The Magic Gang / 02 Birmingham

The Magic Gang / Live at the 02, Birmingham / 02/10/2016

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It’s been just over two years since I originally saw the magic gang whilst they supported Swim Deep; nobody was familiar with them and the only person singing their lyrics could have been their mum. From then until now they’ve been to Jamaica recording an EP, and played a number of raucous house parties in their home town of Brighton. Now they have a large following of barely-legal teens clad up in their converse and mom jeans. Being a post-teen alone could be an aetiological reason for adoring this band, since their lyrics cover a lot of the angst and issues we experience as young people.

Magic Gang’s gigs are purely magical in their entirety, even down to the support acts being carefully chosen to complement the crowd. “Island” warm up the room initially, their grinding fuzz broken up by a calm serenity and hush tones which are sure to get your shoulders swaying. Next it’s the turn of band “Babeheaven” who’s soulful funk leave you twinging at the hip as you twist and tap your toes. This audiological foreplay leaves us with just enough time before the main performance to have a quick cig’ down the fire escape and grab another pint.

Entering the room again just as the lights dim and the room falls to silence before the band waltz out to new-ish track “Lady Please”, the eclectic crowd of youth lights up with glee, greeted by an applause and chants of “The Magic Gang Bang” being both a nod to the wistful charm of their songs and a satirical play on words. Other songs from their EP such as “Jasmine” entice the crowd into a synchronised bop, overlaid with the occasional sporadic crowd-surfer, their shoe gaze chime in somewhat of a juxtaposition to what is happening in this room at this very moment.

New released “All This Way” is definitely one of the most favoured songs of the set as it acts almost in retrospect, written on the cornerstone as you begin to pick apart the relationship you’re getting into, an aspect of paranoia or simplistic observations settling themselves under your skin.

Much of their second EP follows this theme whilst keeping a beat that in complete contrast is filled with melodic overtones and clean riffs. Earlier hits such as “No Fun” and “Shallow” which seem to have more of a grunge influence cause absolute chaos in this small, intimate, almost cavern like venue; bodies skewing sight as they float over head, narrowly avoiding security as the front bellows their bodies backwards, away from the sprawling hands of the high-viz fun interferers.

The Magic Gang are not a force to be reckoned with as they’ve gradually earnt and accumulated an almost cult like following that will sing along to whichever track you throw at them. Staggering and saturated in sweat or stella we stagger from the door back onto our coach, left in a state of euphoria and regret that we cannot live that experience every waking minute of our day.

Words: Henry Calvert
Photo: Zoe Shannon

FLAG live at the Underworld, London

FLAG
The Underworld, Camden, London
August 1st

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Respect. That’s the key word here. Respect to Flag for choosing to spread their London debut over two nights at the Underworld rather than spending one night in a larger venue with half the required atmosphere. And respect to the members of Flag for pretty much inventing this thing we call hardcore punk rock, and so much more.

You’re in the presence of true legends here. No, it’s not Black Flag. That’s Greg Ginn’s band. He pissed all over his legacy a couple of years back with that dreadful new album and appalling live shows. I know, I witnessed it at Ieperfest in Belgium three years back – slow, sluggish, terrible rhythm section. Awful. Flag, however, (that’s Keith, Dez, Stephen, Chuck and Bill) play the music right, with energy, passion and power. You’re watching true legends at work here. All of the people involved, minus Descendents guitarist Stephen Egerton who replaces Ginn, lived, breathed, wrote and performed this legendary material and when the band come out onstage tonight and Keith whispers into the mic…”it’s not my imagination,” before bellowing. “I’VE GOT A GUN IN MY BACK!!” and the whole band lurch into ‘Revenge’, the years melt away and the true power of the music is unleashed, knocking the crowd sideways.

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And from that moment on, they fire off bolt after bolt of perfect hardcore punk rock. It’s a total joy to watch these true masters of the art. The way Chuck Dukowski screws up his face and hammers at the strings on this bass like his totally despises all four of them. The way Keith’s unmistakable vocals are both pitch perfect, snotty, sarcastic and drawling. The way he holds his space on the stage, his small frame shielding off endless stage dives and attempts to steal his microphone and scream along with the songs (he does not like this). The way Bill plays with precision and power, lagging on the beat so the songs never run away with themselves. The way both Dez and Stephen’s guitars manage to summon up the undeniable genius of Ginn’s original vision and noise. It’s perfect.

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There’s no need to list all of the songs they played. They performed everything that was important, going as far as ‘My War’ (written by Chuck) and although you can feel the band tiring a little towards the end (‘I’ve Heard it Before’ isn’t quite as intense as it should be), the stamina they hold until that point is totally impressive. These are not young guys. These are people that started it all. Show them some fucking respect.

James Sherry

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Sleep live at The Forum, London

Sleep
Conan
The Forum, London July 6th

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There’s heavy and then there’s none more HEAVY. Tonight is a chest-beating display of heavy as bravado. Heavy as punishment. Volume so loud and intense you can feel your skull rattle and vibrate and your guts clench to withstand the impact. So good it hurts.

Liverpool doom merchants Conan get things off to a suitably oppressive start. They describe themselves as being as ‘heavy as interplanetary thunder amplified through the roaring black hole anus of Azathoth’, a fact that is hard to dispute when faced with the sonic sludge oozing from the stage. All you can do is submit and nod. Their job is done and the stage and crowd are perfectly in the zone to greet tonight’s headliners, Californian stoned doom legends Sleep.

Described as ‘the ultimate stoner rock band’, Sleep’s legendary status is well deserved. Having originally disbanded in ’95 when London Records, their major label paymasters at the time, refused to release their now legendary hour-long-one-song-drone workout ‘Dopesmoker’, their reputation continued to grow in their absence as guitarist Matt Pike concentrated on High On Fire. However, when the band reformed in 2009 to play an ATP Festival, they stepped effortlessly back into their towering doom boots as if no time had passed at all and tonight, the noise that they make is utterly earth shattering. Opening with two tracks from their legendary ‘Holy Mountain’ album – ‘Draugonaut’ and the title track, Pike, shirtless and wild, unleashes wave after wave of power in-front of a massive wall of amps, obviously enjoying every second of the colossal noise being created. The sound is incredible. Normally a heavy band’s sound can suffer in a venue this size, often reduced to a dull thud but not tonight, Sleep have more than enough power and amplification behind them to destroy.

Playing the first twenty minutes of their epic ‘Dopemoker’ track, the air fills with the pungent stench of weed as the crowd take their cue to fire up their pipes and spliffs and a few hundred stoners get deep within the zone as Sleep continue to pulverise and groove.

An epic gig. We’re lucky to have them back. Long may they continue to abuse our hearing.

James Sherry

Adam And The Ants live at Brixton Academy

Adam And The Ants
Kings Of The Wild Frontier at Brixton Academy
Friday 10th June

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I was ten years old when Adam Ant mania first swept across the nation in 1980. Girls loved him, boys loved him, he was beautiful, a dandy man, a pirate, an original punk. I loved him because I was completely captivated by those Burundi Drums; the ferocious tribal rhythms that propelled Adam And The Ants’ second album ‘Kings Of The Wild Frontier’ into the world’s pop consciousness. My dad had a small African drum that I endlessly tapped and whacked, imagining I was part of the ants tribe. I so badly wanted to play drums. And that all started with Adam And The Ants.

The first time I saw them live was on The Prince Charming Revue tour in 1982 at the Hammersmith Odeon. My parents took me and it totally blew my mind. He had a huge pirate ship onstage and those tribal drums and the whole spectacle electrified me (my mum less so, she stood up in the interval and tried to go home thinking it was the end of the show. She now says she wasn’t bored, she was just gagging for a smoke).

Fast forward thirty-four years and I’m standing at Brixton Academy once again waiting for Adam Ant to arrive onstage and do it all over again, playing ‘Kings Of The Wild Frontier’ in its glorious entirety. I’ve seen Adam Ant a few times in the last few years since he returned to the stage. Whilst at those gigs he’s mainly focused on his incredible punk-era material, reinstating his position as one of the original punks, he’s only dipped his toes into the sparkling waters of his mainstream pop years. Now, however, it’s time to revisit the record that for a brief moment in the early 80s, made Adam one of the most iconic and recognisable names in pop.

With two drummers perched high on two risers, Adam strutted to the front of the stage, looking every bit the star he was back then (if he doesn’t take off his hat he looks much the same) and as the band kick into the album’s opening track ‘Dog Eat Dog’ the whole venue detonates in a rush of adrenalized nostalgia that melts away the years and resonates with every individual who was touched by this glorious sound. The sound is fantastic, the impact huge and before we’ve even had a chance to draw breath here comes ‘Ant Music’, another huge hit from the album that has the entire crowd chanting along with every word (“cut off its head, legs come looking for you!”).

As the album plays out and Adam throws himself into every word, note and beat, for such a huge mainstream selling record at the time, it becomes clear how strange and unsettling much of the album is. Although written with an entirely different band to Adam’s debut ‘Dirk Wears White Sox’, ‘Kings…’ was crafted with punk still beating in its heart, a long way from the pop sheen of ‘Prince Charming’ and what came after. ‘Ants Invasion’ particularly, sounds utterly menacing tonight; that creeping riff crawling across the venue, biting all in its path, Likewise ‘Killer In The Home’ is moody, bleak and immensely powerful.

With that sophomore played in full, a few short breaths to recover, the band are back to plough through a selection of tracks that cover Adam’s entire career. Early punk era-tracks like ‘Beat My Guest’, ‘Never Trust A Man With Egg On His Face’ and ‘Cartrouble’, despite their age, still sound utterly contemporary, such is their influence and the forward thinking nature of their writer. These, mixed with moments from his mainstream pop years (‘Prince Charming’, ‘Goody Two Shoes’, ‘Stand And Deliver’) make for a joyfully electric set that should give Adam the respect he deserves. His wilderness years behind him, it’s great to have the ant army back.

James Sherry

As an extra bonus, enjoy these scrap book Ant raps from when I was a child. :)

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Gorilla Biscuits live at Dome, London

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“Fuck Live Nation!” states frontman Civ, following charging live versions of New Direction and Stand Still that blew the pit of the Dome apart within seconds. It was a rallying call from a band that come from a no barrier rule, and unlike their show at the Electric Ballroom the night before, tonight is a hardcore show with only one rule. A rule that allows their people not only to share blood, sweat and tears, but to become brothers and sisters in the same square of wet flooring too. Fun.

This togetherness, born from a vibrant 80s hardcore scene, is a mentality that has reached every generation since. Having fun is the only thing on your mind when going out to see a band and that’s what you get from this lot. Strong, positive energy with a key message from hard working people who have non-stop promoted fun since they formed, and tonight’s set is rife with the good stuff.

From the building riffs of High Hopes, to the punching stomp of No Reason Why, the NYC crew smashed the Dome with classics from start to finish, on par with the electric show we saw them play last summer at Ieper Fest, where a barrage of stage diving did not stop until the final riff. Crowd participation was on point throughout this gig. Civ’s mic was shared with the lemming catchers at the front throughout the show. One cheeky punk even sneaked up on stage for a drink of his water in between tunes. I guess that’s to be expected though when you tell everyone what’s mine is yours. All fair game when you have a Big Fucking Mouth.

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Do Something from CIV’s own Revelation classic pummeled the audience before Time Flies and Competition sped by like rockets. The former with a nod to old friend (and Turbonegro frontman) Tony Sylvester, who took the mic for a cover version of Judge’s New York Crew and smashed it. Their banging cover version of Minor Threat went down a storm too. There’s a lyric in that song that says something about “we’re all heading for that adult crash,” but those who managed to attend this show tonight never stacked it – they/we are the lucky ones, still wearing it on our sleeves, still getting away with it and it’s a damn good feeling.

As Walter’s harmonica wailed out the infamous solo to Start Today, I closed my eyes and thanked my lucky stars that hardcore came into my life. Thanks to everyone who played their part in it, especially Gorilla Biscuits.

Words: Zac
Photos: Natalie Wood / Wondergirl Photography

Enjoy the entire show if you missed it, courtesy of Max Horn.

Fat White Family, Live @ The Continental, Preston

Fat White Family
The Continental, Preston
Sunday 13th December

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Living in Blackpool, I usually have to venture into Manchester to see any live music worth watching, however, recently the local city of Preston (or as others know it “Depreston”) has had an uproar of amazing live acts coming through. After seeing an advertisement for Fat White Family at a venue of which I have never heard of, I couldn’t turn up such an opportunity.

Fat White Family may sound like nothing new to this scene; we’ve seen these outrageous statements about discerning topics such as oral sex and pedophilia so frequently before, much like the shock factor of Sex Pistols firing swastikas to their clothing. However, what make Fat White’s so special is that they exist in a time where music is so scared of being offensive, forcing any statements into a small corner of political correctness, and supplying this degenerative sense of creativity, where everything is clean cut. These guys are fucked and have something to say; they’ll say it as loud as they can.

My nostrils began to sting, pre-empting their appearance, as the wandered through the croud flaunting clean skinheads. They intiated the storm by teasing the crowd of eclectic post teens with the intro of a new song called Tinfoil Deathstar before melting into one of their most recognised numbers Auto Neutron. I can almost taste the Lysergic Acid in the back of my throat, tainting my lips as his fingers lick the psychedelic tones of the guitar.

FWF play other classic songs from their debut album “Champagne Holocaust” such as “Is It Raining In Your Mouth” which gets the crowd moving delightfully as Lias erupts, his neck popping and his half naked body dowsed in all kinds of fluid. He coats the crowd in Stella before grinding over the surface of his own residue, bellowing the lyrics “c’mon baby shoot your load, c’mon baby I’m gonna explode”. The sexually suggestive lyrics from his tarnished, belligerent mouth, of which you can almost feel taunting its way up the back of your neck, leaves you feeling slightly violated and creates an essence of insecurity.

Whilst playing their newest single “Whitest boy on the beach”  the PA system failed mid-song. Stealing other mics from the stage, Lias makes a combined effort to howl over this somehow orchestrated clash of sounds. Electrifying his lips, the microphone sparks to his mouth; thinking on his feet Lias fires one of his shoes into the crowd before brandishing a stiff sock around the mic, dampening the shocks.

Ensuing this, the band try to discuss what they can actually play and “Fuck it, let’s just Bomb Disneyland and this place,” is heard as their drummer begins to play the beat, swiftly followed by everybody else. Lias drags the mass of microphones out into the crowd as he screams, “all your kids are dead kids” fighting over the words with the crowd as he becomes one of us. A deranged scattering of legs and screeches. The song closes as the band make a final attempt to rescue the set by being as loud as humanly possible, before hurling their instruments in an abrupt halt of sound and make for the back door.

The lights stay down and one reveler launches for a nearby working microphone, calling for more. Only to be met by the bands road manager. At this moment a return becomes unexpected, the lights flash on.

The set may have been cut short but they made the absolute most of what they could play. They saw the final embers of rock burning out and brought the fire back to an antagonizing eruption. They’re a band, which touch a deep part of you, a place in which can only exist within that room; you truly will believe all their kids to be dead kids and you will belong to the cream of the young, before returning to reality through the exit of a door.

Fat White Family far surpass any expectations and the only way to understand these sensations would be to see them live, they’re an entity in which nobody can currently rival.

Henry Calvert

Trespass – Oi Polloi On The Beach Of The Thames

Oi Polloi
Mark Thomas
Flowers of Flesh & Blood
Thames Beach (Gabriel’s Wharf)
London – 26/9/15

tresspassoi_polloi_thames_beachWhen last week rumours began circulating of a proposed gathering of punks somewhere along the Thames near the Southbank and Waterloo that was to be hosted by comedian, presenter and political satirist Mark Thomas and included live sets by Scottish Oi/Punk/anarcho legends Oi Polloi and London punx, Flowers Of Flesh And Blood, it was debatable whether this would be allowed to happen in one of the busiest tourist areas of South London.

Yet, sure enough, come the day the event had been revealed as ‘Trespass – Oi Polloi On The Beach Of The Thames’ and as we walked down to Gabriel’s Wharf, next to Oxo Tower, onto that small beach area where I had previously built sandcastles with my kids (up the punx), a huge hardcore punk roar was already rising from the beach area up onto the bank and Flowers Of Flesh And Blood were housed on a small stage in the sand, surrounded by two hundred or so punx as the band carved through a tight set of metallic anarcho thrash to bemused and amused looks from the tourists looking down on the beach.

We quickly headed down and joined the crowd, bumping into many friends equally bemused by the surreal situation as Flowers kicked into a Minor Threat medley of ‘Filler’ and ‘I Don’t Wanna Hear It’ as the sand-mosh-pit exploded. There’s a small girl on the beach building a sandcastle, she flattens it with her shovel. Up on the bank two young kids with giant teddy bears make them pogo in time to the music. An old fella looks down onto the crowd of punks falling over in the sand, laughing and grinning from ear to ear. The atmosphere is great, pure fun. There are no police here yet, no trouble. The organisers had the foresight to hand out a few yellow ‘official’ looking security vests to give the appearance of some kind of official organisation, which amazingly, works.

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But there is a point to all of this. As Mark Thomas takes to the mic, among many jokes about gammon nonce David Cameron, he talks about how it’s people, not buildings and corporations that make cities and we have every right to reclaim public areas for protest and events to cheers from the crowd as Oi Polloi take to the sand and kick into ‘Resist The Atomic Menace’ from the first single back in 1986. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen Oi Polloi (probably not since the early 90s), but they’re as good as they ever were. Frontman Deek is irrepressible, funny, charming, energetic yet still railing against the world.

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As ‘Punks Picnic’ bellows from the PA, there’s still no sign of any police to break up the party and as the sun starts to descend and the booze is flowing, Oi Polloi inspire bedlam in the sand as the pit reaches fever point and the crowd piles in, singing along to every word, punching the air as the tourists above take photos and film what they can to take back home to their friends and family…”you’ll never believe what we saw in London today”.

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Then later that evening, the so called ‘Fuck Parade’ organised by Class War, kicked off in Shoreditch. A supposed protest against the gentrification of London, it saw an angry mob of so-called anarchists target an independent business and scare, frighten and intimidate people. A total contrast to the positive, fun vibes felt earlier in the day by the river where the message was delivered in a good and uplifting way, educating the public and making them think. ‘Fuck Parade’ was an ugly event that achieved nothing but to terrify the public by acting like thugs. A sad end to a righteous day of protest and music but the fun memories will remain for those that rocked on the beach that day and the public that stumbled across it.

James Sherry

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Sleater-Kinney live at the Camden Roundhouse

Sleater-Kinney live at The Camden Roundhouse, March 23rd 2015

sleater-kinneyAn audience can make or break any performance. No matter how far up the chain of success and respect the headline act sits, if the masses aren’t on your side it’s going to be a rough journey, and tonight’s crowd hold Sleater-Kinney in the palm of their collective hand throughout.

The Camden Roundhouse is overrun with hard-core fans, and each one spurs the band just that little further to boiling point. Steaming bodies fly and throat’s are screamed raw as each worshiping fan hurls Corin Tucker’s lyrics right back at her. It’s an overwhelming sight to behold and clearly a special reunion that’s run long overdue as tonight mark’s both Sleater-Kinneys return to London, and music itself, following a hiatus called in 2006.

Since reforming, the bands comeback album No Cities To Love has received overwhelming critical acclaim from across the globe, and this evening sees the trio deliver smash after smash of their new material to a truly adoring audience. Songs like ‘Price Tag’, ‘Surface Envy’ and of course ‘No Cities to Love’ all bring the house down, with choice cuts from their sizeable back catalogue like ‘The End Of You’s scrappy call to arms, and set closer ‘Jumpers’ all going down a storm. But it’s not ‘till the encore that Sleater-Kinney play the ace card.

Again recalling the sheer command and power tonight’s audience hold over the band, there’s a sincere demand for encore in the room. Rapturous applause, deafening cheer and a stampede hailing from the circle tier create a tremendous racket, summoning the power trio back from the wings for a triumphant five-song close.

So many bands seem to jump the gun with their encores these days, as if it’s an expected part of every set, whether you’re at the Shacklewell Arms or the O2. Tonight, the encore is restored and reserved for the crème de la crème that it once was, with Corin Tucker occasionally handing the torch to Carrie Brownstein, whose poignant turns like ‘Modern Girl’ are overwhelming, and with the addition of Janet Weiss’s harmonica there’s a glimpse of precious Laurel Canyon-esque magic hanging in the air too.

With still handful of UK dates to go across Manchester, Glasgow and Dublin, Sleater-Kinney are setting themselves up for one of the most talked about reunions, and album’s outright, of this year.

Foo Fighters live at the House of Vans London

The Holy Shits aka Foo Fighters
Live at the House Of Vans, London
September 11th

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I love Dave Grohl. Mission Impossible. Scream. DC Hardcore. Dain Bramage. Nirvana. Probot. Sound City. I USED to love the Foo Fighters. When that first album came out, we were so desperate for at least some kind of continuation after the brutal, shocking end of Nirvana and Grohl made us smile again, with Pat Smear grinning beside him like a Cheshire cat and a batch of superb, high-energy melodic rock songs to win us over. That first Reading Festival set in 1995, the chaos in the tent, those great early singles…then Grohl steadily slipped into a far safer mainstream stadium/radio rock path and the excitement waned. You can’t blame him, he’s an incredibly talented melodic rock song writer but for those of us raised on 80s punk and discordant 90s noise, it was a path that just didn’t excite.

So I stopped paying attention. At least, I thought I did. If I did then how the hell do I know pretty much every song of the entire two-hour plus set they play tonight? The Foo Fighters are in town, ahead of a forthcoming release of their new album, to fire up their cylinders and get back into live touring mode with a batch of ‘intimate’ shows (playing under the name The Holy Shits!) and tonight, under the tunnels of Waterloo, they power through a set packed full of hits and you realise that yes, you know every song because they’re great.

You’d have to be a pretty joyless fucker not to enjoy this. Sure, I have no real desire to watch the Foo Fighters play in a stadium, but the chance to see them live in a venue this size couldn’t be passed up. And they don’t disappoint. For a start, the sound is incredible, an amazing achievement considering the booming acoustics of the brick tunnels, and the songs come so thick and fast, high-energy, Pat Smear still cool as fuck (he was in in THE GERMS FOR FUCKS SAKE!), Taylor Hawkins blazing on the drums (how anyone can have the nerve to play drums behind Dave Grohl, I have no idea but this guy pulls it off) and they play ‘This Is The Call’ and ‘For All The Cows’ from that first album and I fall in love with it all over again. They play all of the hits. You know them, I don’t need to list them. This is a crowd pleasing set. Nice guy Dave wants to please.

I leave smiling and sweaty. I think I just fell in love with the Foo Fighters all over again, just for the night. A one night stand.

Word: James Sherry
Ph: Nathan Gallagher

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Grant Hart live at the Water Rats, London

Grant Hart
w/ Thirty Six Strategies
June 18, 2013
Water Rats, London

Ph: Steve Cotton

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Considering Thirty Six Strategies’ brand of melodic rock pays a healthy respect to the generation of eighties US punks that spawned bands such as Dag Nasty and Husker Du, they must be pretty chuffed to be sharing a stage with the legend that is Grant Hart. And with less than five shows under their belts, their confidence is impressive but understandable because between them they feature ex-members of UK bands such as Shutdown, Decadence Within and Stamping Ground, so it’s no surprise they know their chops. Their first release is due soon on Boss Tuneage Records – check it out.

Grant Hart last played Water Rats back in December of 2011 to an audience far smaller then he deserves – this is a man who wrote some of the greatest songs to ever come out of the fertile US eighties musical underground, but his life took a very different path to that of his once song writing partner Bob Mould, who achieved enormous success in the wake of the post Nirvana underground music explosion with his band Sugar. The path that Grant took is written all over his face, but he’s survived and lived to tell the tale – stories that are contained within all of his songs.

His last set here back in 2011 was played solo, just Grant and his songs – fragile and brittle and amazing. Tonight, however, he returns with a new band, a record deal with Domino and a new album due in August. The first thing you notice as Grant and his band take the stage is just how young his supporting (Irish) musicians are. From the slightly panicked look on their faces, they’ve not played many gigs together but as the set builds and Grant leads the band through a selection of tracks from the forthcoming double album ‘The Argument’, they begin to sound more confident with each passing song. And by the time they roar through a majestic ‘She Floated Away’ – possibly the best song on the last Husker Du album ‘Warehouse Songs…’, the band hit their stride and provide simple but powerful backing to Hart’s distinctive songs. ‘Is The Sky The Limit’ is a highlight from the new album, but it’s the Husker Du songs that obviously command the biggest response and when Grant returns alone to run through acoustic versions of ‘Flexible Flyer’, ‘Never Talking To You Again’ and ‘The Girl Who Lives On Heaven Hill’ you know you are in the presence of a genius song-writer.

Grant Hart is the real deal, operating outside of the mainstream – an outsider with cult appeal that hopefully will finally start to get the recognition he deserves.

James Sherry