So this was a last minute deal for me. Thought I was going to be out of the country for this one, but an important job interview forced me to delay the holiday, meaning I was free this evening. Luckily, one of my allies in good music was up for the trip to Sheffield, tickets were still available, and the trip was planned!
Finding the venue wasn’t too bad; after some bizarrely convoluted directions, we found the venue was actually pretty much a straight line from the train station. So easy was it, combined with the lateness of doors opening (not the advertised 7pm), that we decided to get a drink at a nearby bar. A bar, it must be noted, that seemed far more posh (and therefore desirable, natch) from the outside than it proved to be. Still, they had Britvic.
Anyway, I was paranoid that the much-desired Boris merchandise would sell out, as it is wont to do (and in fact that’s what it did the first time I saw them. Fortunately I was second in the queue so I was unaffected). We went to the venue, which was now reasonably full.
Didn’t seem to miss out on much, as I got the CDs I wanted (exquisitely packaged Boris: At Last – Feedbacker – (Conspiracy Records, 2005) and the Mabuta No Ura soundtrack (Essence, 2005)), and a couple of t-shirts. Oh yeah, there was a particular shirt that had sold out in Medium Blue, so I got Medium Green instead. Big loss, I know.
First up was a local opening band, with all the derivative sound and awkward appearance that nomenclature suggests. It was OK, but nothing any fan of Dillinger Escape Plan or even Poison The Well has not already heard. Who cares, they quickly finished and I sought out a cloakroom.
Unfortunately there wasn’t one, so I was stuck having to hold my (now packed) rucksack for the whole show. (I refuse to put it on my back – not on the dance floor; I refuse to be one of those annoying people.) That would limit my mobility, but the main thing was seeing Boris and buying cool Boris stuff, so I could handle that.
Grails came on and they impressed me massively. For some reason I had always imagined them to be Japanese, but they looked and sounded very American.
This was instrumental music, with a really cool sound. Instinctually, my brain drew comparisons with No-Neck Blues Band and the brilliant last Earth album. So yeah, this was all about the long songs featuring drones and country-ish guitar sounds. I especially loved the acoustic guitarist going nuts for the noisier passages.
What seemed to be the main man (he was centre-stage) was quite the dapper fellow. Indie hair, coupled with a suit and very Krautrock bass playing. That, and he occasionally sat to dabble on his Moog. And on top of that, there were periods when he played his bass one-handed while handling effects with the other. One of those bands.
Like I say, the songs were long and, as a result few, in this support slot. Watching them, I wished I had picked up their CD instead of that second Boris t-shirt, but the CD will still be there in the future. They were informed late into the set that they had five minutes left, so they engaged in what seemed like a jam, and was a delightful slab of textural density and feeling. Good band indeed.
The weird thing is that, as much as I was enjoying the set, near the end my attention was drawn to Boris, and how much I was going to love their set. And after hella delay, during which the band was hiding behind a slight wall, they finally came on. Still hard to think they released Absolutego in 1996; they look like a set of teenagers!
When they started, the sound was absolutely massive (especially once attractive guitarist Wata was upped in the volume stakes). My friend had asked earlier if the band was slow or fast. I said they were pretty slow for the most part, but they brought the energy for this tour.
No performance of even a segment of the eerie, epic Flood (Inoxia, 2000), the band was definitely in the mood for 2002’s excellent Clutch-beating Heavy Rocks (also Inoxia). Don’t think they played my favourite, ‘Dyna-Soar’, but what they played definitely sufficed.
The set rattled through some really intense rock songs, and at point I was feeling quite sick. Ah, it had been a while; that used to be my benchmark for judging whether a gig was truly great (Neurosis and Iron Monkey definitely passed this test). The penultimate track was a long and beautiful noise-drenched affair that reminded me of Xinlisupreme’s classic ‘All You Need Is Love Was Not True’.
With the curfew beckoning, and our train in the none-too-distant future (we missed it), they finished with probably their finest moment, the glorious opener to Pink (DIWphalanx, 2005), ‘決別’. Or ‘Farewell’, as I think the forthcoming western Southern Lord release would have it. This tune is one of those exquisite blasts that, when you first play them, you just think ‘this is the best song ever’. You know deep down that won’t really be the case, but for that period, it really is.
The band did justice to its take on the My Bloody Valentine/Jesus & Mary Chain uber-noisy indie drone song, and I was lost in enjoyment of the moment, once more. I thought closing with this was a wise move, as it’s one of those songs you just can’t follow.
All in all, it was a great gig, save for a couple of (peripheral) qualms. Firstly was the lack of a cloackroom, the presence of which would have saved a lot of hassle. My main issue, though, was with the audience.
From the cretin who declared Metal ‘dead, innit’ while Grails were playing, through the 99% of the audience who didn’t move at all during Boris, save for chatting to their friends; to the moron I had to restrain myself from hitting (something I haven’t done in anger in about a decade) for his repeated anti-dancing sentiments.
Anyway, stupid, passionless crowd aside it was great. My friend spent the gig dancing in rather a camp manner, and came away from it loving Boris and wanting Pink. I came away from it having seen one of my current favourite bands in the whole world.
Just a shame the journey back to the station wasn’t as straightforward as the one to the Corporation had been. C’est la vie…