Travelling over a hundred miles up the M6 to catch this two-band bill brings me mixed emotions. The Roadhouse, on Newton Street, Manchester, is due for permanent closure on May 31st – the latest in a long-line of high profile live music venues in the North to shut up shop in favour of a new restaurant development. Sure, The Roadhouse isn’t the finest underground bunker the world has ever seen but it always possessed character, a humble, darkened mystique and a welcoming, well-stocked and reasonably-priced bar attached to its intimate stage area. As one of the last gigs ever at this well-worn establishment, and certainly the last show of true hard-rocking pedigree, there’s few who would argue that having instrumental power-trio Earthless headline tonight is a fitting tribute to a small hole in the floor that once housed triumphant early shows from the likes of The Kills, Muse, The White Stripes, Kasabian, Texas, Elbow, The Verve, Royal Blood, EyeHateGod and Coldplay, amongst countless others.
With impact of money a slightly sore point tonight, it’s perhaps ironic that slightly financially-obsessed local support act NASDAQ emerge from the shadows and launch into their instrumental long-players somewhat un-announced and unassuming. A myriad of hunched shoulders, loose denim, casual hoodies and an inward sense of confidence, they smash out more than their fair share of sonic prayer over the course of their thirty minute opening slot. Slowing building and subsiding waves of post-metallic bliss and jam-space warmth give them the aura of And So I Watch You From Afar attempting a set of Russian Circles, Don Cabellero and ISIS covers with just a bedside table lamp for company.
They’re an assured, well-rehearsed and rather together bunch, punctuated well by Liam Stewart‘s leading role behind the kit, both filling and looking for gaps in his musical transference of power and momentum with Dan Bridgwood-Hill and Ed Troup crafting a soaring set of towering riff summits and backhanded bass valleys below him. Heavier than on record, NASDAQ prove their Wolf on Wall Street worth as they groove on into the darkness of Manchester’s greying skies.
Like it or lump it though, there’s only one band this swollen gathering is here to see tonight and that’s the headliners. Graciously and humbly thanking the crowd before notably pushing his mic stand to one side for the next sixty minutes, guitarist Isaiah Mitchell sets the sat-nav of awesomeness to the outer cosmos as Earthless launch into the ever-building delight that is Uluru Rock. Starting with a mountainous, wide-frame take on space rock, the trio ebb and flow, build and rise as Mario Rubalcaba slowly works through the tempos behind the kit alongside his bass-bound compatriot Mike Eginton until the threesome are locked into a frenzy of cymbal crashes, ocean-drowning currents and slick, impassioned leads. Uluru Rock is one of Earthless‘ springboard songs for Mitchell as the de facto frontman solos away into the night before Eginton and Rubalcaba catch him up in his devilishly fast pole position for the crescendo of a lifetime.
Violence Of The Red Sea takes off with some more immediate, rapid-fire riffery and machine-gun drumming from Rubalcaba and sticks with this theme throughout as the trio pound on with their outer-galactic bliss. It’s a speedy one, Violence…, and Isaiah becomes more the executioner to Rubalcaba’s commands as the Mitch Mitchell-come-Ginger Baker-come-Ian Paice hybrid of a drummer smashes through boundaries and groove barriers that most players would deem rhythmically impossible.
As a chaotic and humongous jam loosely resembling Sonic Prayer from the Rhythms From A Cosmic Sky record finally gets underway, Mitchell resumes the reigns as he scorches The Roadhouse with white hot leads, fire-breathing riffs and ear-swallowing solos. Watching this Frankenstein’s monster of a blues act, it’s obvious that Earthless ceased to be a band of three individual human beings a long time ago. They are but one entity; a force that oscillates, vibrates and dictates as and when it pleases with beyond-telepathic forms of communication to stitch their various seismic conquests together. As Rubalcaba works himself into an epileptic fit of drumming finesse, Eginton remains constantly by his side almost like the OFF! drummer’s mindful carer, owning and containing the band at each and every corner in whichever corridor they venture down with his unstoppable bass grooves.
There’s a reason they’re called Earthless. This is a band so impossible to comprehend that no-one could ever believe that they hail from this very same planet as we normal people do. Ending by encoring with their turbo-charged cover of The Groundhogs’ Cherry Red at the rather early hour of 21:45, the San Diego padres cement their place in the audiences’ hearts for another summer tour cycle at least.
What with it being a sleepy Sunday night, albeit a bank holiday evening, it’s a somewhat subdued goodnight to Earthless and a fond goodbye I pledge to The Roadhouse. With the sorry, all-too rapid rate of the closure of live music venues across the land, it’s a tad depressing to stand outside with a passionate few punters hypothesising as which ones will be next for the Costa Coffee/Tesco Metro chop. But whichever way you look at things tonight, it’s certainly been worth making the trip up for a blast of brilliance that’s surely not born of this world.
Scribed by: Pete Green
Photos by: Lee Edwards