Sly & The Family Drone/ 7Shades / Bruxa Maria Wagon & Horses 16th Sept.
What might be left to say about Sly & the Family Drone when you’ve written about them a few times already? First time I ever saw them perennial Brummie bridesmaids Interlard were opening and tonight, once again, are just wrapping up in a wall of noise as I arrive, so it goes. Bruxa Maria are a slightly unlikely looking post hardcore trio, Gill is tiny which makes the bassist Will look even taller, and it’s a while before I realise they’re both left handed which is probably adding to the funhouse mirror effect. For his part the drummer beats the living hell out of his kit – good lad. They’re really together and the songs take a pleasing variety of approaches being by turns angular or pounding or sludgy. It’s an intense and enjoyable noise, never predictable. Gill doesn’t appear to be doing anything particularly flash but gets a really great sound that’s thick and heavy but crisp and crunchy on top. Which sounds delicious, I may have been watching too much Bake Off. The stomping ‘My Sweetheart Miguel’ reminds me a bit of Silverfish, which is always a good thing but generally they seem to be cutting their own path and it takes them in all sort of directions. They finish though on a joyously breakneck race to the end three min thrash. In short, they’re fantastic and you should definitely take a listen to their impressive debut album here, the lengthy title track alone givesa good idea of their ambition.
So The Cardiacs then. 7shades were formed in their honour and while they aren’t actually a Cardiacs tribute band, they have their own material which also makes room for other influences, the guiding hand of Tim Smith rests heavy on their collective shoulder shall we say. That’s fine as far as it goes but The Cardiacs were a unique band with a very Marmite kind of appeal. You either do or you don’t. I have friends who adored them, I even saw them once but it never really did it for me. So although 7shades have put other fillings in their sonic sandwich much like Marmite, the unmistakable tang of The Cardiacs prevails. They do it well though, so if hectic prog punk whimsy is your thing by all means tuck in. Extending the food metaphors the front people are wearing his/hers aprons with domino/dice dots that total seven. I’m relieved to see that Neil is wearing a pair of shorts behind his or things could have got even more upsetting. It’s like the worst, or maybe best, episode of Ready Steady Cook ever.
The other bands played indoors but Sly & the Family Drone are set up, as usual, in the round down in the courtyard. Amazing as they are, Sly are a hard sell to all but the most adventurous punter. “Wanna come and see a noise band? the guy strips down to his pants and spits beer over everyone” “erm…” You aren’t going to hear them getting played on Radio 6 regularly if at all. I’m a fan but I don’t listen much to their recordings, they always seem a bit thin and uninvolving compared to the live experience which is what they’re really all about. Their gigs, like Peel’s much quoted maxim about The Fall, are always different and always the same. Tonight, hilariously, they start with Bonnie Tyler’s ‘Total Eclipse of The Heart’. It’s out of place but familiar, people are smiling and singing and they haven’t even started. In one subtle move it both lightens the mood and brings the crowd together. The whole idea is that the mood and the togetherness of the crowd are set to intensify for maximum communal joy. That’s the thing people who don’t ‘get’ it are missing – there’s no room for spectators here, the band are the prime instigators but this is a dyonisian experience open to any and all participants willing to be swept along. So much so that it wouldn’t work if we didn’t join in. The set slowly builds up and up, as always a long slow crescendo, eventually bringing in the crowd to bash away at various bits of kit in a mob they’ve become ever more skilled at guiding, incredibly all stopping together on the drummer’s signal. It’s brilliant and, even when you know what to expect, it’s not getting old yet. Long may they bash and squawk and bring joy to merry drunken crowds.
band pics by Kaz (not the one in Sly)