The Stag & Hound, Bristol.
18th June 2016.
When I heard the news that Bivouac were reforming this year I literally jumped for joy. Back in the early nineties when Nirvana changed the game, the whole ‘Alternative’ scene blew up exponentially. Of course, the major labels tried to dominate but for me, especially in the UK, the scene belonged to the smaller ‘Indie’ labels (Wiija, Rough Trade, Elemental) and the bands they helped launch. It wasn’t a ‘scene’ as such but more of a breath of fresh air. Out of Derby of all places came a band that I thought could take it as far they wanted. Bursting with young enthusiasm, passion and drive, Bivouac were on my turntable a lot. Along with Cable, Jacob’s Mouse, The Love Blobs, Bivouac filled me with energy, melodic beauty and explosive anger. Despite this, Bivouac imploded in 1996. ( info on this can be found in our interview with them here).
Cut to 20 years later and I am sure much to their surprise, they are touring and releasing a new single, ‘Sweatheart Deal’ on Reckless Yes Records. And what better way to start their set tonight than with this great slice of energetic indie rock with more than a hint of Husker Du about it. Through the incessant snare beats, forceful bass and scorching guitar chords, singer/guitarist Paul’s sardonically tender refrain, “I’d rather be writing love songs” perfectly summarises their dynamic perfectly.
The small but transfixed crowd erupt to the sheer volume as Paul’s guitar, which is VERY loud. So much so that he has to turn it down at the request of the sound engineer because the vocals are getting drowned out. After a slight adjustment, it’s still BLOODY loud but as they work their way through early tracks, ‘Fishes’ & ‘ABC’, the smiles are big and wide as the audience bounce about. Paul especially is frantic, matching every chord stroke with physical personality, jumping, lurching around the limited space he has around him. Bassist Granville and drummer Anthony form a rock solid foundation under the melody, tightly wound together.
Working their way through their back catalogue (notably absent are tracks off their major label album, ‘Monkey Sanctuary’) opting for tracks off their debut, ‘Tuber’ and it’s a good move. ‘Big Question Mark’ is followed by ‘The Bell Foundry’, ‘Drank’ & ‘Steel Strung’. All sound great to me as I know these songs inside out but due to the sheer volume, a lot of the subtitles are lost here. The single, ‘Good Day Song’ gets one of the biggest responses and rightly so, it’s shows off Paul’s songwriting abilities to the max. It should have been a bigger hit than it was. Another new song, ‘Deep Blue Sea Surround’ shows he lost none of that ability to write poetic heartfelt lyrics that paint evocative pictures in the mind.
‘Art, Science And Making Things’, ‘Deadend Friend’ & ‘Bad Day Song’ bring the set to crashing Feedback-ridden finale. Nostalgic? Yes of course, but sometimes there is unfinished business that needs dealing with and because of the bitter ending the band experienced the first time around, a second bite of the apple seems only fair. Bivouac are back and that fills me with joy.