Live from the Black Hole…

20160430_220228Bonnacons Of Doom/Woven Skull/Night Trips/Bushism                  Wagon & Horses, 30 May

The promoters of this evening’s entertainments surely imagined the last day of April would be a fine spring evening to be out in the courtyard enjoying a few bands and a few beers and truthfully they should have been right but it’s recently taken to hailing and snowing and it’s quite chilly out. I wore a nice coat and kept my alcohol levels suitably warming myself but it’s fair to say I have to endure a degree of moaning from fellow patrons about the cold. As if they’d flown in from Spain or something. I miss Bushism, but there’s now four of them apparently. Night Trips have just started and the band are noticeably skilled and well drilled, their music comfortably familiar without sounding too generic or endebted to anyone specific. Definitely on the pop end of the night’s psychedelic meanderings, they’ve got similar ingredients to Inspiral Carpets (vaguely 60’s garage thing, organ, manc singer), The Doors are mentioned but, again, it’s just that wild organ. It’s their most winning element and comes from Billy Bainbridge (once of Broadcast and others) who does great things with retro sounds in less obvious ways. I think they’re most like a less punk version of The Creepers, a comparison both obscure and unhelpful, you’re welcome. A lot of the crowd are more used to the singer’s performance art/comedy with homemade masks and props, singing top pop hits fitted up with surreal lyrics in a vaguely Frank Sidebottom exaggeration of his own voice. It’s not just me having trouble adjusting, it seems he does too early in the set but the last three or four tunes are all the better for him shaking it.

Woven Skull are a whole other world entirely. In fact it’s quite hard to imagine when they wouldn’t be. Last time I saw them was in a rural barn and they still seemed to come from somewhere closer to the earth, deep in a cave or off a mountain side. The idea of them as somehow ‘folk’ music because they have a mandolin player seems a little lazy but there is something undeniably organic about their sound ‘Minimal Repetitions Made Inside of Haunted Woods & Burning Bogs’ as they put it themselves. They’ve recorded out in the woods and used field recordings in the fairly tall stack of stuff you can find on their bandcamp (13 releases in the last 5-6 years, a lot of it free to download). I’d recommend you check it out but, as is often the case, it doesn’t capture the power of the band live. They don’t seem to bring the field recordings into live performance and out the back of The Wagon is a long, long way from the heart of the mythic forest even if it is cold and wet. I’m not going to claim they take us there but sat in a row behind their curtains of hair they truly seem to work magic, conjuring a storm of sound from a minimal set up. Willy has the added bonus of a gong tonight which he has some fun with but for the most part he produces a dazzling array of rhythm and texture from just the one floor tom. I can’t tell if he’d be remarkable or just confused behind a full kit but he’s incredible. The sitting down and the building repetition of the music remind me briefly of Spacemen 3 but it’s Spiritualized’s ‘Clear Rush‘  they’re nearest to, a title that perfectly captures that tune and something of whatever these guys are up to as well, a headlong race towards the light. And then back in to the bar/warm.

Bonnacons of Doom take an age to get on stage. I don’t care about this because I’m inside in the warm, drunkenly talking bollocks with friends but some folk are getting tetchy about it. When they do play the set is cut short, whether for technical or curfew reasons I don’t know. I was enjoying it myself. Not really a doom band if we’re honest, more of a psych/kraut thing, they wear capes and huge mirror masks, have a slightly silly name and are hopefully not entirely serious but who knows? At Supernormal last year they were considerably better than tonight’s showing, I was dragged into the woods to see them on the basis of my curiosity and some kind of Mugstar link. They’re only a pale shadow of that band at the moment but it’s early days, as far as I know there’s just the one single they’ve put out – it’s good – and Mugstar have more than ten years headstart honing their thing. The Bonnacons make a fine old racket in what is becoming the current style,  maybe on another night or when they get around to recording an album we’ll get a clearer idea of the bands own personality. I’ll just leave a space at the end here for you to make up your own clumsy ‘behind the mask’ or ‘reflecting back on ourselves’ summation. I’m tired.

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