BongCauldron EP Launch
featuring Ten Foot Wizard
The Fenton Arms, Leeds
January 23rd 2014
If you don’t ask, you don’t get. – Mahatma Gandhi
Parcel Force are complete cunts. – BongCauldron
It’s one of those God-awful cliché sayings like, ‘don’t look a gift horse in the mouth’ or, ‘this is the first day of the rest of your life’ that are thrown out daily but aren’t really worth a damn. But the other day, in an attempt to avoid train fare, continue to kick anxiety in the arse, and throw a little spice into yet another outing to Leeds, I mailed the band Ten Foot Wizard and asked if I could ride down in the van with them. To my surprise, they didn’t seem to mind one bit. Whereas I, upon being accepted, began to continually and systematically shit myself with lethal panic attacks.
Thursday came and I headed to the station, bought a ticket anxiously for the station nearest to where the band lived, and boarded for the short journey. After getting directions from the kind employees at the local bookies, I was invited in and sat in the kitchen writing and drinking tea while the band tore the building apart during their practise downstairs. If how things were sounding downstairs were anything to do by, this was gonna be a good one.
We loaded the van and hit the road amidst the meanest hail storm ever. It was a weird situation, being in a van with people who are basically complete strangers, but as soon as a CD was put in that contained some of the best soul music (including Gloria Jones’ ‘Tainted Love’) I knew I was in good company and eased back into my seat for the ride.
After much traffic, and many illegal U-turns, we arrived at the Fenton. The place was a typical Victorian Pub complete with roaring fireplace, towards which Bassist Seddy and I automatically drew towards to get warm, and, even though the clientèle for the evening was mainly big bearded heavy metallers, the old timer usuals and young hipster students didn’t seem to mind the utter chaos that was about the ensue in the upstairs venue room.
The first band were Nomad who played as if they’d crawled straight from the swamps and not from the streets of Manchester. There was a full crowd even for this opening act and as the band powered through their set of ‘groovy sludge’ the audience became more and more into the sounds. I stood on top of a chair in the far corner, where Ten Foot had set up their merch, and thought ‘This has to be the closest any band has ever got to the brown note’. The walls were shaking with the low pulse of the bass guitar as vocalist Drian screeched through the songs like some hell bent bird of prey (but, you know, in a good way)
The crowd poured out, I sold some shirts, and they poured back in to watch the total brutality that was DSDNT with their throat shredding, gut tearing vocals, emanated from the mouth hole of angry Harry who darted into the crowd and screamed the lyrics into the faces of an audience who didn’t seem to mind the carnage one bit. The band sounded like a far more brutal version of Will Haven (which is saying something, really) and, much like listening to Will Haven, I felt knackered just watching the energy on stage. There’s nothing better than watching a band destroy themselves during a set and knowing they loved every minute of doing so.
But the barbarism of the first two bands got me worried. Ten Foot Wizard didn’t sound the slightest bit like these bands. In comparison, they were quite poppy. With many rumours about Sludge Metal being a Sludge Metal game, I feared that perhaps there had been some mistake, and Ten Foot’s blues influence, Fu Manchu style, Stoner rock would go down like a fucking Zeppelin. But, thankfully, I was wrong. Within the first two songs the entire room was alive with electricity over the good vibes blasting from the amps of this trippy quartet. Many of the audience sang and pumped fists into the air during songs like Vulture Bitches and Rise From Your Grave. Even during the never been played live before The Sex, with it’s acid rock riff and vocal repetition of ‘I miss the sex, I don’t miss the drama’, the entire room nearly exploded in an orgasm of musical lust. The best thing about Ten Foot Wizard is that whatever remnants of male-macho bullshit are left within the heavy metal scene are entirely discarded when these boys play. The genuine entertainment they give, and seem to get whilst playing, is worth any door charge (for the record, it was only £3 for this night which is cheap as fuck).
The final act of the evening were EP launching, BongCauldron. Except they couldn’t release their EP because, according to a polite notice laid upon their merch table, ‘Parcel Force are complete cunts.’ But this didn’t matter, because as soon as they started to play the walls not only shook, they came crashing down into a full blown pit that caused unsuspecting audience members to be flung back into the back of the room. The Bong live and thrive on dirty distortion and the sound was what I imagine a heroin come down must be like (but, you know, in a good way), there’s still a buzz there but you’re left feeling cheap with the sense of self-loathing you have for enjoying something some damn filthy. Each track was a huge extended head banging session which caused the band to play over time. This pissed the sound guy right off and he progressively became more and more irritable. First he huffed and puffed from behind his desk, second he dressed into his winter coat and proceeded out of the door only to return minutes later, and finally he turned all of the house lights up and cut the PA. But this didn’t matter, the band continued to play for as long as they humanly could and every single person in the crowd was absorbed by the music, giving more of a shit about the magic happening on stage than whatever Goddamn time it was.
We stood around in the empty room after the show. Less than thirty minutes before this place was filled with insanity, sweat, and an energy that no class A could trick the mind into feeling. Yet now it was nothing but a room, filled with empty glasses and spilled liquid, and I wished the walls could have absorbed the atmosphere and oozed it out for every show here in the future. All the bands spoke pleasantly, and made plans to play together again, while I stood listening and trying to keep hold of all the positive feelings the show had given me. We piled into the van and headed home, with everyone maintaining a somewhat contradictory sense of calm euphoria and a full blown adrenaline buzz. I didn’t know beforehand, but the Wizard were a relatively new band who were ‘trying to build blocks and work their way up in the scene.’ The similarities to them as musicians and myself as a writer, and more importantly as a man finally on the up after seven years of hell battling a constant sense of crippling anxiety and dark depression, were rife. But I didn’t mention this to them. I didn’t feel I needed to. I’d been shot down the motorway in a sardine can (it’s a lovely van really), filled with four people I hardly knew a damn thing about, and I’d been surprisingly fine. Not only my own growing strength, but the personalities of each member of the band and the atmosphere they created both on stage and off, had eased my trepidation. Here were not just four musicians, but a unit, with one hundred percent genuine dedication and love for what they do. I saw this while they played tonight, and I continued to do so from the way they were still buzzing from the crowds reaction all the way back. I could never truly explain just how much the night had given me back things I thought I’d lost but hopefully, by reading this, both you dear reader, and Ten Foot Wizard, will understand a little better.
All words by Ian Critchley. More writing by Ian on Louder Than War can be found at his author’s archive.