Thursday night was the first gig I have done with Goy Boy McIlroy for a good couple of months. Do we still have it? Are we relevant? Questions like that were echoing through my overly-reflective little mind. Luckily I had two rather superb bands to listen to and divert my thoughts to somewhere… dark and intense. Oh no.
Both bands Figmennt and The Golden Age Of Nothing are bands I am fond of (in a non-weird way). I love their recent recordings and give them a biased amount of airplay on my local radio show ‘The Grind’. The fact they were both on the bill alongside us, was as if Joel Clayton from Whirling Dervish had been attentively monitoring my playlist actions with an almost obsessive interest. This sent chills up my spine and as I turned around, I saw Joel staring at my side on profile with a hollow, glazed expression on his face, whilst slightly swaying in the breeze that came from the open fire doors.
Anyway, first up was The Golden Age of Nothing. They kicked off with Cosmonauts which now carried extra weight of meaning since a recent discussion with singer Graeme Wilkinson. My worry with listening to them live for the first time was that the expansive ambience of their recordings wouldn’t translate live, but that worry never manifested itself in reality. The bass is menacing but arrogantly and ignorantly so (personal joke with me and bassist Doyle) and Graham Seaman’s violin parts seemed so subtle and slight to watch but the sound filled every inch of space in the room. That combined with Graeme’s haunting vocals and guitar that at times sounds like Chris Isaak – if he had written a soundtrack for a seventies sci-fi film.
Actually, for a three-piece band there is a load going on. The music is accompanied by soundscaping samples and a relentless beat of the drum machine, which I thought was used to good effect. On top of that there were so many layers of sound, musical nuances and thought provoking lyrics that constantly captured/demanded my attention. It sucked me in and before long I was nodding my head in sync with the rest of the room. They had hypnotised us all.
They played my favourite track ‘Everything’s On Fire’ although that might have been usurped by the closing track ‘The Ends Of The Earth’, which took on a new form live. A great set ender. The fact that the band gave me a lovely gift of a print and CDs just made me love The Golden Age Of Nothing guys even more, although even without the bribe, this review will have always said I was blown away by them.
Figmennt annoy me how young and extremely talented they are. I get jealous that I was nowhere near that good at their age, but then that jealousy turns to respect and after a little chat with them before the performance that respect turned to love. In fact the pre-performance chat made me realise that I had talked to a couple of the Figmennt lads after playing at a recent Dead Meadow’s gig at The Georgian Theatre. In fact I was completely unaware that lead singer Joe Garratt and I have been Facebook friends since April. Bad form, I know but in my defence I meet a lot of people at gigs.
I only know the name of one song of their songs, their recent release ‘She’ and having only seen them once before as support for Kingsley Chapman and The Murder I was looking forward to familiarity that is gained with a secondary listen. Their intro instantly smacked the crowd in the face with a massive wall of noise, I couldn’t tell you the name of the song that followed straight after but it was great. Like Golden Age Of Nothing they construct a soundscape that floods the venue with warm resonating waves. The reverby, melodic vocal sits delicately on top of the music like a paperboat. Their sound is dark but not heavy and there’s shoegazer, psych, indie and maybe a tiny bit of pop all blended in there to create a quite lovely acoustic vibe.
The set ender was another song I didn’t know the name of but the guitar work was super impressive. If you’ve not seen them yet then I highly recommend you do so.
I found myself on the bar dishing out straws to everyone. In hindsight it was a waste. I hope they were recycled.
Next up was us, Goy Boy McIlroy. It was our first gig for a couple of months and I was a little apprehensive but then at the same time incredibly excited to get back to doing what I truly love. The music faded, Joel introduced us and it was time to get cracking. Here is a song by song guide to what happened.
‘Social Mobility Blues’ – Glen’s bass amp inexplicably started squealing like a dying pig within the first 30 seconds of the song. Nice one. We went for it anyway and at the end of an explosive first song I had simulated masturbation with a bottle of Lambrini that I stole from a girls bag and had a pile on with a guy (who throughout the song stared deeply into the PA speaker) and his dainty girlfriend, who fortunately ended up on top of the pile. First song done. Welcome back.
‘Redemption Caramel’ – I love how this song starts all slow and melodic before bursting to life. However this sudden burst invoked a jerky snap of my body that cricked my neck. Not wanting to make people aware of my worn, ageing body I carried on in pain. Glen’s bass amp had calmed down, although it occasionally lapsed into a much lower pitched squeak every now and then. The music on this song has a lovely groove to it and Simon’s licks mixed with the juicy beat had everyone dancing. I found myself on the bar dishing out straws to everyone. In hindsight it was a waste. I hope they were recycled. The set finishes out with an instrumental. I got an uncooked potato from the back stage area (there was a full pan of them) and started biting off chunks and feeding them to the audience. It sounds disgusting but people were wolfing them down and it demonstrated perfectly the power of peer pressure. The song finished leaving mine and half the audiences’ mouths tasting of starch and soil.
‘Pleasure’ – One of the songs to feature on our new EP. Glen’s bass amp seem well behaved but then decided to cut out halfway through the song. Alan and Simon are proper pros and seeming unfazed carried on. It’s a slower song and so brought the pace of the set down. I decided to retreat deeper into the stage whilst turning to the side so they can see me like Joel likes to see me (side on). The song has no kinetic intensity to it so bouncing around is pointless. The finish had the full band back on board and was met with lovely claps, but this bass amp is threatening to steal the show.
‘Wicker Bed’ – Our newest song and also on the EP. Before we continued with this song we changed bass amps. Doyle (from GAON) kindly lent us his. Now we were cooking. We let rip and finished two and a half minutes later (story of our lives). The guitar parts on this song are sexy as and allowed me plenty of dancing time, the problem was my cardiovascular system could not keep up. Note to self – go jogging.
The guitar parts on this song are sexy as and allowed me plenty of dancing time, the problem was my cardiovascular system could not keep up. Note to self – go jogging.
‘Hyde’ – Just realised that the middle 4 songs are all from the new EP. The short mid-set break we had to rectify technical difficulties meant that people’s attentions had wandered and a few headed outside for a smoke and a chat. Wanting to reinvigorate people’s interests I ventured outside to sing the second chorus to them which, for those who are unfamiliar with the song, is just a scream. This seemed to do the trick and people seem to follow me back in to re-enjoy the fun. Being a front-man is as much about manipulating and snaring a crowd as it is about singing, self indulgence and being a crank.
‘Life B’ – Another EP song and one that’s irresistible to dance to. A hypothesis backed up by the group of girls dancing, spinning and twisting at the front of the stage. At some point in the song I tried to kiss a picture of a fox on the wall. Being high up I struggled to get to it. Not wanting to embarrass myself I persevere and I get my lips on it within three awkward attempts. This song featured our only error. Either I came in too early (most likely) or the band came in too late, but whatever happened it’d have been unnoticeable to the untrained ear, as we are pros. The song soars with the intensity of drum and guitar and it finished off with a lovely waltz with a member of the crowd, a bit Strictly Come Dancing but meh…
‘The Pilgrim’ – Al, who didn’t and never does bring a piece of carpet, found that his drum was sliding off the stage. Before the gig I went to the nearby Sainsbury’s local in the off chance they had some gaffer tape. What they did have was parcel tape and Al used it to tape some drumsticks to the floor to act as a barrier to the sliding feet of his drum. Turns out parcel tape is no gaffer tape and decided to come loose. Before we start we asked if someone would like to act as a human drum stopper. A young lady volunteers and without thinking of her eardrums we continued. We’ve had this song for ages and breezed through it without any further hiccups. During the set I found a psychedelic flag just lying around. I did a lovely dance with it before draping it over my head and resembling a cartoon ghost on acid.
Being a front-man is as much about manipulating and snaring a crowd as it is about singing
‘Writhing’ – The end of the set and what better than to end it with an eight minutes long, dynamic rollercoaster of a song. The opening beats were too much for our drum stopper volunteer and she disappeared off the stage whilst telling us she had to go and dance. Luckily the drummer from Figmennt stepped in and we were OK to carry on. At the front of the stage was a sea of writhing bodies whereas on the stage mine began to seize up. The song progressed into madness with people jumping about, screaming into the microphone and throwing faeces onto the stage… Ok the last bit didn’t happen but we need to save a little bit of fun for our gig at the Green Room, Stockton on 5th September.
Overall the gig was a good one and we were decent. The crowd was plentiful and warm, we got rid of our performance rust, saw a couple of great bands, battled technology and various issues and we made through the other side with smiling faces and our pride intact. It’s great to be back but I forgot how uncomfortable it feels to carry heavy gear back to the car drenched in sweat. Oh well, that’s grassroots rock ‘n’ roll for you.
Thank you Whirling Dervish for having us.