On a filthy Saturday night, I’m crawling through traffic, diverted through new road layouts and cursing that the first band have probably already started, trying to reach The Flapper in the very heart of Birmingham on time. Overlooking the canal, The Flapper is one of Birmingham’s leading independent venues; it plays host regularly to hardcore and noise rock bands; with a capacity of 180, I know I’m in for a nice intimate gig. After begrudgingly paying £7.50 (more than the cost of a ticket for 4 quality bands tonight) at the N.I.A across the road, I run in and fly downstairs to the dark, austere room below.
Pulling back my hood and shaking off the rain, I just catch Blank Parody‘s last two songs (sorry, guys). Having seen them earlier in the year, their set was just as energetic as I remembered it. Screaming vocals and a confident balls-out rock performance from frontman Joby Fitzgerald, their bass player proceeds to jumps off the stage to thrash out the last few minutes of their set. With more than a handful of people in the room, they’re met with great applause.
The Kontours are up next, an audacious, hard-hitting, blues rock band from Coventry. Full of punk attitude, Ollie discharges luminous lyrics whilst powering out bluesy riffs against Ashley’s no-nonsense battering of the drums. It’s the third time I’ve seen this band play, and they just get tighter and tighter. Charging through their set we’re treated to favourites “Hit Me”, “Get Out” and “Hurricane” with some new tracks, and ending with “Jungle” and “No Release” (apologies if I misheard) to finish. Passionate, groovy riffs with a hard rock edge had the room starting to fill in curiosity and heads were nodding in approval. A great warm up for the rest of tonight’s acts.
After reviewing Weirds‘ album Swarmculture earlier this year, and having caught their live show twice before, it was this band that brought me out tonight. Having witnessed their impassioned performance in May at Camden Rocks, I was determined to catch them again and bring along my other half to witness the noise fest that is Weirds. A huge swell of noise fills the room as this four piece take to the stage.
Frontman Aidan has incredible stage presence, grabbing the mic and hammering the keys as the first track plays out. A monolithic soundscape ensues allowing him to leave the stage, ferociously screaming down the mic. He stomps around through the crowd, eyeballing and dominating the room. He uses his lead to lasso people pulling them forward and clambers back on stage. Completely focused and with an intense connection between the band on stage, the layers of psych-rock sounds build and Aidan again encourages the crowd forward. “We don’t bite,” he smirks.
A superfluous set emanates, shoegaze rock drenched in sludgy bass tones and scuzzy guitar riffs; cacophonous drums and synth waves giving it that psychedelic grove which means you can rock out, head bang and shake your ass all at the same time. There are more effects pedals on stage than at the starting line of a race track and I love to see these guys just as much on their knees utilising these to their absolute maximum; it’s what gives them their unique sound.
Blistering through their tracks “Old World Blues”, “Past Life”, “Valley of Vision” and “Phantom”, Aidan only pauses to give thanks and introduce new drummer Alex, who I have to say has done a stellar job! Closing with the epic “Weird Sun”, haunting lyrics are spewed out over a monstrous crescendo of noise-rock, the band hammering it out as though it’s their very last show. The ever-growing crowd lap it up and the guys leave to huge applause, my mind blown again.
And then for the headliners, Tigercub. I’d not heard of this Brighton trio before the announcement of this show but I’m hearing great things about them so couldn’t wait to see their set. The room is packed out at this point as Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys are Back in Town” belches out over the PA, Tigercub walk on to huge applause and some immediate banter from the crowd – threatening to hang themselves if certain songs aren’t played, they’ve a huge fanbase in here tonight and the atmosphere is already at party level.
The band launch into their grungy alt-rock set, the crowd immediately dancing and singing along and I’m instantly swept away by their psychedelic rock. Fuzzy, distorted guitars, melodic vocals and punk attitude in abundance would make it all to easy to compare to the likes of Nirvana; but then mix this with the musicianship and versatility of Muse with the density of QOTSA and you’re getting close.
Ranging from beautiful and haunting tracks, to full on noise-rock rackets and tracks full of sass and groove just emphasises the skill and dexterity that this multi layered band has to offer, I’m aghast. “It’s Only Love”, their single taken from newly released EP Evolve or Die, is simply sublime. The crowd are singing along in harmony, everyone as far as I can see is dancing along. We’re then treated to a new track followed by “Into the Ashes” also from the EP; quite trippy in places, filthy bass lines underly serene harmonies backed by insanely tight drumming. Jamie gives genuine and heartfelt thanks to the turn out tonight: “Last time we played Birmingham, there were about 5 people in the room,” he laughs.
Another highlight was “Destroy” one of their heavier tracks as was “Divided States of Us”, full of disdain, this is more of an electro-punk track (reminding me very much of The Chemical Brothers) and dedicated to Donald Trump. Some slower atmospheric rock tracks pursued, again just demonstrating the huge variety and non-conformity of this band, they have no walls, no limits; it was an exhilarating performance. Ending with the superb “Control”, I’m completely blown away. I know I’ve witnessed something really special on stage tonight, this is a band that won’t be playing these intimate venues for much longer. There are just a few dates left on this tour, don’t miss out!
- 24th October Newcastle, The Cluny
- 25th October Edinburgh, The Mash House
- 26th October Manchester, Star & Garter
- 27th October Norwhich, The Waterfront