Rifffest was the brainchild of the band Brooders, and boy did they put together a stellar bill. Some of the bands I know (and indeed adore) and some were new to me – in one case I hadn’t even heard of the band in question before. I love seeing new bands, new bands are the food that feeds us here at LSF.
Rifffest was long, and I mean time-wise here, it lasted for six hours, six hours is a long time to both take photos and maintain the same level of review notes, so I apologise to bands that I only managed to get down a summary of what I thought as I watched and listened to them.
Opening act Bloodhound set a pretty high bar for the bands that came after. My surprisingly coherent notes (for 5.30pm on a Saturday) say ‘And it’s loud, it’s grinding, it’s bass heavy. Drums pound. And it’s drone-y in a good way (your guess is as good as mine as to what exactly I meant by that). It’s riffy with barely a respite. But wait it’s actually got some hints of something post-punk and goth in there’
Granted these notes were written as the band played. My notes go on to mention one track they played that I really really liked which was, at least my ears, a bit garage-y that started with a pounded bass drum, and a clatter of drums and built into what I call ‘a sonic freakout’
The thing about Bloodhound is that while their stuff is doomy and grunge-y – I recall thinking at some point that they must have taken some influence from Black Sabbath – there’s a joy in their sound, they revel in the loudness. And I love a band who do that. And actually I was left wanting more of Bloodhound, their set seemed to flash past in an all too short time. I’m going to be making a note to catch Bloodhound in the future and watching out for any releases.
Adore/Repel are one of those bands I’ve heard about but never managed to see live or even, I’m ashamed to say, listened to any of their material, so this is very much a first impression.
My first first impression was pretty positive, I like an alternative rock band that plays on the heavy side of that with what I describe as ‘noise’(I guess I mean by that that sonic guitar noises thing). Having said that their second song started out a bit trance-y dance-y and built into something loud and noisey with these occasional shouted vocals (and at the time I really wasn’t sure quite how I felt about these). Chatting to a friend after the night he mentioned that Adore/Repel’s recorded material features vocals that could be described as more recognisable vocals and more lyrics.
The thing was that for a period of time, all the songs seemed to start trancey and build into something loud – my notes say that thing I hate to say which is that they started to sound samey.
It wasn’t until they played their ‘last single’ when it seemed to go straight into the heavy section that my opinion suddenly shifted, I got what they do. I started to love that swirly and twisty sound, and I really loved the drumming – my notes say ‘it’s inventive and cool’. The problem was that I was listening too hard – something that’s hard not to do when you are reviewing something – when I should have been standing and letting it wash over me, and letting it take me. I was left wishing I could back in time, having got it, and listen to their set all over again. So in a way my review isn’t that fair, sorry. But it’s hard reviewing a band who take a degree of effort (or specifically lack of effort) to ‘get’ when the default attitude of a reviewer is to listen hard.
What I’m saying is that I’m somewhere in the middle in terms of what I feel about Adore/Repel, I really feel I need to go and see them and actually not review them, just listen to them. I mentally wrote an ending to my review somewhere in the middle of their set, and that said ‘perhaps just not for me’. The shift of opinion sort of threw that out of the window. Perhaps it’s a case of saying look go and see them, let it wash over you, see what you feel.
The next band up – Household Dogs – boast three guitarists, one more than Adore/Repel by the way. This is a band who I have never actually heard of, I had no idea quite what to expect. I expected something loud, and yes they could be loud, but what I didn’t expect was something that was on the psych side of country with that Western twang and a dash of Gothic Americana. But there was something else there, something I couldn’t quite put my finger on – I toyed with something Smiths but then decided against it.
And, given, the number of people playing guitar on stage I didn’t expect to get such a sense of space in their music. But when they all kick off it’s a glorious thing. The stand out song for me was a slow song that was mesmerising and entrancing. This thing oozes subtlety.
And I did that ‘really bad reviewer thing’ I actually just listened and forgot to take notes, but on the other hand this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, if a band is good enough to make me forget why I’m at a gig then this just shows how good they are. And Household Dogs are good, they are bloody fantastic. They do something that leaves me quite speechless and a little breathless. I’d recommend catching them, and doing that soon.
And for the last song their singer put down his guitar and just sang, and jumped into the crowd and ended up on the bar singing, it was a thrilling thing. A fitting end to a great set.
Faux Pas are one of those bands I’ve heard a great deal about but never managed to catch live. Their set at Rifffest left me thinking ‘why in the hell haven’t I seen this band live before’.
My notes say ‘it’s a rousing joyous sound, the sound of Faux Pas. It’s loud, it’s way loud, it’s high energy. This is a band who know how to work a room’. And the focus of that energy is their singer who leaps and kicks and throws himself around. I go on to describe their sound as ‘not flashy but who gives a fuck when it’s this good’. It’s kinda alternative in places – they have these sudden thrilling guitar sounds in their songs – and kinda punky in a sort of punk pathetique way.
And while their sound may not be all flash guitar, it’s tight, it’s tighter than a tight thing. Again I was so impressed I forgot I was supposed to be actually reviewing them. I actually couldn’t take my eyes off them.
If you haven’t seen Faux Pas – and why in the hell not – I suggest you go see them.
And so to the organisers of Rifffest – Brooders – for this review I’m just going to reproduce my notes (and these are my actual notes, I do write notes like this)
‘It’s loud, it’s fucking shake the walls loud. It’s dense, it’s so dense you could cut it with a knife.
‘It’s so loud and dense, it’s oppressive, but I like this, I like this a lot.
‘It’s kinda drone-y and grunge-y, but there’s dynamics – it gets quiet, in a loud way, and louder, in a very loud way.
‘And when Brooders launch into something a little faster, it rocks, it rocks big time, in an almost metal sort of way.
‘My touchstone for the noisey bits of Brooders songs is Samothrace by the way, Brooders have that same “will it ever end, don’t want it to” thing for me.
‘And when they lock into a groove, it’s mesmerising, it’s hypnotic, it’s wonderful’
If you’re getting the feeling I rather liked Brooders – who I was seeing for the first time – you’d be halfway right, I loved them. What they do is just an all out sonic attack, it just goes on and on. But there are songs, the songs sound different, it’s not just a one-trick pony thing. And it’s kinda unbelievable that it’s just three people who make that music, it just doesn’t sound like just three people.
Visually, the band basically just play, sure there’s some standing on drum kits and that guitar player, bass player getting close to each other thing, but it’s not a stage act as such, it feels like they’re just doing what the music they’re playing tells them to do. They basically just let the music do the talking. But the music is so good I’m not standing there and thinking ‘could they just try a bit of posing’, that’s not needed.
OK so the band describe themselves as ‘psychedelic grunge’ but that’s not enough, there are hints of grunged out space rock, there are bits which sound just the tiniest bit garage-y. And that doesn’t indicate the groove, the locked together-ness of the band.
It’s been a while since I saw Hands Off Gretel, a while in which they lost a bass player, Lauren switched to bass for a time and then they got a new bass player. It seems to me that each time they change line-up their sound shifts, there’s a change.
The change this time is that the addition of their new bass player has tightened up their already tight sound. The other change is that Lauren has shifted to mainly just singing – she only played guitar for one song – although saying that Lauren just sings is something of an understatement. She performs, she’s ‘can’t stop watching her’ performing. And her vocals are now kinda stunning, whereas before she was ‘just’ incredible. She really has a quite fantastic voice.
Reviewing a HOG set is kinda difficult, what have I got to say that other reviewers haven’t said before. Indeed my notes say ‘what can I say about this’ in quite a desperate way. I appear to try by noting that ‘the new songs have tunes, rather than all out noisey rocking out’. I dig myself deeper into a hole by noting that ‘Sean’s guitar playing was stunning, he seems to just get better and better’. And that the new bass player was ‘a really key addition to something that was already great’. None of this tells you anything about their performance.
The thing about HOG is that the live experience is a performance – Lauren twists and turns, she curls up on the stage, she grabs Sean randomly (and at one stage ran her hand over his crotch from behind), she strikes poses; Sean swoops and twists as he wrenches that great guitar sound out of his guitar and Becky just plays bass in this cool slightly menacing way. It’s just the hugest smile inducing period of joy. But, and crucially, what they play is fantastic, it’s great. Having followed HOG since I saw them play Long Division way back when, I can’t understand why they’re not huge right now.
And when the band launch, seemingly just for kicks, it’s not as though they don’t have songs of their own, into ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ it’s just the coolest most wonderful thing.
I have a problem. When I turn to the page where my notes for False Advertising should be, there’s just a blank page with a heading. The reason for this is that I love and adore False Advertising, I’m a fan. I kinda decided to reward myself for having managed to get through reviewing all the other bands by just watching, and taking photos of, them. I’m such a fan that I, rather embarrassingly, decided to ‘represent’ by wearing my False Advertising t-shirt to Rifffest, which felt somewhat slightly awkward when Jen stood next to me at the bar.
And it’s ‘been a while’ (that’s an in-joke thing I’m afraid) since I’ve seen them. The last time was at Falsetival the all-day festival they organised held at Soup Kitchen in Manchester. That seems an age ago, but there are personal reasons for that, I went through a long period of not going to gigs at all. So knowing that they were headlining Rifffest was something of a joy as they don’t seem to play in Yorkshire all that much.
So what can say? Well the band were as tight as they always are, there was the odd hitch (of which more later) but the songs sounded fantastic. The live experience of False Adverting is slightly different to the ‘recorded material experience’, they sound more grunge-y and rockier (if you’ll forgive that). And Jen sometimes does this ‘rock out’ guitar stuff – she throws a great shape – which is a thrill (and if you go and see them a lot you wait for that), she really is the most incredible guitar player. There was new material which, you may say rather predictably given that I’m a fan, I thought was way good.
The other thing you wait for, if you’re a fan, is that point where Jen and Chris swap instruments (Jen plays drums for a while, and Chris switches to guitar). Chris and Jen have different drumming styles which adds that something extra to their live set. The thing is that during this there were what we could call ‘technical hitches’ – which unfortunately came during one of my favourite songs ‘Piece Of My Mind’, not only is this a cool song – it’s all slow and has this slightly jazzy break in it – but I rather like Jen’s drumming during it. First they tried swapping guitars, then swapping leads and finally swapping amps but to no avail. Apparently the pedal board was at fault. ‘Piece Of My Mind’ was just not to be. But the band coped really well, the crowd were understanding and I felt this vibe of support going out to the band, the crowd were a friendly bunch.
The one person I haven’t mentioned so far is False Advertising’s bass player Josh. The reason for this, is that Josh just kinda plays, the bass is really important in their songs, and he does that. He’s sorta quietly throwing shapes over on the right hand side (from the audience view that is, I guess he’d say he’s on the left hand side) and providing that foundation.
So musically False Advertising are sort of grunge-y but there are tunes, their songs have humable tunes, and they are incredibly well put together. Some of the songs have a poppier grunge edge to them, And lyrically they are great (admittedly this is difficult to get seeing them live to a degree). There are lyrics in their songs which I just find so intriguing, and in some cases completely confusing.
Seeing False Advertising is something that leaves me feeling full of joy and wearing the biggest grin. You can’t ask for anything else can you?
HANDS OFF GRETEL
WE WERE FRIENDS video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0vCIzPoP4QI
BASEMENT 7 video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ZwP_YH3iJI
FRACTURES / IN TIME video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WY_JlZ3MNCk&feature=youtu.be
All photos © Frank Roper Photography