Monday, 24 June 2013

One night in the Silver City

We know we say this every time, but from here on we're really going to be posting stuff regularly, and we can say this with some conviction because we've already filed a big interview with Stephen REVERE about the forthcoming release of sophomore effort 'My Mirror, Your Target' that will be surfacing shortly. But first - One night in the Silver City.

Without wanting to put you off straightaway, reader, there's an authorial note to this post. We went out to see these bands knowing very little and in some cases absolutely nothing about them, with a couple of exceptions that I'll declare. The idea was that it would be a naive, fresh, unmediated 'first impressions of Aberdeen' kind of story. I made notes but it's taken me a while to get round to writing them up and since then I have of course read up on and listened to all the bands and formed probably different, and better informed opinions of all of them. But I'm going to go with the Gonzo version and hope my subsequent research hasn't leached into it too much...

It's Saturday 1st June, and I'm itching to get out and about. I'm going to see not just one but two gigs put on by a couple of Aberdeen's best up-and-coming music promoters. Perhaps they'd have been better advised to talk to each other before booking Cellar 35 and the Tunnels with great line-ups on the same night, but whatever - Cool your Jets and Laika Come Home have done themselves and each other proud by coming up with a joint ticket that allows you to see both nights for eight quid - you choose which you go for first and at which time you bail out to the other venue.

I've gone for the Tunnels first, and I'm not kidding - I'm as excited, as I hand over my eight sheets, about a gig as I have been for ages. 

It's a shame then that not that many other folk are quite as excited. When I get in, the Tunnels is as half-empty as it always seems to be, despite a great line-up. I happen to know, because I considered putting on a band there, that it's pretty inexpensive to book/promote. Maybe too inexpensive, as i saw a band here a week or two previously who were visibly using it as a glorified rehearsal in front of a handful of their mates - maybe it's getting a bit devalued and people don't feel they have to put the effort into publicising the night? But that's definitely not the case tonight, where we have bands who've travelled up from Edinburgh and Glasgow. 

The fare on offer tonight is maybe slightly niche. It's being put on by Cool Your Jets, otherwise known as local boys Min Diesel, who have entirely reasonably gone for a bunch of bands they evidently like themselves. That means, heavily influenced by the American underground / post-hardcore scenes of the 80s and 90s. In fact MD themselves, who I am sure would acknowledge themselves have a fair bit of Dinosaur Jr in their DNA, are probably the least hardcore of the four acts on the bill. And we won't be seeing them tonight as we've got to scarper over to C35 before they come on, but we've seen them before and we know they're ace.

First up: Carson Wells, and bloody hell they're good. They are a trio - as will soon become apparent, the scream/yelp is going to be deployed by every band on this bill and they are past masters at it, tossing the yelps this way and that between the three of them and punctuating some punchy, jerky tunes. They have an album out on the excellent Black Lake Records (which i don't pick up as it's early to be carrying an LP around with 5 more bands to see, and regret it in the morning, along with a few other things) but they mention that the first two songs are new. If that's the case then definitely, definitely try to get hold of whatever they come up with next as these two sounded among the strongest of the set to these ears. Drummer has no strides on, and they do a nice line in almost studied slacker chat on stage that lulls you into a sense of.. something.. then suddenly snaps into the next song, which is without exception frighteningly tight. Investigate. 

Next up - Black International, who are from Edinburgh, I gather. Guitarist and drummer only, and although the yelp/scream is in evidence here too they are more darkly melodic, maybe owing a little bit more to the joy division school of post-punk than the DC underground. Either way, they're also very good. 3rd song in is half of their next single, out on 19th July according to my notes, while the next track is the other half, 'A Gilded Palace'. 'A Gilded Palace of Sin?'  some lost country rock fan in the audience queries/heckles. 'I think my Dad's got that'. In a further 70s retro reference, the frontman's tshirt resembles a black and white version of that famous King Crimson album, but we're not sure if that's deliberate.

With only guitar, vox and drums you have to work a bit harder to sound different and Black International have some great guitar tones and textures going on. Last tune is also very melodic, say the Albino notes. At this point though the notes go off at a bit of a tangent, noting that 'the stench of bleach keeps walking past' and that there aren't enough people there given how great the bands are, which is kind of apt given I'm writing this on the day Aberdeen failed to make the shortlist for the UK City of Culture 2017.

Rungs are the main course here. They are brilliantly tasteless, and i understand were formerly in an another Glasgow hardcore band called 'Take a worm for a walk week'..? They wear an unsettling combination of beards and sports casual (different individuals, that is) and deploy the scream on a whole other level that is less Malkmus and more Beelzebub, and is frankly out of the Albino comfort zone. They attempt to explain the physiognomy of a song called 'Square Sausage' before deciding to press on with playing the song 'before we get sued'. (It involves four men). We're outwardly disappointed, but quietly a tiny bit relieved that we have to split before the end of their set to hoof it over to Cellar 35, because that means they haven't killed and eaten us.

Thankfully C35, although admittedly a fraction of the size, is rammed. We've missed Seas, Starry, unfortunately, but HisnameisCodeine are launching into a thrilling, up close and personal set. They wear their influences on their sleeves - literally, in the case of guitarists 1 and 2, sporting Sonic Youth and the Velvets respectively, and there's more than a smattering of paisley shirts in the audience - but this is no wimpy C86-type revivalism. It owes a lot more to those heavy garage nuggets compilations of the late sixties and the swampy psych blues of the early seventies, with a dash of Pixies and perhaps even a hint of Cave/Harvey gothicism in the vox. Shoot to Kill is a highlight - it's from their debut album 'The Only Truth is Music' which is just out and you can check it out here. You'll be hearing a lot more about them.

I bump into the amiable and ubiquitous John who runs an organisation called 57 degrees North and who is doing some great work, not to revitalise the Aberdeen music scene (it's pretty vital) but help it reach out beyond the north east and who has some great ideas about trying to engage with the Nordic music scenes rather than simply try to compete with Edinburgh and Glasgow for the sake of it. He also introduces me to Mike from Interesting Music Promotions who I am reliably informed is behind all the most out there or leftfield gigs being put on in the city. I think he's putting on Julian Koster, formerly the multi-instrumentalist in Neutral Milk Hotel and now called The Music Tapes, at the Tunnels this week, which should be great.

Finally, The Cosmic Dead. I spot HNIC's keyboard/fx player setting up with them and mention this to one of HNIC outside: 'I see your keyboard player's playing with the Cosmic Dead tonight - presume you know them, then?' 'No, never met them before - but they only play two chords. She'll pick it up easily enough...' I later read that TCD describe themselves as 'Scotland's premier Hawkwind tribute band', which may or may not be a joke. And this may be becoming repetitive but they are also extremely good, and the perfect intense end to the night. The best review I hear all night was from a guy outside Drummonds a bit later on who said something along the lines of 'I wasn't really sure I wanted to see them - to begin with it felt a bit like sitting in someone's house that you didn't really know and I was looking round for an excuse to leave... then suddenly it was forty minutes later and they were still playing the same song, and I was totally hooked'. So were we. And so was everyone.