Sunday, 26 July 2009

Supersonic Festival - Custard Factory, Birmingham 26/07/09

In a rare feat of economic acumen, I decided to just go to Supersonic's Saturday this year, which meant no Goblin (they're on the Sunday) unfortunately, but there's a recession on and all that, and Saturday had the bulk of the big draws for me so there you go. And here I go, off to bloody Brum again, home of metal.

After ordering a pint and being told by the barman that it was four quid, and him even adding in a thick Brummie accent that 'it's dayloight robberoi', I was thankful I'd smuggled a hip flask full of Sainsbury's own Bourbon past the docile security guards. Four quid. Jesus. No worries though, the sounds of the Flower/Corsano Duo offer a relaxing start to proceedings, their freeform space jazz ambling along very pleasantly indeed. They're an entertaining sight to behold too, Corsano clearly having a ton of fun playing around with his kit, laying rags around and putting pans on the skins, while Mick Flower kicks out his leg like mule and freaks out on the synth.

Diagonal seemed worth a watch going by the blurb in the booklet but turns out they weren't. A lot of people on stage doing not much to get excited about. They sounded a bit like a crappy Goblin, at least for the bit I watched, which only served to remind me that I wasn't going to see Goblin this weekend, so I left and checked out Tartufi, who weren't much more entertaining - just middle of the road drone guitar with some dawdling drums. It wasn't that it was bad, it was more that it was so slow and quiet they might as well have not been there. Partly the fault of the PA and sound engineer I reckon.

Nevermind eh, a quick trip to Birmingham's optical nightmare The Bullring to use the facilities, and it's back in time for The Master Musicians of Bukkake, whose name I won't explain because if you don't already know what bukkake is then consider yourself lucky. Congregating on stage in red silky robes with white quaker hats and black netting over their faces, they look like Satan's beekeepers, and they call upon their gilly suited frontman with an alpine horn. Sounding laid back and woodlandish, like Earth reached the end of the dusty plains and headed into the lush forest, which makes sense considering the band is largely made up of Earth and Burning Witch members. The theatrics are pretty stupid but the band sound great, so it's with some regret that I drag myself away to see Nisennenmondai. Not too much regret though, seeing as last time I saw Nisennenmondai I considered it to be one of the greatest things that had ever happened. This time wasn't as awe-inspiring as the first, that's probably too much to ask anyway, but still these girls are great to watch, each one perfect and individual in their style and supremely tight knit as a group. It's euphoric trance music, but not like the shit that's usually associated with those words. This stuff is genuine, and genuinely uplifting.

And so on to something totally different, Iron Lung are the sound of violence. Incredibly brutal drumming and harsh guitar noise, it's hard to believe there's only two of them, so powerful is their assault. The fact the drummer is the size of a gorilla probably goes some way to explaining it. Fucking hardcore. After a brief sojourn to the car to refill the bourbon, and a brief visit to the burger stand to eat a shitty patty, the first of the big names is due on.

There's a lot expected of Thorr's Hammer for a band that was only around for six weeks fifteen years ago, perhaps understandably so, given the credentials of the members and what they've done in the interim. But any worries they might not satisfy were crushed as soon as the first string was struck. An unfathomably heavy set ensued, Runhild Gammelsæter producing deep, blood curdling vocals from some hidden pit within her slight frame. It was clear everyone on stage was enjoying the reunion as much as everyone off stage, O'malley and Anderson particularly relishing the opportunity to play something a little faster paced and less straight faced than their Sunn O))) excursions. Heads banged steadily throughout.

Back on the outdoor stage with the crappy sound, Zu were heavy rocking their stuff, stomping on everyone's ears with a tight laced boot of bass, the sax squealing over the top like a spectrum loading cassette gone off its spool. I'd have stayed but something special was about to begin over on stage 2. The elusive, anti-everything, Japanese doomsayers Corrupted play their first ever UK show. Playing slower even than any of the recorded material I've heard of theirs, they create a wall of sound so heavy it subsides and shifts under its own weight, a crushingly beautiful end of days soundtrack, that should have marked the end of this day. Unfortunately Monotonix got that honour, and how disappointing they were. I loved Monotonix when I first saw them, and I enjoyed the second time well enough (although the novelty had started to wear thin), but this time it seems the inevitable has happened. They've gotten too cocky, too predictable and too big for their boots. They're barely a band anymore, certainly the singer might as well not have a microphone seeing as all he uses it for now is to bark orders and insults at people. Gone is the feeling of spontaneity, the bin on the head of the drummer is now so rote they bring their own with them. The pint stealing, the mooning, the standing on the kick drum, it's all an attempt to distract you from the fact that they sound like shit, the arrogant guitarist's riffs are uninspired and the drummer, who seems like he is a pretty good drummer in all fairness, never has his kit in one place long enough to play it. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against bands being mental and causing mayhem, I'm a fan of that in fact, but this is all so contrived and predictable now it doesn't seem like fun, it seems like a sweaty guy rubbing his back on your face, because that's exactly what it is. It's not enjoyable, it's not funny, it's not my idea of a party. All it is is just plain boring. And without decent music to back it all up I can't see them lasting much longer.

So that was it, we walked out and I fell asleep in the car while being driven back home to London. A one day festival for me this year, and a pretty fucking great day it was too, all things considered. If Supersonic keeps it up, it's on its way to being pretty much the best festival going. Finally someone giving ATP a run for their money. Next year I wanna see Zeni Geva and Sleep. Go on you can do it. And a Swans reunion. Ha.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Hulk Dash 9 - Korsan Bar 19/07/09

So Hulk Dash celebrates its first birthday. Here's some stuff that happened, I think I missed a couple of acts but shit happens you know, sometimes I need to smoke a cigarette, or cook some sausages on the barbecue. Yeah, there was a barbecue, promoters take note. Anyway...

Opening proceedings, Jack Shirt played some kind of Clangers on ketamine synth stuff and segued nicely into an unsettling fairground guitar section before ending it all with some drone. Lovely stuff from the little man in the shoes. Shortly after that, Lion Lies Down ran around a circular drum set up incorporating the world's tiniest cymbal, played some really cheesy little guitar melodies and sang vocals through a kind of gurgling effect pedal, sometimes all at once, sometimes not at all, sometimes really good, sometimes not at all.

Then I missed some guys playing at the bar. Then Kayaking went fucking nuts. There's no other way to explain it. And Cau_cational Betreet somehow followed that up and fucking destroyed with possibly their heaviest set ever, sounding like a metal band getting its head kicked in and run over by a tank.

Hooray for Hulk Dash, may it live for many years to come.

Morrissey/Doll and the Kicks - The Troxy 18/07/09

I didn't plan on this. I'm cycling past the Troxy and there's a long queue so I stop and ask someone who's playing, they say Morrissey and offer me a ticket. I used to like The Smiths, I wonder what The Troxy looks like inside, I have nothing to do, I lock up my bike and say ok.

After getting in I realise I should've waited outside for a while 'cause now I'm stuck in here for ages. I get a three pound fifty bottle of bud in a little plastic cup and realise I won't be able to get pissed while I wait. The support act finally comes on and I realise I may have made a huge mistake. An irritating showtune voice gogo girl and a band made up of fucking Gaultier models. Does that sound any good to you? Because that sounds fucking shit to me. The preening and prancing about is as utterly fucking terrible as the utterly fucking terrible music. You can occasionally see up the girl's skirt a bit, but it's simply not enough to make up for the soulless bullshit they call a show. Doll and the Kicks they're called. This years 'ones to avoid'.

Finally, after I go off to hide in the smoking area for a year, Morrissey strolls on and opens with a big Smiths tune. The familiar sound of This Charming Man brings a big grin to my face and manages to convince me that ok maybe I didn't make a mistake. It's maybe a testament to Morrissey's lyricism that I enjoy a lot of the solo stuff I've never heard before purely on the basis of his vocals, but it's still the Smiths' stuff that makes up the vast majority of high points. How Soon is Now? is particularly outstanding.

The set wears on a bit, the second half considerably weaker than the first, but I amuse myself by looking at all the fans. Morrissey fans all look like Morrissey wearing a Morrissey t-shirt. It's great. They're also either all old, fat and gay or young, skinny and undecided. At one point he sticks the mic in the crowd and this guy grabs it and shouts, emphatically, Mancunianly and, I think, through tears "Morrissey we love you, we've come all the way from Manchester again to see you and we will follow you everywhere you go because we love you Morrissey". It's great, I mean, it's hilarious. I'm enjoying the gig but it hasn't turned me into a teenage girl at an NKOTB concert. Grown men crying. Brilliant.

After his encore Morrissey rips his shirt off, wipes it all over his large sweaty trunk and lobs it into the crowd. They love it, obviously, and I like it because it makes it clear I shouldn't wait around for a second encore. As I leave the support act are trying to give their CDs away in the foyer. No one wants one. Because they are shit.

And for all those crazy obsessive Morrissey fans that may stumble upon this review, here's a setlist:

Action Beat/Agaskodo Teliverek - Buffalo Bar 17/07/09

Action Beat play hard, breaking sweats, strings, sticks. They conjure up a whirlwind of distortion, the faintest hints of melody swirling around with it, occasionally surfacing to something approaching clarity before being dragged back into the maelstrom. Eventually, one of the guitarists has had enough and dives into a drumkit, then another drumkit, and finally one more drumkit, as it becomes apparent that the coolest thing about having three drummers is that you can do three drumkit dives at the end of your set.

In contrast to the loose rocking style of Action Beat, my old friends Agaskodo Teliverek play their unique line in schizophrenic surfy grunge-pop, jerking and grooving, switching between wonky guitar melodies and bumblebee swarm riffing, jungle breakbeat and easy listening jazz drumming. The set is a bit sloppy by their standards, but that's not to say it isn't good, after all, their standards are higher than most.

Friday, 10 July 2009

1st Annual UK Noise Conference - Old Blue Last 07/07/09

The way this was set up the abundant acts were on constant rotation playing really short sets so I don't think I managed to quite see everyone, but I saw a whole bunch of good stuff. Here's some mini reviews in no particular order:

Sloppy Seconds did a twin rabbit costumed drum and guitar confusion, smashed up a clock and chalked times on the floor, with the audience trapped inbetween them looking a bit bewildered.

Blue Sabbath Black Fiji were described by someone I overheard as 'fun'. Not really my idea of fun but I can't deny that they are chock full of beans, and every time they play they spill those beans everywhere, all over their stuff, all over the place, and it makes a big fucking racket.

Cementimental freaked out with a modded megaphone, flailing around, fighting with his tools.

Timothy C Holehouse played vile plunger triggered noise with a screaming beard and little hat.

Defibrillators had a very exciting looking drumkit, which failed to excite too much.

Team Brick looked a bit annoyed.

A guy I know only as 'Ryan' played the highlight of the night, an intense strobe experiment that stabbed eyes and ears simultaneously, repeatedly, rapidly, with sharp bursts of blinding light and damaging sound. Extreme, almost agonising, utterly brilliant.