Call me Russ L

The end of an era. An era that lasted for a fortnight.

Posted in Blogstuff, Going Deaf For A Fortnight 2006, Music by Russ L on 12 November, 2006

(If you’ve ended up here via the ‘Going Deaf For A Fortnight 2006’ tag and are wondering what this is all about, it might be sensible to read this post first).

Going Deaf For A Fortnight 2006 is over. Fifteen days, fifteen gigs (and a stageshow type thing), comprising 43 sets by 43 acts in eleven venues (see here for blah about the specific gigs). A list of those who were better than OK-to-not-bad-ish would run thusly: Sourvein, Church Of Misery, Moorish Delta 7, The Photophonic Experiment, Chinook, Mills And Boon, The Courtesy Group, Haxan, Baroness, Bedouin Soundclash, Gogol Bordello, Enablers, Entombed, Dementia, Exodus, GBH, Rancid, Clutch, and Motorhead (with a top five comprising in reverse order of Baroness, Gogol Bordello, Clutch, The Courtesy Group and Enablers). Maybe Stanley’s Choice just about squeak in too.

Lots of good bands, then, some of whom I already liked and some of whom were new to me. Was the whole blast of silliness a success overall, though? I’m not sure. I can’t really figure out what seems like a fair set of criteria. I saw some good bands, but in all likelihood I would’ve gone to see a fair few of those anyway, and even for those I wouldn’t – seeing some good bands is just something that happens in my everyday life. Not necessarily those specific bands, but I’m sure you see what I’m saying.

There’s not really any specific reason for me to think it all went badly, but I still have a vague feeling in the back of my mind that it could have been better. I’m probably just disappointed that I didn’t end up having a nervous breakdown and thus something juicier to write about. It didn’t particularly inspire me to any great feats of writing, though, and while that was never very likely (it is me, after all) it seems a shame.

Ah well, never mind this nonsense. The big question looms before us: who is going to do it next year?

~ Russ L, fully expecting everyone in the rank to take a simultaneous step back.

GDFAF #14: Motorhead / Clutch / Crucified Barbara (9/11/6)

Posted in Going Deaf For A Fortnight 2006, Music by Russ L on 10 November, 2006

And so the time came for the final gig of Going Deaf For A Fortnight 2006. I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself from now on.

Original Goodfaffer (Godfafther?) Pete Ashton was amused to hear that I was finishing with a Motorhead gig but noted that it did seem right somehow, given the ‘endurance test’ aspects of all this. We’ll come back to that. For me, doing it this way seemed apt for another reason – if there’s another band who embody ‘live popular music’ to quite the same degree, I can’t think of who it might be. This fortnight has been a salute to the form, and I can’t think of a better act to end it all.

It was The Academy, though, and so it was a case of just watching the bands rather than finishing with a big drunken hurrah. That much genuinely is a shame.

Swedish band Crucified Barbara were the unadvertised openers, and that has to be either the single best or single worst band name I’ve ever heard. I honestly cannot decide which. Yet another ‘OK melodic rock band,’ anyway, and despite such groups having become the bane of my existence over the last fortnight I couldn’t muster up any degree of unjustified hatred for one of ‘em on the last night. Nothing particularly interesting about their music, though, and having all your band members be edible Swedish ladies doesn’t really change that.

Clutch were the main support, and in all honesty are a band I like a lot more than Motorhead (or most bands, really. I’ve been known to refer to them as The Best Rock Band Currently Operating, and there isn’t really a lot of hyperbole there). They’re certainly my most-seen foreign band – this was my seventh time with them. Their groooooving rock has the vocals mixed right up this time around, which I’ve never seen before but made for a good sound (although – as always with this sort of thing – I’ve no idea whether that was the plan or just what the soundman managed to conjure up for them), and opening your set with ‘Escape From The Prison Planet’ is a genius plan. They jam a lot, admittedly, and I’m not normally an avid supporter of that kind of behaviour, but they always manage to keep it on the right side of interesting – the swirly, shimmery bit (technical terms) which built up and coalesced into the riffs of ‘Big News’ was fantastic, for example. Amazing band. The music dying away to just leave vocalist Neil Fallon on his own roaring “…IN THE BACK OF A JACKED UP FORD…” was as great an ending to a set as “We are Motorhead and we play rock ‘n’ roll” is a beginning to one.

So yes, they are Motorhead and they play rock ‘n’ roll. There’s rarely a lot you can say about a Motorhead set, really – they’re pretty much the definition of ‘consistency.’ I can’t even discuss what songs they chose to play or not play, as apparently Lemmy doesn’t like people doing that. He’s a funny ‘un, that boy. I’d better shut up though, ‘cos I think I just saw him walk past our house.

What I might address is the still-widely held polite fiction (as referred to above) that Motorhead are the loudest band in the world. They may well be on a purely scientific level of decibels (although isn’t that Ted Nugent? I know Manowar have made similar claims, too, but I suspect that’s just a load of foolishness), but they don’t really play in spaces that are enclosed enough to make you actually feel it on your eardrums anymore. The additional racks of speakers either side of the stage might well look like two upended stretches of the Maginot Line, but The Academy is a huge, huge room. There was no way this was going to deafen me in the way that the Baroness gig did at The Medicine Bar the previous week, and indeed it didn’t. The heat at this gig made for more of an endurance test than the volume.

I don’t think that matters, of course. It was well loud enough, and we still have the high-energy metallic boogie we came for. They do have an elemental sort of power about them, do Motorhead, capable of both the precise attack of any metal band and frenetic shred of any punk band as and when each suit them. A fitting end to the whole thing.

So, ladies and gents, that was Going Deaf For A Fortnight 2006. I can’t believe it’s over.

~ Russ L, lost for words.

GDFAF #13: Vultures / More Hate Than Fear / Affirmation / Owning Up / Remains To Be Seen (8/11/6)

Posted in Going Deaf For A Fortnight 2006, Music by Russ L on 9 November, 2006

A slight degree of enthusiasm returned for the last-but-one Goodfaff gig, mainly due to the fact that it was the first sensibly-sized venue for quite a few days. I was greatly tempted by Doro Pesch at JB’s, but in the end took the (probably sensible) decision of going to the hardcore gig at The Market Tavern, as promoted by that celebrated gentleman-about-town Paul Illstone.

In contrast to most of my recent exploits, I thought I’d be missing a few groups here but in the event didn’t. Five bands and time getting a bit ahead of you might generally seem like a bad thing, but I didn’t miss anyone.

I like The Market Tavern, anyway. Nice proper pub feel to it, with reasonably priced and decent quality beer. It’s hidden away a bit, out in the sideroads of Digbeth, and once upon a time the only gigs that ever seemed to be able to get a decent crowd there were streetpunk/trad punk type affairs. Nowadays there are a lot of hardcore type gigs that do well, too. It’s a start.

The majority of people attending this sort of do will generally be a genre purist type, into hardcore, the whole hardcore and nothing but the hardcore. As with some of the other gigs I’ve been to this fortnight, the cognoscenti of any given style of music will probably ring their hands and pull their hair at my suggestions that the more average bands sound samey. I can’t pretend to care, though. There’s a commonly held theory that these people’s opinions about the things that fall into their area of expertise are more helpful than that of the layman, and I don’t agree at all. I’d more or less always rather listen to someone who has shown themself to have a sense of perspective.

With all that in mind, my descriptive ability is for this is not going to extend as far as specific accurate comparisons to other bands, but I don’t really think it’s important. Remains To Be Seen opened, playing the type of non-metallic hardcore that has a slower bit followed by really, really fast bits, with the ‘bop-ba-dop-ba-bop’ drums and the ‘Roh roh roh, ruh, ruh ruh ruh’ vocals. Owning Up, Affirmation, and More Hate Than Fear all played the type of non-metallic hardcore that has a slower bit followed by a merely really fast bit. Vultures played that sort of thing with a vaguely crustier slant to it.

And there we are. Affirmation and Vultures stood out a little bit as having the slightly more memorable songs, but I didn’t like anyone to any notable degree. Didn’t especially dislike anyone, either, and given the reactions I’ve had to some of the ‘an OK example of their type’ bands I’d seen in previous days that’s about the most I could have hoped for.

~ Russ L, going to the last one tonight. I’m not going to know what to do with myself after it’s all over.

GDFAF #12: Rancid / GBH (7/11/6)

Posted in Going Deaf For A Fortnight 2006, Music by Russ L on 8 November, 2006

Bah, Academy. By which I mean ‘expression of disgust, this gig is in the main room of The Academy’ rather than ‘pseudo-phonetic transcription of The Bar Academy.’ That’s a different venue.

This time it was only a three band bill and I still missed the first act despite arriving at a reasonable time. I’m considering writing an addendum to the General Theory of Relativity in which time is dilated by frequency of gigs attended.

I didn’t find out that GBH were playing until earlier on in the day. I’d bought my ticket for this gig a long time before, so that was a very nice ‘free gift,’ so to speak. I’m not a huge GBH fan, of course, but I do like the odds and ends I’ve heard (jut the more famous bits, really) and looked forward to seeing them. Live they were pretty much as you’d expect them to be – simple, anthemic, heads-down-and-charge punk fun with a few bits of squiggly lead guitar added for no obvious reason. I don’t think I’d enjoy going to see them every week, but they were enjoyable there and then.

Anyone who doesn’t already know/have an opinion on Rancid by this point in time probably isn’t likely to get around to getting one, no matter who says what about them (not that this presents a problem in any way, I’m not the sort of person who would fall out with someone because they don’t like/haven’t heard of this or that band). As far as I’m concerned, they have a great enough cannon of songs to say that to make it a good gig they only really need to turn up and start/stop playing at roughly the same times. Add the energy and enthusiasm that they bring to it all and you’re onto a clear winner.

With this in mind, aside from really enjoying the tuneage on offer the mind begins to wander. The extent to which ‘place’ plays a part in their music is something that really stuck out this time, mainly through the introductions – “This song is about a street in Berkley, California…” “This song is about a place in Los Angeles…” etc etc etc. Even the cover of Braggy’s ‘To Have And To Have Not’ (acoustic, rather than punked up, which seems a bit pointless. The real thing is playing at this venue next month, why would we need Rancid to do a faithful version?) was introduced as being a song about “Being a working class kid in a working class neighbourhood.” I’d never really considered it that way – I’d always thought it was a song about Thatcherism, not any specific geographical division (although I can see what they’re saying). I suspect a serious analysis of their lyrics wouldn’t turn up anything too interesting, but it’s an interesting look into how they view it all themselves.

Anyway, yes. ‘Radio,’ ‘Timebomb,’ ‘Nihilism,’ ‘Ruby Soho,’ ‘Journey To The End Of East Bay,’ ‘Bloodclot,’ – loads of the songs that you want to hear. A few more from ‘Life Won’t Wait’ than the last time they did a proper tour over here, too, which gets the hurrah from me.

The background projections also intrigued me, not least because I didn’t actually realise there were any to begin with (I couldn’t see the back wall from where I was standing at the beginning). Footage of military helicopters, fair enough, Frankenstein, fair enough, some horse racing…. Eh?

~ Russ L, also about to buy Donna Tartt’s ‘The Secret History’ as a result of this gig. I’ll leave that cryptic.

GDFAF #11: Exodus / Biomechanical / Dementia (6/11/6)

Posted in Going Deaf For A Fortnight 2006, Music by Russ L on 7 November, 2006

Only four left. Grit teeth and continue. Off to Wolverhampton for the second leg of my two night ‘proper metal in the Black Country’ interlude. Exodus were the target, at The Civic Hall Bar (it was originally set to be in the Wulfrun Hall but ended up moved to a slighter smaller room. The Wulfrun seemed a bit of an ambitious choice right from the start, to be fair).

Re-evaluation of standard wisdom has proved necessary. I recently had a discussion with someone in which it took far more effort than should have been necessary to convince him that small/DIY gigs don’t have ‘opening times,’ as such. Any door time you see on a flyer is just the roughest of rough estimations on the part of the promoter. Things open when they’re ready. The rule of thumb I tend to use has always been to try to turn up at about half-eight for a three band bill on a weekday, and at about quarter-to/ten-to eight for a four band bill. In the past, that has generally worked pretty well for me. Arriving probably a few minutes before eight to this one (it’s not a precise art when you travel by bus), I found I’d completely missed the first band. Between this and GDFAF events #7 and #10, I suspect a rethink might be needed for these modern times.

The first band I saw thus turned out to be Dementia, who I quite liked. Thrash metal, with a strong hint of ‘Master Of Puppets’ era Metallica about them (ah, for the days when Metallica weren’t a strong contender for the ‘Most Irritating band In The World’ award). Some quite nice sounding melodic choruses and some fun riffs led to me enjoying them a lot more than I initially thought I would when they began to play. Nuts to the drum solo, though.

Biomechanical were on next, playing a slightly less traditional style of thrash metal. Not as good, though – they did suffer a bit from the age-old disease of ‘stringing a bunch of riffs together in lieu of a song.’ The frontman was fantastic, though, a sleazy looking (it was the thrash ‘tache) mini-rock god in waiting.

Old-school thrashers (in a literal sense, as in they were amongst the first wave of these bands in the 80s) Exodus pleasantly surprised me, and I wasn’t in all honesty expecting to like them as much as I did. I’m by no means a huge fan (I only know a few songs), but I was half-expecting them to sound as old as they surely must be, and I couldn’t have been more wrong. They have a huge, heavy sound, and the songs steamrolled forward with all appropriate degrees of power. Effective and fun.

Altogether too much swearing coming from onstage during this gig, though. It’s terrible. I don’t see the need.

~ Russ L, nearing the end (thank flip).

GDFAF #10: Unleashed / Grave / Dismember / Entombed (5/11/6)

Posted in Going Deaf For A Fortnight 2006, Music by Russ L on 6 November, 2006

And so our nation’s annual celebration of anti-Catholicism arrived, leaving me wondering where to go. The original plan was to go to The Klopeks’ fireworks night gig, but for all my efforts I was unable to obtain confirmation/any details, so there we are. The fact that every GDFAF gig up to this point had been in Birmingham was something that needed to be rectified, though, and since the ‘Masters Of Death’ tour (I’m assuming that’s an attempt at a qualitative description – ‘they play death metal and have mastered it’ – rather than an attempt at a scary name, because it’s really quite comically bad as the latter) was stopping at JB’s I had an opening to introduce a bit more yam-yamery into this venture, as is only right and proper. If you’d have asked me “Whorram yow dooin’ ternight?” I’d have replied “Gooin’ ter Dudlay.” And I did.

JB’s is a huge venue (I always forget just how big it is), and was the place in which much youthful foolishness took place years ago. Those days are gone, of course, none of that any more (youthfulness, that is. I still have plenty of foolishness). They have this frustrating habit of not really advertising their gigs – a half page in “Ryan’s Gig Guide” doesn’t really cut it, I’m afraid. There were a fair few in attendance at this one, but not in comparison to the size of the place (and I’m certain they could have packed it out, too).

They seem to have a tendency to balance out the paucity of people by charging the ones that do turn up a fortune to get in, and so it went here. Sixteen quid! Obscene. I was even more pissed off to walk into the main room (it was about five to eight) and find Entombed, the band I was most interested in seeing, already on. What? I’d assumed they’d be headlining, being the only band on the bill that any real person would actually have heard of.

Oh well. I didn’t miss too much of their set, I don’t think. Entombed were everything you’d want them to be – beer swilling death ‘n’ roll headbangerangry fury. I recall reading an interview ages ago (it must have been years) with some band or other, and they enthused about the fact that Entombed ‘always had a bit of punk to their metal.’ I think that’s spot on – although their actual playing is as tight as the metaphorical gnat’s chuff, the material has a looseness to it which enables them to actually groove while still hitting as hard or harder than most others. They also manage to do without the standard issue po-faced manner, which gets a big thumbs up from me. I tend to forget about Entombed and generally think of Obituary as being ‘My Favourite Death Metal Band,’ but I think my mind has been changed. Wicked set.

After that, we had three entirely generic and dull bands. I wasn’t interested in genre pieces at the indie gig the previous night, and I wasn’t interested in ‘em here either. The three bands in question were Dismember, Grave and Unleashed, and a bit of asking around suggests that they played in that order (buggered if I could tell one from the other). Whoever the last band were (Unleashed?) seemed marginally better than the other two, with a handful of slightly more memorable riffs, but on the whole… meh.

Still, I saw Big Sean, who’s always good to take the piss out of bands with. The evening was broken up a little bit by the bloke who started enthusing to him about “this anti-Jew stuff” during the band that may or may not have been Grave. Erm… I’ve no idea whether that’s true or not (the lyrics, obviously, consist of “Graaaagh Graaagh Bruuurgh Graaagh”). If it is, consider my disapproval firmly voiced. It was quite fun to shout “Oy vey!” and “Ay ay ay!” between songs instead of general cheering noises, though.

~ Russ L, who now intends to start a death metal band called ‘Usurer.’ It sounds right, doesn’t it?

GDFAF #9: Shady Bard / The Will To Rally / The Francos (4/11/6)

Posted in Going Deaf For A Fortnight 2006, Music by Russ L on 5 November, 2006

Ah, you know how it is. You’ve had a couple of glasses of wine, you’ve just watched X-Factor, it’s nice and warm in the house but freezing cold outside, and having been to what feels like a thousand consecutive gigs and with what feels like another 381 yet to go… you’re reluctant, but the Goodfaff must go on. You resolve to go out, but get revenge against the world in general by spending the first paragraph of the next day’s blog entry doing nothing but moaning.

No solid plan had been worked out in advance for this chilly Saturday evening. I was tempted by the Reanimator death metal night at Chapter Eleven, but decided that this fortnight was a bit metal-heavy (hahahadidjaseewhatIdidthere?) already. You just wait for the next couple of gigs. There’s some proper denim-jacket-with-the-arms-ripped-off stuff upcoming.

I instead used the night as my chance to do something I vaguely intended to do a couple of times in the fortnight – turn up at one of the ‘regular night’ Birmingham promoter’s gigs and just watch whoever happened to be on. Having already done that with The Catapult Club at The Jug Of Ale, this time it was the turn of Zoot at The Flapper And Firkin. I like The Flapper – it’s a normal, vaguely alternative-oriented pub upstairs, with an absolute dump of a gig room downstairs that nonetheless rises above squalor by means of having a fair bit of hard-to-define charm about it. Most of the atmosphere at any gig, obviously, comes from the bands and the clientele, but some venues just have an intangible something over and above all that. The Foundry had loads of it; many around here thought The Royal George did too, although I always felt the opposite myself. The Flapper (and also The Hare And Hounds, where I was the previous night) isn’t on that sort of level, but it certainly has a share.

On the other hand, of course, the toilets are disgusting and the beer on tap is absolutely terrible. One day there’ll be a place that puts it all together, I’m sure.

Zoot Promotions, meanwhile, are an outfit who divide opinion like no other. Many (promoters and punters alike) decry the fact that they have Thursday/Friday/Saturday block-booked at The Flapper from now until forever, preventing anyone else getting a look in. I don’t mind that as much (it ensures that lots of bands are definitely getting gigs, if you see what I mean), but when I hear tales about them not paying touring bands over from Canada despite a packed room I start to get a more negative impression. Their soirees tend to feature three bands falling somewhere under the massive umbrella of ‘indie music,’ meaning they could be more or less anything – glancing down their upcoming gigs list reveals that they have such wonders as Grandscope, Einstellung and The Courtesy Group booked for the next couple of months, but you’re just as likely to encounter a fifty-seventh rate Oasis rip-off at any given gig. You pays your money, you takes your chance.

Unfortunately, and as you may have guessed from the lengthy no-talk-about-the-bands-yet preamble, this particular gig was firmly in ‘tedious crapola’ territory. Ah well.

The Francos opened, scouse indie-pop (apparently only the singer is actually from Liverpool, but they definitely had that Merseyjangle feel) and entirely unimaginative. As rude as it may seem, the only reasonable response was to yawn.

The Will To Rally had a bit more about them, even if they weren’t a fat lot more likeable. Post-punk type wirey guitars thing, oh so popular of late, with songs that might have been alright. We won’t go mad, but they really might have been ‘alright’. They weren’t given a chance, though, by dint of the absolutely sodding ridiculous vocals from the main singer – two of them sang, but the one who took more frequent lead duties had a sort of low yelp akin to Kermit The Frog burping after too much fizzy pop. Frustrating.

So, one act remained to save the night and it didn’t initially look promising – they were called Shady Bard. While this does bring to mind the amusing image of a wandering minstrel laying down his lute on the pavement so he can make use of both hands in trying to get your hubcaps off, I wouldn’t trust any individual who thought it was a good name for their band.

Hope picked up when I saw the varied instrumentation (French horn and cello, amongst the usual drums, guitars and keyboards) they deployed, but soon dropped again when they started playing. Folksy indie, with the aforementioned pleasing difference in what they were using being thoroughly outflanked by a bunch of wet and dreary songs. Ah well. Back to the drawing board.

I suspect this may be the post with which band-fan flak machines finally have a pop at me. It had to happen at some point in the fortnight. On the other hand, I know there are some of you reading this that have only been doing so in the hope that I’ll get around to doing a hatchet job. Maybe this will sate your bloodlust.

~ Russ L, thinking that he was quite restrained here, all things considered.

GDFAF #8: Enablers / Last Of The Real Hardmen (3/11/6)

Posted in Going Deaf For A Fortnight 2006, Music by Russ L on 4 November, 2006

Well, we’re more than halfway through. Number eight was one of the ones I was most looking forward to: Enablers (who I missed last time they came over here) at The Hare And Hounds, which is a venue I like a lot (having as it does a nicely atmospheric gig room and an upstairs bar that sells tins of Carlsberg for a pound a throw). In addition to this, I had a feeling (which turned out to be true) that this would be the occasion upon I which I finally got to meet that wise seer Pete Ashton, without the imagination of whom this GDFAF business would never have begun. In a two-for-the-price-of-one meet-the-bloggers offer, I also met Jez. Top geezers the both of ‘em.

I was informed by Lisa Thor On The Door upon arriving that our originally scheduled openers The Arm had dropped out, which was a shame. Last Of The Real Hardmen thusly became the openers of a two band bill, and God be damned if they don’t have the best band name I’ve heard in a good while. They don’t look like the sort of people it applies to, but then again you never know. It’s the quiet ones you have to watch. Their music, alas, was less than the sum of its parts – ambient drone/gentle feedback business with a bit of definable guitar and drums over the top, and lots of clever little ideas (the drummer scraping things against his drums rather than just playing them percussively, for example) that somehow didn’t come together to form anything interesting.

Enablers, conversely, bring it all together perfectly. The central point of note whenever anyone talks about them will always be Man With The Microphone Pete Simonelli, he of the deeply intoned poetry. Naturally, his voice and words are captivating, but what I didn’t expect was a physical presence not a million miles from that of Nick Cave – his movements in particular are uncannily similar, as he jerks and contorts from one side of the stage to the other.

Let us not forget the music, though (which would be easy in theory, although not if you were actually there) – Slint, if you want a point of comparison, although I definitely see Enablers as being the greater band. He sheer focussed power they wield at one moment elides oh-so naturally into a quiet, menacing jangle the next, never failing to create a rich and captivating mood.

Best band so far. Will they be topped over the next six nights? Time will tell.

P’Ashton’s account of this is here, while his photos are here.

~ Russ L, very sad that he missed ‘em last time.

GDFAF #7: Gogol Bordello / Bedouin Soundclash / Danko Jones (2/11/6)

Posted in Going Deaf For A Fortnight 2006, Music by Russ L on 3 November, 2006

I really, really didn’t want to go out. This was the seventh gig – halfway, therefore, with another seven nights stretching forebodingly ahead of me like the river in Apocalypse Now (since the last band will be Motorhead, I suppose that makes Lemmy equivalent to Colonel Kurtz). On top of this, tonight was due to be at The Academy, a place that vies with Winson Green for the title of ‘least pleasant enclosed space in Birmingham.’ I’ve ranted about it many-a time before, but to sum up quickly: It’s a huge atmosphere-less shell of a corporate venue, with poorly trained barstaff selling drinks watered down beyond recognition (they really are) for stupidly expensive prices (I have a self-imposed ban on buying any beverages in there. Back in January it was £3.10 for a pint of lagerwater), sticky floors, frequent bad sound, and a policy of charging bands to sell merchandise (disgusting). Still, when the bands you want to see are on there, what can you do?

This evening’s fun and laughter came in the form of The Eastpak Antidote Tour, an enterprise presumably designed to salute the valuable part played by American rucksack manufacturers in the history of popular music. Or maybe they just sponsored it and cynically wish to associate themselves with the things liked by teenagers while appearing altruistic, I don’t know. I’m not here to question anyone’s motives.

It must have been very early doors, since I got there before eight and found that not only had Disco Ensemble already been and gone (I can at least now continue to wonder if they were in fact a disco ensemble. I know they probably weren’t. I don’t want to check, I’m happier with the lie) and that Danko Jones was/were (I’m still not sure if the name refers to ‘him’ or ‘them.’ Henceforth singular, just for ease of writing) halfway through. He sure does talk a lot. On, and on, and on he went. You’d love to ask him to please, please, please stop talking – just for a little bit – and maybe even play a song, but you know that would only make him go on even more. It veered from ‘annoying’ to ‘comical’ and back again, mostly due to his voice – some young ‘uns standing near me were spot on when they shouted out “Duff Man!”, and then proceeded to become even more irritating than he was by shouting out the same joke about another ten times. If I take the same music:blathering-on-about-nothing-in-particular ratio in this paragraph as he did in his set, I’ve just about got time to say “AC/DC-ish rock, quite good.” Too much shooting the breeze, though. I couldn’t be doing with it. This is Going Deaf For A Fortnight 2006, baby, and time is money.

This was the third time I’d seen Bedouin Soundclash in less than a year and I was very surprised they weren’t headlining this, with their music having been used in telly adverts and whatnot. All the touring they’ve been doing has had a bad effect – they sounded a lot more ragged than either of the previous times I’ve seen them, and the singer’s voice was shot. This didn’t, to be honest, make them too much less palatable, but it’s a worrying sign. I don’t know whether it was a deliberate thing or an accident of mix that saw them not adopting the bass-heavy approach they used last time I saw them, but as a result they sounded a lot more like the Police-ish entity they are on record (now I think about it, it seems more likely that it was an unintentional last time around). Fun, although probably the least fun I’ve seen them so far.

So, it seems that Gogol Bordello are the new band of choice for an even wider span of demographics than I thought. Bloody good, though. I’d expected them to be excellent live and wasn’t in the least bit disappointed – their onstage behaviour mirrors their East European gypsy-folk-punk whatever-have-you music by being full of energy but also likeably shambolic. The singer (accompanied by his moustache, which is personality-filled enough to be considered a separate entity) lurches around, hoisting the microphone stand into the air and holding it over the accordion player’s head like a boom mic before staggering off to nearly trip over the drum riser. Two backing singers come dancers come washboard players bounce to the front of the stage, spitting a ‘lalalalalalalalalalalalalalala’ into the air with the speed and ferocity of a mini-gun before gesturing out into the crowd to illustrate… well, I’m not sure what, but I’m sure it was an important point. All the while the vivid swirl of colourful tuneage continues, the varied instrumentation adding no end to the hooks.

I’d love to see ‘em play a proper venue, but if they’re now as famous as they appear to be it looks like the ship has sailed on that one. Great set, whichever way up.

~ Russ L, not getting the urge to buy a backpack and thus assuming that the subliminal advertising failed.

GDFAF #6: Torche / Baroness / Haxan (1/11/6)

Posted in Going Deaf For A Fortnight 2006, Music by Russ L on 2 November, 2006

After the previous night’s interregnum, it was back to the gigging. My glamorous assistant for this one was Young Trigger, who may (at some point in the dim and distant future) eventually get around to writing on his own blog again. A few possibilities were available for this cold Wednesday night, but in the end I settled on another Capsule do, this time at The Medicine Bar. Said place is a venue within the Custard Factory complex (originally the premises of the old Birds custard works, now a facility for businesses of a ‘Young! Funky! Fresh!’ persuasion), and one about which my opinion tends to vary. It’s often held up as the nicest/poshest local live popular music venue, and – while I suppose it is – that isn’t really much of a boast, considering. The PA system there is awesome and probably contravenes several articles of the SALT treaties, but for me my thoughts on the place will usually revolve around the key question of Whether Or Not They’re Selling The Cheap Bottles Of Carlsberg On That Particular Night. This time, they were. Huzzah!

It was only after we’d already had a pint in The Big Bulls Head and moved on to The Custard Factory that Trig decided to announce that he needed to visit a cashpoint, and so we ended up traipsing right back up Digbeth High Street (to the Spar) before we found one. I wouldn’t normally notice the absence of them since I don’t use them, but I was surprised by that.

Our openers Haxan were already on by the time we’d returned. I liked them when I saw them back in May (apparently that was their first gig), and they’ve improved since then on top (apparently this was their second). Their sound is largely based in old-style deathly doom metal, but with added bits of fix-bayonets-and-advance Godfleshian crawling rhythm. Meaty stuff.

Jesus, Baroness were loud. Big, pounding, aggressive sludge metal with widdley bits and a vague crusty slant at times, turned up to eleven. I get the feeling that they’d be a loud band anyway, but pushed through the Med Bar’s speaker system this sound was only a step away from coalescing into a physical form and going on a Godzilla-style rampage around Digbeth. Naturally, their set was a demanding affair and I felt like I was hearing colours and seeing sounds when we staggered off afterwards, but all in a good way. They were just about beginning to verge on pushing their luck, though – if they’d played for only a couple of minutes more I think I’d have had a much more negative opinion. As it was I thought they were great, currently second only to The Courtesy Group in the Goodfaff league table. There’s plenty of time yet, though.

I think they must have completely wrecked my hearing temporarily, too, since elsewhere on these internets I’ve read people saying that the headliners Torche took the volume up another notch. I definitely thought Baroness were the loudest, and despite some people saying they felt the need to move to the back of the room during Torche I was able to stand relatively near the speakers without any trouble. Presumably I’d already had my receptiveness to various frequencies destroyed.

So, Torche were contending with having to play after Baroness in a sonic as well as musical sense. Their Melvins-y rifforama with additional widdly-wah guitar bits was perfectly acceptable, but came across very much in a ‘typical band of the type’ sort of way, and this far into the fortnight I don’t have a massive amount of patience for that. Let a verdict of ‘not bad’ be recorded.

In other news, we found a twenty pound note on the floor. A twenty!

~ Russ L, with ears still a-ringing.