Gig Review: Heavy Lungs / Gallus – Hare and Hounds, Birmingham (18th October 2023)

It’s a wet and moody evening down in King’s Heath. Actually, it’s positively dreich. But for those of a discerning disposition, it’s the place to be tonight and the weather hasn’t stopped the enthusiasts of noise rock and post punk for showing up to the Hare & Hounds for a rather intimate show. Indeed it’s a night of beating people over the head lovingly with a sonic assault for the ear drums in one of Birmingham’s best venues by two bands with something to say.

Gallus (c) Jayne Slater

A fitting start to the night, Gallus describe themselves as “A silly wee band from a silly wee town called Glasgow”. Except neither the band nor Glasgow are silly and instead embody their name – Scottish for bold, daring, cheeky etc. And that’s exactly what their set is. It’s bold and boisterous, the lyrics filled with humour both dark and dry with a healthy dose of reality and authenticity. Frontman Barry Dolan is affable when talking between songs whilst commanding and charismatic whilst singing and shouting his lyrics. Meanwhile, Gianluca Bernacchi’s right hand is a blur as he wrangles his guitar, partially powering the frantic and borderline manic music that sounds like it’s overdosing on coffee and Red Bull.

As they bring hints of indie into their punk sound, there’s nods to Brutalism-era IDLES throughout as well as the likes of Fontaines DC and the headliners. As a five piece, they’re a solid force and they try to keep things as unhinged and chaotic as possible, energy and chemistry spilling from their pores. It’s very easy to picture them back home in a throng of people with sweat flowing as much as the beer, limbs everywhere and barely a room to swing a cat. And speaking as a Glaswegian who’s relocated to the Midlands, this is a band worth making the pilgrimage back home for.

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Unperturbed by the small audience for tonight, Heavy Lungs kick off with the opening song of their newly minted debut album, All Gas No Breaks. “Matryoshka” is intimidating and menacing, building the atmosphere for what follows for the next hour or so. Indeed, it’s a set which matches the name of the album – it’s foot to the floor dissonant post punk with an equal dosage of noise rock. From the moment the first feedback-laden note pierced the air, it was clear that we were in for an unforgettable evening of unadulterated, no-frills intensity.

Heavy Lungs (c) Jayne Slater

A rollercoaster ride of sonic assault, never letting up for a moment, songs like “Stutter” and “Rock, Paper, Scissors” demonstrate the band’s ability to transition from breakneck punk fury to more melodic, introspective moments with tinges of psychedelia. Their dynamics are what set them apart from the pack, proving that Heavy Lungs is not just about noise, but about crafting songs that are as emotionally charged as they are sonically intense.

Singer Danny Nedelko treads a fine line between aloof and intensity, contorting his body and flailing his mic like a shaman conjuring a storm. Taking moments to scream his lyrics directly into the faces of fans at points whilst also appearing standoffish at others, as if we should be lucky the band have deigned to perform tonight.

The band seem to feed off the energy coming from the audience, driving the performance to even greater heights. It’s a crowd that know why they’re here, as people “in the know” to enjoy a bit of mid-week filth. Holding back “(A Bit of a) Birthday” for the finale, it’s the musical embodiment of a pressure cooker about to blow as the few people who had formed a pit give every last bit of energy they have to match the band for an intense, cathartic release of pent-up energy that left everyone in a state of blissful exhaustion.

They are the embodiment of the uncompromising spirit of post-punk, and their live performance is nothing short of a sonic baptism in the church of chaos. For those of us who made the trip out, we witnessed something grand without grandeur itself. Something that you can mention in the future with a knowing nod as if we were part of a little club without it feeling culty. For a band that gives it their all, there’s a real sense that if it was even half the crowd tonight, they would have still delivered a blistering assault like this.

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Photos by Jayne Slater

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