Tuesday 26 November 2013: Start The Bus in Bristol plays host to a night of raw grunge, shoegaze and post-hardcore
uring a November eve frosty enough to chill the bones off an ice block, three tenacious examples of the current appreciation for early 90s’ guitar music, made it their mission to douse the cold in a little petrol and let the effigies of their inspiration burn into the ears of the audience. With grunge, shoegaze and post-hardcore all given an airing, the attendants of Bristol’s Start The Bus were afforded quite the treat and all this before even the first chocolate of advent was available.
It’s a rare and refreshing experience to watch a band with no expectations and be blown away completely. That, though, is precisely the sentiment evoked by the performance of Brighton surf-grunge trio The Wytches. Politely spoken and unassuming as they took to the stage, the opening notes of their first song cast them in an altogether more cathartic light.
With a tremolo-laden effect doused over their doomy melodies and a pulsating rhythm section underscoring vocals that veered from a soft Ian Brown-like purr to a fraught, Kurt Cobain-esque scream, they came across as a Bleach-era Nirvana writing the score to Quentin Tarantino’s classic Pulp Fiction.
A hefty comparison, but with songs as brilliant as Robe For Juda and Wide At Midnight aligned to a truly intoxicating stage presence, the youthful three demonstrated their enormous potential. Do not be surprised if you see them grow quickly from the finest support act currently doing the rounds into a headline act of real verve.
The Wytches were quite the act to follow but London-based shoe-grungers and Songwriting favourites Cheatahs were more than up to the task. Ripping through a set that skilfully displayed their Ride meets The Colour And Shape-era Foo Fighters style, the band were full of the confidence that their three excellent EPs afford. With tracks as hook-laden as SANS and Fountain Park, who can blame them?
Songs from each the aforementioned EPs were given an even fuzzier treatment than on record, closer to the dreamy soundscapes of shoegaze than the crunch of grunge. Closing with what is arguably their best song, The Swan, Songwriting’s pick for Best Rock Song of 2012, the band gave the sense that bigger venues beckoned. Their debut album is pencilled in for an early 2014 release and if the new song Neutral Me is anything to go by, then it could just be the trick that propels them to the next level.
Having been treated to two superb opening acts, the audience were in near frenzy by the time Toronto post-hardcore band METZ stepped out. Intimidating? Not a jot. The fiery trio played a set full of rage and energy, one steeped in the history of hardcore punk greats like Fugazi, Nation of Ulysses, Shellac and Minor Threat.
It was the latter band to whom METZ bore the greatest resemblance and, true to the tradition created by Ian MacKaye and his cohorts, the audience were encouraged, by the band members themselves, to engage in the sort of stage and crowd gymnastics that defined the hardcore scene. Bodies bounced from each other on to a floor turned to an ice rink of sweat, and the air was thick with the exuberance of organised chaos. Highlights included Get Off, Headache and Wet Blanket, though the whole set was a tribute to the finest qualities of post-hardcore. Fans of the scene would have found much to enjoy in METZ’s performance.
Three terrific bands, each with a different source inspiration from that most fruitful of periods in guitar music. Robe Of Juda by The Wytches is out now, as is Cheatahs’ Cut The Grass. METZ self-titled debut has been out since last year and shame on those of you that don’t already own it. Maybe in 20 years time we’ll pine for these golden years.
Words: Damien Girling