Live at Fibbers (York) on Thursday, 10th November 2011
While Arcane Roots may not have been a familiar name to many, their recent cover of Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit within Kerrang! recently won them favourable reviews and acclaim from critics and fans alike. For some, the idea of a perfect 'Roots gig would be to witness them tortuously endure perpetual renditions of this track again and again until their fingers bled and their souls were ripped of all shreds of individuality. Fortunately, the band's idea of what makes a great gig is somewhat different; putting together a show oozing with astonishing musicality from both themselves and their Norwegian comrades, 22.
For some reason, the band didn't have a Leeds date. Fortunately, we have a public transport system. Unfortunately however, the GPS on my phone didn't work, and after years of technological development, man (ok, maybe just me) has lost the ability to seek directions from his fellow human beings. This resulted in a somewhat arduous mission through York to find Fibbers, which it turns out wasn't at all where my man-intuition had predicted.
Once we'd arrived, it was only a matter of minutes before the first band: Leeds-based utoXator. For a band that seem to have limited understanding of the correct use of capitalisation, they certainly demonstrated eXcellent command of their instruments. This, coupled with the bass player's incredibly enthusiastic stage antics, made for a great warm up act. Their sound is somewhat reminiscent of Bullet for my Valentine with some earlier Lost Prophets thrown in, resulting in thoroughly agreeable riff-driven tracks with a solid foundation of rocky hooks. This was well executed, and certainly got the crowd ready for the impending sonic assailment.
Next up were 22. I'd been told about these guys some months before while interviewing Arcane Roots, who raved about the band's unique sound and their excitement as to the prospect of touring with them. The cause for such enthusiasm was soon fully understood. With the stage drowned in UV light, the band began to enter one at a time; each introducing a new musical component as they did so. The purpose for the UV soon became apparent: each band member sported a different colour of UV paint in the form of Michael Stipe-like stripe across their eyes. The music swayed euphorically between crushing distortion and sweeping filters as the band members their places, until, climactically, the first track dropped into a blitzkrieg of masterful chaotic riffery. It was around here that the audience found their jaws on the floor and their eyes immutably bound to the stage. With the crowd now captivated by the incredible visual and aural display, the band launched into track after track of melodious guitar-driven rock that yielded hints of every genre from Radiohead to Meshuggah. Each track burst with unrelenting creativity; from the hypnotic melodies of Kneel Estate to the Latin-infused rhythms of Molecyl, the sheer imagination within these tracks could keep you hooked for a lifetime. Bottom line? If you consider yourself to be a fan of music - of any shape, of any form - do yourself a favour and check these guys out.
As some of you may have noticed, I was rather taken aback by 22. You may have read the previous paragraph and thought, "OH MAN, HE'S USED ALL OF THE SUPERLATIVES! He can't possible say anything positive now - he's simply adjectively defunct!". Well, you'd be wrong. I've got a thesaurus. And I don't just mean the crappy Microsoft Word thesaurus. No. We're hitting the vocabulary hardcore. Which is a damn good thing, because Arcane Roots are gonna need a whole barrel full of wordsmithery to do their phenomenal tracks justice.
So, being careful not to slip on the UV paint-infused sweat patches, Arcane Roots took to the stage. The three piece looked a little less formidable than their Norwegian tour brethren, though this more down-to-earth visage only served to emphasize the powerfully dynamic auditory onslaught that came to bear down on the crowd. With the first track, In This Town of Such Weather, Arcane Roots launched into an intense set of musical kinetics; once again demonstrating that the key to potent music lies within forging compelling, passionately inventive tracks. With the barrier now at saturation point and the crowd energetically singing along, the band's set was soon in full flight. The trio soared through the beautifully crafted choruses of You Are and Rouen, occasionally kicking things up a notch with the discordantly divine offerings of Million Dollar Que$Tion as well as a few other aggressive advances from their forthcoming album. This contrast of dissonance and exquisite melodious purity effortlessly kept the crowd in tow; and even drew their tour mates out to the sidelines where they devotedly observed the performance. Stopping briefly to take audience input as to which track to play, the band received a request for their infamous Nirvana cover. They chose to discard this clearly tiresome suggestion, and rightfully so - their tracks have more than enough integrity to hold their own - there was certainly no need for novelty cover versions. The band chose to draw the evening to a close with an incredibly momentous take on their EP's closing track, Long and Low. After propelling through the fervently charismatic mix of riff and melody, the band came to a pause just short of the outro. The crowd watched expectantly as members of 22 gathered on the stage from all sides. Within moments the band engulfed the venue in rapturous chorus as all seven musicians delivered an exuberantly impassioned version of the songs iconic finale.
All in all, this was much more than a gig, at least for me. It was an education in what can be achieved musically when you get the right musicians in the right place at the right time. Arcane Roots and 22 are not only dedicated to making ground-breaking music, but to creating a truly memorable experience for their audience. This is enormously refreshing in a time when in seems bands are constantly stepping on each other's backs to get on top. These guys reminded me all over again what music should really be about - simply put, it should be about music. So, should you get a chance to catch either of these sensational bands, don't hesitate. You certainly won't be disappointed, and you just might learn a thing or two.
Arcane Roots and 22 are both gearing up for new releases early next year. Keep up to date with the bands and check out their music via their websites.