It's only a few days after the Whitby Gothic Weekend, our hangovers have barely subsided, but we're on the festival trail again for Beyond The Veil in Leeds. This is a new addition to the increasingly crowded UK goth-fest calendar: a US-style 'convention' type event held in the slightly frayed 19th century luxury of the Metropole Hotel. The event is brought to us by the Leeds-based goth culture providers Gog Promotions, who run the regular Black Veil club night and promote irregular gigs in the city. They've established a reputation as promoters with an international outlook: their gig-history features such bands as the Cruxshadows (from the USA), Burning Gates (Italy), The House Of Usher (Germany), and Malaise (Sweden), among others.
As you might expect from promoters who have made international acts their speciality, Beyond The Veil features a very bold multi-national line-up. Only one band from the UK - Dance On Glass - is on the bill, and, as it happens, they don't actually appear. They pull out 24 hours before showtime, which is somewhat ironic, given that the other bands, who had to travel from such far-flung locations as Japan, Germany, the USA and Slovakia, all made it without any trouble.
It's obviously a bit of a risk to put on an event which does not feature an established UK-scene act with a guaranteed crowd-pull. Someone like Inkubus Sukkubus, or maybe the Dream Disciples, would be an obvious - and safe - choice as a headliner. But then again, perhaps a bit too obvious, and a bit too safe. I think the UK needs events like this once in a while: shows which don't have that 'round up the usual suspects' feel to them. Reviewing the UK gig-circuit for StarVox sometimes makes me feel like I'm trapped in some sort of goth version of Groundhog Day - the same bands just keep coming round again and again. Our scene can seem woefully insular at times. Too much of the same old, same old. And then along comes Beyond The Veil and stirs up our gene pool. Sure, it's a risk for the promoters - and also, of course, for the bands themselves. But this is something that needs to happen!
Our Beyond The Veil ticket includes admission to the Black Veil club on the Saturday night immediately before the main event. This takes place at the Adelphi, which, my hastily hand-drawn street plan tells me, is a short walk across the city centre. Leeds, it seems, is rapidly turning into Nightclub City: our route takes us past an astonishing number of glitzy neon lit nitespots and designer bars, all pumping house 'n' garage chunes out into the night, while clubbers, risking hypothermia in in flimsy shirts and dresses (it is axiomatic in northern English towns that you *never* wear a coat to go out) stagger with grim determination from one watering hole to the next. It's a great relief to find that Black Veil is a complete antidote to all this - the Adelphi is an unrepentantly unmodernised Victorian pub in a scruffy side-street well away from the neon madness of the city centre. Upstairs, where the club takes place, it looks like we've walked into Great Aunt Gertrude's drawing room: it's all dado rails and scuffed ornate decor of a style that was last fashionable around 1895. In short, it's Classic British Pub, and it's full of goths.
It occurs to me that this kind of environment - a room in a pub that's seen better days, smoke, noise, hairstyles of the devil - has played a big part in my life for over 20 years...and will probably do so for the next 20. If it ain't broke, don't fix it! As a bonus, the DJ sets steer refreshingly clear of the usual 'Gothic Top 40' fare - at one point I'm astonished to hear 'Complications' by Killing Joke, a track you'd *never* hear in London, where most DJs seem to believe Killing Joke only ever recorded 'Love Like Blood' and 'Eighties'. Some of the bands - Antiworld, Butterfly Messiah, Psydoll - have come down for a pre-show party. God knows what they think of the UK goth scene, as set out before them in this scruffy pub, but they look like they're having fun. When chucking-put time finally rolls around, a phalanx of goths sets off for the Metropole, through the ritzy-ditzy designer-nitespot madness that is Leeds on a Saturday night - but we think *our* version of nightclubbing is *better*! On the way, Antiworld find a discarded plastic coke bottle, and take it into their heads to demonstrate the finer moves of American football along the street, a sight that bemused passers-by will probably remember for a very long time...
Sunday. We're woken by the soundcheck. By a shocking oversight, the 19th Century architects who designed the Metropole Hotel neglected to take account of rock 'n' roll. Every drum beat, every bass boom, vibrates up the framework of the building and rattles the windows, the bathroom fittings, and our teeth. Must be time to get up, then. Downstairs, in the ornate lobby - all brass, polished marble and flower arrangements - goths gather for opening time. Things are running a little late, but that's not a problem. The bar is open, the soft furnishings are comfortable - it's no hardship to wait. One day, all gigs will be this civilized!
The Last Days Of Jesus kick things off for us. They're old friends of the Leeds scene, having played here before. They're also very generously loaning their drums and amps to all the other bands - a gesture which illustrates the informal, all-in-this-together feel of the event. Opening slots are always difficult, especially if you're the first band on at a festival, it's only just gone lunch time, and you've just arrived from Slovakia, but The Last Days Of Jesus shrug off all these drawbacks and play like they're the headliners. Their style is a gloriously illogical mash-up of punk, metal, and vintage industrial, a roaring, pummelling riff monster fronted by a punk geezer sporting what looks like his Dad's old gardening jacket. There's a keyboard player, a drummer, and a hyperactive guitarist - and bona-fide dry ice tumbling all over the floor. Now I *know* we're back at the old skool! The singer gesticulates grandly at the mic - it's impossible to figure out what he's on about, although he's singing in English, but his dry, curiously matter-of-fact, accent acts as a neat counterpoint to the heavy-duty grind and madcap swirl of the music.
I shuffle up to the front with my camera on my usual mission to capture the band's soul - or, at least, a few shots of the singer doing his crucifixion pose. Alas, it quickly becomes clear that photography will be a bit of a problem. I take 'available light' photos, which means I don't get that stark, lifeless feel of flash shots, but it does put me entirely at the mercy of the stage lighting. The lighting rig at BTV is essentially a club/disco set-up, with most of the lighting dancing away behind the bands and not much actually *on* the bands. The rig just isn't designed for performance, which also, I fear, means it's not much good for photography. A great shame, since so many of the bands on the bill are highly visual, and deserve good photos - all I can do is slow the shutter speed right down and hope for the best. The Last Days Of Jesus finish their set with a grand finale in which the singer collapses dramatically into the dry ice, and lies there as if he's dead - I capture *that* one, at least - and then the four band members take a bow, the singer shrugs on his old jacket as if he's wrapping up warmly for the trip home, and they're gone. Real showmen. Punk rock vaudeville.
What is it about Japanese bands and their wacko concepts? First we had eX-Girl, who would have us believe that they come from the planet of the frogs, or something. Now here's Psydoll, who, in their publicity blurb, inform us: 'Made in Japan in 1998 from IRON, PLASTIC & PVC. The newest line in Japanese Robot technology - the Psydolls escaped the company that made them. Developing their AI they make Destructive Sweet Sounds.' Well, that might be what's going on inside Psydoll's heads, but in reality they're...strange in a different way. There are only two of them, at this show at least: a guitarist, who looks like he's flown here solo in a single-engined aircraft, and a singer who looks like she's flying on a very different plane. They make a humungous racket, all programmed beats and space-rock guitar. It occurs to me that the guitarist, throwing dramatic rock 'n' roll shapes as he churns out the riffs, is the Japanese answer to Paul Five of Synthetic. The singer wails out some utterly incomprehensible lyrics. I'm advised that one of the songs is entitled 'Machinery Lemmings'. Which, obviously, makes everything absolutely crystal. It's baffling and exhilarating at the same time: a great rush of noise that's clearly related to ye olde rock music in some tangential way, but doesn't feel particularly bothered about following the rules. It's punk rock put through a manga blender. Their set is short, but they capture the attention of the audience and sell out of CDs in seconds flat afterwards. It feels like we've been given a glimpse into another, weirder, world...
I don't know what posessed In Mitra Medusa Inri to give themselves a name that's so difficult to remember, spell, or pronounce (what is a Mitra, anyway? The new entry-level hatchback from Toyota?), but maybe it trips of the tongue more easily if, like the band, you're German. There are three of them - an immensely tall guitarist, an impeccably attired singer, and a keyboard player who, out of all them, is the only one to look like she's enjoying the on-stage experience. The other two seem to be taking things very, very seriously indeed. Perhaps they're taking their cue from the music, which is essentially downbeat, mid-tempo goth; not retro in any way, but definitely...goth. Paradoxically, even in the goth scene, there are very few bands whose music can best be described by the single word 'goth', but In Mitra Medusa Inri suit the word right down to the ground. The singer has a rich, deep, voice which nevertheless wobbles slightly when he attempts a sustained note - the music, sparse and somewhat slo-mo, doesn't allow anywhere to hide. They're a technically good band; the guitar and the keyboard parts work well together. Sometimes the effect is atmospheric, sometimes anthemic - but I get the impression they're not firing on all cylinders. I keep waiting for them to cut loose and really go for it, but they never do...and I'm left wondering if they're having an off day, or whether they Just Don't Do That. Eventually, I decide to make a tactful withdrawal to the bar and get myself some food, so I miss the final few songs of the set. Maybe, in my absence, they put the pedal to the metal and slammed into a hell-for-leather version of Motorhead's 'Ace Of Spades' - but somehow, I doubt it.
I'm not the only one to take a break from the bands. By now, we're about four hours in and quite a few people seem to have decided to duck out for a while. This is a common phenomenon at events with fairly lengthy running times: there's often a 'quiet spot' in the middle as people allow themselves a food-break, or a drinks-break, or just a chatting-to-friends break. At busy events the dip in the numbers watching the bands isn't usually noticeable, but at Beyond The Veil the total attendance is (I estimate) around 200, which is a small enough crowd overall to make the absence of even a few people conspicuous. It's Butterfly Messiah's bad luck to arrive on stage at precisely this point. At the start of their set there are only about 25 people at the front, paying attention to the band, with a smattering of others sitting at the tables further back. The three members of the band cast anxious glances out over the audience. I can almost hear them thinking, 'Is this it?'
Fortunately, the numbers build up a little as more people drift in, although throughout Butterfly Messiah's set the crowd never quite reaches a level you could call 'big'. This gives the entire performance a low-key feel, as if the band are just running through some songs for a bunch of friends - which is quite nice, in a way, although I'm sure the band would swap the situation for a seething moshpit any day. And the music? A kind of electro-folk, sometimes languid, sometimes built for groovin'. That might sound like I've just invented a genre, but then Butterfly Messiah can't be neatly slotted into any neat format. They're an electronic band, but eschew the all-too-usual assemblage of beats, bleeps and monotone chanting in favour of a more flowing style. It's danceable without simply hitting all the usual genre buttons, yet it's also the kind of stuff that works if you just want to listen.
But the band's greatest asset is their singer. Shannon Garson is a tall, striking presence at the mic, and maintains an impassive demeanour even though I suspect she finds my repeated efforts to take close-up photos rather off-putting. My 'artistic' attempts to capture the stage lights shining through her hair meet with only partial success, I fear. The lights aren't intense enough to produce the halo effect I'm looking for. Shannon's voice, on the other hand, seems to beam in from another world, and far more strongly than the lights. She has a curiously understated power, and the ability to go from a soar to a croon without the slightest apparent effort. The songs, in general, seem to have some sort of mystical theme: one or two feature backing vocals from Robert Davis, one of the band's two keyboard players. He declaims apocalyptically like a techno hellfire preacher, although what exactly he's on about is anyone's guess. The Coming Doom That Will Engulf Us All, I shouldn't wonder. A small highlight is a song called 'Falling Star' which has the kind of memorable, stick-in-yer-brain lilt that would spell 'instant hit' if we lived in more enlightened times and the music biz actually took any notice of the good stuff that's under their noses. Throughout the set the band seem a little restrained - I have the feeling that they'd whip it up a bit more in front of a larger audience - but nevertheless it's possible to see that Butterfly Messiah have something special going on here. Those members of the audience who chose to take their lunch break at this point missed a treat.
Antiworld come from Portland, Oregon, and are, I gather, one of the top names to drop in current US Deathrock circles. They've got a vintage horror movie image, and a set of no-frills riff-heavy punk tunes.Their primary influence, I'd guess, would be late 70s punk-and-beyond: you could almost believe they'd just teleported themselves in from one of the Leeds Futurama festivals of the early 80s, where they would have been billed between Action Pact and Killing Joke, and would've played their set under stark blue/white lights to an audience of cider-swigging latter-day punks. Until time travel becomes widely available, this gig is probably the closest they're going to get to their spiritual home.
It's a pity, then, that we don't get the stark blue/white lights. The lighting tech chooses Antiworld's set to take a break - which is fair enough, since he's been on duty for many hours. He leaves the desk in the care of a deputy, who's apparently only there to fade the lights up and down as the songs begin and end, and hit the strobe button occasionally. Otherwise, the rig is switched to a pre-programmed disco sequence: the lights all flash like crazy in a manner which might be appropriate if we were all dancing round our handbags to pumpin' house, but which is utterly useless for creating the right kind of visual setting for Antiworld's music. The band hammer on regardless, but I feel rather pissed off on their behalf. They've come all the way from the USA to play a set under *disco lights*? If this happened at a Nemesis gig, heads would roll!
Still, the Antiworld riff machine just keeps on keeping on. Their songs are short, fast, and don't mess about. They play the kind of one-two-three-four full-on punk which, if truth be told, has been done (and indeed is still being done) by hundreds of bands all over the world, ever since the first Ramones album gave us the blueprint. In musical terms, Antiworld obviously aren't here to blaze any new trails. But the band really scores with the live show: the image is eye-catching and fun, and in Grandma Fiendish they have a striking frontwoman who commands attention, in her big boots and widow's weeds. The bassist has a half black, half white hairstyle, which makes me smile. I had that exact same hairstyle...in 1981! Should I claim 22 years of back-dated hairstyle royalties? There's actually quite a bizarre mismatch between the band's image and their sound: they look like Siouxsie and the Banshees, but they sound like Vice Squad. I suppose it's the image that's their passport to the Deathrock/Goth scenes. If they looked as punk as they sound, they'd be playing the Holidays In The Sun punk festival in Morecambe, and nobody in our circles would ever have heard of them. But I'm glad they're here. It's been a while since I've experienced a bit of fast and manic pogo-tastic punk, and Antiworld rattle it off like they were born to play this stuff. They throw sweets and Halloween gifts out into the audience, and throw a Sex Pistols cover into the set: a very faithful rendition of 'Bodies', even down to Johnny Rotten's ad-libbed lyrics at the end, which Grandma Fiendish reproduces as precisely as if she's sat up all night learning every nuance. And that, perhaps, clues us in to where Antiworld are really coming from, as if we still entertained the slightest shred of doubt. They've sold their souls for Punk. Why, I bet none of them even own any Mission albums!
Throughout the day, the bands have been hanging out, chatting to the punters, propping up the bar. This seems to be part of the Beyond The Veil philosophy - everybody parties together. Nobody hides in their lavish backstage suites, being aloof rock stars. Granted, this may be partly because there *are* no lavish backstage suites, but it's also part of the flavour of the event. However, one band has been conspicuous by their absence so far. Where's Diva Destruction? Answer: making a mad dash from Amsterdam, where they played the Terra Gotha festival last night. From Amsterdam to Leeds might be mere millimetres on the map, but making the journey in real life is one of those full-speed-ahead-and-damn-the-logistics rock 'n' roll experiences which every touring band has to learn to cope with. Diva Destruction obviously have it down to a fine art. They arrive just before their stage time, go straight from their mini-bus to the stage, plug in and play. Soundchecks? Who needs 'em?
And you'd never believe they're winging it. Their show is a seamless glam-goth extravaganza. On drums, please welcome Steyvn Gray, who I haven't clapped eyes on since he played with Faith & The Muse at their London gig of 1998 (promoter: Uncle Nemesis). On keyboards, Sharon Blackstone, casting quizzical glances about her as if she's not quite sure where the band have ended up after that mission-from-God journey from Amsterdam. On guitar, Benn Ra, who has bleached most of his hair white, and as a result looks like a rock 'n' roll Saruman. And on vocals, Debra Fogarty, all teeth and tiara, a manic mistress of ceremonies swirling about centre stage. The band's set is mostly drawn from their new album, 'Exposing The Sickness', and every song seems to have its own little theatrical vignette. For 'You're The Psycho' Debra produces a sword and brandishes it alarmingly at the audience, all of whom are thinking 'How did she get *that* through airport security?' 'Hypocrite' sees her waving a big black flag, as if she's suddenly invoking the god of anarchy and chaos. But no: Diva Destruction are far too controlled for any of that. They've obviously got their show down to a fine art. Every on-stage movement has, I don't doubt, been worked out in rehearsal, to the point where the band are simply able to get up there and *do* it, crazy journey or no crazy journey, soundcheck or no soundcheck. Even so, there are still illuminating little touches of individuality which demonstrate that we're not simply watching a tightly-scripted theatrical presentation. Benn calls out greetings to friends he's spotted in the audience, Steyvn keeps drumming even as the kit begins to disintegrate under his flailing sticks, and Debra seems to get so carried away by the performance that she keeps dancing even after the songs have finished, as if the music continues inside her head. It's all a big, bold rush of sound, carried along by the intertwined vocals of Debra and Sharon - a feature of Diva Destruction's music which works impressively well. And there's no need to worry about audience numbers - there's a packed crowd at the front, hanging on every word and movement.
And then, after a lengthy encore and a final thank-you, it's over. The DJ continues after the bands for a while, but most people elect to say their goodnights in the hotel foyer. Diva Destruction are hanging around, taking their first opportunity to relax all day. I'm surprised that Benn Ra remembers me from the one and only time we've met in the past: at Diva Destruction's only previous UK show, in Birmingham in 2001. Gradually everyone drifts away, the Leeds contingent to their homes, others to their bedrooms upstairs. It's been a long day, but a day to remember.
God knows if the promoters broke even (I would think, with long and sometimes harsh experience of these things myself, that they probably took a bit of a financial beating) but it's been a very worthwhile event. The crowd total was smaller than it should have been, given the impressive line-up of bands, but was almost certainly reduced by the event's proximity to Whitby. The UK scene as a whole takes a bit of a dip in the immediate aftermath of the Whitby Gothic Weekend, for the simple reason that a large chunk of the UK goth-audience has spent all their money and can't afford to attend other events until a few pay cheques have come in, and they've built up their bank balances again. (I was always reluctant to put on normal gigs in London soon after the WGW, because I knew that my usual crowd-total would be cut right down.) So the timing of Beyond The Veil, slap in the middle of the post-Whitby dip, represents a big risk. But then, I imagine the decision as to when to schedule the festival was, to a certain extent, out of the hands of the organisers. The date had to fit in with Diva Destruction's tour schedule, while the Easter holiday weekend was probably the most convenient slot for the other bands, most of whom I'm sure have day jobs.
The way to overcome the date-disadvantage, I suppose, is to go crazy with the publicity, something that didn't really happen this time. Most of the promotion for Beyond The Veil took place on-line, but these days, when the internet is fragmenting into ever-smaller splinter groups - Livejournal, local e-lists, etc - it's really not possible to rely on virtual publicity. The days when an announcement or two on uk.people.gothic would fill your gig are long gone, alas. Hard-copy publicity is more important now than it ever was, and I think if there had been several thousand eye-catching full-colour flyers circulating around the UK scene in the months leading up to the festival, the audience would have been significantly bigger. And I speak here as an ex-promoter who would routinely give out two thousand flyers at the Whitby Gothic Weekend alone, a case of over-saturation if ever there was one. But this stuff *works*!
Still, it seems there are
plans for Beyond The Veil to continue. There are already hints of a 2004
event, and if the policy of bringing new and cool international bands to
the UK can be maintained, then I think Beyond The Veil will eventually
find its niche. Here's to the next one!
see all the photos from this concert here
Diva Destruction: http://www.divadestruction.com
Butterfly Messiah: http://www.butterflymessiah.com
In Mitra Medusa Inri: http://www.inmitramedusainri.com
The Last Days Of Jesus: http://lastdays.host.sk
Gog Promotions, Beyond The
Gog Promotions Livejournal (gig announcements, DJ playlists, etc): http://www.livejournal.com/users/gogpromotions
Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis: http://www.nemesis.to
Element / Release the
Bats 4 Year Anniversary
Friday Oct 25, 2002
Que Sera - Long Beach, Ca
~review and photos by Blu
Years ago a little innocent girl by chance found a copy of Ghastly magazine in a record store somewhere in the deep dark south. As she looked at pages and pages full of eccentric, dangerously beautiful, yet strangely smiling people, she became fascinated. She got every copy of Ghastly after that and began to adore the ads for Release the Bats. She found their webpage* online and even though it took a while to load on her oh so slow dial-up computer (she had one of those ancient 24 speed modems back then), she would longingly click through photo after photo. What struck her most were those smiles. Everyone seemed SO happy. And then Ghastly put a pull out poster in one of their issues full of rock stars - some she recognized, most she didn't - that would grace the wall of where ever she lived, becoming tattered and torn with each move. Her roommate would catch her saying, "One day, one day, I will take a trip to California and go to that club..." And that was her far off dream for many years. Fast forward through some personal drama and more moves and a year of living in Seattle and suddenly, quite by accident, she found herself living in California. And that little dream poked back out behind a cloud of forgotten things and said, "Hey, now you CAN go to that club."
And lucky for me, Release the Bats was still alive and well.
Last October Release the Bats celebrated their 4 year anniversary with what has become tradition for them every October: a concert by what some might call the House Band -- Element. 3/4ths of the band are made up of people who DJ at Release the Bats so this is the one time a year that they get to be the stars on stage at their own club. The crowd eats it up. This might just be one of the most anticipated concerts all year in the deathrock scene. It is all at once a celebration of the musicians and music we adore, and the fact that in a scene were drama and the lack of support and money often close down clubs faster than anyone can open them, that Release the Bats has survived yet another year.
The club was packed early. It was standing room only as vocalist Shane ducked in and out of the crowd and the DJ booth dressed in an odd make shift cloak-like shawl. At one point someone said, "What are you wearing?" and he laughed and said, "I don't want anyone to see my outfit til I get on stage!" Everyone seemed to be out, decked to the nines (or would that be the "13's" in the deathrock scene?). I counted numerous people from other bands there. Among the many were members of Tragic Black all the way from Utah, Frank the Baptist from San Diego, VooDoo Church, Matt from Fear Cult, Tony Lestat from Wreckage, as well as a handful of very enthusiastic people from San Francisco. Carpe Mortem Records had a table set up as did Forrest Black and Amelia G from BlueBlood who were there to take photos of all the eyecandy. Old and new, regular club goers and people who haven't been out it months; it was obviously the place to be.
The band finally took the stage around midnight as people crowded up front like packed sardines. They made their way through old and new songs - all greeted enthusiastically by the crowd. Douglas performed double duty that night on a drum set as well as tinkering with some of the backing tracks and odd bits O' noise. Jermez with years of experience playing guitar made it look way too easy as he coaxed riff after riff out of his instrument. Dave Skott on bass was so giddy and having so much fun its all he could do to try to look serious as he set down the heavy, bouncy beats of their songs. (I did manage to capture a few escaped smiles much to his dismay I'm sure!). Shane, a consummate showman dramatically contorted this way and that and delivered the vocals with emotion. Gritty, edgy, dark and sometimes sinisterly playful, Element put on a great live show. The crowd cheered, danced and sang along to old Element standbys like "In the Nitetime" and "Sound of Angels" while their new song "Skeletons" was a delicious surprise with a melodic guitar part that almost seemed Chameleon-inspired.
The set ended after 11 songs but the crowd was still hungry for more rushing the stage and tugging at Shane's boots. They cheered and hollered. Smiling, the band decided to indulge the crowd with a great treat: they performed "Razor Raped Pain" which is an old STG song (a band that Dave and Shane used to be in years ago that people in LA still love). The highlight of the night had to be at the end of that song when Shane produced a bottle of baby powder. As he aimed it out over the crowd a sudden gasp was heard as people discerned the threat. The crowd tried to run but there was no where for them to go. Everyone ducked with their hands waiving wildly above their heads as if that would help at all. It was the funniest thing I've seen in ages. In one swift movement baby powder went flying into the air in one large, vaporish white cloud. Everyone in the best black gothic finery was now coated with a thin layer of white powder. And we all smelled like a baby's freshly diapered bum.
The band was done but the music and dancing went on until they kicked us out at the Cinderella hour of 2am. The mischievous merriment continued outside and spilled out into post-show parties well into dawn.
And that poster I have from Ghastly magazine is still on my wall. Only I know alot more of the faces in it now and I feel proud to call some of them my friends. Release the Bats is everything I had wished it would be: the smiles were genuine.
We'll see you all next October to celebrate Year Number Five.
see all the photos from this show here
Release the Bats: www.releasethebats.info
To the Bat Phone! (562) 293-3069
*For nostalgia's sake,
the old Release the Bats website it still online including the looped music
that would play every time I visited it. My old computer had *the* worst
time trying to play it but it was always worth the wait....
May 5 2003
~photos and review by Uncle Nemesis
I'm spending Monday evening under a railway arch in the East End. Not just any old railway arch, mind: this one's tricked out with a bar, soft furnishings in fashionable earth tones, a stage, an impressively high-end sound system, and a lighting rig in which Par 64 lamps gleam expensively. This is Cargo, one of London's uber-trendy clubs. Not, I have to say, my usual stamping ground. But on Monday nights Cargo turns itself into a gig venue, and tonight plays host to the final date on eX-Girl's latest tour. The bar sells Old Speckled Hen by the bottle, the DJ kicks up a post-punk racket: Gang Of Four, Pere Ubu, Magazine, Bauhaus. He's playing my record collection! The night looks good so far.
Then the first support band. They're called The Hordes, but just to mess with our minds there are only four of them. They're a blue-jeans-and-T-shirts 60s-influenced indie outfit, half way between The Jam and Oasis. The lead singer is entertainingly drunk, but beyond that I fear they don't grab me. Is the indie scene still cluttered with this retro-stuff? It's drab and old hat, and at a gig like this - supporting the crazily colourful art-punk monster that is eX-Girl - it's not even appropriate. The amiable anime stylings of Goteki would fit in far better, and I'm sure Goteki themselves would love to play a gig with a real Japanese band who look like they've just stepped out of a Manga strip. The gung-ho hedonism of Psychophile would also dovetail far more neatly with the mood of the night - in fact, this is just the sort of gig which could do with an injection of Wasp Factory-style off-kilter entertainment. As I watch The Hordes go through their competent, but entirely standard, indie moves, I'm left wondering why nobody ever seems to make the connections. Why don't Wasp Factory try and get their foot in the door at gigs such as this? Why do so few of our 'scene bands' ever seem to think out of the goth-box? Opportunities like this go flying over everyone's heads, and nobody even bothers to look up. Meanwhile, I'm standing here watching a characterless indie band. Ho hum.
Fortunately, the second band on are a little more interesting. A1 People feature keyboards, bass guitar - and an on-stage DJ. This immediately gives the band a bit of visual impact, even if the DJ doesn't seem to contribute all that much to the sound. He's low in the mix, which doesn't help, and in any case he spends an awful lot of time painstakingly winding records back, meticulously cueing *exactly* the right breakbeat or effect. He spends more time setting up the sounds than playing the sounds, which means that the show is effectively carried by the musicians. It's agreeable electronica, interesting without ever going too far into left field, accessible without actually being pop music. If that makes A1 People sound like they fall between two stools - well, maybe they do. They never really go out on any experimental limbs, but nor do they go into the conventional dance zone. Perhaps they need a front-person: although various members of the band take a vocal now and then, there's no real focal point and certainly no real *singer*. What vocals there are go through assorted effects in the usual electronic band manner. I'm interested enough to give them my attention since they happen to be on stage right in front of me, but I doubt if I'd make a particular point of going to an A1 People gig. They finish with a cover of 'Love Will Tear Us Apart'. Do Greenhaus know about this? Another electro band in town who do Joy Division covers - this could mean DI boxes at dawn!
In truth, there's only one band anyone wants to see tonight. The audience - a varied crowd, comprising old-skool Banshees fans in tattered tour T-shirts, random indie-punters, cyberpunks, club kids and goths - crushes ever-closer to the stage as showtime approaches. eX-Girl come out in their silver PVC lab coats to set up their gear. I notice the bass guitar has seven effects pedals. And that's only the bass! eX-Girl instantly grab attention with their costumes and dance routines and wacky concepts, but the real secret of their ever-building success is that they have the musical substance to back it all up. Their complex art-punk is powerful and intricate, the sort of stuff even the most picky old muso would appreciate. But before we get into all that, we have the traditional introductory dance routine, in which eX-Girl come out dressed in what look like polystyrene brains and pirouette in front of us to baffling effect. Then they shrug off the costumes and crank it up. And, of course, it's brilliant.
The bass is low-down, gritty, nice 'n' sleazy. The guitar fuzzes and shimmers. The band are using a full drum kit tonight, rather than the stand-up drums of their last tour, and the rhythms are spot-on and pack a punch. I know I keep making this point, but I think it bears repetition: don't let the mad outfits and general air of cartoon craziness fool you - this band is astonishingly musically adventurous and could play any bunch of grizzled old rockers right off the stage without even making an effort. 'Waving Scientist At Frog King', with its vocal harmonies and stop-go rhythm, the bass and guitar coming in on the riff absolutely locked together, is a jaw-dropping joy. 'Pop Music', which kicks off with a guitars-aloft burst of madly riffing noise, is an avant-rock behemoth in the hands of eX-Girl. There's a new acapella number, a three-part harmony-feast, knocked off so casually you'd think eX-Girl were singing in the shower. And a cover of James Brown's 'Sex Machine', in which Keikos, the guitarist, plays the riff behind her head, just because she can. I'm suddenly struck by a small epiphany: eX-Girl provide the coolest rock show on the planet, even if I'm not quite sure which planet I'm referring to. Oh, and they're still obsessed with frogs, by the way. Wonderful stuff. A band touched by a warped genius, but genius all the same.
There's an encore, with yet more costume changes, and the customary exhortation for us all to sign up to the eX-Girl mailing list, with the traditional appeal to 'Please PRINT, PRINT, PRINT so we can read it!' Kirilo, the bassist, assures us that the band will be back in the UK 'In the summer', and the cheers nearly take the railway arch apart. Well, then, Wasp Factory, and all you others, there's your opportunity: will we see a full-on carnival of the bizarre next time eX-Girl play? Or will I be enduring yet more identikit indie-bollocks in the support slots because nobody's had enough gumption to get their foot in the door? It's up to you!
One thing's for sure. Next time the band tour, I will be *there*. You know what? I think I've just got a new favourite band!
see all photos from this show here
The official eX-Girl website: http://0505.net/ex-girl
eX-Girl's page on the Japan
eX-Girl discography and reviews on the Rock Of Japan site: http://www.rockofjapan.com/ex-girl.html
A1 People: http://www.a1people.com
Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis: http://www.nemesis.to
Spa Pavilion, Whitby
Part 1 - Friday April 11 2003
The Ghost Of Lemora
~photos and review by Uncle Nemesis
Where did the last six months go? It's time for the Whitby Gothic Weekend again, the twice-a-year festival which, since 1994, has grown to become the largest goth-oriented event in the UK. A few nips and tucks have been made to the WGW format for this event - chief among them the cancellation of the battle of the bands on the Friday night. This feature never quite worked in the way that had originally been hoped: the voting system was hardly scientific, and the logistics of the event always favoured those bands which were lucky enough to draw a later slot on the bill, and thus got to lay to a larger crowd. The WGW has not abandoned its commitment to exposing new artists, however - from now on, the Friday slot becomes a 'New Band Showcase' in which a selection of up-and-coming acts get to do their thing on the big stage. No competition, no voting, no winners or losers. The bands simply get an opportunity show what they can do.
As I've remarked before, the opening slot at Whitby is the toughest gig in the UK (although a live set at the Slimelight probably runs it a close second). The opening band has the unenviable task of pulling the sparse early audience away from the bars and the social whirl, and making them heed the on-stage action.
Deadfilmstar's approach is to kick up a ramshackle nu-metallic racket which forces the audience to pay attention simply by making it impossible to hold a conversation over the rock 'n' roll roar. It must be said, however, that Deadfilmstar's music is, by and large, a fairly formless blast of Mansonite metalnoize. It touches all the right bludgeon riffola bases without troubling itself overmuch with pesky concepts such as memorable songs, or, indeed, decipherable lyrics. The guitars go 'RAWNNNNGG!', the lead vocalist goes 'HUUUURRRGH!'. That, in a nutshell, is the Deadfilmstar sound. The visual identity of the band is a little more interesting in that it's...well, slightly odd. The vocalist looks like a grizzled old veteran of the Metal Wars, an ageing campaigner who's probably been in rock bands of one sort or another for the last twenty years. There's a cybergoth girl behind the keyboards - I say 'behind the keyboards' deliberately because I suspect she's really only there to press the go button on the DAT. She's apparently in the grip of some kind of intermittent enthusiasm rush: at random intervals, she waves her arms around manically as if she's signalling UFOs to land. And then there's the guitarist and bassist, two incongruously fresh-faced indie kids who look like they've wandered into the wrong band. One of them's even wearing a Primal Scream T-shirt. It all adds up to a slightly surreal experience: a nu-metal band as a school project, with the eccentric music teacher on vocals. Out of a short set, two songs are covers - 'Video Killed The Radio Star' by Buggles, and (naturally) 'Filmstar' by Suede. Both are ritually slaughtered on the altar of nu-metal, but still manage to sound infinitely more structured and complete than Deadfilmstar's own efforts at composition.
The Ghost Of Lemora might be the toast of the London scene these days, but they're still very much an unknown quantity elsewhere. They seem a little nervous as they troop onto the large Whitby stage: this is one gig where they won't be able to rely on their home-town following. Twinkle has a new haircut, which makes him look strangely respectable, and he's brandishing a radio mic loaned by Mike from Manuskript. The microphone is almost as thin as Twinkle himself. The band jumps straight into selected highlights from the Lemora songbook - like all the bands tonight, they're restricted to a short set - and although they're uncharacteristically subdued as far as their usual quips and on-stage asides are concerned, they still whip up a bit of a storm. 'Dread The Day The Cities Rise' gets the crowd - by now encouragingly sizeable - jumping around happily. The Ghost of Lemora's brand of don't-take-this-too-seriously melodrama seems to be right up the WGW's street, and it looks like they're winning a few new friends - but the cut-down set means they don't quite seem to hit their stride, and it's all over before we know it. A useful introduction for the out-of-town audience, but this is a band which really needs some regular gigs outside London. They've whetted the appetite of the Whitby crowd, but the next stage must surely be to show what they can really do when the Lemora-monster is given its head. If you're a UK promoter - book this band!
And then, all of a sudden, we're back in the metal zone. Our third band tonight, Torsohorse, come from the throbbing hot-bed of rock 'n' roll culture that is Bridlington. But maybe we shouldn't laugh, because in spite of the band's prosaic provenance they do seem to be going places. They've certainly got a fanbase - the front of the stage is suddenly crowded with the young and enthusiastic advance guard of the Torsohorse Barmy Army, most of whom I'm sure have never been to the Whitby Gothic Weekend before. And that, to a certain extent, clues us in to the reason these nu-metal bands have been booked in the first place. It's an attempt to reach out to the younger crowd who've probably never encountered the G-word except as an adjective applied to dodgy metal bands in the pages of such magazines as Kerrang! or Terrorizer. It's a trade-off. The metalkidz get a weekend's residential crash-course in the underground goth scene, and the WGW receives an injection of youthful enthusiasm from a crowd who are, in general, significantly younger than much of the regular Whitby punters. Old-skool goths may look askance at this sudden influx of black-clad teenagers, but if the alternative is a steadily ageing, and dwindling, goth scene, then bring 'em on, is what I say. After all, we were all black-clad teenagers once. Deep down inside, some of us still are...
But I digress. Torsohorse are a full-on power trio, and although their brand of rampaging nu-metal is usually the kind of stuff I would travel many miles to avoid, I find myself impressed by their set tonight. They're tight, professional, frighteningly good musicians, obviously rehearsed to the hilt. Their OTT make-up looks frankly rather silly (does the world really need a nu-metal Kiss?) but at least it gives the band the kind of cohesive image which Deadfilmstar so conspicuously lack. Their songs go barrelling past in an indecipherable blur (although the fans at the front seem to know them all by heart) and the vocals are a fairly standard abrasive rasp. But the element which keeps my attention is the interplay between the bass and drums - the Torsohorse rhythm section is fantastically tight, and the thunderous groove which underpins the music makes it easy to forgive the band's excursions into the area of bog-standard metal-isms. In fact, I'm struck by the thought that Torsohorse's obviously high standard of musicianship throws quite a few of 'our' bands into a rather unflattering light. When you see a band who can *really* do it, musically, you realise just how weak many others are in this department. So, not at all my sort of music, but I'm impressed nevertheless, and I can see why the band have built up such a large following. If I were a record company, I'd be seriously thinking about slipping a lavish contract under Torsohorse's noses.
The stylistic direction of the show is unceremoniously wrenched in yet another direction as Psychophile scramble on stage. Psychophile are on a roll at the moment: their debut album proper has just come out - until now, their music was only available on assorted home-made CD-Rs. The band played an official album-launch gig in London a while back - Upstairs at the Garage, as it happens...on the same night that I was *downstairs* at the Garage with 500 boisterous Psychobillies and the Guana Batz. So, this is my first chance to see Psychophile in their new Proper Band With An Album Out incarnation. Lucy and Smogo seem to be bubbling over with energy, and they're obviously not in the business of doing any of that 'holding back' stuff. The set is 100mph from the moment the flag goes down. Smogo leaps about the stage in an assortment of rock god poses, even making it to the drum riser at one point to ironic cheers from the audience, while Lucy unleashes her inner opera diva. The guitar froths and churns, the electronix whap and stutter. Plenty of bands are doing that guitar-plus-electronics thing these days, of course, but nobody does it quite like Psychophile. And nobody else, of course, has *that* voice. But the curse of the truncated set strikes again, and just when Psychophile are hitting their stride, it's time to stop. They've only got time for five songs, which hardly counts as a warm-up. I'm sure the band could go on all night if they were allowed. They bring things to a climax with a rollicking version of 'Darklight' and then they're gone. A short sharp starburst, and then that's yer lot. We want more next time!
Our final band of the night is the Scary Bitches. Now, it appears that I am swimming against the goth-tide here, because I just can't fathom the appeal of this band. And a lot of people *do* find them appealing, that's for sure. Although they've only been around for a short time, already it seems the Scary Bitches are being hailed left and right as splendidly cool and amusing, the greatest thing to hit the goth scene since Andrew Eldritch's mirror shades. They're picking up gigs all over the place, and here they are at Whitby - in the headline slot, too. Not that the new band night at Whitby officially has a headliner, you understand, but nevertheless, the Scary Bitches are the last band to take the stage, which by all showbiz logistics counts as the headline *slot*. This gives them a kudos which, to be blunt, I don't think the band deserves. They simply don't have the necessary substance to justify this top-of-the-bill position.
Nevertheless, the Whitby crowd greets the Scary Bitches with whoops of joy: a show of enthusiasm which is utterly incomprehensible to me, as I stand off to the side like the spectre at the feast. The band seems to have dwindled to a two-piece tonight - most of the music is coming off a DAT - but the set contains the regular mix of novelty comedy songs such as 'Lesbian Vampyres from Outer Space' and 'I'll Piss On Your Grave' - you can guess from the titles how hilarious (or not) the songs themselves are. The music is very conventional mid-tempo rock, and not for the first time it occurs to me that if you stripped away the Scary Bitches' costumes and the novelty concepts, you'd find an entirely conventional pub-rock band lurking beneath. In short, it's not my thing, but there's an enthusiastic crowd down the front who disagree entirely. The band are cheered to the echo at the conclusion of the set. The Scary Bitches' stuff just doesn't do it for me, but it obviously *does* do it for a great many other people. They'll probably become megastars, just you watch. But not in *my* house!
And that wraps up the Friday night live entertainment - although the DJs carry on into the early hours, and the partying continues until daylight in hotel rooms and holiday cottages all over Whitby. We'll be back tomorrow, hung over but ready for more...
see all the photos from this show here
Scary Bitches: http://www.scarybitches.com
The Ghost Of Lemora: http://www.theghostoflemora.co.uk
The official Whitby Gothic Weekend site: http://www.topmum.co.uk
The StarVox Whitby feature: http://www.starvox.net/crypt/whitby/whitby.htm
Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis: http://www.nemesis.to
Spa Pavilion, Whitby
Part 2 - Saturday April 12 2003
Red Lorry Yellow Lorry
~photos and review by Uncle Nemesis
And now, the second half of the Whitby Gothic Weekend - or at least, the second night of the main event: the live bands. The various 'fringe' events which now surround the WGW mean that the festival as a whole lasts for four days, if you've got enough stamina to cope. There are a few fragile-looking people here tonight who've obviously been burning their black candles at both ends, but it's time to shrug off the hangovers and sleep deprivation and get down the front for...Belisha.
Belisha remain something of an enigma. They're not a goth band, but their music and general approach seems to fit, so they've effectively become honourary members of the UK goth scene - something which the band themselves welcome and actively encourage. That's a bit of a turn-up in itself, when you think how many bands - even goth bands - try to distance themselves from all things gothic. Belisha's second album, 'People of the Dark' is now on release, and their WGW performance is, I suppose, the launch party, or as near as dammit. Belisha dive head-first into a high-energy set in which songs from the new album feature strongly, and although they're fighting against the disadvantage of the opening slot, the band brews up such a storm that the crowd starts jumping in spite of the early hour and their sore heads. Belisha play full-on rock, and make no excuses for it. They may be honourary goths, but that doesn't mean they feel obliged to wear frilly shirts and write mannered songs about vampires (and I hope they never do!) Their sound wallops into your brain like musical Lucozade, a fierce energy rush, which the band emphasise by some impressive formation pogoing - or is it Belisha's own brand of extreme yogic flying? At any rate, at certain moments, several of the people on stage are in the air at the same time, a visual effect which has to be seen to be believed. Occasionally, drones and semitones and eastern-influenced sounds are fed into the big rock brew, as if Belisha's magic carpet has swooped past the old bazaar in Cairo. It's all very accomplished: everyone on stage knows exactly where the music is going, and precisely where to place their own contribution to it. Even at moments of greatest intensity, there's no lack of control. Totally convincing stuff.
And yet, and yet. Given their undeniably impressive show, it's odd that Belisha seldom play live. Especially now, with new product to promote: surely they'd want to hit the circuit and really *work* that album. This one-off WGW date is all very well, but if the album's going to sell, the band are going to have to get out there and push it. This illustrates a nagging doubt that I just can't shake off about Belisha - they do sometimes seem to be a bit slack about the basic nuts and bolts stuff that goes with running a band. Their website, for example, is frustratingly minimal. Their recent US tour - a major coup for a band at Belisha's stage of development - is virtually ignored. No reviews, no photos from the gigs, no tour diary. Maybe Belisha have been too busy with their hobby - wandering about the countryside looking for aliens. You think I'm joking? Not so: a recent expedition to do just that gets its own photo-gallery on the website, although in Belisha's typical 'minimum information' style there's no text to explain what's going on. (You have to read their interview in Meltdown magazine for all that.) Meanwhile, the stuff we really want to know - future touring plans, band info in general - just doesn't figure. I'm frustrated by all this. Belisha are a fine band with the capability to go all the way, but if they really want to get ahead, they're going to have to take care of business far more comprehensively than they've done up to now. Gentlemen: you have potential. Don't piss it up the wall!
Yeah, I know. I'm digressing again. But it's my review and I'll digress if I want to! However, we shall wrench ourselves back to Whitby, because it's time for Synthetic to appear before us. Now, here's a band which knows the worth of hard work. Synthetic are also launching a new album - their third - at the WGW; they've got a history of heavy-duty gigging behind them (even, on occasions, travelling to Italy and Belgium for one-off shows), they run their own record label, design their own clothes, and, as if that wasn't enough, they're even involved in a forthcoming 'Brit-Manga' animated film. Live, they're a bit of a cartoon experience themselves, although probably more Tex Avery than Hayao Miyazaki. Sarn V, behind the technology, exudes an air of in-control-ness while the boys in the band go into their own peculiar freak-outs. Paul slams down the guitar-sound, while performing an impressive repertoire of scissor kicks, pirouettes and poses - the full guitar-hero workout. At the mic, Tim writhes around like a mad thing. For no particular reason, he's in full drag tonight (as a matter of fact, he looks uncannily like Sonya, The Ghost Of Lemora's keyboard player), and he hurls himself about in a faintly disturbing frenzy. Perhaps he gets a little *too* frenzied: he's audibly out of breath on some of the songs, gasping the words out as if he's about to keel over. I can't help thinking it might be an idea to slow down a bit and save his breath for the singing, rather than the on-stage aerobics.
Synthetic have the uncanny knack of writing songs which lodge in your brain after just one listen, and they demonstrate this talent yet again by including in their set a few songs from their new album, 'Control' (an ironic title if ever I heard one, given Tim's mad antics on stage). 'The Body Farm' and 'Spooky Kabuki' have that instant recognition factor which, if we did but live in a decently ordered society, would see those songs sailing to the top of the charts. 'Spooky Kabuki', in particular, is a fine thing: a skewed, wistful-yet-manic love song, a cross between the Pet Shop Boys and Japan in their glam period. With *lots* of guitar. It occurs to me that Synthetic have the potential to become a bona-fide classic British pop group - in that XTC-like tradition where genuine pop sensibility is mixed effortlessly with quirky, left-field weirdness. If they'd been around in 1981 I'm sure Virgin Records would have snapped them up. Alas, it's 2003 and Synthetic are on their own label, Unpopular Culture, a name which I'm sure the band did not chose by accident. But the world of pop's loss is our gain. We should be glad we've got 'em.
Now let's tune into the history channel for a moment. One of the biggest UK goth bands of the 90s was Children On Stun. They were old-skool in the best way: accessible; poppy, even, but with a gleefully manic edge, like Specimen on whoopee pills. In Neil Ash they had one of the UK's best pop vocalists - an affable urchin in a black velvet suit like a gothic Austin Powers, with a voice that could soar and holler and tumble its merry way through a song. Alas, the Stun split in 1998, frustrated at the impossibility of pushing beyond their goth-scene status. They did all the right things: they played indie-crossover gigs, showcased for record labels, entertained A&R men - but nobody took the bait. Children On Stun had more than enough potential to make it in the world of alternative music in general, but their involvement in the goth scene always counted against them. In the corridors of music biz power, it would appear that if you're a goth band you'll never be regarded as a *good* band. It's necessary to know all this, because the next band on stage tonight is Spares, the new project formed by Simon Manning, former guitarist/songwriter with the Stun. He's got the Stun's bassist, Kyle Whipp, along for the ride, and a new vocalist, Alison Gann. A crowd of diehard Stun fans and curious onlookers gathers at the front. We're intrigued, and we're all willing this to be good.
And it's good...ish. Perhaps it's not entirely fair to draw comparisons with the Stun, because Spares most definitely are not the Stun. But two out of the three people on stage are ex-Stun members, two songs in the set are old Stun hits, and, let's face it, Spares owe their high position on tonight's bill to the past achievements of the Stun. So, fair or unfair, the comparisons *will* be made. Simon's even using the Stun's old four-track portastudio to run the backing tapes, while his guitar-sound - curiously enough - is even more old-skool goth than on latter-day Stun releases. But when Alison steps up to the vocal mic, all of a sudden we're in a very different musical area. She does a kind of sub-Courtney Love grunge vocal, husky and slightly frayed at the edges - effective enough in itself, but...grunge was 10 years ago, y'know? It's almost as if Spares have only just heard Hole, and they've thought, hey. *We* could do this! It's also noticeable that Alison's vocal range isn't anywhere near as great as that of Neil Ash, a drawback which is highlighted when the band throw in those old Stun songs - 'Style Police' and 'Auntie Crystal's Thieves'. Alison virtually chants her way through vocal passages where Neil Ash would let rip and fly. A simple line like 'Make a statement to the officer' - which Neil would relish, drawing out the vowels and emphasising every syllable, as if he'd been coached in vocal technique by Kenneth Williams - becomes nothing more than a staccato, barked command. I suspect Alison is not singing to the best of her ability: she seems nervous, unsure of what to say between the songs. She refers to the audience three times as 'You gorgeous people' - as if she's hit on a catchphrase which works, and she's clutching it like a lifebelt in a rough sea. I dare say under different circumstances she could probably do better. It's not that Spares are a bad band, but the Stun cast a long shadow - and Spares, I think, will have to struggle hard to get out from under it unless they can raise their game beyond the level they exhibit tonight.
Headline time. Red Lorry Yellow Lorry are the latest in a seemingly never-ending stream of first-wave goth bands who've reformed for the 21st century. Why all these bands have chosen to come back around the same time is something I can't answer, but the gig circuit of 2003 is starting to look uncannily like the gig circuit of 1983 in certain areas. The Lorries actually count as a 90s band, just about: their final album, 'Blasting Off' came out in 1991, and assorted compilations have kept them current in the catalogues beyond that point. However, they made their principal impact during the 80s, with a succession of weird, wired, scratchy, jittering, singles, all fuelled by a taut, nervous energy. RLYL were the absolute antithesis to the more pedestrian, conventional moves of the latter-day 'gothic rock' bands; their roots were in the post-punk period of goth, when the only rule was that there were no rules. And, of course, there was never any rule which said you couldn't reform if the fancy took you - so here they are. Exactly who's in the band these days is a bit of a mystery: the Lorries went through several different line-ups, and nobody's quite sure which version of the band is on stage tonight. But Chris Reed, guitarist, vocalist, and all-round main man, is present and correct, in a fetching checked shirt. So, let's blast off.
It must be said that the Lorries are not the most dynamic of bands. They pretty much stand there and play. But that's not a problem when you've got a set list which incorporates such alterno-anthems as 'Talk About The Weather', 'Walking On Your Hands', and 'Crawling Mantra'. The instruments mesh together like chicken wire, pushing forward, pushing on. It's relentless stuff, and it just keeps on building. Chris Reed is an implacable presence at the mic. Not for him the crowd-pleasing jolly-ups of lesser bands: he barely addresses a word to the audience all night, except to announce the songs, and remark, while pausing to tweak his guitar strings, 'The songs sound better in tune.' I wonder what he's thinking as he looks out over the audience - the 80s gig-crowd, all jeans and T-shirts and scruffy leather jackets, must bear no resemblance to the WGW class of '03, dressed up in their finery, acessorized by Bagpuss back-packs and goggles. I'd been a little worried that the modern goth audience wouldn't 'get' RLYL, so different are they from anything on today's scene. But they go down a treat with both old fans who recall them from their heyday, and new fans who've never seen them before. The highlight for me is 'Sayonara', a sinuous, menacing, sidewinder of a tune, as sharp and as contemporary as if it had been written yesterday.
Just how serious RLYL are about their comeback remains in doubt: I'd be a little more confident about their long term plans if there was such a thing as a current, official, Lorries website (outdated fan sites provide the only web-presence for the band at the moment). But there are rumours of a forthcoming London gig, so maybe they plan to hang around. Whatever happens, I'm glad I've seen this show. It just goes to prove that a band can still come on stage armed with nothing more than a take-it-or-leave-it attitude, an unbending 'here we stand, we can do no other' demeanour, a set list packed with starkly uncompromising music - and win. Once, this was the way it was, and the world was all the better for it. No quarter given, no concessions made, no tricks, no gimmicks. And it *worked*. Now, tell me: how did we get from this to the Scary Bitches?
And there you have the bands of the Whitby Gothic Weekend. We'll be back in six months, and the next event promises to be something special. The WGW is celebrating its 10th anniversary in November, with four nights of bands, as well as all the usual fringe events. What was that I was saying about stamina...?
see all the photos from this show here
Red Lorry Yellow Lorry:
No current official website, but this French fan site has the essential details: http://membres.lycos.fr/goth/lorry.htm
Another fan site, out of date but contains some useful info: http://members.tripod.com/~rlyl
The official Whitby Gothic Weekend site: http://www.topmum.co.uk
The StarVox Whitby feature: http://www.starvox.net/crypt/whitby/whitby.htm
Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis: http://www.nemesis.to