Gigs can be as much about people watching as it is about band watching. As well as already converted zealots, gigs are often peppered with people looking for the next big thing, the chance to be able to say that they were there in that really small venue when said up and coming outfit makes the proverbial big time. With this in mind, the diversity of the audience at this kind of homecoming London show believe that Puppy are going to be very big indeed. There are metalheads, indie kids, hipsters, music industry PR types (one of whom sets off a veritable tsunami of stage diving) and middle-aged men who probably should know better (that’ll be me then). Continue reading
Just days after a lumbering weekend hosting Desertfest, the Camden Underworld in London switches up the pace to host US melodeath act Darkest Hour for a lightning quick night of brutality from a band in peak form. Continue reading
Midweek gigs can often be underfilled and lacking any spark from the audience. No such trouble at the Camden Underworld for Big Business and Whores., where a night of punk-infused metal overcame any midweek lethargy to get the blood pumping and ear bleeding. Continue reading
Two acts, two guitars, no drum kits and three leather sofas. This might well be the most sedate gig London’s Camden Underworld has ever seen. Former Kyuss frontman John Garcia is back in the capital, but this time on a short unplugged tour billed as “An Evening With”. So instead of a full band we have leather sofas and War Drum’s Ehren Groban playing acoustic.
Despite the name suggesting otherwise, Bellhound Choir is a one guitar project from Denmark. The perfect kind of jam for a hot sunny beach around a campfire, and a fitting warm up for the night with Christian Hede Madsen’s smooth baritone and sparse guitar create a mellow combo of dark country and blues.
Where some metal musicians – for example Zakk Wylde – are known for their acoustic leanings, this is new territory for Garcia. Going unplugged allows the former Slo Burn/Hermano/Unida/Vista Chino frontman to show off a more sensitive side to his vocals in a way that’s only occasionally been hinted at on record. He’s always had a quality voice and a back catalogue filled with stoner classics and the stripped back sound allows Garcia to take centre stage from the comfort of his leather recliner and shine.
We get a few cuts from the new self-titled Garcia album; tracks like ‘The Bld’ and ‘Her Bullets Energy’ work well as mellow campfire numbers, but much like on record it’s the jumping riffs of the Danko Jones-penned ‘5,000 Miles’ that stand out as one of the best. The original numbers penned for this tour and potentially new album are a more straight ahead mellow acoustic numbers, but ‘Phototropic’ shows off Groban’s skill with an acoustic guitar; employing a series of loops to really build the layers of the song into something special, while his solo spot shows off some real Spanish classical flair.
Unsurprisingly it’s the Kyuss numbers that get the biggest cheers of the night, culminating in a one-two of ‘Green Machine’ and ‘Space Cadet’. Still sounding fresh even after 20 years, the old classics translate well to acoustic. Garcia still has a great set of pipes on him, but despite being a good show, the trouble with finishing on such a high note, however, is that it brings up that eternal question: when the hell are we going to get a proper Kyuss reunion?
WORDS BY DAN SWINHOE
The underground music scene in the UK is now so diverse, so rich and so productive, that it is sometimes pretty hard to keep up with what’s going on half the time. It was therefore with a mixed sense of excited anticipation and a small amount of “I’m not all that familiar with their work” nervousness that your humble scribe arrived at the Camden Underworld, keen to see out the drab grey month of October with some ferocious band watching. However, thanks to a combination of bad food and bad planning on my part, I only arrived at the Camden Underworld at around 9pm but just in time to see 11 Paranoias hit the stage.
11 Paranoias have a brilliant collective intelligence and their approach to music making reflects this in spades. With interests that veer across supernaturally slow doom, stoner and psychedelia, 11 Paranoias treated a knowledgeable and discerning audience to an exercise in music-making that thrilled the head as much as the heart. What impressed about 11 Paranoias were three things: the crediting of their audience with intelligence, their air of mystery but, above all, the ability to shift gear and tenor at the drop of a – ahem – hi-hat. This was a set of rich, powerful tunes, held together by some exemplary playing and occasionally breathtakingly thrilling music. Rarely can the impending coming of Armageddon have sounded so ethereal or quite so odd.
Having not really known what to expect, aside from my Twitter feed telling me they’d been awesome at Roadburn Festival earlier this year, this was one of those gigs that could have gone either way. I should have had more faith; they were absolutely, unequivocally excellent and I’m a fool for having doubted them.
By the time Conan actually hit the stage at the absurdly late (says he showing his considerable age) time of 10.10pm you got the sense that this was going to be a show about validation. 2014 has been a good year for Conan and this show reinforced and reconfirmed exactly why. That brief moment in early March when every hipster in the land decided that this sludgy doom stuff was for them seems to have (thankfully) passed and this was an audience of the dedicated, the informed and the passionate. Pretty much every journalist will tell you how a band hit the ground running but, honestly, opening your set with a pounding and relentless Crown of Talons is just what the music doctor ordered. To follow it up with an equally brutal Total Conquest and Foehammer had everyone grinning from ear to ear whilst the band casually get down to the business of pounding you some more.
Particular mention should be given to new sticksman, Rich Lewis, who hits his drums as hard as anyone I’ve seen since that little old masked band from Iowa. It is an education and revelation to listen to him; he’s definitely added something to the band’s live power and the band’s cohesion is markedly improved.
As you might expect with latest album Blood Eagle (Napalm) still fresh in the mind, most of the set comes from those glorious grooves, but long-time fans will have welcomed the addition of an epic rendition of ‘Krull’ from Horseback Battle Hammer (Throne) and a seemingly neverending ‘Monnos’, which closed a set that was everything and more that you hoped it would be – irascible, irreverent, inimitable.
Great, in other words.
Crown of Talons
Hawk As Weapon
Horns For Teeth
Words and Photos by MAT DAVIES