The Old Blue Last
Thursday 13th October 2011
Witnessing a free gig a The Old Blue Last is often interesting, particularly with the heavier bands. For every hipster who’ll claim to be into the new Wolves in the Throne Room album, there are twice as many who will stand at the side of their favourite bar heckling Bad Guys, as a means of wooing their latest polka-dot bloused female friend.
Tonight though, everyone is here to see at least one of the bands on the bill. And it is a great line-up, albeit a slightly tardy one, with one band held up in a broken down van and another caught in a car crash.
You know you’re due something at the very least half-decent when the guitarist tuning up onstage is wearing a Brainbombs t-shirt. “Sorry for the delay”Â explain Dethscalator before mentioning the above-mentioned road accident. “Oh and”Â¦sorry for the delay pedal”Â.
They burst into their brand of unforgiving noise rock as their vocalist, Dan, stands on the venue floor, howling his guts out like a broken man with nothing to live for, as the world rains down in pieces around him, with full fathom five. The highlight of their set is a one-note riff being played repeatedly at deafening volume for minutes on end. It could be the bridge to a song or an intro. To be honest, it’s difficult to tell amidst the perpetual feedback.
It would be cold soul that wouldn’t sympathise with Jazz-Punk collective Stig Noise. In terms of apparatus, they’ve got so much going on that they’re likely to suffer at least one technical problem every night. Unfortunately, it just so happens that tonight it’s the microphone. Were it another instrument ”â say, for example, the giant videotape-shaped mousetrap that emits helium-drenched vocal samples when you blow into it – it could easily go ignored.
Instead, it plagues frontman, Jacobia Stig, the entire set, working him up into a frenzy that elates and hinders in equal measure. One moment he’s hammering away at the band’s second drum-kit, the next he’s racing back to his mic and belting out pained, yet completely inaudible, screams. He appears totally exhausted and chapfallen when introducing song titles. Although when your songs are called things like ”ËHow Come I Have to Listen to Foo Fighters, and You Get Deerhoof?’, only the most perseverant pair of lungs would be able to cope with the strain he’s been put under and manage with that task.
They do put on a headliner length set though, unlike Divorce who, owing to their traffic-related kerfuffle, don’t have time to plaster themselves in the usual make-up and costume combination that many of their fans have become accustomed to, choosing instead to just get on with it. Jennie Fulk’s vocal stylings are the missing link between Bikini Kill and The Blood Brothers, that you never suspected was there. She throws herself around, screeching and squealing like a Christmas gift-kitten in a sack, being lobbed into a river by a negligent father on a freezing cold late January evening.
Elsewhere, shaven-headed guitarist, Vickie McDonald, claws away at her fretboard, providing treble-heavy scratches, rather than riffs. Their high energy, frenetic performance serves the shorter, sharper, punk tracks well, of which the set’s first two thirds is mainly comprised of.
ButDespite a number of audience members in the crowd assuring me otherwise, I’m fairly sure that the band has been through a few line-up changes in the past couple of years. Either way, the remaining presence of bizarrely named bassist, VSO, is a reassuring sight. The more leisurely paced numbers are all carried by her commanding basslines that underpin the rest of the music ”â including Andy Brown’s drumming, which manages to incorporate cowbell into metal, without sounding like a shit nu-disco band. It ends almost as soon as it begins, but with three top bands for the price of zero pounds and zero pence, nobody’s complaining.