Sunday, 15 January 2017

1,018 RAZE*REBUILD, Supp. As The Sun Sleeps, A Way With Words, All Ears Avow, Swindon Level 3, Saturday 14th January 2017

My home town is hopefully going to serve me well during the early knockings of this new gig year, it seems; despite the downsizing of activities from the splendid “Songs Of Praise” promotional duo, I’m scheduled for at least 3 potentially excellent local shows in the next handful of weeks. Kicking things off is a gig curated by young local pop-punk combo As The Sun Sleeps, with the inclusion of Raze*Rebuild, my favourite new local band discovery of last year – hell, one of my favourite new band discoveries from anywhere, for some time! –  really swaying my decision to pop along. Another plus point is the venue; my old 80’s/ 90’s haunt and “spiritual home” of Level 3, now an occasional gig venue only, it seems...

The late inclusion of earnest emo-rockers All Ears Avow, last-minute replacements for reggae/ ska tinged party band SN Dubstation, made this a real guitar-heavy grunting rock pig bill, so I girded my loins accordingly and headed down early doors, hitting the venue at 20 to 8. Amazingly, Raze*Rebuild were on first at 8 – this bill is upside down! Had a brief chat with vocalist Si Hall, bassist “Paj” and the boys while they set up, then took a spot stage left and surveyed the scene... old ghosts of Level 3 past wherever I turn, the eerie atmosphere augmented by a distinct chill in the venue air. Nonetheless, a small but respectable early turnout were on hand to greet the band onto the top dancefloor stage, the top barrier thankfully having been removed, so, for once, we could watch as well as hear from the bottom dancefloor…

A short sound-check – their only such check tonight! – and Si introduced the band on at 8, remarking, “hi, we’re Raze*Rebuild, can you all at least skirt the dancefloor, [although] we’re not expecting anyone to throw shapes at 8 pm…” to which Paj pointed me out… “he will!” Sure enough, the opening bars of the rampaging “Back To The Fall” got me started, as I rocked out as best my crumbling knees would allow, to a raw, ragged and rambunctuous version of my favourite R*R track, which would have been my leadoff track on my “Best Of 2016” CD had it actually been released that year! “Jaded Heart” followed as usual, although probably due to the lack of sound-check, the sound took awhile to really bed in properly, Si’s full-on primal roaring notwithstanding. However, by an impassioned “Kat, I’m Sorry”, the sound was sorted and the band were in full flow.

Both elements of Raze*Rebuild’s current song template were on display in full force tonight: “Kat” a heartfelt, brutally honest emotion-led slow-burn yet heavy power ballad, followed by the strong-armed, blue-collar Gaslight/ Sugar anthemic popcore rock blast and call-and-response choral hook of newie “New Leaf”. Some corny jokes about guitar G strings preceded a hushed solo “You’re The Chalk” from Si, then a whip-crack fast double whammy of “All The Gear” and a toughened up “Face For Radio” got my knees working again, prompting Si to remark, “such energy for such an early show! You must all be trying to keep warm!” A ball-crushingly massive set highlight “Sand In The Petrol”, as skyscrapingly epic as I’ve ever heard it, closed out the set and threatened to lift the roof to another, erm, level…! Compliments from Si after as raw, pure and hard-rocking a half hour as you’re likely to get. Raze*Rebuild fucking killed it – yet again!

Caught my breath and took a watching brief for the rest of the evening, being joined by various R*R chaps for some entertaining rock history chat, with the remainder of the bands on the bill as musical backdrops. The late additions All Ears Avow were probably the best of the other bands on offer, with some very competently played gothic-tinged heavy emo rock, not a million miles removed from the Evanescences of this world. A racier, poppier “Gone” was their best number on show, otherwise the fayre was decent, if a little dispassionate and  anodyne for my overall liking. A Way With Words were more conventional straightahead grungy rock with a touch of the Thin Lizzys about them, but something sounded a little off with their set, making then a little morose and murky. And headliners As The Sun Sleeps, playing at 10.45ish to a now full dancefloor, were energetic and enthusiastic, but the sound was again a bit off, thin and drum-dominated, and although the mix ultimately improved, giving their generic and lightning-quick pop-punk a fuller guitar sound, the material lacked an identity of its own and felt like a breakneck yet homogenised journey through the boys’ record collections, no doubt filled with the likes of Blink, Sum 41 and New Found Glory. So with the knees falling asleep, I bade farewell, having seen the true headliners open up tonight. Another incendiary show (yup, I just called this gig a “show”, Si!) from Raze*Rebuild, and I was totally right – this bill was upside down!

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