Friday, 20 November 2015

Memories of 2015 gigs 10 & 11

#10: Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Colston Hall, Bristol - 23rd October 2015
Support: Dead Rat Orchestra

So this was always going to be something a bit special. I wasn't disappointed. It was worth going out of my way to pick up our mate Colin in Cardiff, getting lost trying to get out of Bristol after the show and even the ridiculous people who went to the gig only to spend most of it running in and out of the auditorium to go to the bar/toilet every 20 minutes while I tried to immerse myself in the extraordinary sounds of GYBE.

Colin was immediately taken by the support act, a couple of blokes with bushy beards called Dead Rat Orchestra who describe themselves as "avant-folk". They were a bit like putting John Cage, Dead Can Dance and a wily old fisherman in a room together to see what happens. I wasn't convinced, but Col has bought their CD so I'm not going to argue.

Godspeed were an altogether different affair though. Two hours of enormous, slow-building epics that not only filled the Colston Hall, but pretty likely the whole of the city. They appeared onstage gradually. An opening drone kept us on tenterhooks before the cellist and violinist entered stage right. For the majority of the show though, all 8 members (and their massive supporting cast of effects pedals) combined to create a sonic thunder of post-rock tension and euphoria. Visuals flickered and pulsed on the screen behind them, but they were somewhat secondary and, other than during the final track, didn't really add a great deal to the overall performance. No vocals, of course, but who needs them? GYBE's music says more than mere words can.

Both longform tracks from the band's latest album 'Asunder, Sweet And Other Success' were aired, but like everything they play live, were altered or rearranged for the concert setting. Highlights included Gathering Storm (a segment of Storm from the band's seminal record 'Lift Yr. Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven!') and the quite frankly incredible closer The Sad Mafioso (a segment of East Hastings from debut album 'F#A#∞').

MrsRobster said there were times she drifted off and forgot where she was before being drawn back in by the music again. This is probably the intended effect of the band's music. It does transport you sometimes, although sadly too often for the younger 'hip' members of the audience and their ever-shortening attention spans, it was to the bar. For those of us who do not seek instant gratification, who can sit for two hours without once checking our phones, who can remain riveted to a 20-minute instrumental piece, a Godspeed You! Black Emperor show can be a highlight of our year.


#11: Slaves
The Great Hall, Cardiff Uni - 15th November 2015
Support: Wonk Unit, Spring King

I'm not a big fan of the Great Hall, if I'm being honest. It just sounds so hollow in there. And it's full of students. Bah! I don't care if it is in the Student Union building, they're still all annoying little brats, aren't they? At least I had MrsRobster with me for some grown-up company. Mind, I use the term 'grown-up' rather loosely in her case...

Anyway, despite the distorted loudness and obnoxious bearded folk, this turned out to be well worth the entry fee, well worth venturing out on a diabolical stormy Sunday evening for, and yes, even well worth spending three hours in a hot, sweaty venue surrounded by hot sweaty students. If we're talking about the consistency in quality of the whole bill, then this was probably right up there with our best gigs of the decade so far.

Opening were Spring King whose claim to fame is that they were the first band played by Zane Lowe on Beats 1 radio's opening night. No, me neither. But they do have the potential to make a name for themselves. Some excellent songs, including the cracking new single Who Are You? and last year's Can I?, showed why. While they ran out of steam a little towards the end when it started to get a little samey, I did enjoy most of what I heard. And I say it again - that new single is cracking!

Wonk Unit on the other hand were just staggeringly brilliant from start to finish. They've been a part of the London punk scene for a few years. They feature ex-members of the Flying Medallions and are fronted by poet Alex Johnson. Sound-wise, I'd say Snuff would be a pretty accurate reference point, blending hardcore punk with a touch of ska and a shit-load of humour. Their amazing set included songs about horses, a haunted house, the singer's nan and Lewisham, though Rambo was the majestic highlight. One of the best support bands I've seen in many a year.

It's worth noting that when Slaves started out, it was Wonk Unit who gave them a leg up, getting them gigs and support. Now that the Tunbridge Wells duo have gone stratospheric, they felt it only right to pay their old mates back by taking them on tour. Nice, humble lads yeah? MrsRobster certainly thinks so. Slaves are one of her fave bands and she was taken by how normal and down to earth they seem under the screamy, shouty punk noise they emit. And how they emit it. Two blokes on a stage with just a guitar and a drum kit, yet they conquered.

While their set contained pretty much all their 'Are You Satisfied' album (including my fave, Ninety-Nine, about people who never look up from their fucking mobile phones!), there was room for a couple of new songs, the b-side OK and the fan favourite Where's Your Car, Debbie? Sadly, there was nothing from the debut 'Sugar Coated Bitter Truth' mini-LP, but what we did get was a blast - and I mean BLAST - of fiery punk with a grin on its face a tongue in its cheek. There was a proper mosh-pit, which is something that's becoming increasingly rare these days. They got an audience member on stage to recreate their now dead manta ray that 'swam' about the stage during Feed The Manta Ray. They did an acoustic number whilst perched on top of the speaker tower. Energy in abundance and a deafening noise. I did wonder if Slaves could carry it off in a venue the size of the Great Hall, but on this evidence they could probably shake Wembley Stadium to its foundations.


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