@G_Morph GOES PUNK @thenestbath

People often ask me why I chose Bath. In an ocean of galaxies, containing an ocean of stars, containing countless habitable (and not so habitable) worlds, I Galmorphagorph chose a small town in the west of England in which to avoid those who seek to imprison or destroy me. The reason is simple. Earth is unfathomably dull.

In the trans-galactic community Earth is a lonely waterlogged ball of mewling infantile civilisations, so bewildered and in awe of the shape and function of the universe that most seek to avoid thinking about it altogether. Extra-Planetary beings such as myself visit this place much in the same way you’d visit the Lake District or hike up one of your several unremarkable mountains. It’s just a thing to do on the weekend and for the most part you’re just ruining the scenery with your loudly coloured wind-breakers. Bath reflects that dullness in its beige architecture and its unique absence of any kind of meaningful struggle. If you seek a space criminal, you wouldn’t start by checking the information centre at the base of this galaxies ‘Ben Nevis’. Though… if they ever do, Humanity is of course doomed.

It was therefore a surprise when, perched as I often am in a tree, I was slapped in the face by a flyer for a ‘Punk night’ caught in the gusts of Hurricane Doris. The small square of paper greeted me with four middle-aged men grinning goofily and with a subtle mischief that suggests they’d just urinated in my drink and were waiting to see if I’d noticed. ‘CULTURE SHOCK with special guests Best of British Suicide, Skinners and Atterkop. I am at best only glancingly familiar with the concepts, music, culture and history of Punk, so what better way to inform myself then to dive into the belly of this particular Uuthyan Fangbeast and destroy it from within? That Friday night, I made for The Nest.

The Nest remains unchanged from my last visit, save for the puddle on the floor which has since been downgraded from ‘Gushing torrent’ to ‘Minor Spillage’, though charmingly it still remains. Having observed a laughable attempt at science fiction through a strangers window, I was inspired to disguise myself as a human by wearing ones skin. It didn’t take me long to find an Estate Agent. Wearing his skin took some trial and error, and while I may not have looked particularly appealing, I was passable. The Nest is dark, and I quickly discovered that at Punk events, a healthy complexion is, if anything, a sign of weakness. Tattoos, dreadlocks and faces seemingly hewn from the living rock were rife. I wonder that I may not have even needed the skin suit after all.

The man on the door requested 10 English pounds for entry. I whispered to him one of the ‘9 Cosmic Truths’, and in his incapacitated, frothing moment of supreme comprehension I slipped in without paying.

The first band on were SKINNERS, who the flyer described as ‘Spazzed-out hardcore punk from Bath’. All of those self-descriptors were appropriate, but the one’s I’d use would be altogether more accurate. A frizzy haired drummer thundered away behind his drum kit, the guitarist and bassist seemed like children nervously looking at their parents during a school play. The singer, shirtless and lithesome screamed inaudibly through their songs which lasted about as long as it took to introduce them.

‘Right, this song is about going to London, sleeping on people’s couches and getting scabies’

‘This song is called Fuck Fuck Fuck Fuck Fuck’

This demented and near orgiastic display of cacophonous noise and offensive language was so blatant in its intention that I almost had to respect it, until I realised it was going to be quite a while before they stopped. This was truly a singer at war with his audience, and a backline at war with themselves.

Following that was BEST OF BRITISH SUICIDE, a band name inviting you to roll your eyes so hard that it gives you a headache. The Drummer, while impressive, showed disproportionate commitment to the music being performed, however his deft drumming and relentless work ethic left me impressed. The bassist looked to the singer for guidance, and the guitarist/singer proceeded to bathe the room in tuneless passive aggression for 30 straight minutes. Like a Payroll Accountant and Jarvis Cocker got fused together in a teleportation accident, the songs were listless and decidedly lacking in bite. If the first band were all about assaulting your senses, this band were all about sighing loudly until your senses move out of their way in the staff kitchen.

The main support was Atterkop, a deft and extremely well rehearsed ska-punk band: the musicians were tight, the singer was energetic, the whole thing was completely unmemorable. If punk is so known for its messy, raw passionate expression, seeing a band play with such mathematical precision seems to rob the music of that which defines it. Sometimes music can be too perfect, and no better example is there than Punk that greatness can be found in imperfection.

Finally, the headlining act, CULTURE SHOCK! The four middle-aged grinning flyer-men took the stage and began to play. They, I understand, are legends in the scene, forged in the fires of an era ruled by a cold and merciless, inexplicably elected sub-queen who’s profound effect on the economy and society are still felt today; an era that you seem to be willingly repeating out of some sort of perverse masochistic nostalgia to a time when there was something fun to culturally kick against. Seeing these weathered, gnarled men giving it their all stoked my appetite. Truly this is a Band who’s mere physical countenance makes you yearn for cured meat.

What they also sated was my hunger for knowledge, and in watching these four pieces of pale screaming chorizo howl jubilantly through their 80s punk oeuvre and routinely rebuke the audience for their addiction to ‘The Media’, I found myself stirred. I looked at the young men and women hurling themselves around and on top of the audience, the old Punk stalwarts in grimaced and focused meditation as they swung their heads and felt for the first time my wanting to join them. They awoke in me my sense of righteous anger, at the Galactic Parliament who’s lies are poisoning the minds of the outer systems. Of the sycophantic Th’uls and their pathetic appeasement of the Star-Eater. Many may disagree with the actions I took that led to my exile, but for once I realised that in some form, each band was speaking my language (though not literally, for humans lack the trifurcated tongue), the language of rage. Also the music was pretty good.

I walked the streets that night for a while, gazing upon the homogenous limestone that comprises most of Bath’s structure, bathed in sodium street light under a starless sky. This time, however, the City had a different and more vibrant hue. Earth may seem a dull little marble in an infinite cosmos, but its lowly inhabitants can paint their music with a colour that even I, until tonight, had yet to see: the colour of rebellion. It’s bold, its messy, and it’s always in their palette so long as they never forget to use it, and I believe there’s never been a better time to begin wetting their brushes. I, Galmorphagorph, shall enjoy watching that.

Written by @G_Morph

Reviewed on 24 February 2017

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@AlcunaWilds ambient trip hop @TheOakBath

Alcuna WIlds performing at The Royal Oak in Bath, February 2017

Friday night and news was everywhere that the Foo Fighters were playing a not so secret gig in Frome. Had we been invited? You bet we hadn’t! Anyway, we had more important things to do, like watching Bob Ross in an effort to prepare ourselves for our Friday night gig.

Bob Ross

Why Bob Ross? Mostly, because like any sane person, we appreciate the infinite wisdom Bob bestowed on us and the soothing sound of his oil on canvass voice, but mostly it was to get us in the mood for a band who describe themselves as ‘ambient trip hop’.

We arrived just as the support act were packing up, but not too late to pick up their EP and have a chat. They’re called Stillwave and to be honest, on getting home and listening to the EP, we regret not seeing their set. If you like Editors, you’ll easily enjoy Stillwave. Have a listen here.

A mature crowd had packed into The Royal Oak to see Alcuna Wilds and they waited patiently while the band prepared. Aside from the usual drums, bass and lead setup, Alcuna Wilds had brought two synths, a sample pad, a four foot pedal board and a laptop.

Alcuna Wilds performing at The Royal Oak in Bath, February 2017

The set started up with a trip into Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters and built some gentle cymbal work with careful guitar picking over soft synth, before breaking into a fantastic bass led groove, which was finally topped off with Nadja’s angelic, swaying vocals. Towards the end of this opening section Pete Barnes used his lead guitar to simulate the sound of a gale, stirring memories of Storm Doris earlier in the week. Whatever the intention, the opening salvo left us wondering where we’d be taken next.

Pete Barnes from Alcuna Wilds performing at The Royal Oak in Bath, February 2017
Pete Barnes from Alcuna Wilds performing at The Royal Oak

The songs were captivating and swung from tranquil arias to bouncing jaunts, perfectly depicting the “ambient trip hop” description we’d read.

Each member of the band is clearly skilled in their area, but like in so many art works it’s the coming together which yields the true beauty. The seamless union of technology and human artistry produced a mesmerizing performance.

Special praise should go to Simon their two week old drummer, that is to say he only had two weeks of rehearsal before the tour. His stolid percussive work melded perfectly with his band mates. Jordy, on synth, bass and laptop provided enough enthusiasm for a full festival as he bobbed along and Nadja proved not just to have an amazing voice, but charming stage presence too.

We’d briefly met lead guitarist, Pete last year, when his other band Galleons supported Effra at the Bath Fringe Festival. You can read that review here. Pete delivered a brilliant display, buoyed on by his parents who were seeing him gigging for the first time.

Alcuna Wilds have just released a new EP, are planning some summer festivals in the UK and possibly a full album later in the year, which we look forward to hearing.

 

Written by @LordSkitch 

Reviewed on 24 February 2017

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Don’t Play With Guns @MolesBath

Don't Play With Guns performing on stage at Moles in Bath in February 2017

Thursday night STEREO at Moles. We were there to watch Don’t Play With Guns, but first our ears were subjected to two dubious support acts, who exploded a cacophony on stage, while butchering Nirvana and Massive Attack covers.

To be fair, they were enthusiastic and probably quite newly formed, so we’ll forgive them; this time, and review them properly at a later date.

So moving swiftly on from the shaky opening acts, lets talk about Don’t Play With Guns (DPWG). The anti-gun lobbyists, came armed with a camera crew, all adorned with DPWG t-shirts and ready to cover the gig from every conceivable angle and this is important; and we’ll explain why in a moment.

They started with a song called “We are who we are”, which was nice, mellow and smooth, but irritating, because it sounds similar to another popular song, yet we couldn’t place it. The second song, “Before she realizes” was an emotive piece in much the same vein as the opener.

Things started to get a little louder in song three, building up to the second half of their set where the gig got decidedly more interesting. Song four (I missed the song names around this area) was another number which sounded similar to a popular song, but this time we managed to figure out what song it was, “Killing in the name”. The next sounded like Slipknot’s, “Spit it out” with Angus, the frontman, executing a trademark Corey Taylor crowd interaction moment, followed by a rendition of “SpongeBob Squarepants”, another Corey trademark moment.

At this point, we realized just how reliant on other artist’s crowd-pleasing numbers DPWG are. Should we be offended? The answer is “No.”

Yes, a lot of the set was covers, including an actual performance of “Killing in the name” and an excellent execution of “Voodoo Child” and the rest of the songs sounded very much like reworkings of other people’s material; but when you’re competing in an industry where every note has already been played in probably every conceivable order, things are going to sound similar.

What’s more, it’s clever; not ripping off other people’s songs, that isn’t clever, but arguably the quickest way to become successful is to find someone who has become successful and repeat whatever it is they did. Now add the camera crew I mentioned earlier, there to gather footage of the band playing on the same stage Oasis, The Cure and a host of well-known bands have played, including Massive Attack; putting free EPs out for people to grab and asking someone to come and review their gig, makes this one of the smartest bands I’ve seen in a long time.

So many bands believe they will become superstars just through sheer talent. Nope. It takes hard work and a business mentality too.

Don't Play With Guns performing at Moles in Bath in February 2017

But, let’s put business plans to one side and talk about actual talent.

Angus Brick’s vocals are delightful, a cross between Eddie Vedder and Finley Quaye and he has superb skills when it comes to getting an audience involved. We already sang Jack Whitby’s praises in the last review featuring DPWG and it was a solid performance from Callum Brundle on percussion, but a special mention goes to Chris Nesbitt, who absolutely smashed the cover of Jimi’s “Voodoo Child”, along with some other creative moments.

They haven’t quite developed the level of lyrical brilliance of Bohemian Rhapsody, but never-the-less, their lyricism is still a lot better than some of the main stream crud you hear on the radio every day.

The band gels fantastically, but they still have a lot of work to do, there were a couple of dodgy harmonies and they need more of their own material. Their set list could possibly also do with some reworking. The first two songs didn’t match with the later numbers and resulted in a slightly slowish start to the set, rather than an explosion of energy that they clearly have within them. However, considering how recently they formed, this was an outstanding performance and sets them up well for the future, if they have the drive and a bit of luck.

Written by @LordSkitch 

Reviewed on 2 February 2017

Listen to Don’t Play With Guns on Spotify

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Sam Green & The Midnight Heist @theoakBath

Sam Green & The Midnight Heist performing at The Royal Oak in Bath

The Christmas lull is done, the office parties are over, the students are back and we’re on the gig scene once more. Our first outing of the year was to The Royal Oak on Lower Bristol Road to see the brilliant Sam Green & The Midnight Heist.

The venue was packed; not difficult on a Friday night, but considering how long it was from everyone’s last payday it was impressive and testament to Sam’s ability to bring in a crowd.

Paul Hopkins playing double bass at The Royal Oak in Bath in January 2017

On this particular evening, ‘The Midnight Heist’ were replaced by a couple of more than able locals, including the ever-ebuliant Paul Hopkins, who showed a double bass is more than an instrument, it’s a dancing partner.

 

Sam utilizes a number of guitar techniques in his performances, some subtle others less so and more blisteringly fast and dexterous, but by far his best comes out when playing lap style and he showed this by dishing out a heap of swaggering blues-folk-roots concoctions. It was an auditory feast for the audience, hearing the blending of guitar and Sam’s soft yet rich vocals, with a peppering of double bass and percussion, all garnished with a helping of harmonica blasts.

 

Sam admitted this was a very rough and ready set, though you could hardly tell and to the audience it was proof of the quality of the musicians, as between songs he briefly informed the band of what they’d be playing next, whispering “…this one’s in A♭” as they began executing another flawless piece.

Some of the songs draw attention to themes like societal obsessions over capitalism, such as in the song “Money“, but without being at all preachy, where as others (most) are a bit more “Let’s get crazy and jump around”.

Sam Green performing at The Royal Oak in Bath

The only annoyance with the evening was that we missed the opening few songs, not by accident, but because past experiences have taught us The Royal Oak rarely start a gig at the advertised time.

That aside, it was a deft display of improvisational prowess on the part of the band and another inspirational performance from Sam Green. If you didn’t see them, don’t worry, you only have to wait till April to see Sam when he’s on tour. No more gigs till then unfortunately.

However, the release of his new solo album is imminent, so watch his page to see when. Even better than that though is the news that preparation has begun for a full band album following the April tour. So there’s a lot for fans to get excited about in the coming months.

Written by @LordSkitch 

Reviewed on 20 January 2017

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MATT WOOSEY @TheNestBath

Matt Woosey performing at The Nest, Bath, December 2016

As Matt Woosey and his band assembled on stage at The Nest, I pondered on what I was about to hear. Considering how talented he is solo, I was bemused as to what need he had for a drummer, bass player, a lead guitarist and another fellow on piano and sporting an extra lead guitar?

Matt Woosey’s prolific gigging has garnered him many exquisite musical partnerships, resulting in different line-ups each time he’s visited Bath, but I’d never seen him perform with a full band. I expect it to be good, but how good?

The old crowd favorite Cruel Disposition was the first track out the gates and immediately it became clear what these extra musicians were bringing. I hadn’t thought Matt’s music could get any better than I’d heard in the past, but I was glad to be surprised. In fact, I was more than surprised, I was gobsmacked.

Matt Woosey singing British Blues, The Nest, Bath, 2016

Matt now lives in Germany and he’d brought three German friends on tour and roped in Dave Small, an old drumming friend. Even with the heavy compliment of Continental songsters, this was far from any EuroVision song entry.

Over the proceeding hour Matt’s ensemble disgorged a set which mesmerized the crowd. Yes, there was a fuller sound provided by the band, but there was more than that. The two additional guitarists nearly stole the show with their dueling and the piano, bass and drums really enriched Matt’s British Blues sound.

Many of the songs are written from the heart, stemming from Matt’s personal experiences and this emotive material was borne out in sometimes gritty, sometimes smooth songs which changed in tempo and mood, drawing the audience in and then exploding out. Matt’s slightly rusted vocals were still there, but this time backed by Dave who showed that his talents extend further than just percussive deftness.

Matt Woosey guitarPossibly the greatest sign of how hard Matt works is shown by his guitar, not necessarily his great playing, but by the actual worn area around the sound hole. This is clearly a man who will play till his dying day.

You might’ve been put off by The Nest‘s £8 entry fee for this gig, which when compared to other cheaper events would appear steep, but this was definitely a case of getting what you paid for and then some.

We have Max Webster, promoter for RMT Music Promotions to thank for this superb gig and yes, if you weren’t there you have indeed missed a truly spellbinding performance, but do not despair, because Matt returns to the UK in March 2017. Till then you will have to make do with listening to his music online. Black Smoke Rising definitely made one of the best encore numbers I’ve seen in a long time and probably left more than a few audience members feeling they’d experienced something exceptional.

Hopefully, with the right people taking notice, coupled with his unyielding dedication, Matt will go on to be one of the true greats of British music. People in years to come will say things like “Remember when we saw him play at The Nest?”.

Support for Matt Woosey was provided on the night by Luke De-Sciscio.

Written by @LordSkitch 

Reviewed on 15th December 2016

Photos courtesy of Jamie Worsfold

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@TheButtcheeks at @TheNestBath

Satan's Buttcheeks back stage at The Nest, Bath

Like Christmas, Satan’s Buttcheeks appear but once a year and like moths drawn to a UV painted glowing appendage the crowd assembled at The Nest, to “Get weird” as the lyrics of the opening song go, with a band who jokingly, but some would argue deservingly, call themselves “Bath’s ‘Greatest ever band'”.

This was a one off gig at The Nest, not part of their usual weekly schedule and full credit to them for booking a band who rehearse once a year, seldom have the same line up, stick their lyrics to the lighting rig, come with NO support acts and have a rider of chicken breasts, whiskey and tabasco sauce. It was a gamble on their part and one that paid off, because there is no better way to describe this band other than, awesome!

Ross "The Boss" Brown drummer for Satan's Buttcheeks
Ross “The Boss” Brown

If you’re expecting poetry exploring the nature of being then you’re going to be disappointed. “Breath in, breath out, eyes front, balls out!” that’s the level we’re at. However, when compared to James Arthur’s cryptic love yodeling, “I held your hair back when you were throwing up” Satan’s Buttcheeks can be considered veritable laureates.

It was clear what type of gigs this was going to be as audience members started to cheer while the band, though obscured by a curtain, took to the stage. “Buttcheeks!”, “Whoop, whoop!” “You suck!” were the calls; showing there was to be a definite degree of in-joking and audience participation.

Whether on purpose or accident the farce began immediately as “Balls Out” started, then crumbled as various members of the band came in at different points, then stopped; and then started again, paused; and then carried on as if nothing had happened. Whether this was accidental, due to the aforementioned one day of rehearsal or intentional to add to what is a chaotic mass of day-glow shenanigans the crowd loved it.

However ludicrous they may seem their music is astonishingly good with ear-bending guitar solos, complex song structures and dynamic and progressive melodies which build up to earth-shattering crescendos, with added penny whistle. Whatever weird voodoo they’re transmitting, it seems to be working as the audience threw themselves about in euphoric adulation.

Oli Fenton, Ross Brown and Dan Gildersleeve from Satan's Buttcheeks
Oli Fenton, Ross Brown and Dan Gildersleeve

At one point, the band attempted a vocal harmony… The least said about that the better.

With names like “Satan is my osteopath”, “I am ham”, “Rot in Pieces” and “Rambo McMango chutney” their songs could be likened to pre-pubescent school yard limericks, however they clearly weren’t written to be analyzed by literary scholars, so who cares?

But that’s enough generalization, lets get personal.

The lead vocalist, Alex Good, while not demonstrating a fantastic range is a great front man and will happily play the ring leader when it comes to peer-pressuring audience members into performing acts of a questionable hygienic nature. (I’m just going to leave that for you to wonder about)

Satan's Buttcheeks audience members
Some of the audience

Next up, the lead guitarist, Oli Fenton, whose guitar work is extraordinary. Many of Bath’s music adoring public will have seen him performing his magic in other outfits, such as: Thousand Monkeys and The Guitarlai Lamas, but none of those acts compare to the ferociousness of his finger-play when soloing during the song “Put it in your mouth”. Don’t believe me? Listen to it here from 1:25 – 1:45. It could very well make you appreciate having ears more than you ever thought possible.

Oli’s grandstanding is only made possible by the solid lump of muscular rhythm that is Dan Gildersleeve who is as staunch in appearance as he is in his underpinning of the songs. Though it has been said he can benchpress anyone and for years the band have been threatening to have him do it on stage, yet again the audience were not to witness the feat.

Since the departure of Ben Butcher, one of the founding members of the band, who went to Sydney to scare patients of ERs by greeting them with the line “Hello, I’m Dr Butcher”, there have been a number of bassists who have donned the war paint and stepped in to the UV light of a Buttcheeks gig. All credit to Dan Spink, who learned a full set with only one rehearsal.

Finally, Ross “The Boss” Brown, who though difficult to see, thundered away at the drums from the dark at the rear of the stage, supplying the explosive percussion that topped off what cannot be denied as being the most interesting, exciting and fun gig of the year.

It’s a pity they only come once a year, but maybe that’s what makes it so special and also how they always manage to pack out whichever venue they perform in. They named the gig ‘The curtain call’, hinting that after a decade and nearly 13 gigs, they might be calling an end to the band, but we certainly hope not as nowhere near enough people have experienced the beauty and glory of Satan’s Buttcheeks.

Written by @LordSkitch 

Reviewed on 3rd December 2016

Find more photos on the @BathGigs Facebook page

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@IsobelHolly’s EP launch at @ChapelArtCentre

Isobel Holly headlining at Chapel Arts, Bath, 2016 for the launch of her EP Sensibilities

This was the busiest we’d seen Chapel Arts. All the tables were occupied and quickly it became standing room only. “Sensibilities” is the title of Isobel Holly’s new EP and we went to witness its launch. Certainly, there were a lot of adoring fans present, so in theory this would be something special.

There might have been a touch of nerves present in Harry Miller as he took to the stage in his support slot? The words were a bit muffled in his first song and set off alarm bells for the rest of the set. However, if it was nerves he dealt with them well and by the second more punchy number there was no sign of them.

With the added confidence he backed off the mic a bit and gave us a chance to hear his voice properly, which is soft, husky and made great listening. However it was second to his guitar work, where he displayed an array of techniques and rhythms, marking each song with its own feel and keeping the audience connected.

Harry Miller band performing at Chapel Arts, Bath, 2016
Harry Miller band performing at Chapel Arts, Bath

If Harry has a weakness it could be in his lyrics, which are littered with idioms and cliches, but little story. This aside, he’s pleasing to listen to and if this is how he’s starting, then we can look forward to some great stuff from him in the future.

Recently, you might have seen a picture of Isobel Holly on the cover of The Guide, the Bath Chronicle’s entertainment pullout, with a tagline saying “Meet Bath’s latest singing sensation”. The publicity shots that go along with this article and her website present Isobel well. She’s clearly getting it right when it comes to marketing.

Her online profile says she’s been composing since she was 11 and lists a few career highlights, chief among them being BBC radio airplay and supporting Lera Lynn.

The build up continued with a lot of effort going into Isobel Holly’s set, from a number of supporting musicians and a camera team who seemed intent of capturing her performance from every angle.

It was a varied set, which started with a full band set up, followed by Isobel performing a few duets; first with David Smith, an acoustic guitarist and folk singer and next with Monty Willoughby, a highly versify pianist. The evening was concluded with the full backing band returning to the stage for a few more numbers.

Isobel Holly performing at Chapel Arts, Bath, 2016
Isobel Holly performing at Chapel Arts, Bath

As far as performances go it was well staged, Ed was working his usual magic on the sound desk and Chapel Arts had proved yet again to be the venue of choice for the discerning music connoisseur, but what about Isobel’s music, since after all this was her EP launch?

The songs had often heard themes of love and relationships and the compositions were good, however it was clear Isobel’s true forte lay with her voice, which is powerful, but can have a sultry edge too. Arguably the best moment came when it was just Isobel singing and Monty playing piano. This lead to the question “Does she really need all the other musicians?” as it felt in a way they were masking Isobel’s true instrument, her voice.

There was an underlying school-musical feel to the evening, possibly brought on by a number of choreographed moments, which had a slightly self-indulgent air.

All the songs were nice, but there wasn’t anything which stood out. Yes, Isobel Holly is packaged well and looks the part, but do we really want to hear another conveyer belt folksinger would-be starlet? As the Bath Chronicle put it “Meet Bath’s latest singing sensation”.

Hey, she’s only 16, has talent and has made a good start; the music industry has many doors and they’re all open to her.

Written by @LordSkitch

Reviewed 30 November 2016

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@TheShowhawkDuo perform @MolesBath

Showhawk Duo at Moles, Bath

ShowHawk Duo are one of Bath’s secret success stories, having performed live on the BBC Radio 1 Breakfast Show hosted by Nick Grimshaw, at Glastonbury in 2015 and 2016 and at Bestival. So how would they be received by their home crowd?

Support for Showhawk was supplied by another Bath-based band, Benji and Hibbz, an acoustic rap duo, who were accompanied by an 8 piece band on the night.

Benji and Hibbz were chosen to provide support for Showhawk on a UK tour and it’s understandable why. Their rhythm section was exhilarating; space and dynamism shone through and their ability to play requests thrilled the audience as they responded to a shout of “Play Seven Nation Army” with a great rendition of the song.

Covers was the name of the game for the night as that’s what Showhawk Duo have made their name doing. They’ve reworked classic tunes by artists as diverse as Daft Punk and Queen and as they took to the stage a flood of people surged towards them. Moles at full capacity can be a sweaty experience, punctuated by a tsunami of condensation pouring down from the ceiling.

Mikhail from Showhawk Duo
Mikhail from Showhawk Duo

The sound was tangible and worked its way into your body. Showhawk’s all-encompassing live set fully utilized Moles’ epic rig with their own sound man EQing the mix to bring out the nuances in their sound.

The 90s clubbers were a few pints down and ready to rave. Tracks by Alice Deejay and Daft Punk were deftly executed. Jake’s percussive precision underpinned Mikhail’s harmonics as they built up to the pinacle moment in Faithless ‘I can’t get no sleep’. The roaring ravers shrieked at the climax of this song.

Since the video of ShowHawk playing Faithless went viral, they’ve played gigs across Europe to thousands of people, numerous festivals and at the Singapore Grand Prix. Their career only seems to be heading one way.

Jake from Showhawk Duo
Jake from Showhawk Duo

Half way through the set Benji and Hibbz returned to play a Hip Hop medley with ShowHawk, proving their adaptability and the truth that if the 90s clubbing fans were to dwindle, plenty of other demographics would be drawn to their sound and live shows.

Jake and Mikhail empathized with those audience members who felt they were reliving their youth through ShowHawk gigs, and the guy to my right, liberally covering his neighbors with cider, chortled, ‘I’m 36 and I feel it’.

In all this was a brilliant gig, which merged the past with the present and took the audience on an adrenaline charge nostalgia roller coaster. Showhawk Duo are fantastic and if you haven’t seen them live yet, you’ve been missing out.

Written by Splenetic Goose, Photo by Soul Media 2016

 Reviewed: 16 November 2016

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@G_Morph goes to @thenestbath

Broken Bones Matilda performing at The Nest, Bath

The Night Club. A club at night. A nighttime club. Its a concept that I, Galmorphagorph, have grappled with of late, and one that I’ve only recently begun to understand. While perching on a shallow wall to feed on a wild local city-bird, I noticed a small group of scantily dressed young women blithely stumbling into the open road. They loudly called to their friends behind them ‘We’re going to Po’s!’. It wasn’t until much later that I realised that they were NOT in fact making a startlingly frank and public statement of intent to participate in communal defecation. They were, however, referring to one of a few ‘Night Clubs’ that occupy various cavernous cellars around Bath. They are cold and sparsely decorated, their sins hid by mood-lighting and ear-splitting music. During Halloween I was able to visit a few of these places, passing undetected and trying my best not to kill anyone. Halloween makes me paranoid. Too many Humans are dressed too similarly to my various galactic enemies. Night Clubs appear to be places that young people go to to quite literally loose their minds. They enter these dark and smelly rooms and ply themselves with elixir that drives them insane. As their numbers increase, they coalesce into a pile of writhing sweaty flesh as near as possible to the thundering speakers. They trade saliva and fight and flail and scream half-formed thoughts at the top of their lungs. Some older men stand at the periphery of the shifting meat-pile, staring hawkishly and hornily as the nubile perform their demented sex-rituals. They do this every night. These places are full to capacity every night. Humanity is, of course, Doomed.

I was drawn however to one of Bath’s less obtrusively evil venues, The Nest. Nestled, as it is, at the end of a shallow crescent of picturesque Georgian townhouses, its graffiti’d walls and well engineered sloppiness gives it a certain ineffable quality. I’m told this is what ‘Cool’ is; like getting a tattoo of an old cartoon character, or being terse and passive aggressive towards people for no reason. I can certainly relate to the latter. The musical docket featured a series of Female-Led bands. An attempt to address, perhaps, a gender disparity in what i’ve observed in most facets of human existence. Given that we are all merely children of astronomical cosmic luck, the notion that gender equality isn’t already an iron-clad clause in humanity’s social contract frankly eludes me. There is clearly much growing up to be done, let’s hope Earth isn’t destroyed before you do.

I arrived early so my cloaking device could easily blend me into the corner, emitting a glandular steam that temporarily confuses the human senses in order to pass by the lady at the door. I, Galmorphagorph, do not pay entry fees. I couldn’t help but notice upon my arrival, that a bucket was sitting in the middle of the floor collecting a steady stream of leaking water from the ceiling. A plastic catchment pouch had been constructed to funnel the water into a singular nexus from which it could drop to the bucket. This was a strong start to the evening.

The first band was Broken Bones Matilda, a haunting moniker for an equally haunting band. Led by a green haired, smokey voiced singer and flanked by a set of leather jacket wearing male models, they played a series of sleepy ballads steeped in rural americana. The songs were pleasant, the harmonies tight, the faces extremely attractive, but in context the whole thing felt bewilderingly dark, like a Gothy Steam-punk Willie Nelson. In my last review I bemoaned the west country middle-class obsession with the music of the disenfranchised working American, but I don’t mind it so much when it looks like a Levi’s Ad directed by Tim Burton.

Following that was ‘The Waterbirds’, a high energy indie-punk band led with powerful vocals and some deft drum work, despite some sadly unmemorable song-craft. The guitarist wore a white reindeer snood as he played. I caught my finger subconsciously tracing the handle of my phaser pistol. Like a pound-shop Johnny Greenwood he thrashed around violently and forced my brain to concoct a sentence I hoped I never would… ‘Good lord, he rocked so hard his Snood fell off’. Intermittently he would turn his back to the audience and do a hip shake, wagging his skinny-Jeaned arse two and fro to the music. I was ready to de-atomise this poor fellow. He was saved however when an inexplicable cloud of smoke guffed into the room through a hole in the nearby wall. The smoke gathered around me, giving shape to me. To the casual onlooker, they would see the glassy outline of a muscular alien wizard. I was forced to stay still until it passed.

At some point the Manager wearily walked up and took away the bucket that was catching the water, presumably to drain and replace. He never returned. Water from the ceiling proceeded to cascade into a larger and larger pool across the floor of the nightclub. I’m sure that that’s apt visual metaphor for something, but I haven’t decided what it is yet.

The 3rd act on was Marine: An all-female four piece from London who, frankly, should have been headlining. Their sound was mellifluous and aquatic and appropriate to the name. Bolted to the floor by a solid rhythm section, the two guitarists/singers were able to float euphoniously without the whole thing falling apart. It seemed however that the vocalists, while both excellent, were slightly mismatched. One, a more gentle singer with a choral purity and restless vibrato, the other decidedly more operatic. It felt at times like it should be one or t’other, as when put together it never seemed to gel. The other set back was the relentlessly chatty audience, who clearly energised by the furious Snoodgazm that preceded Marine, couldn’t seem to stop loudly nattering to each other while they played. No fault of the band, and perhaps no fault of the audience; to go from low energy, to high energy and back down did Marine no favours with an audience ravenous for more snood-whipping ass-shaking.

The pool of water grew on the floor.

The last band on was ‘Rachel Jane’. Rachel, presumably the singer, flanked by a guitarist and bassist. They played low key percussion-free Indie-pop, heavily peppered with Christian sentiment. It was largely forgettable, musically. She sang very well, they were all dressed very stylishly, the whole thing was very de rigueur if your singular focus is getting a record deal. I suppose theres something admirable about the naked ambition, the perfectly constructed sterile pop format that must be adhered to if you wish to make this business your bread and butter. Humanity is the only species I’ve come across in all my travels across galaxies, across dimensions, across millennia, that expressed themselves through music. Perhaps that is why I come to these things. I come to see how people express themselves. For some its a compelling, messy and unpredictable necessity to communicate in a language that is entirely emotional. To connect, to scream out the thoughts in their heads for which words alone will not suffice. For other’s its a discipline, a format, a structure to be adhered to, a Ladder to be climbed, a dollar to be made. I see merit in both, but I know which I prefer. The market seems to disagree. And with another nervous fart from the nightclub wall, I swiftly made my exit.

As I left, I looked sadly at the water pool gradually spreading and now dribbling down the steps to the main dancing floor, I, Galmorphagorph, continued to struggle to find relevant meaning to this profound visual metaphor. Perhaps in a time of global social and political uncertainty, the free-flowing progress of western society that held shape for so long now seems to be dribbling messily and hopelessly all over the floor. Could I conquer your planet and rule you as a benevolent emperor? Maybe. In fact, definitely. But frankly, I’d rather the manager just brought the bucket back.

Written by Galmorphagorph, Photo by Jasmine De Silva

19 November 2016

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Squark 008 at @TheNestBath

Don't Play With Guns performing at Squark at The Nest, Bath

It was Tuesday night and with a couple of hours to spare I decided to saunter on down to The Nest to see what Squark is all about.

The gig took place in what I believe is called the Piano Lounge, the piano might have been the giveaway. It’s a brightly colored, yet dimly lit room with some couches, the aforementioned piano, a small DJ booth and some pinspot lighting on a corner stage.

Don’t Play With Guns were up first. They’re a three week old, four piece, who met on the Bath Spa University commercial music course. Owing to the bands recent birth they can be forgiven for playing half a set of well executed covers. Their originals were impressive and displayed good construction and lyricism and were performed well, but the two stand outs were Jack, the bassist, who clearly knew what he was doing and Angus, their frontman, who had a wonderful husky edge to his voice. I’m definitely looking forward to hearing more from this band and in particular what they sound like at full volume.

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Lovebite on a Crutch

Next up was Ben, one half of an act called Lovebite On A Crutch. His set also had a couple of covers in it, one was Purple Rain, a tribute to one of the many recently deceased mega-stars who are being remembered in gigs around the country. If 2016 has done anything, it’s reminded us of the lack of quality in current mainstream music. Ben is an acoustic singer-songer with a good voice, unfortunately, he knows it and I feel he’s copying the styles of established musicians with too much ease. I’d like to hear him step out of his comfort zone and do something, more challenging. How he does that is up to him, but it’s safe to say the world has enough singer-songers.

The poetically named, Hatecrimes were next on the bill and started their turn with some trippy Korg and guitar effects, creating a haunting atmosphere. This was built it up with a dash of looping, some soft vocals and a helping of fuzz, undulating in a way that caused the sound guy to earn his keep as the levels peaked and troughed. The lead guitarist and vocalist resembled a grunged-out Shaggy, from Scooby-doo fame, not the ‘Boombastic’ variety and the music he and his unassuming friend doled out was just what it said on the label “Gritty and truthfull, chilled yet noisy.” – quoting their website. The changes in tempo and volume and the sometimes rambling, sometimes solid lyrics created an engaging soundscape.

hatecrimes
Hatecrimes

Alas, I missed St Leonard’s Horses. It’s the constant issue with midweek gigs, which some venues get round by putting the headliner on a bit earlier. In any case, I’d seen three good acts and that was enough to satisfy me.

Over the years, the venue which is now known as The Nest has had many guises, younger generations will remember it as Back To Mine, while older Bathonians may remember it as The Fez Club. I’m sure there are people who could tell me what it used to be before that, but needless to say its current incarnation is doing a good job for the local music scene. Its multi-staged areas and ability to create different moods from room to room, along with its increasingly impressive performance schedule of up-and-coming and established talents make it an integral part of Bath’s rich artistic scene.

From what I’ve witnessed Squark could be a long-running success for the venue. Yes, there is a free open mic just down the road, but they aren’t showcasing the same level of talent, nor do you have to struggle to hear the musicians above the drinking set. The only way I could see it improving is if they did away with anything commercial sounding and developed the ‘underground’ vibe which the night definitely leans towards.

An initial £3 payment will see you through the door and will get you a badge, which entitles you to a £1 discount on subsequent visits, so £2 isn’t that much for a night of good music. I can see this becoming my weeknight treat.

Written by @LordSkitch

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