Monday, 19 May 2014

Gallon Drunk @ Academy 3 15.4.2014

Gallon Drunk have always guaranteed a good night out. Frontman James Johnston's hair might've turned grey since last I saw them but they still have more fire and passion than the infinite swarms of younger rock'roll bands getting hyped yur way, so it was a great disappointment to see such a low turnout. Support band Mowbird played their pleasant though unadventurous indie rock to less than fifty people. At least by the time Gallon Drunk took the stage the gathering had swollen to treble figures. They didn't so much take the stage as take over the stage, with James Johnston raging and ranging over every inch not covered by synth, drum kit or amps. They opened with the first song from their recent 'Soul of the Hour' album, building an inexorable instrumental intro to an ecstatic crescendo before dropping away briefly; then James hit the mic and sang: "And when you're feeling so alone, And only you know, That your hand can barely write." To begin with "Before the Fire," a redemptive noir epic about finally feeling the fire of love just when you feel as though you're about to drown in selfish solitude was perfect. If "The Exit Sign" ignited the fire with an apocalyptic party that never ends, "Hanging On" set the whole town ablaze and the flames danced for the rest of the night, consuming us all in celebratory frenzy. "It doesn't feel like the party's started with you all so far away," James admonished jovially after the first song, and everyone edged closer to the stage so that he could swing his guitar out over our heads and even let Neil and Louise of 2 Koi Karp and Terminal Cheesecake have a bash at the strings near the end of the gig. One old bald fellow had the honour of that guitar finely balancing on his head for twenty seconds or so! These are the wilder benefits of the capo. The next thing we knew James was bashing it on the rigging up above, and at the end of the last song of the main set, an extended overdriven take on "The Speed of Fear," he slung it over bassist Leo Kurunis' shoulder so that he had a bass on his front and a guitar on his back. Terry Edwards handled all the synth and keyboard playing, and some of his trumpet and sax parts seemed to have been synthesised, but he still had a good old baritone sax blast. "The Speed of Fear" had an especially energising keyboard loop that sounded like guitar, and at around twice the duration of the album version was a finale as grand as they come "Down here in the city's night again." "Just One More" was the oldest song in the set, and clearly Gallon Drunk aren't feeling nostalgic. Why should they when their two most recent albums are the best they've made, and the first and last songs from 'The Soul of the Hour' are probably their best songs yet.

Before the Fire
The Exit Sign
Hanging On
Just One More
Bad Servant
Soul of the Hour
Killing Time
Traitors' Gate
The Speed of Fear

You Made Me
Some Cast Fire

This review appears in Que Vida 1; pick up a copy at Kraak Gallery, Gullivers or other Northern Quarter, Manchester venues.

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