Live at Royal Park Cellars on Wednesday, 7th March 2001
First - an apology to NONE OF THEM KNEW THEY WERE ROBOTS - as I trotted down the steps of The Cellars for this my first "Collective AKA" night, I heard the final chord of their set and saw the singer lie down on the stage. Sorry guys - the chord I heard sounded excellent!
It was only 8.15 p.m. and the first set was already over - with four more bands to go. This was a strange experience for me, being a spectator in the venue that on Fridays and Saturdays is my second home. The room is well filled - all the tables have been pushed to the sides with most of the audience content to stand and generally mill about while waiting for the next set. I toy briefly with the idea of volunteering to set up the Panama stage lights for free but the think "No - this isn't your night, don't interfere" - and maybe in any case this is the way it is meant to be - raw white light & cigarette smoke and the bands and audience face to face up front with no "presentation" gloss on the musical canvas that is about to be painted.
Then Leeds band EIGHTY SIX are on stage - this is raw rock energy, fat guitar chords and a big solid sound reminiscent in some ways of The Foo Fighters but harder and dirtier. (I talk to the band after the set & suggest that they fall somewhere between Foo Fighters & Nu-Metal - they're happy about the Foo Fighters reference but very un-happy about being associated in any way with Nu-Metal - which only goes to show, as Country Joe McDonald once said, that everybody has their limits) The set powers through in a similar vein - if I have one criticism it is of a lack of variety and use of dynamics in the set. The huge finish provided by the song called (or at least this is a prominent line in it) "Promise Me One Thing" makes up for any shortcomings elsewhere.
Next up are PYLON from Wakefield - I immediately start spotting real guitar riff work here and the excellent backing vocal harmonies make me think more in terms of Indie (bit smug later when I read the "Cops & Robbers" billing and see that Pylon are down as "Indie Popsters") - But this is only in comparison with the previous band and what follows because I suspect that many Indie fans would find Pylon hard and heavy. Once again I am put in mind of the Foo Fighters - particularly the second song made me think of "Everlong" in overall sound. The driving bass and throbbing rhythm parts combine with the indie-ish riffs & harmonies to make a whole that has real character.
On to U.S. band HUNTER GATHERER after a rather long changeover due to a mix-up over a drum pedal. While getting sorted the band set the mood for their set with comments like "Hey - fill up this space at the front - we wanna see our spit land on ya" (I hasten to ad that as far as I can see during the set, no spit is directed at anyone!) But then they are ready and launch into their first number with a haunting bass line that is quickly topped out by raw grating vocals and complex syncopated guitars over driving drum patterns. This set is full of energy & commitment and the fact that to me it eventually seemed to resolve into two big hairy guys shouting at one another across the stage has probably got more to do with MY limits (Country Joe again) than the intrinsic quality of the music. Their are moments of almost pure Rock'n'roll and times when the performance becomes like a musical moshpit with sounds colliding and bouncing frantically off each other.
Headliners are Germany's TUPAMAROS who, after some initial difficulties getting their act together finally open their set with crashing guitars and inescapably Nu-Metal screaming vocals. But before anybody gets upset by this controversial label let me assure you that we are not talking here about the empty posturing of the sports-metal brigade, but music that has real content and screams with feeling and occasional rage. Through it all, their is control and tight rhythms that strangely enough occasionally put me in mind of some of Brian Eno's early work (e.g. "Blank Frank" and "Then there was you"). Rich, earthy and dynamic, Tupamaros carried us through to the end of the night - the last thing I see that I have written on my notes is "THIS IS WHAT IT'S ALL ABOUT" - I have no idea why I wrote that - but I must have meant something at the time.
So that was my first "DIY" night - & some general observations are in order. It was a great show & a great audience. Above all there was an overwhelming impression that they were there to listen to the music - not to be seen in a trendy location - not to support their mates or "their band" football supporter fashion - but to fucking listen to the fucking music!! I was also struck by how few faces I recognised and this is strange - because good though this night was, I have seen bands just as good and nights with just as much energy as this outside the self-styled DIY scene. I'm left with these thoughts - there is some amazing music going on that we non-C&R initiates ignore at our peril - but equally, there are some great gigs going on that the C&R audience and promoters are missing out on. I am more than ever convinced that the division between these two undeniably separate scenes is totally artificial and damaging - Let's get rid of it!!!
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