The Priory, Doncaster,
25th March 2015
Once in a while a band comes along that changes everything.
The sort of band that you can remember the precise moment you first heard one of their records or saw one of their gigs. This happened for me last year when I put on Sleaford Mod’s “Divide and Exit” album.
After that I was sold on the Notts-based minimalist hip-hop/post-punk duo. Since then their last three albums haven’t been off my CD 2015 player. And of course I had to see them live. The first opportunity was on their March tour of less known towns and venues – the ones traditionally left off the touring circuit, the Hitchin’s and Boston’s of this world. That translated as Doncaster for me. While Doncaster is famous for its Dome venue where the bigger bands play, the Priory and its 240 capacity main room is less well known for live music. But what better place to see Sleaford Mods in a near capacity gig with the band in a hair’s-breadth of the crowd?
Fortunately the promoter has got his act together here (more than can be said of their Lincoln gig). Having initially been asked for their tickets on entering the venue earlier on (“We’re in the band mate”) they make their way onto stage through the crowd around 10pm and start the gig off with “Bunch of Cunts” from their excellent “Tiswas” EP, a minimalist and random rant littered with expletives. The stage is equally as sparse, just Andrew Fearn’s laptop on a table and a mic stand and mic which frontman Jason Williamson hangs on and periodically circles.
Fearn presses the buttons on his laptop to set the tracks rolling and then sways with hands in pockets as his sidekick rages about unemployment, the humdrum of modern working life, pointless celebrities and unscrupulous bosses. On paper it shouldn’t work; two forty-something’s who don’t actually play any instruments. But it does work. Well, to be honest it does more than work. What they conjure up is something a million times more vital and urgent than 99% of so-called alternative bands currently plying their trade. The band’s simplicity and directness is the reason why as they deliver harsh but entertaining shots of everyday life, shorn of all bullshit or ceremony.
It’s also hard to pin down the genre but the beats are definitely from the house of hip-hop while Williamson’s vocal delivery certainly owes its spirit to punk.
We get treated to a new song before the short but to-the-point eleven-song set takes us through the key moments on their current album and its predecessor, 2013’s equally excellent “Austerity Dogs”. As the intro sequence to “Jobseeker” whips up the varied crowd into a frenzy causing outbreaks of pogoing, the band are clearly enjoying their new found popularity. Perhaps one of the most surprising elements of the band’s show is Jason’s semi-camp stage manner which provides an intriguing contrast to the voracity of some of his rants. After set closer “The Wage Don’t Fit” the band are immediately called back on stage for a two-song encore that delivers “6 Horseman” that comically ridicules Razorlight frontman Johnny Borrell and one of the highlights of the night, the up-tempo “Tweet Tweet Tweet”.
With a new album already in the tin and the larger venues and more European dates beckoning in the coming months, 2015 could be the year this fascinating and highly original duo take things up to the next level.