see all the photos from this show here
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
Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis: http://www.nemesis.to