The Body / Arabrot / Esoteric Youth / Trojan Horse - The Roadhouse
dbh / Irma Vep / Dave and Otto - Kraak Gallery April 23rd 2014
April 2014 appears to be a time of maximum acceleration, at least where the Manchester live music scene is concerned. There have been days like this when I've been aware of four good gigs happening simultaneously. On April 23rd I made it to two gigs and only completely missed one set; Serfs played Kraak whilst I watched The Body headline the Roadhouse. Fresh from his Record Store Day triumph, when he'd performed in five different bands, Edwin Stephens was back with his solo mutter-blues guitar strumming incarnation of Irma Vep at a free gig he'd organised himself. First to play were Dave and Otto, a free improv sax and double bass duo whose dynamic interplay ranged from almost silence to full on blow-out. I had to leave before they finished to catch Trojan Horse opening a minute's walk away in the Roadhouse. They introduced a song in which the bassist and guitarist marched and saluted as concerning being unemployed. I caught the lyric "Market town, beats his wife to the ground" and that was the last time I could hear what anyone screamed for the rest of the Roadhouse gig, such was the extreme volume and vocal violence. I appreciate the fact that I can't think of another band to compare Trojan Horse to, such is the originality of their proggy hardcore. The two guitarists and keyboard player had the grunge checked shirt look that was so very fashionable in the nineties. One song found them all cackling with silly Satanic laughter and they saved the best for last. Esoteric Youth were an exhilarating blast of total hardcore venom. At times they had a "Loose Nut" era Black Flag metallic edge, and the screamer flailed about in front of the stage for the entire set. They were so loud it was painful to be anywhere closer than halfway along the room and during the last song they were joined by a second screamer. Having bought one of their last five 7" EPs "The Burden of Living" I was quite pleased to find that something they are so angry about is that "We are a burden on the planet Earth." Rushing back to Kraak I saw the ever baseball hatted Edwin play a solo Irma Vep set for the second time in one week. He always has a look about him that suggests he's surprised to be singing and looks up as if expecting the audience to have gone. One morose ditty found him proclaiming, "There is a beauty in grown men crying, shaking in a cold and empty room." I can't say I can concur with that sentiment, but it is nevertheless a great song. I returned to the Roadhouse just before Norwegians Arabrot fired up their tribal grunge rock rhythms. Guitarist Kjetil wore a cool wide brimmed hat that did not detract from their chugging menace. Since last I saw them the bassist had switched to drums and a new bass playing lady had joined them, indulging in some feral screaming at times and stomping her leg in time with their compulsive convulsive beat. At one point she pulled her mic stand almost over, shreiked into it and tipped it up again which was the coolest move of the night. The tribal element was enhanced by a tall lady who joined them on a second drum kit for the last and longest song. I only caught the last song of the dbh solo guitar set at Kraak, but I've heard tall Dan play so many times in so many bands it wasn't a big deal. Probably the most gifted and prolific musician on the Manchester underground, he finished with what sounded like a Papa M cover. There are only two men in Rhode Island sludge metal machine The Body, but they sound like an earthquake. A sample of a disappointed American woman gave way to nihilistic screams and a tectonic rumble that probably had yuppy neighbours hiding under the tables in the flats down the road. The guitarist was big and fat and bearded and you wouldn't want him to fall on you. The drummer raised sticks high in the air with a demonic anger and crashed them into his kit like he wanted to kill it. One onslaught began with an air raid siren; a soundtrack of disaster. Off to one side in the Roadhouse I had a great view of the action as the audio violence was too extreme to damage my ears with out in front of the PA! It was a performance of total catharsis and a short eruption of that ubiquitous "Scentless Apprentice" Nirvana beat had me singing Kurt Cobain's words to The Body just for a moment.