4th October 2019
John packed The Castle in Manchester on Friday night ably assisted by Slap Rash and Slow Hand Clap. Nigel Carr was there to watch the mayhem unfold and reports for Louder Than War with photos by Paul Grace.
I heard John on the Marc Riley show. He played High Digger in a week when their second album, here reviewed by Wayne Carey, Out Here on The Fringes was released, I had to see them.
First up was Manchester’s Slap Rash. Following the two-piece Slaves style ensemble, this time with just bass and drums, they made a hell of a racket. Citing Black Flag as an influence, (Weird as I included Rise Above in my August Velvet Donkey playlist), there’s more than a hint of ‘80s hardcore in there. Amelia on drums opens tracks like Zone A piercing the crashing maelstrom with her high-pitched vocal.
Next up is Manchester-based Slow Hand Clap, who are standing in for Max Grindle’s Document. There’s more than a little influence here from LTW favourites IDLES and Fontaines DC. They swing through a raw and ready set, not as polished as their (ahem) idles, with a standout drummer whose metronomic beats ricochet around the room.
John had been interviewed by Chris Hawkins earlier in the day and many of those present are attending the gig. There’s a real feeling of anticipation in the air.
They open with Squad Vowels off the last album (2017’s God Speed in the National Limit) and all hell breaks loose. There is no gentle lulling into this gig. They accelerate to 100 from the off and maintain the tension for the next 40 minutes. Limited by just guitar and drums, everything feels more than a little overdriven, the gaps filled by a drenching wash of sound emanating from the small stage with John (right) screeching into the mic from his drum kit.
They maintain the hardcore delivery right the way through, occasionally slipping into death metal territory with John’s death growl crunching between the beats. Future Thinker gives way to Western Wilds off the new album with John’s vocal so direct, so vicious as its barked into the mic, I wonder how he’s going to keep it up.
This is a band with a heart. On the one hand, the intense hardcore delivery clawing at the viscera and on the other, two really nice blokes smiling on stage between tracks. At one point showing deep concern about the utterly leathered middle-aged bloke halting God Speed in the National Limit by attempting to dance on the stage. ‘It’s fine, it’s fine, just don’t stand on the pedals, look after him he’s learned his lesson’, as a couple of guys in the audience show their disapproval.
The highlight of the set (and album) High Digger reveals the true core of this band – high energy with a flailing riff, cementing one of the best tracks I’ve heard this year. A ‘song for anyone who struggles to use words’ careers from the off.
They finish with Solid State, the closing track off the new album. It’s a slow build and then boom! Pure thrash and a fitting end to a stunning gig. I love this band, so driven, so fresh and a welcome change from so many sound-alikes springing up in IDLES’ wake. It’s furious and intense; unashamed hardcore punk, just the way I like it!
04/10 THE CASTLE HOTEL MANCHESTER *SOLD OUT*
05/10 MABGATE BLEACH LEEDS
09/10 THE WHEATSHEAF OXFORD
10/10 THE MOON CARDIFF
11/10 THE LOUISIANA BRISTOL *SOLD OUT*
12/10 THE HOPE & RUIN BRIGHTON
16/10 THE SHACKLEWELL ARMS LONDON *SOLD OUT*
18/10 THE FESTING PORTSMOUTH *SOLD OUT*
19/10 ELSEWHERE MARGATE
29/11 BENNIGANS DERRY
30/11 THE 343 BELFAST
01/12 THE SOUNDHOUSE DUBLIN