Back up the hill for another local one – this time a real DIY show up The Castle. No promoters, no soundman (just the bands tuning themselves up through a sound-box situated on a covered pool table), but an impressive 3 band bill headed by The Mighty Raze*Rebuild, one of my finds of 2016 either on a local or (inter) national level. No word of a lie; if this lot were from, say, Philadelphia, and playing their nearest gig up in London, Cardiff, wherever, I’d be hot-footing it up (or down) the motorway to catch them. The fact they’re local, and playing a free gig up the hill, just serves to shorten the journey and curtail the expense!
So I duly headed up the hill, parking up and hitting The Castle at 8.30, being greeted on arrival by Raze*Rebuild mainman Simon Hall, who’d apparently been playing “gig-snap” on my blog, as we chatted about Llama Farmers gigs at Moles Club in the early 2000’s! Broke off from an entertaining conversation to catch openers My Social Decline. Apparently veterans of previous local outfits but their first gig together as a new band (according to RR bassist Paj, who joined me in between helping to tweak their sound onstage), they initially played a strutting metronomic one-chord punky new wave noise heavily reminiscent of mid-late 70’s NYC Max’s/ CBGBs bands such as The Heartbreakers. With the exception of their third number, a slower-burn guitarry vibe recalling Sparklehorse’s “Hammering The Cramps”, they mined this new wave seam throughout, one number also even recalling early Police with its’ quiet-loud dynamics and insistent repetitive hook line. Lacking a little bit of cohesion, they were nonetheless a good start.
Ran into Well Dressed Thief bassist Adam before their set – he’d facebook “friended” me after my tentative thumbs-up of their set supporting The Vim Dicta recently, so I joked that he’d kick me off his friend list if I slagged off their set tonight! No need for that, as da Thief (as nobody calls them) impressed more second time around, with a couple of angular math rock openers featuring some pseudo-funky bass from friend Adam leading into their trademark big “whoa-oh” choruses and impressive harmonies from the front three, underlaid by some nice discordant riffery. Vocalist James joked, “I’ve got a Freddie Mercury vibe going!” as he manhandled his cut-off mic, and he put in an energetic and impassioned frontman shift, exhorting the punters forward and jumping on a strategically placed stool in the front rows to project some strident vocals. “KitKat” was again the rockiest and most conventional number on display tonight, with the challenging backwards rhythm and Colin Moulding-alike vocals of newie “Red” hinting more at their potential. A quirky and bright set from a nicely developing band unafraid to challenge their audience – or themselves!
And onto Raze*Rebuild in short order, as the boys set up and Simon brought the crowd to attention, announcing “t-minus 1 minute – prepare for launch!” And launch was pretty much right…! Raze*Rebuild are the band, more than any other, who make me wish I still had two fully functioning knees – they’re always out of the blocks “live” at an utterly blistering pace, and tonight was no exception, with usual opener “Back To The Fall” its usual rampaging self, blowing the cobwebs away with its soaring multiple hooks and fist-pumping power, then segueing into the jerkier new wave rhythm of “Jaded Heart”. Simon was “on it” from the outset; Swindon’s answer to Bob Mould, strong-arming his guitar and delivering every vocal with neck vein-bulging and clear-eyed conviction and a Mould-like deep, guttural and primal roar. For me he’s pretty much Swindon’s best pure songwriter since, ooh, probably even Andy Partridge, able to turn his hand to balls-out indie rock anthems and emotive, bleeding-raw ballads (viz a gut-wrenchingly honest “Kat I’m Sorry”) in equal measure, and, backed up with the intricate guitar work of brother Matt and the powerful, rock-solid rhythmic base of Paj and drummer Jamie, he’s finally found his voice. “This is our best song, so come forward – this is as good as it’s going to get tonight!” Simon joked before the call-and-response vocals of the superb “New Leaf”, and newie “Today The Music Died” (“a cheery one then,” joked a fellow punter) was a hurtling breakneck speed popcore blast with some Rush-style quickfire fretwork from Matt. All too soon, the set neared conclusion, a clearly chuffed Simon remarking, “it’s genuinely been beautiful,” to the engaged and attentive crowd, before an immense yet heartfelt “Sand In The Petrol” closed out the set proper – although the boys squeezed in a riotous, singalong destruction of Fleetwood Mac’s cheese-fest “Go Your Own Way” to cap an all-action, raw and ragged, sweaty as hell but utterly superb set.
I’d been rocking out as best I could, so took a seat to massage my knees back to life, enjoying a chat with WDT vocalist James, a thoroughly good bloke, about our respective passions for music. Caught my breath, bade farewells and headed off, Jamie’s drumsticks in my pocket as a gratefully received gift and the anthemic noise of Raze*Rebuild still ringing in my ears. No promoter, no soundman – no problem!