Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Live at Leeds PT II

‘We didn’t expect anyone down, so we’ve gone for a just out of bed look’. So say James Graham, Singer with The Twilight Sad. Despite being on so early in the day, the next great Scottish band manage to pretty much pack Brudenell Social Club and kick into their howling wall of noise. And it’s real loud. I wont say unbearable so, because I don’t want to appear soft in front of the scary, seemingly possessed Scotsman wistfully screaming in front of me. But it packs a punch and it’s exhilarating. Sound wise, I’ve always thought of them as ‘a good Glasvegas’, and this afternoon they live up to that; epic, pounding but strangely sad and tender too. They blast through songs off last years ‘Forget the night ahead’ and seem genuinely touched that so many people have turned out to see them, the daunting front man eyeing the crowd from the front of the stage for the closing minutes of squalling instrumental close the set. As he leaves, he can’t help the smile spreading across his face. Great start to the day, even if my hearing has been utterly hammered.

My path briefly crosses with Stevies; I manage to squeeze my head in the door to catch the last 2 songs of Piskie Sits and they do indeed sounds like they’re really hitting their stride. We moved on next to The Well for Leeds high-flyers Middleman. Sticking my head round the door, I saw another packed room. Nipping off to get a pint, by the time I return its chaos; people are now queuing almost to the door – of the venue, not the back room. They were always popular, sure, but it seems fresh from their jaunt to South by SouthWest, they are now official MASSIVE. My photographer chum assures me the place was literally bouncing in there, a frantic, sweaty fun filled gig. It seem Middleman are slightly more about that these days; less MCing, more big pop grooves, a more streamlined sound, and a major pre-occupation with giving the crowd a night, or in this case, an afternoon to remember. Fantastic

Benjamin Wetherill, today with ‘the Trumpets of Death’ at Holy Trinity Church. What could be more lovely? I kind of presumed ‘the trumpets of death’ part would be a little backing band for Benjamin, maybe a horn backing for that splendid cover of Queens ‘Good old fashioned lover boy’ I heard him do once. Or… perhaps something completely different. Admittedly, I’ve not seen him in a while, so if this isn’t new, forgive me. But gone is the ukulele. Gone is 1920’s music and attire – tonight he is wearing a T-Shirt for Gods sake. Pretty much a brand new band, they perform discordant, unsettling, freeform pieces, the first containing wailing monk like chanting and half hearted drum fills instead of a steady beat. The second has more structure, with MBV feedback and an insistant 2 chord drone running throughout, the incessant, rolling rhythm giving the whole thing an apocalyptic stoner vibe. Benjamin’s once sweet vocals are much less to the fore; in fact at one point the other vocalist creates some sort of sound that seems to replicate a distorting guitar by howling and battering his chest, which I found amusing because earlier I could have sworn Twilight Sad’s guitarist was producing the sound of a man howling from his guitar. What does it all mean?!

In some ways I’m glad that Benjamin has moved on and is experimenting with new forms, I just feel a little bit let down as I was expecting some pleasantness in a beautiful church. But for surprising me – well done.

Then, over at Stylus we caught Loops Haunt, one man and his laptop, mixer and all kinds of sampling gear. Mainly beat driven with not always a lot else going on, its back to basics IDM. There’s a nice use of minimalist, mysterious synth and backwards samples throughout that gives it all a special, slightly spooky experience, though this may well be down to the fact that the smoke machine at the side of the stage was on, none stop / full blast for the entire gig. The fractured beats, were perhaps a bit too broken up; from the balcony I could see people in the audience getting their groove on, only to be forced to stop quite regular and find a fresh groove pretty quick. So’s the nature of the beast I guess. Still an enjoyable and very apt warm up for my chosen Live @ Leeds Headliner.

65daysofstatic took to the stage hot on the release of their new album ‘We were exploding anyway’. The album has a slightly straighter edged, more techno element than previous albums, as was hinted at on their last single ‘Dance Parties’. Still, live, they were always closer to the Post Rock tradition of keeping quiet and letting the music do the talking. But something’s changed. Yes, they rock out and yes, its still all instrumental, but what’s this? Guitarist balancing his guitar on his chin (for an impressive 30 seconds or so) just for a laugh? And repeated sightings of said guitarist pulling off some dance moves mid song that I am quite certain have been patented by one Mr Thom Yorke, circa 2002? And then it clicks; these boys are having fun. And they want us to too. Down at the front the crowd is starting a mini riot, as crazy as any punk gig I’ve seen. The new songs are heavily driven by the beats and there are up to four drum set ups around the stage to make sure you’ve got something to dance to.

Admittedly the songs kind of blend into one, but in retrospect, I think this may have been the point. There’s no real ‘hits’, a song each off the first two albums, and no ‘Radio Protector’ and where once each song was like a massive slap round the face, this is more about the atmosphere, the mood, the energy rather than simply playing the ‘best’ songs. From more of a DJs perspective. Part of me missed the gentle, subtle, and then less gentle and subtle dips and peaks of the old static, but this was new, different and great fun and I still rate them as one of the best live bands around. I only wish it had been louder. But that might be down to The Twilight Sad rather than Live @ Leeds organisers, who, it has to be said have done another splendid job in terms of getting some great bands in, and organising the whole thing. A lovely and tiring day out.

Dean Freeman

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