Live Reviews

Bluetip – Live

with Hoover & Alabaster Suns
The Underworld
London, August 27th 2008

Sometimes it’s really nice to go to a gig where there’s no fucking young people about to piss you off with their youthful vigour and wide-eyed energy. And it’s fair to say that there aren’t many people in The Underworld tonight under thirty years old. It’s hardly surprising, however, because Bluetip haven’t played since about 2002 and Hoover, despite sporadic gigs, hasn’t recorded an album since about 1994.

With these facts in mind you might be wondering why there’s anyone at this gig at all. Well let me explain. Both Hoover and Bluetip represent some of the best music to surface from the Washington DC record label Dischord Records in the nineties. Started in the early eighties by Jeff Nelson and Ian MacKaye of legendary hardcore outfit Minor Threat with the intention of documenting their local music scene, decades later Dischord have still never released a record by a band outside of DC and have hundreds of incredible releases under their belts. People don’t tend to love single Dischord bands, but fall in love with the label as a whole. Their ethics, their singular vision to keep things 100% independent and their stubborn refusal to bend their own self-imposed rules has given Dischord a rabid cult following. And that explains the healthy turn-out tonight.

First up, Alabaster Suns are what Kevin and Nathan are doing while their band, UK progressive metal kings Capricorns, goes into a deep slumber. With Kevin taking lead vocals, they tread a similar path to Capricorns and effortlessly weave out technical ecstasy and shape-shifting metal that twists and turns and never sits still. Alabaster Suns are a heavy ride.

Although clearly inspired by the heavy dub bass lines and discordant guitars of Fugazi, Hoover created some of the best post-hardcore of the early nineties. Although the band split up in 1994 (and formed in 1992), they have reformed twice in recent year. Once in 1997 to record a mini-album of unrecorded older songs and then again in 2004 to tour Europe and to play some US shows. It was on that tour that they last played The Underworld and they were as good then as they are now. Always an engaging live band to both listen too and watch, Hoover have the advantage of Alexander Dunham (guitar), Frederick T. Erskine (bass) and Joseph P McRedmond (guitar) all sharing vocal duties which keeps things interesting throughout. Then there’s the fact that the band are shit hot players. With drummer Christopher Farrall at the back, leading the band into a series of unbelievably fluid grooves, Hoover are still a thrilling ride that can’t fail to suck you in like a Dyson.

Bluetip were formed in 1995 by ex-members of cult hardcore band Swiz and in albums like ‘Join Us‘ and ‘Polymer‘ they recorded some of the nineties truly classic Dischord Records releases. They toured relentlessly, roaring through the UK in 2002 with Dead Inside before splitting up, allowing frontman Jason Farrell the opportunity to start his current group Retisonic.

Back for two shows only – tonight and one in Spain – considering Bluetip haven’t played since 2002 and they’ve only rehearsed twice, they are on explosive form tonight and the ease with which they recreate the energy and impact of the songs is testament to their talents. Jason in particular is an absolute live wire on stage, careering around the small space, colliding with amps and band mates, swiping his guitar and thrilling the crowd with passionate vocals and proper high energy DC punk rock.

They end with their best song (my favorite at least!) ‘Salinas‘ from the ‘Join Us‘ album and then it’s over, possibly never to return. But here’s hoping…

James Sherry