SLEEP prove once again that heavy music is medicine for the soul. A night of Sabbathian noise to cure a hangover in Manchester.
3 hours until SLEEP
The last thing I want to do is trek into town, get soaked, and slowly mosh away while my bowels try to stop themselves from releasing.
After two nights with a soldier who’s getting divorced, I need sleep – lowercase. I force myself outside and to the pub.
I bump into Mike Vennart (of Oceansize and Biffy Clyro fame), wondering whether now, five pints in and with no tea in my belly, is the right time to talk to him about getting the band back together. It’s not.
I slip on a bit of overturned carpet and bounce onto the box office counter. Way to make an entrance.
Time for another swift jar at Spoons. Maybe two.
Outside the venue, SLEEP’s bass player, Al Cisneros, cuts quite a different figure than the titan we’ll soon see onstage. He walks quickly and nervously. There’s a wink and a nudge or two from the stoned drones in the queue.
Back to the venue. It’s hot in here. No more beer, too gassy. G&T. “Make it a double” I shout to the barman.
The crowd is different. There are the huge beards, the absolute units, the ones in triple denim, the ones with patches – the usual crowd. But there’s also the moustachioed, the folk with turnups on their jeans – there’s even a lass in a cocktail dress.
SLEEP have crept into the hipster’s crosshairs in recent years thanks, no doubt, to the mystery of Dopesmoker and their entry into the US album charts with The Sciences.
They’re becoming the sort of band you need to start name-checking the next time you’re at your mate’s house eating homemade kimchi and drinking Big Wave.
Quick toilet. Another G&T. The band’s opening countdown starts and the crowd starts to sardine a little.
5 mins until SLEEP
Guitarist Matt Pike hides stage right clutching (what appears to be) a can of beer, and a ‘vape pen’.
Bang! There it is. That familiar smash of seven guitar heads, three bass heads and a drum kit the size of Alaska.
The band rattle through a set of tight bangers sourced mainly from their later catalogue as the hipster-looking types pace themselves, waiting for a hint of Dopesmoker. It’s not my first rodeo. I know it’s probably not coming. It is, after all, hard to do justice to a song that’s over an hour long.
Quick wee then The Clarity, Sonic Titan, and Giza Butler. Another G&T just in time for my personal favourite blast, Leagues Beneath.
“The closest thing you’re getting to Dopesmoker tonight mate”, I shout at the bloke next to me. He’s been prattling on about hearing it all night.
Hello, deafness. My sweet friend.
While their audience may have changed somewhat, the band sure as hell haven’t. Matt still stands in front of a wall of Orange cabinets with his trusty Les Paul, changing only briefly to his Ibanez 2680 for Leagues Beneath. Diabetes may have stripped him of a toe, but it’s not slowed his thrashing down one bit.
Al Cisneros is still locked in – completely in the zone. Intense. Hypnotic. His head still bobbing like a chicken as the frequencies emitting from his fingers seem to pause time. Maybe that was the third G&T?
Jason still can’t be seen over the mountain of cymbals and tubs. But you’ll still be hearing him the next day.
While each artist experiments, changes and pushes their boundaries in their other outfits (OM, High on Fire and Neurosis) SLEEP remains exactly what it’s always been. Fucking loud. Fucking intense. Fucking slow.
I leave the venue and dash into Tesco. Thatchers this time for the bus home. Wrong bus. Dammit. I walk for 25 minutes in the rain, my hangover all but gone as a new one prepares itself for tomorrow. Still, until then I have SLEEP and then, sleep. It was totally worth it.
I’ve heard great things but I missed them. That was a mistake – I’ve been playing them all day. Certainly, one to catch next time.
All words by Toby Cryne. More writing by Toby can be found at his author’s archive. He doesn’t twitter.
Photos by Paul Grace. To see more of his ace work, click here.