A Sight For Sewn Eyes, Empires Fade, Fall City Fall, Summits
Sunday 7 April 2013
An under attended evening with a quartet of hardcore / metalcore bands gives Frazer Cooke a renewed passion for live music.
It was 4 in the morning; I was cold, tired and broken. It had taken 5 hours to make the hour long journey home. All public transport access to the Greenwich peninsula had been severed by engineering works, the only way out was by boat – yes, a boat. It had been like Dunkirk, minus the spirit of unity but with a tangible threat of abandonment and potential death, just so I could sit in the eaves of the monstrous voided bowel of Satan that is the O2, to watch, with 23,000 other mugged punters, tiny specks perform songs from their underwhelming last album.
I’d been going to gigs for over 20 years. Prices had inflated massively as every part of the ticket supply chain carved off their pound of flesh. Venues were bloated, impersonal and awash with piss. Fuck it, I thought, I’m giving up this lark.
I hadn’t stepped inside a live venue for 3 years. This is the tale of my return to the musical coalface.
It couldn’t have been a more contrasting return setting. Surya, on Pentonville Road, London is a tiny venue; bar upstairs; gig downstairs. They serve fairly decent beer and you get it quickly, on this occasion it was mainly because, besides the bands and a few of their friends, there were only 4 of us watching.
Canadian metalcore/hardcore bands A Sight For Sewn Eyes and Fall City Fall had joined Mancunians Empires Fade for a cross-Europe tour. It was an exceptionally poorly promoted gig, I’d been given the heads up by Fall City Fall’s label Victory Records but they’d given me the wrong venue. After some protracted googling and a couple of phone calls, I found the correct location. In these days of information saturation, when an ill-advised Facebook posting can result in half the 16-24 year olds in a 30 mile radius gatecrashing your house party, this gig was a curiously anonymous anomaly.
I can only imagine what it’s like to perform to a crowd with fewer members than your band. At least for Summits, the most local band on the bill, they’d brought along a few supportive friends. They were clearly at the early stage of their career, looking as bemused and awkward as a line-up of metalcore Father Dougals. The vocalist, seemingly intimidated by the penetrating glares of 4 strangers, spent the entire gig with his back to us, his snarled rage fed back to his stilted bandmates. Stage presence aside, their sound is in turns ferocious and melodic; they possessed in musical dexterity what they lacked in confidence, which will surely grow with time.
By comparison, Fall City Fall, were clearly seasoned performers, their spastic convulsions raising genuine public safety concerns. They are a vocal duopoly, but don’t offer the comfort of a clean/hard vocal contrast favoured by some of their contemporaries, theirs is a raging/deranged verbal assault. With a bass player with no regard for conventional instrument positioning, the ensuing wall of sound is given concrete foundations with insistent drum pummelling and rabid riffing. It’s a performance to behold.
Following a meticulous sound check Empire’s Fade proceeded to sonically bludgeon those of who remained – Summits with their entourage having departed to presumably catch the last train home leaving the already scant audience severely depleted. It was a credit to all the bands on the bill that lack of bodies in the room had no reductive effect on their performance.
The evening was closed by A Sight For Sewn Eyes, as equally impressive and committed as their tour mates, it’s not often that a band can end a set by going around and personally thanking every audience member. It was masked as a tongue in cheek gesture but actually a great reflection of the genuine heart and dedication of these bands.
It’s ridiculous that in a city stuffed to the rafters with humans and with such a deep musical heritage that thousands of us will subject ourselves to extortionate mediocre entertainment in cavernous venues, when in local basements bands spill their guts for the pure thrill of playing. For me it was a stark reminder of the visceral thrill of live performance and a lesson gladly learnt.
All words by Frazer Cooke. More of Frazer’s writing on Louder Than War can be found here. Frazer is a founder member of Shankfist Wreckage Technique, currently the only hip-hop collective boasting members from New York, Berlin, London and Macclesfield.