Karma To Burn (feat. Desert Storm and Ten Foot Wizard)

Deaf Institute, Manchester

19 August, 2014

Aggression and bass heavy up-tempo instrumental grooves a-plenty as Karma To Burn, Desert Storm and Ten Foot Wizard whip up a frenzy in Manchester. Ian Critchley observes from the merch table.

“Can I have a cup of hot water?”

“Err, sure…”

I’d headed downstairs while the bands sound checked. I was attempting to make my own cup of tea as I was broke but always carry a few on me. Tonight, I was once again riding the coat-tails of Ten Foot Wizard’s success and playing the role of merch-man while they opened for the mighty Karma To Burn.

In the comfort of the Deaf Institute’s ballroom-esque bliss, I set up the merch stall on the remaining small amount of table space left. I was introduced to the other two bands’ merch girls and throughout the night we would find our own amusement in a plethora of curious little dances that didn’t at all suit the heavy riffs taking place on the stage. The venue was already pretty damn packed by the time the Wizard took the stage.

The band exploded right away. Their strange blend of hard stoner rock aggression and up-tempo groovy fun is often perplexing to members of an audience not familiar with their sounds but within a track or two the entire room was won over.

‘The Sex’ was a perfect example of this, with its musical intensity contrasted by the insanity of vocalist Gary Harkin’s high altitude kicks and the sexual poses by bassist Emlyn during the funk bass breakdown had the audience rocking and chortling in equal measure. The rest of the night was filled with an abundance of merch buyers complimenting their unique style and asking when their next show was.

Desert Storm were a new, and very welcome, experience for both myself and seemingly many audience members. Their sound was a little harder than the night’s openers but still contained a healthy amount of groove that straddled the big, dirty riffs. This was the perfect mid-point for the evening, gearing the audience up so that the entire room became a bastardised Mexican wave of banging heads while the quintet tore through their set. Looking like Charlie Manson and utilising facial expressions twice as loony, vocalist Matt Ryan ripped through each song with coarse vocals that make Phil Anselmo sound like a little kitten.

It was clear Karma To Burn were the real reason everyone was here tonight. As soon as they began what had been a progressive build up of tense energy was finally let loose and the walls reverberated with excitement and bass. It’s a rare thing to see a purely instrumental band captivate an audience so intensely (I usually associate instrumental groups with some pretentious math-rock project that never gets any further than a very niche fan base) but watching Karma To Burn play it was clear why. Their instruments were saying far more than words ever could, and the genuine enthusiasm and love for the audience was reflected in both their music and their on stage presence.

With practically zero words said other than the occasional “Thank you” or “I didn’t realise we were so popular” the band played a non-stop hour long set which was a constant barrage of grit and distortion. Even after the lights had gone up and the backing track had begun to play the audience were so hungry for more the sound guy was forced (and I used the word forced lightly as he was having just as great a time) to allow another couple of songs.

The gig had been a smash. Every band had played with two hundred percent and the audience soaked this up like the highly porous riff sponges they clearly were. The feedback, and amount of merch sold, for the Wizard also warmed me. I was once again proud to be part of their team, as I feel after every show, and the incredible reaction of the crowd to their music was proof that this was a band set for big things.


Ten Foot Wizard will be playing a special acoustic show at Lammars in Manchester’s Northern Quarter on the 4th September, details of which can be found here.

All photos taken from Jody Hartley Photography.

Karma To Burn Web and Facebook.

Desert Storm Facebook.

Ten Foot Wizard Facebook.

All words by Ian Critchley, find his Louder Than War archive here.



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