Opening the night was Sodding Wolf’s Head, previously a two-piece outfit playing I’m Being Good/Red-era King Crimson noise but now expanded and strengthened with the addition of a bassist and second guitarist into more doom-style territory. The band flitted between all-out dirgy Thrones-esque riffs and more melodic constructed sounding like Mogwai or more recent Pelican, often slowly waiting to burst into extreme volume and big guitars. The earliest form of the band’s song changes remained as more math or jazz-rock breaks appeared a couple of times from nowhere but the doom grooves mark the new direction, and an affecting one it is, that the band have now taken.
your ears being mashed up and the strange desire to dance
Following were Big Joan, a four-piece band with female vocalist. Their sound had the same edge of discordance and noise that I was waiting for and come to expect from Hunting Lodge, and the early appearance of this was not a bad thing. For me the band created a sound similar to the punk-rock of The Jesus Lizard/Arab on Radar, but different in several ways. The female vocals were distinctive and marked a different appeal to that of most UK noisy post-punk bands, and the singer’s dustbin percussion also allowed for interesting interplay with the drummer and his kit. The band weren’t as aggressive or provoking as the bands mentioned either but instead had a distinctly fun edge. Big Joan were tight as well, a sign of their years, and of a serious ability. And they worked perfectly alongside the band they preceeded.
Hunting Lodge have often impressed me – their sheer noise for a start – and tonight was no exception. I was interested to see how the group worked with it’s weightloss of one guitarist, especially due to the spazzy nature of the often all-at-once, all-over-the-place music which could well have been left lacking. But not at all, the sound was just as fat, in fact they seemed even louder. And the performance was impeccable. The bassist’s screams to the walls, the drummer’s unsettled stand-up/sit-downs, the guitarist’s jerks and the singer’s lurching presence. Musically, think Chinese Stars and The Birthday Party – your ears being mashed up and the strange desire to dance; loosely played off-beat polyphonies, punk and disco beats, dirty pounding bass and crazed howled vocals. The songs often sound only completed in the moment, part-created in the chaos and randomness of the performance. Impressive again and completing a fine set of support acts. This is a lucky crowd.
the smallness of the venue lending to a heightened atmosphere
Melt Banana. In Southampton. In the Joiners. It was packed for this show, as it should be – Melt Banana are one awesome band. And no matter how good the support seemed at the time, along came the Japanese mentalists and all were blown away. Playing basically the same set as that played in support of Cell-Scape on its release a couple of years ago the band blasted through material of that album and others such as the classic Charlie. Their incredibly influential and inimitable style of punk is known for several trademark factors: Yasuko’s high-pitched, piercing vocals; Agata’s technical mastery and effects-wizardry, making his guitar do more in one song than all of us in a lifetime; Rika’s energetic, chunky bass; and frenetic and intense pummelling drumwork. The Joiners was not just treated to all of the above but with the smallness of the venue lending to a heightened atmosphere, and for those who were interested and managed to manouvre through the masses, the treat of watching Agata in action in close-up. Offering the joy of eleven short songs, two covers, some breakneck drum speeds (incidently by a drummer who seemed for most of the gig like he would never break a sweat) and several discussions of how nice the recent tour had been for the band and how good UK audiences were, for about an hour Melt Banana played some of the best punk noise and reminded everyone exactly why the band have the reputation that they do.