Chubby and the Gang-The Bullingdon-Oxford-25/11/2021 Live Review

Photo by Owen Harvey @ Rolling Stone

Despite being a group made up of various beloved UK Hardcore bands, West London’s Chubby and the Gang share more in common with 80’s punk rock bands like The Ramones and Peter And The Test Tube Babies. Coupled with their authentic sense of a strong working-class ethos and emphasis on anthemic songwriting rather than throwdown music, they have been a breath of fresh air in a scene that can feel one-note at times. I had seen their name around various DIY show posters online and only finally got to appreciate them during the first lockdown. Formed a few months just before COVID hit, Chubby had accomplished their first US tour and released a full-length record Speed Kills produced by Jonah Falco of Fucked Up.

After being teased with normality throughout 2020, it was announced that they’d signed to Partisan Records, escalating their success to wider audiences without any need to compromise. Their second record The Mutts Nuts saw the band progress into a much more diverse sounding band yet retaining their harder-hitting moments. When the poster for their Winter 2021 tour was announced I couldn’t believe how many different venues they were hitting up over such a long period of time. The fact that a punk show was happening in Oxford given how scarce shows, in general, are in this neck of the woods, I grabbed a ticket instantly.

Oxfordshire locals Basic Dicks set off the show with unbridled chaos. Their brand of lo-fi scrappy hardcore mixed with blunt vocal delivery changed the atmosphere of The Bullingdon from a pensive, freezing Thursday night bar into a room of transfixed punks, appreciative of every note strung out. The mantra “Life gave me lemons and I fucking hate lemonade” from Frown, sounded even more visceral and pissed off in a live setting, as well as being highly relatable.

Fuzzbrain Studio’s house band Micromoon followed shortly after. They delivered euphoric shoegaze made by hardcore kids that I could happily shove my head into an amp to because of their thick layers of unforgiving dissonance. I have a soft affinity for bands where the frontperson is also their drummer. Ben Spence’s sinister but reserved vocals contrasting his intense, technically impressive drum fills added another level of hypnotic enjoyment to their set. Think of modern gaze bands like Nothing and Cloakroom, but with a twist of deadpan, bleak disposition that only UK bands know how to do best.

Having watched a fair few videos online over the last few months, admittedly it felt jarring seeing Chubby and the Gang play with a barrier on stage, right after supporting Amyl & The Sniffers at Electric Ballroom in London. Swapping the usual never-ending stage dives and mics shoved down gob’s vibe for a more contemporary rock and or roll one, Charlie Manning and co waste absolutely no time fucking about. Zooming through cuts like ‘Coming Up Tough’ and ‘Lightning Don’t Strike Twice’, you can’t help but grin like a moron at their satisfying riffs and gang vocal chants, feeling like you’re part of something more than just the joyfully pissed off appeal of punk rock.

There’s simply no time for painfully obvious speeches about how shit the world is for anyone who isn’t a rich white straight tory, just hit after hit with an audience basking in their glory without having to lift a finger in response. That isn’t a slight on the audience either, as the focus on Chubby raw delivery rather than trying to look cool snapped in a zine 6 months from now was something I did not expect to see or find a nice change of pace. There was an overwhelming sense of optimism and pride in their performance that surpasses dull labels like ‘pub rock’, especially when you can tell they absolutely practice what they preach. The subtle influence of doo-wop and blues amongst their unrelenting momentum works immaculately, adding a distinctive touch to their balls to the wall repertoire.

And just like that, the show was over. I wasn’t quite sure how well their headline tour would go down in places where eclectic shows are less frequent, but the response tonight from everyone around me made me feel like I’d watched something dear to me. Somehow they managed to find that sweet balance between invigoration and comfort. I’ve never felt cool enough to be part of hardcore despite having gone to said shows for almost 10+ years at this point, I don’t know where they will be this time next year but I do know that at this moment, Chubby and the Gang fucking rule, ok?

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The Wytches – The Wardrobe, Leeds – 2/11/21 Live Review

Tuesday night saw grungy, surf-psych quartet The Wytches headline Leeds venue The Wardrobe. This had been a long time coming, since their newest album, Three Mile Ditch, is almost a year old and only now getting the chance to be properly toured. The excitement to see these not so new songs in action was palpable, as a crowd gathered ready to mosh for the entirety of the set. The band opened with “Who Rides?” which despite being a non-album track proved to be a live fan favourite. Bodies hurled around the front, twisting, and contorting in motion with the heavy, grungy guitars that reverberated from the stage. The Wytches leaned towards tracks from Three Mile Ditch, but also made sure to include fan favourites such as “Gravedweller” and “Digsaw” which were played with such intensity and heaviness that I haven’t been able to get these performances out of my head since. There was genuine excitement for the return to normality in live music evident in their playing, as if the uncertainty of the pandemic has propelled them to make every show just as intense and memorable as possible for the audience and themselves.


As I tried to squint and see the rest of the setlist taped by each member’s feet, I could vaguely work out that the set was coming to an end. A wave of panic flew over me; I wanted to watch the band thrash their instruments around for a lot longer. Nearing the end of their set, a few guitar chords began which I instantly recognised as “She’s So Far Out”, a track that is only available to listen to on The Wytches’ YouTube channel. This track is one of their heavier, darker moments, and the tiny venue, with a crowd bursting with enthusiasm packed tightly inside, was the perfect setting to hear such a song. The band ended the night with an encore, performing “Beehive Queen” from Annabel Dream Reader. I was incredibly happy to be hearing this track, as there was definitely a lack of songs played from their debut. Understandably, the band preferred to play their newer songs, but judging by their fans, who barely stopped to catch a breath, a longer set that mixed in more older tracks such as “Crying Clown”, “Robe for Juda”, and “Burn out the Bruise”, would not go amiss.

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Sinead O’Brien – Hyde Park Book Club, Leeds – 24/10/31 Live Review

Photo by Aimee Ferrier

Taking to the stage in Hyde Park Book Club’s grungy basement, Irish fashion designer turned performer Sinead O’Brien transformed a dull Sunday night into an incredible display of punk poetic excellence. It is clear O’Brien takes influence from punk icons such as Patti Smith and Mark E. Smith, so it was only apt for her to walk on stage to the driving guitar riffs of The Fall’s Blindness. Clad head to toe in leather, O’Brien looked every part the performer, owning the stage with a confident ease, effortlessly performing her poetry over the crashing of drums and heavy guitar. Despite the set being relatively short, each track was performed with enthusiasm and intensity from Sinead and her two band members –Julian Hansen on guitar and Oscar Robertson on drums. The tracks sound excellent on record, but their live versions were even more impactful, as Sinead delivered lengthy lines of poetry without a second thought, and her band thrashed their instruments, creating a totally immersive atmosphere.

Sinead and her band debuted a few new tracks, including the stand-out song of the whole performance, entitled Like Culture, which O’Brien told us often gets called Dance! by fans. This instructive line is sung before a heavy drum beat thumps seismically through the crowd with funky guitars to back. This track gave a very promising look into the sonic direction O’Brien’s music will take. The set ended with her Speedy Wunderground single Taking On Time, which was the perfect closer to a set that mixed popular singles with spellbinding new tracks.

After the performance, O’Brien moved straight to the merch stand to sell her own t-shirts, tote bags, and pins whilst chatting with excited crowd members. She had an incredibly warm and inviting energy, leading my friends and I to chat for her for a while, as she explained to us the importance of making her merch ethically. She stated that she loves performing in intimate venues where the audience can come very close to the stage and asked us what it’s like to watch someone in such a close proximity, (mid-way through the gig she had asked everyone to come closer). Of course, standing so close is intense and intimate, but also the best way to experience the poetic genius of Sinead O’Brien live.

Fontaines D.C. – O2 Academy Leeds – 23/10/21 Live Review

Photo by Aimee Ferrier

Tightly packed into Leeds’ O2 Academy was a sold out crowd excited to see the biggest Irish band to have emerged over recent years, Fontaines D.C. After releasing their second album A Hero’s Death last year, this tour has given them a chance to perform it with the normality of touring pre-pandemic.

Confidently striding on stage, the band tossed roses into the eager crowd, before energetic drumbeats sounded in, and the band performed their second album’s titular track. I had not seen the band since January 2020, before we had any idea that gigs would be off the cards for a long while. Straight away, I could sense that a maturity and confidence had grown in the band since then, with lead singer Grian Chatten interacting with the crowd by waving at audience members on the balcony, and even tossing a piece of his tambourine into the front of the crowd.

The five piece alternated between playing tracks from A Hero’s Death and debut album Dogrel, however they orientated the set towards the latter, playing all but two of its eleven tracks. This might be due to the mellow slant of their sophomore album, leaving many of the tracks unsuitable for a high octane gig when played alongside the energetic tracks of Dogrel.

My personal highlight was “Too Real”, the anticipatory build up exploding into whirring guitars and an enthusiastic crowd to match. This segued straight into “Big”, another fan favourite – short but incredibly sweet. The anthemic choruses of most of their tracks allowed the audience to fully involve themselves in the splendour that Fontaines D.C. created.

The band were perfectly able to blend the more brooding, dulcet tones of certain tracks with their raucous, more explosive songs. “The Lotts” bridged the gap between the darker sounding “I Don’t Belong” and the rowdier “Living In America”. They proved themselves masters of curating the perfect setlist – the time seemed to fly by as the band never provided a dull moment.

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Photo by Aimee Ferrier

As “Boys In The Better Land” played with intensity and excitement evident in the band and crowd alike, I knew the gig was drawing to a close -however the absence of some of their biggest singles indicated an encore was still to come. The boys walked off stage, only to come back a few moments later for “Roy’s Tune”, the perfect moment to catch a breath before jumping into “Liberty Belle”, which had every member of the crowd holding out their arms and chanting the words along with Chatten.

Fontaines D.C. were able to sell out a venue with a 2,300 capacity and showed no struggle in projecting their musicality to every member of the crowd. With the strength of their musical outputs and speed in which they are able to do so, in no time at all I suspect they’ll be headlining bigger venues very soon.

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Wide Awake Festival, Brockwell Park -3/9/21 -Live Review

Photo by Max Styles

I’ve been to a fair few open air festivals in London before, some great and others not so much. Brockwell Park is a gorgeous location for a comeback day gig, situated just outside of Brixton station and brimming with lush vegetation. The lineup for Wide Awake was announced pre COVID back in 2019 when all we had to worry about was the tories getting back into power. Despite the bill being fairly different to the one initially announced, having The Windmill represent the main stage was a welcomed addition as well as being fairly surreal given how tiny that venue is. At this point however, I think it’s hard to be fussy when we’ll take anything over spending another 18 months watching Netflix, wanking and drinking ourselves to oblivion in our rooms.

Arguably the biggest guitar band in the country as of 2021, IDLES opened the main stage to a hungry audience, as push pits and bodies galore bopped to the likes of “Heel/Heal”, “Never Fight A Man With A Perm” and “Model Village’. The latter of which vocalist Joe Talbot had to explain what the song was about as apparently certain nerds online couldn’t seem to understand. As a band who’ve faced backlash for not being working class enough or apparently ‘appropriate’ punk culture, none of those factors mattered here as a wholesome lunchtime mosh was had by all. The brief Oasis cover was a tad cringey but that’s just my bias for hating anything to do with that band. Thankfully they redeemed themselves by closing on “Rottweiler”.

The plan was to see Porridge Radio afterwards, but finding the stage proved to be too cumbersome, it was bloody boiling, and we’d already missed half their set wandering around, so we opted to stay where we were. 

As my editor (James) pointed out, having IDLES on early as they drove down the M4 to headline in their hometown meant that it allowed other adjacent bands in their scene to have a bigger audience than usual. That being said, Brighton’s Squid’s were polarising to say the least. I’m usually a big fan of bands that have their drummer be the foreperson of a band, with Ollie Judge’s cynical observations and shrieks filling out the field coupled by Squid’s craft of song build ups. However, with only “Peel Street” and “Narrator” showcased from their latest album, along with even more new material sandwiched in between their older hits, a fair few audience members walked away midway through their set, and those who stayed were not quite sure what to make of things. 

Heading over to the So Young tent, a sizeable audience clambers in for Preston via London’s White Flowers. A dreamy three piece with tunes reminiscent of early Beach House, with gorgeous textures and floaty vocals. A sea of dads and Goldsmiths University types reacted well to the hazy instrumentation, albeit with some odd headbanging. James said his ears hurt because the bass drum was inexplicably the loudest thing on stage during their set. In his defence, he was being very brave about it. 

Back over to the Windmill main stage again, PVA’s glistening electronic musings make a nice break from the death by post punk mission that seems to be on Wide Awake’s agenda for today. Exploding one moment into a cacophony of noise to a gentle lul in the next, the dance group’s use of layers create a vibe that brings out the natural hit serotonin in the middle of the day we’d all been craving. 

Photo by Max Styles

Given the Sonic Youth comparisons made about Dry Cleaning, I was stoked to finally check them out, however we opted to go see Goat Girl on the mainstage instead as meeting up later may have been a bit difficult. There’s only so many times you can say ‘I’m by this tent’ and lose your mates entirely so it wouldn’t have been worth it. The South London ensemble, along with an extra violinist were unexpectedly drowned out by the quiet mix on stage, and crowds of people talking loudly to their mates over some of the slower jams ruined the atmosphere for me. It goes to show that some artists aren’t as effective on outdoor stages as they are in packed tents, and unfortunately this was absolutely the case here.

A nice surprise came from art punk weirdos Snapped Ankles, strutting their stuff at the Moth Club tent and bringing the weird vibes to us in the afternoon. You can’t quite put your finger on why they’re so enjoyable to watch, but their woodland aesthetic, blistering keyboards and genre blending madness makes them hard to not absolutely lose your shit to. If those watching Goat Girl looked too cool to be there or give a shit about any of the bands, the audience for Snapped Ankles is the complete opposite of that, with fans shamelessly throwing their mates across the tent, dragging strangers into the fold too.

With the sun gradually going down, Black Country, New Road treat us once again with the crowd warming playfulness of “Instrumental”, as a sea of gun fingers and men in bucket hats on shoulders dance their backs off. For every delicate introspective moment from newer cuts like “Goodwill Hunting” and “The Place Where He Inserted The Knife”, a sea of bodies bounce in unison for “Opus.” It’s surreal to witness a band who once could barely fit on the same stage together have such a visceral reaction from the crowd. 

Earlier that week, Black Midi announced that a string of shows had to be cancelled due to frontman Geordie Greep’s doctor advising him not to play following a throat infection. It was a nice surprise to see that not only did BM commit to their Brockwell Park set, but Greep was still as unhinged and bombastic as ever. He even managed to fit in a play scuffle on stage whilst bassist Cameron Pitcon seduced us with “Still” a country flavoured ditty on banjo. With some assistance from BCNR, the post punk giants combined forces together to deliver a truly memorable performance, never being able to sit still for too long before overloading our senses. Artists that are this unconventional and eccentric never usually achieve this level of success past a niche audience, but with both groups being nominated for Mercury prizes and playing bigger venues with each year, it seems like nothing can stop these incredibly talented people with so much potential.

If anyone deserves the first prize medal for today however, it was always going to be Shame. Frontman Charlie Steen points out that all the members had been going to Brockwell Park since they were kids, I can only imagine how euphoric it must have felt for them to headline a festival in their childhood playing fields, 10 years later despite the world still undergoing a pandemic. Tracks like “6/1” and “Nigel Hitter” are played ever so slightly faster than their recorded counterparts, but that tempo change makes all the difference. Drummer Charlie Forbes channels Steven Morris with his extremely tight drum fills, never missing a beat and adding an extra layer of ferocity into the fold. Steen has the crowd at his mercy, as circle pits and crowd surfers galore amalgamate into a whirlwind of chaotic energy. Blending newer tracks from Drunk Tank Pink with older cuts from Songs Of Praise, the moodiness of their stage presence was balanced with pure aggression. Ending on the cinematic turned cacophonic “Station Wagon”, the existential nature of the final lyrics “Won’t someone please bring me that cloud, move that cloud, join us on planet Cluj” encapsulate a true sense of unity that Wide Awake managed to accomplish today. 

Photos by Tia Bryant / Max Styles / James Pearson

Witch Fever – Live At 100 Club London Review

Photo by Niamh Degregorio

Manchester’s newest doom punk future stars descend on Oxford Street’s iconic 100 club to deliver a blistering set that proves they need to be headlining venues of this size as soon as possible.

Although Witch Fever may not be the main attraction on the evenings billing, with the headline spot coming from punk/ grime/ metal heavyweight duo Bob Vylan, they will have surely made enough fans during their performance to bring them back for plenty more.

It’s a surreal atmosphere that surrounds the gig, with every fan eager to get back to the newly reinstated true gig experience. You can sense the relief and desperation to get back into the pit. The mixture of crusty punks and middle aged men is back in full swing with each complimenting each other’s band t-shirts and many commenting on this being their first proper gig back. The company is great and life feels like it may be heading in the right direction.

Opening the night is tik-tok emo-pop star Zand who ushers in the flocks of early attendees with a mixture of tracks from their Ugly Pop EP and latest single “Slut Money” . Accompanied by a squid-masked DJ, Zand perfectly set the tone for the evenings events; weird and wonderful.

From the moment they step onto the stage, Witch Fever bring about an untamed amount of explosive energy to their performance. As guitarist Alisha Yarwood summons the rest of the band into action with her Sabbath-heavy riffs, the spell of Witch Fever begins to shroud over all who are within its grasp.

Lead singer Amy Walpole marches across the stage and you soon realise that you are witnessing one of the most exciting upcoming live bands in modern punk. They’re not just taking this as a chance to impress, but as a chance to ignite the fires that will surely bring them to stages much greater hopefully very soon.

They blast through a set of old tracks and new, most from upcoming debut EP Reincarnate with particular highlights being the furious “In The Resurrect” with a legion of head-bangers following in its furious rhythm and sharp cutting riffs. And title track “Reincarnate” that although didn’t cause any jaws to be spin-kicked on this occasion, brought about enough energy for everyone to forgot about the horrors of the past 18 months and feel free again.

You can’t help but be in Awe at the level of intensity and the close-knit nature of the band. They dance the dance and crash about the stage, but always landing back down on the same succinct beat. A flurry of furious outbursts and solos comes from drummer Annabelle Joyce, acting as though she’s beat-barer for your final descent into the red land below. And just before the curtain falls on their showcase of sound, Walpole descends into the rafts of attendees, screaming lyrics in the faces of those who dare stand in her way. Finally making her way to the bar where she appears to order herself a beverage before climbing onto it and using it as a makeshift stage. This is what it’s all about.

Black Country, New Road – Islington Assembly Hall 29/6/21 Live Review

Photo by Ashwin Bhandari

Since the world shutdown I always wondered what my first concert would be once they were safe enough to return. Well it’s been 18 months since the pandemic started and even with the vaccines rolling in, life has not gone back to normal by any means. I didn’t even attempt to purchase tickets for this ambitious tour back in February due to the likelihood of every show being cancelled or pushed back to 2022. 

Despite this, I had high hopes that this would be a night to remember. After stumbling from a friend’s house having just watched England beat Germany in the Euro Cup, I met my mate outside the venue. Aside from a few virtual concerts we also had not seen each other since the start of the pandemic, the oozing relief of familiarity felt alien to me at first but I quickly embraced it. 

We took our allocated seats on the bottom floor. Without a support act to sit down and settle into the venue with, after a while I went out to the smoking area. Having not interacted with strangers in so long and with my compulsive tendencies to attempt to strike up conversation, I asked if anyone was part of the ‘Sunglasses posting group.’ (A BCNR shitposting/fanpage). They stared at me with complete bewilderment. It had been a while since I had humiliated myself in public, so naturally I stubbed my cigarette out and went back inside after this conversation went nowhere.

As the lights gradually faded, we sat in silence as drummer Charlie Wayne emerged, thanking us for coming along tonight as well as explaining that all the new material being performed tonight were still ‘works in progress’ of sorts, encouraging us not to film or post them online. The sentiment is understandable, however with the majority of the set consisting of new songs, the temptation not to post at least a few snippets for an instagram story is hard to resist. Each date on this tour has had a different track blasting over the PA before the group’s formal arrival, and tonight we are treated to Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse Of The Heart”. Opening with “Instrumental”, the quirky track set the scene nicely, with Wayne leading the rhythm with his frantic drum patterns and May Kershaw on keyboard, leading the audience into an almost hypnotic trance before the rest of the seven piece outfit joined the huge stage.

Despite its aesthetically pleasing architecture, at this point it feels like the stage is almost too big for Black Country, New Road to handle all at once. With technical issues cropping up at the start as frontman Issac Wood attempting to find a working microphone and a few of the newer songs whilst grand in scale lacked the polish of older material. Whilst they might consider these tracks to be works in progress, the new material was still absolutely worth hearing, especially as each component of the band makes it feel like not a single moment is being wasted on stage. 

With cuts from For The First Time sprinkled in to bring us back to something more familiar, Issac feels far more enigmatic in his vocal performances live, enhancing the dramatic quips such as “The cursed vultures give me sour dough, my daily bread.” The lighting of the venue itself felt like it was almost melting into the background curtains, enhancing the chaotic nature of their music. Bassist Tyler Hide’s’ soothing vocals in the chorus of “Track X” and the sudden shifting to erratic, borderline discordant violin strokes from Georgia Ellery heighten the different ranges of emotion on display here, coupled by immaculate musicianship all round.

The set noticeably lacks “Sunglasses” or any ABBA covers played on previous dates of the tour, but mysterious new cuts like “Basketball Shoes” and “Snowglobes” give us a bright look into the band’s future. Whether Issac is almost slamming his guitar onto the stage floor or Georgia’s frantic headbanging in the more intense portions of new songs, you can’t deny how mesmerizing the whole show feels; unable to look away or think about the outside world for a glorious one hour and thirty minutes. There is no encore this evening but there doesn’t need to be. Black Country, New Road have gallantly hoisted their flag into the ground and it feels like nothing can stop them.

Black Country, New Road – Live At Queen Elizabeth Hall 6/3/21 Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.
Photo by Mark Allen

For a band revered for their live prowess, gathering acclaim for their explosive and vibrant shows, it’s always a shame that they aren’t currently able to demonstrate this to an in house audience. One of their regular hold-stead’s is The Windmill in Brixton where the band have on many occasions crossed paths with fellow contemporary post-punk/experimental rock outfit Black Midi, forming the supergroup Black Midi, New Road. But on this occasion the band are at a venue as grand as the heights their music reaches.

The band opened with a new, as of so far, live track “Mark’s Theme”, a gentle croon in led by saxophonist Lewis Evans; settling everyone in before the explosion of the rest of the show. They took their time to fully prepare themselves and set into motion playing debut album For The First Time in full. From the moment that drummer Charlie Wayne bashed out the opening beats of “Opus” with even more intensity than the album, you knew this was going to be something special.

The energy that they brought to the stage was simultaneously chaotic and controlled. As lead singer Isaac Wood sought to reek as much havoc as he could with flailing guitar lines and on the opening part of “Science Fair” the rest of the band stayed comfortably in place, waiting for him to land back down. As the distorted guitars got louder and the saxophone lines from Evans got more frantic you could feel every ounce of the bands energy being put into these songs. On the album Wood’s erratic vocals are one of the major driving points of the turbulent nature of the stories that he tells, whether its the wave of empowerment that he gains from simply wearing sunglasses, or wishing he’d never written letters to a past lover, the ferocity is encapsulating. And here he somehow turns this up to 11. Perhaps helped by the fact you can see the despair on his face, but you can feel every woe-some musing cascade from him as if he were your inner psyche.

One thing that you realise when watching the band is how much these songs sound like the studio recordings. Of course that will have been backed up by the sound system going through the same speakers that people at home listen to the album on. But this only demonstrates how in sync and controlled the band really are when playing these songs. Many of which have been around for a few years now, but they still feel as fresh and alive as ever. For many people watching this might be the first performance of the band they’ve seen; it certainly won’t be the last.

An aspect of the band that has been alluring is the level of, or lack of, publicity they give to themselves as individuals, preferring to be recognised as a collective in its whole form rather than a group of individuals. And their stage set up matches that perfectly. Wood is tucked away in the left corner, seemingly to sing at the rest of the band as Evans takes centre stage with saxophone in hand. Each other member equally spaced to give them enough room to shine whilst locking into the bigger picture. Their stage design also kept in theme with this anonymity as well as the album design. A background slideshow of various stock images of people, landscapes and animals all drew the focus onto the music, rather than the imagery.

At one point the select few in the audience stood up, which could be assumed would be for applause. But the actual reason was something much great. The camera’s panned round and every member was holding a microphone, to which they all joined together and sang together as a huge chorus. Adding backing vocals on the tender “Track X”, the dooming cathartic climax of “Opus” and most impressively they gave live staple “Basketball Shoes” a new feeling of explosive grandeur. This joint band/ audience sound only makes you wish to see the band live even more, just to feel the intensity they can create by bringing people together.

This was an incredible showcase of the bands’ dexterity that allowed the concise nature of the their music to expand within the space. Black Country, New Road may be at the very inception of their career, but there’s already so much to be admired. We sure can’t wait to get to admire that spectacle in person.

Setlist:

Mark’s Theme

Instrumental

Athens, France

Science Fair

Sunglasses

Track X

Opus

Bread Song

Basketball Shoes

Live Review: IDLES – Abbey Road Lock-In Sessions

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

What happens when a band revered for their high energy, chaos induced and passionately charged live shows descends on a studio that is one of the pinnacles of the music world? Pure cathartic magic.

It’s not like they’re not used to playing these iconic venues though. Last year headlining Alexandra Palace and selling out it’s 10,000 person capacity within an hour. And have recently announced a run of new UK shows for next year that sees them serve a four night residency at Brixton Academy. The difference here though is though the usual mosh pits and unify anthemic chorus’ were missing. But we know that thanks to the community IDLES have created around their music, everyone watching forgot where they were, at least for a time.

It has certainly been a strange year for live music. With the usual barage of summer festivals taken away for obvious reasons, and venues closed for the foreseeable future. Band have had to find new ways to connect with their fans. IDLES have always been a community band. The AF Gang Facebook group is a homage to the love and admiration that not only the fans have for the band but the band has for the fans.

Over the course of these 3 ‘lock-in’ sessions IDLES delivered one of the most raw and resounding live performances of the livestream age. With the setlists spanning their entire discography, including the four new singles from their forthcoming album Ultra Mono, due on September 25th. “It feels like we’re under the microscope” proclaims lead singer Joe Talbot and like most experiments under a laboratory, it’s fascinating to watch and will even throw up some surprises.

Blasting straight into action with ‘Heel/ Heal’, the sound is frantic, raw and yet consistently focused. It’s been quite some time since the band fully performed together, but they look and feel at home. Feeding off each others desire to get back into what they love, delivering thunderous live performances. And in true rock and roll fashion, Set 1 ended with a guitar smash from Bowen during ‘Rottweieller’. The lyrics do insist to “Smash it, ruin it, destroy the world”

It’s not just the fast popping punk riffs that show off their live prowess though, but some of the darker, moodier moments. The transition from ‘Gram Rock’ to ‘Date Night’ is ominous and boding, as the almost western film soundtrack like riff slowly chugs along. After viewing all these songs thrown together it’s easy to see how much the bands sound has grown over the years. Moving from the bouncing riffs of ‘Rachel Khoo ‘ to the marching beats and highly synthesised guitar riff of new single ‘Grounds’. But

Talbot has always been a passioned singer, he delivers the lines with conviction and intent. You can see what these songs and the messages he puts in them mean to him. Through his gritted teeth the anthems of a revolutionist and forward thinking generation are sung. “The best way to scare a tory is to read and get rich” he instructs on ‘Mother’.

There may not be an audience to react to but they still own the stage, keeping everyones digital eyes fully on them. Guitarist Mark Bowen still prancing about during riff breaks, he’s even suited himself up this time; usual attire is limited to just underwear. Talbot hops on the floor tom to help drummer Jon Beavis during ‘Rottweiler’. And Lee Kiernan, who’s usual approach is to take his guitar playing into the audience, still finds a wall to climb as he’s serenaded by Bowen with a medley of one line covers.

They even had time to throw in some devastatingly brutal but brilliant covers, with the highlight being The Beatles’ ‘Helter Skelter’, which I’m sure everyone is aware, but was in fact recorded at Abbey Road studios. A song that’s received its fair share of covers of the years, but none have ever sounded this empowered, haunting and beefed out.

Yes there were a couple of restarts and missed cues, but this just added to the emphasis that this was a show for the fans; it had to sound right. They even brought out the enlarged lyrics sheets at points. “Reminding me what a terrible singer I am” jokes Talbot before they kicked into action on the high paced ‘Mr. Motivator’.

There were also a plethora of dedications on the third set, one to a fan who sadly passed away of cancer and one to “The NHS and all our key workers who’ve kept us afloat, long live open minded, down with tory scum”.

“I miss this so fucking much” proclaimed Talbot during the third set. So do we Joe, so do we.

Live Review: Angel Olsen – Eventim Apollo, London – 11/2/20


ANGEL OLSEN By James Pearson

Angel Olsen is the soundtrack to your Tuesday night cry

For the biggest headline show of her career, Angel Olsen has that cool about her that makes you think this is just another Tuesday night that you just happen to be hanging out with Angel Olsen on. It’s been a long road to this point, being 8 years since her debut album ‘Half Way Home’ was released, but now feels like the right time for Angel Olsen to truly shine. Headlining a legendary venue, might just have made Angel Olsen a legend.

With new album ‘All Mirrors’ released last year to much critical acclaim, taking many of the highest positions on many ‘Album Of The Year’ lists, Angel set her sights on new grounds as she left behind the crunchy indie guitars of 2014’s ‘Burn Your Fire For No Witness’ and 2016’ ‘My Woman’ and set to explore the world of orchestras and synthesisers. 

Like the grandiose setting of the pictures inside the sleeve of ‘All Mirrors’, the Eventim Apollo has a certain aura about it that as soon as you walk near it, you know that whoever’s playing there has to be someone special. In the past its played host to such names as Queen, Bruce Springsteen and David Bowie, but tonight the stage is Angel’s to own. 

Stage design choice for tonight is a simple but effective backdrop of the previously mentioned old theatre, set all in black and white, to take you on a nostalgia trip back to the 20’s and 30’s. For a while it was hard to tell if the stair case on the picture was real or not, which had me wondering, would Angel enter the stage via that entrance? 

The support for tonight comes from Indie folk-rock singer ‘Hand Habits’ and her band after the release of last years album ‘Placeholder’. An understated first few songs as she gages the audience, but they soon kick up the prowess as the audiences attention is quickly grabbed. For those that it doesn’t who choose to keep talking, a simple middle-finger is given to them and they are left to carry on their evening. 

After 40 minutes of rich storytelling and sweet melody’s, Hand Habits leave the stage to a much larger applause than when they entered, they are sure to become more than just a placeholder for these fans.

One of the most exciting parts of a show is easily trying to figure out which song an artists will walk on stage to. The mood setter for the whole evening, do it right and the audience will be captivated, desperate to see where the show takes them. Get it wrong and the audience may feel a little deflated and the artist will quickly have to win back their attention.

There were many songs off of ‘All Mirrors’ that could have made the cut, but the pounding bass line of ‘New Love Cassette’ definitely got it right. The band walks out, carefully attending to their instruments in orchestral fashion, there is a violinist and a cellist here tonight so its not far off. 

Then comes the reason everyone has convened here on a cold Tuesday evening. 

Angel Olsen’s stage attire is cooler than yours. A swaying glittery black dress, with frays hanging off from every edge and her hair in that classic 60’s ‘Beehive’ style she quickly becomes the centre point of the whole stage and boy does she own it. 

Straight after, the woozy synths of title track ‘All Mirrors’ kick in and then the excitement really builds and the audience are encapsulated with Angel’s powerful vocals “Standing, facing, all mirrors are erasing” she bellows. 

The next 30 minutes are dominated by tracks from All Mirrors, Spring, Impasse, Lark, Summer, Tonight, seamlessly gliding through each synth and string layered track transforming the sound from the album into a sonically rich and epic sounding landscape that fills every corner of the venue. The highest point being ‘Lark’ as the band reach an epic high on the chorus with Olsen passionately crying out to the audience ‘What about my dreams? What about the heart?’. Ending with a quip that they enjoyed playing that one so much that maybe they should play it again later on. I’m sure there wouldn’t have been anyone in the audience that wouldn’t have enjoyed that if they had. 

‘You’ve probably never heard of this one’ she says as she introduces the next few songs, which are deeper cuts if you are a newer fan. ‘Acrobat’ from her 2012 album ‘Half Way Home’ and ‘Sweet Dreams’, a single back in 2013, kick up the mood from sombre to elated as Olsen dons her guitar and embraces her heavier indie rock roots. The head bangs and jumping bodies start to emerge in various corners of the audience. 

“Whats your profession? What do you do for a living?” Asks Angel in response to a fan’s shout of “Marry Me Angel!”. Her on stage presence and humour is unmatched and she knows that she has control over the room. Live At The Apollo is of course broadcast from this very building, perhaps next season will see not just comedians but a musician make an appearance. 

She teases that they’ll be playing some new music, although most of the music tonight could be considered new. “I wrote this one in the hotel before the show tonight, only one other person has heard it!” She then asks her band to quickly improvise the backing part naming the chords given. 

The anticipation builds as fans are quickly intrigued into what might be coming. The pay off is not what people were expecting, however something much better. “I ain’t hanging up this time. I ain’t giving up tonight” chimes Olsen as she plays the opening to fan favourite ‘Shut Up, Kiss Me’ which is met to a huge cheer and followed by many flailing limbs as this indie rock classic lights up the room.

The last leg of the set Is a mix of old favourites and new cuts and the end of the set brings us to the subdued but powerful ‘Unfucktheworld’ as Olsen serenade’s us to the end of our nights. “It’s way past your bedtime” she remarks just before she walks off to thunderous applause and admiration from a near 4000 strong crowd. 

The shows not quite over as the chants of “One more song” bring the band back out for, as requested, one more song. The sombre and powerful ‘Chance’ closes out the evening on a sadder note, but the audience are truly captivated by the show they’ve seen it seems like the perfect note to go out on. The spotlight shines over Angel Olsen one last time and the metaphorical curtain closes on what has been a career defining performance.