to both sides of the dividing wall into the catholic and protestant strongholds.  Paddy detailed the history, the reasons and the Nationalist and Loyalist points of view.

It makes you think.  This massive wall is still here.

The walls in the communities are still painted with provocative murals.  The catholic side focuses on nationhood, revolution in Ireland and revolution throughout the world.  Towards the Sinn Fein headquarters stand memorials to their heroes who died in prisons on hunger strikes.

Whilst the depictions of historical victories over Catholics did not raise much reaction, some of the other Loyalist murals are very confronting.  As recent as 2000, one mural celebrates the life of a slain Loyalist who was responsible for deaths of many Nationalists.  Others show paramilitaries defending their estate and even shooting over the wall.

These murals on either side can not possibly help to maintain the peace.

Noise Road celebrated the Basque identity and Voivod’s uniqueness in this post.  However, standing at a mural of the Basque nation cause in Belfast, I now felt a little uneasy.

The internet age is the age of world homogenisation.  No empire or multinational corporation has been able to achieve what the internet has.  Geographical identity and uniqueness in culture are disappearing.  All countries are hardwired together.

A nation retaining its language and identity through the Roman Empire and all subsequent occupiers is a remarkable thing…  but here in Belfast on the side of homes, murals celebrate the murder of those different in order to maintain identity.

A homogeneous world culture is not good.  However tribalism is not good either.  Bombings, tortures, kidnappings and over 3,000 murders in a small town are the direct result of tribalism.

But…  Belfast is a success story.  The two tribes now share power.

My head hurt after contemplating Belfast’s history.  So a Guinness was in order.  A Guinness and then Tombs.

Tombs

We are above a pub in the city centre, Guinness in hand and good noises ahead.  Here, a small but interesting cast of characters drank, talked, headbanged and then drank some more.

Dwell in Sun suitably shook the room with slow-as-feck, reverb-heavy doom, before Tombs boarded the Auntie Annies Attic stage.

The opening wall of Black Hole of Summer stated the intensity for the evening.  The groove of the riff interchanged with an angry heartbeat.

The set took exclusively from Tombs’ current long-player, Path of Totality.  It’s strengths were the strengths of the evening.

The night was full of extremely tight tempo and feel changes.  My headbanging morphed into a full body groove, before a black metal burst arrives and my neck muscles are insufficiently developed to keep pace.

Whilst Tombs hit the room with heavy blasts and a post-punk feel, the attitude of band was straight from DIY hardcore.  Bassist James showed genuine interest in we punters while he manned the merch booth before the show.  Both James and guitarist/vocalist Hill mingled with the punters during the Secret’s headline set.

Tombs were not perturbed by the small Belfast crowd.  The previous night they played to a full room in London.  They drove all night, then ferried across the Irish sea, to play a much smaller room.  Tombs delivered intensity and energy to the handful of die-hards above Auntie Annie’s bar.  This ethic is conveyed in the music.

Tombs play bleak music.  Whether it be an angry-and-heavy bleakness or a slower Joy-Division-tinged bleakness.  What comes through is sincerity. Sincerity is not always a strength in heavy music.  Metal is often escapism (literally wearing masks) or catharsis.  Sometimes feel can be lost in cold technicality.  Tombs’ sincerity is transmitted live.

A key element to expressing more than just anger is Mike Hill’s voice. Gossamer and in particular Merrimack showed Hill’s vocal range on the previous album, Winter Hours.  However the new material displays a range of different vocal approaches that suit the more prevalent bleak goth-y/post-punk passages.  Hill carries baritone melodies like Joy Division in parts of Vermillion.  It connects with the audience.

Tombs draw their influences from the music of the world.  I am sure they lost youthful hours trawling record stores for imports of Norwegian Black Metal, UK Punk and underground hardcore from tiny US towns.  From this broad range of influences, and years of dedication to the craft, Tombs generate a unique sound that stirs a reaction in a bar on the other side of the world.  We can look beyond tribalism, and sample from the world community, without becoming homogenised.

Man, my head hurts again.  Time for another Guinness.

Mark Lanegan and Isobel Campbell @ Glasgow – 12 July 2011

Posted in Gigs with tags , , , , on August 3, 2011 by Noise Road

At the end of March, I started work in Glasgow at less than a week’s notice.  I performed a surface clean on the Southampton flat, shoved some work-shirts into a backpack, and caught a bird to the other end of this cold wet rock that clings to the edge of the Atlantic.

A few hours later, I left my temporary digs in the city centre for my first day of the new gig. I boarded the bus before 7am in order to rock up to work on time.  I have held a decade of jobs that start before 8am.  As a consequence, I have been late to work nearly every day of that decade.

My line of work requires that I either work near ports or in industrial areas.  People who can afford not to don’t live next to industrial ports.  Typically this means that wherever I work in the world, I see a disproportionate amount of teenage mums, toothless grins, midday drunks and drug addicts.  Consequently my eyes were not entirely shut on the bus ride to the job site in Renfrew, adjacent to Glasgow airport.  Still…

After 15 minutes, the bus passed through Govan, just across the river from Glasgow’s centre.  A drunk man argued with the bus driver because he could not work out where he wanted a ticket to.  This is falling-down drunk at 7am on a Monday morning.  Eventually the bus driver told him to just get on and sit down.

Feeling that he had been unjustly humiliated, the drunk sat there cursing the bus driver.  He hadn’t spent four years in Afghanistan for his country, to be treated like this.  He informed all on the bus that tonight he would be thinking about the bus driver while he held a bullet.

Govan is a hard area, dude.

So it was a surprise to find that the venue and the people at my first gig in Govan to be pretty far from hard.  The Grand Ole Opry is an American-themed, country and western bar.  There ain’t an inch of irony to the stars and stripes centre stage, and the walls covered in murals of cowboy landscapes.  While the main act played, an electronic display above reminded us that Tuesday was usually line dancing night.

Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan

You’ll remember Seattle’s Mark Lanegan from 90’s grunge band, the Screaming Trees, or possibly from his vocal contributions to Queens of the Stone Age or Soulsavers.  You’ll remember Glasgow’s Isobel Campbell from Belle and Sebastian.  Together they have recorded two heavily country-tinged records.  So here they are, in a dodgy area of Scotland, on a Tuesday night, which is usually line dancing night here at the Grand Ole Opry.  After the gig, the guitarist described the experience as a weird trip.

The set began with a haunting duet with little musical backing.  I could see my work colleague (who had tagged along for the evening) already thinking he had made a mistake.  I did warn him that it would not be radio music.  I have long since given up worrying whether friends or tag-alongers are enjoying the show.  I warn them.  I feel no guilt.

Without doubt, the vocals are the feature of the night – whether in whispered harmony, or Isobel Campbell’s sweet voice floating above quiet guitar strumming, or Mark Lanegan’s husky voice somehow soothing even though it seems often on the edge of cracking.  I know Mark Lanegan’s recent work and his voice has acquired that old-man blues quality.  In the Screaming Trees, his voice soared over the over the surprise hit, Nearly Lost You.  Several hard miles since those days, have given his voice a new, lived character.

Isobel Campbell arsenal was varied in nature.  Whilst the feature was her voice, she regularly sat to provide melody and counter-melody from the bow on her cello.  At one point in evening, she even carried the melody with some of the best whistling I’ve ever heard.

The set touched a few places – from rocky guitar solos to the sexy duet of Come on Over.  However, a country influence dominated the evening.

Country music, and in particular modern country music, is not an area of expertise for Noise Road.  However, we do own a handful of records of what we like to call “old man country”.

I enjoy Johnny Cash – that dude has soul.  I am able to look past his overt Jesus-loving, for the pain and raw experience that dude is able to cough onto a mic.  This is the same vibe that I felt from Mark Lanegan tonight.

Going back even further, I also enjoy Hank Williams.  When people ask me why I am always on the move and why I haven’t settle down, I’ve been known to throw some of Hank’s Ramblin Man at them.

So it was interesting that Campbell and Lanegan chose to end the night with a cover of Ramblin Man.  Are Lanegan and Campbell’s influences primarily old country?  Or do I just know so little about modern country?  The slightly rockier nature of the Ramblin Man cover gave away Campbell and Lanegan’s alternative and indie rock roots.

On paper, Mark Lanegan and Isobel Campbell playing country music is an odd proposition.  But the space in the music allows their unique personalities to come through.  I do not think that you have to be a devoted fan of the genre to appreciate such a rare chemistry between performers.

I would write more but there’s something o’er that hill that I got to see.

Sometimes its hard, but you gotta understand

When the lord made me, he made a ramblin’ man


Pro Shot Footage of Melvins Playing Early to Mid Nineties Classics

Posted in Admin with tags , , , , on August 1, 2011 by Noise Road

After a thunderous version of Night Goat, Eyehategod’s Jimmy Bower takes over Dale Crover’s side of the kit.  The evening ends in typically weird Melvins fashion.  Then Phil Anselmo forces his way onto a kit.

Some things are just good for you – regular exercise, fruit, reading Hunter S Thompson and listening to Melvins.

If you are an adult and you are not already a Melvins fan, then you probably never will be.  Melvins albums range from electronic noise albums to drone to stoner to sludge.  They have an album that will annoy a fan of any of those genres.  I ain’t going to recommend an album to you.  I ain’t going to try to convert you.

However if you are still with us, some kind soul has just uploaded pro shot footage of Melvins’ recent set at Hellfest.

Man, why didn’t I go?  This set comes off the back of their series of “Endless Residency” sets in the states, where they played entire albums from their back catalogue.  The endless residencies focused on their early to mid nineties albums – from the end of their sludge era, Bullhead, through the drone of Lysol, through the grunge-y major label era of Houdini, Stoner Witch and Stag.  There are classics in these albums that Melvins rarely, if ever, play.

Melvins not only brought a swag of these tracks to Hellfest, they are also brought their latest album, The Bride Screamed Murder,which they are yet to tour Europe with.

This is the highest quality video and audio of Melvins that I have ever seen (and I regularly trawl YouTube for Melvins).  The clarity of the video and the unique location of the set enable the viewer to see sludge metal royalty getting their groove on side of stage – Phil Anselmo, Mike Williams, Jimmy Bower (in fact the entirety of Eyehategod).  Phil Anselmo is the most animated behind King Buzzo.  You can see Anselmo constantly gesticulating through the performance.  He even elicits an awkward fist knock from Buzz just before Night Goat.  Funny stuff.

The set is as close to a greatest hits set as you’ll ever receive from Melvins.  Sure, its Melvins, so it is going to have weird passages, and the droney Lysol album is the glue of the night.  Still, from midway to the end of the show, is a pretty damn rocky set for even the casual listener.

I ain’t going to attempt to convert you, but if you know what is good for you, you will do as Anselmo, Bower and Williams do…  And by that I don’t mean spend a chunk of your life addicted to heroin.  I mean listen to Melvins.