Photos (c) Laure Noverraz
There’s an instant roar of instrumentation as they start. No teasing intros here.
The brick is exposed; the speakers leer overhead, threatening to deafen you imminently. Suspended from Edwardian arches. This place is like a Tolkien-style tavern cross-bred with the original Factory records venue. Cosy and sticky, hoppy ales and an affirming musty smell which signifies you are most certainly within the walls of an unaffected band-playing venue.
Occupied quickly by reams of admirers, possessing a springboard enthusiasm, the multiple performers and associated chums in attendance keep the atmosphere warm and celebratory.
As Stone Cold Fiction (my favourite tonight) titillate their instruments to alert our attention in a prolonged fusion which sounds like a RATM bridge-breakdown. They ignite a sense of expectation throughout the jittering crowd and set the template for this evening. There are no flowery sound effects or ‘clever’ genre overlaps; This is punk/rock guitar music plain and simple, in its varying forms, all delivered in the manner in which you fling you head, tire your knees and cathartically dispel memories of jilted exes, loathed jobs and overdue coursework.
If the Von Bondies had grown up in south west England, spent more time in the garage and the pub instead of with fashion designers, they may well have sounded like this. Add to that a touch of aggressive dismissiveness which brings with it a Stranglers-like hunched top lip.
The bass is like a reverb-ridden heart beat; iced with a rhythm guitar and fed through a distortion that feels like a thousand paper cuts. They funnel out a groove which has everyone infectiously swaying. The vocals are powerful, direct and soulful. But I would suggest emitting a little more snarl unless you want to stray into Incubus territory, assuming of course that this is not the desired destination.
Next up are Damaged Goods. The name would suggest the courting of a plethora of 80’s punk greats, which the Ramones cover clearly affirms. Instantly upbeat, provoking a frenzy from their female followers who propel around like springs. Too nonchalant for Hot Hot Heat; too fast and tumultuous for REM. But either way the metronome has an excess of caffeine flowing through it, suggesting a likewise affliction.
Rhyming “something new, it’s good for me, it’s good for you” would suggest against the deep-seated issues and political infuriation’s which plagued Gang of Four. They do however inflict that same guitar stab wound which made the sound so distinctive; coupled with the effortless backing vocals which offset it. But the throw-away attitude they run with is certainly more in sync with the ‘Blitzkrieg’ culprits.
Following on we have Glue Foot who waste no time in bellowing out a series of bright and summery chords. Beaming with big grins and pearly-white teeth. The see-saw motions and ditty-lengthed songs would be at home with numerous American early 90’s pop-punk bands like Blink 182. I’d imagine when they first heard ‘Dookie’ they believed they’d had an epiphany. Across the floor people engage in an inevitable unified head-nodding pendulum movement.
The quieter moments are saturated with clean walking lead lines. Along with slightly melancholic backing vocals which ensure the set escapes from being two-dimensional. The melodies at these points are effective if slightly too drawn out. Although the depth within the songs is evident, it becomes apparent that greater precision is required in the composition. In addition to this; reining in the clearly talented drummer will help deliver the intensity and impression they are all clearly capable of — compacting their energy and releasing it more finitely.
Penultimately, Sonic Sunrise stroll on, clothed in Mod-appreciating outfits. The frontman, instantly amicable and engaging in an audience rapport. They open with a sound you could associate with a power walk. Not a full on sprint, but a cheeky, slightly laid back Franz Ferdinand, dispensing with riffs and opting for up-beat, quick-fire chord sequences. These chaps come across as your slightly mature punks. The departing rendition of the Power Rangers theme tune, however, would suggest not detrimentally so.
The full-blast choruses give way to Jonny Marr-inspired trickles, proving their musicianship and creating contrast within the songs. The drummer is very, if not slightly overly fond of his cymbals, which drown the spectrum a little at times. Meanwhile, the gregarious singer pops out miniature yelps and screams which add a quirky touch to the proceedings. They come across as very accomplished, although undecided of their own sound. The ranging influences and styles, although very enjoyable and well received, fail to solidify into an identifiable mass by the end.
And so finally The Void emerge. Evidently delighted to be taking to the stage and playfully testing the vocal levels with a Wayne’s World wink. There’s an instant roar of instrumentation as they start. No teasing intros here. The singer demonstrates wiry limb-flailing eccentricities, widening eyelids and darting pupils as he grins and performs his Russell Brand-esque manoeuvres. The band are clearly seasoned and sharp; as the tight execution and subtle interactions demonstrate.
They create a powerful wall of sound as the tracks take big-booted steps in a wanton ‘cock rock’ fashion, with the earlier songs mapped out by falsetto peaks and bass-driven interludes that Led Zeppelin would approve of. The guitars are outlandishly ‘Fight for your Right’ big, while unexpectedly, a flute finds its way into the proceedings, adding a surprisingly appropriate overlay. The overall performance earns points by making the PA fuzz from the lambasting it’s receiving.
As they continue, the facets multiply with diversity as the dynamics give way to more stripped-down sounds, dropping a gear or two into plucky pre-Brian Eno U2. They’re not afraid to step into the clouds with a vocal effect pedal, twisting some curls into the songs. The obvious Muse influence is confirmed by their cover of ‘Newborn’, which excites the crowd to no end. It wouldn’t be unfair to say that it is a poor choice as Natt Davis has trouble reaching the highs and stomps his effect pedal on to cover the fact.
The contribution from the grunge-loving rhythm section is the metallic-sounding back drop which holds the unit together and pulls it back when it starts to stray. The band’s stage behaviour makes them a come across like a very well-behaved sex pistols, appealing to the age-ranging group they have attracted. By the end of their tireless performance the room is populated with satisfied smirks and beaming grins. They certainly have a universal appeal which could well build momentum as the year progresses.