First up were girl-fronted band Get Hustle. Backed by drums and twin keyboards, they did their best to get on the crowds side, but they just seemed to be trying too hard. A real bunch of odd balls, there was a Nice Cave clone sitting at the small keyboards, flanked on the opposite side by an awkward geeky type on the bigger piano sized keyboards, while the girl seemed to be mostly flailing around on the floor wearing a leather cap. There were some good interesting parts with unusual time changes and rhythms, but it just wasn't enough.
The Blood Brothers, fronted by two scream core singers, also for me didn't cut it. Again trying a little too hard, the young crowd were into them, but not for me I'm afraid.
Arab On Radar take to the stage dressed completely head to toe in black. Like The Stranglers before them, it's probably a statement of intent that the music is more important then the members themselves - they even refuse to divulge their respective names. At any one time, all four members seem to be both playing and living in their own little micro-world onstage, but by some miracle it all comes together. This is either very clever or very lucky.
Each song starts with the drummer shouting 1,2,3,4 in a very high-pitched voice, like he's just taking the piss. The rhythms just stumble and stutter along, guitar screeching and front vocalist screaming and singing along in his own world. It's a confusing place, but very enjoyable. Messy and raw, it's like Les Savy Fav just out of the loony bin. The bass player could easily be Mark from Monkey Boy, with the way he runs around and pulls faces while playing - I wonder if they're related?
No sooner have they stopped than a drum sound is heard at floor level to the left of stage. Lightning Bolt have set-up in the audience. The band consists of just a bass player and drummer.
The bass guitarist Brian Gibson stands still throughout, but plays the instrument like a guitar. In fact a few times during the set I found myself looking for a hidden guitarist, as the sound coming out could not possibly be made by the bass. Drummer Brian Chippendale has a vocoder in his mouth, kept there by an elaborate mesh of scraps of cloth tied around his head, he shouts random and unclear words while frenetically playing at one hundred miles per hour.
A huge wall of cabs and heads backs them, and the sheer volume makes you head pound, especially as we are literally no more than 10mm from them while they play. The sound these two make is incredible - like The White Stripes should be - in fact these could be the White Stripes for a more discernable audience.
All the songs are merged into one long sermon, with Brian jumping up from the drum kit every now and then, to dance and stretch while the bass carries on relentlessly. They leave the crowd breathless at the end of the set, for us to be squarely kicked in the balls as The Locust immediately take to the stage.
Four men dressed in a combination of black and mesh material from facemasks down to pumps, they are an arresting sight indeed. I'm guessing these are their locust suits. In fact they remind me of some of the garb that The Residents played in when in the UK last year.
The sound is loud and quick. There are wild timing shifts while the actual pace of the playing takes the tempo to a simply ridiculous level. Stupidly tight with songs that last between fifteen seconds and three minutes, the crowd are rooted to the spot, as they simply stand, mouths open, not believing what they are seeing or hearing. Brutal and straight to the point, this must be the furthest that hard-core can physically be taken. I can only describe them as The Dillinger Escape plan on acid. Mental!
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