The Rigger, Newcastle-under-Lyme 22/01/09
Pulling into the car park, I was greeted by the heartening sight of the ever amiable editor and his hefty sludge doom body guards Slug and Paul, chuffing away on ‘jazz cigarettes’ and looking like extras from ‘The League Of Gentlemen’. The Rigger is a venue I’ve never done before, a spacious art deco rock pub that oozes weird time-warp Potteries charm. Notable decorative features included crap oil paintings of Kiss (classic seventies period) and Freddie Mercury (of such an uncanny likeness that my spouse thought it was Henry Rollins), a shockingly shit multi-patterned carpet straight out of an eighties wine bar plus a brilliant three dimensional skull and crossbones design on the front of the stage. The whole place screamed ‘Stoke on Trent is a way of life’. Charger were sound checking when we walked in and this gave me the chance to see them twice in one night. Bonus.
The new look Space Witch are a crustier looking outfit with the addition of new bassist Ki, and are none the worse for it. They belched out a loud and disorientating thirty minute set of thick soupy space sludge that included demo faves ‘Cosmic Cauldron’ and ‘Battle Hag’. I loved the fact that Moog fondler Pete had his effects pedals perched on several little pub stools. Its touches like this that make this band absolutely essential. Space Witch had a looser, wilder and more expansive sound than previous, with Ki adding a deeper and dubbier feel, kind of Jah Wobble meets Sleep. Al’s stunning battering of the skins was sheer joyful violence – he poured his fucking heart and soul into those drums. It’s good to see these guys hit their stride and adapt to the challenge of losing a member and gaining a new ‘un. Come on Daz, get a bloody album out man. Gatefold sleeve with an airbrushed picture of a hot naked bird gyrating in her cosmic den so you can skin up on it and get a boner at the same time.
Charger are confident old pro’s at this game, and it’s great to see them flex their muscles and run through the moves. Their unique take on metallic hardcore has always represented perverse wit, brutal aggression and a quirky desire to blend punk dynamics and doom metal heaviness with grindcore style and a willingness to fuck about with noise and new ideas. Plenty of savage blasts from the masterful ‘Spill Your Guts’ long player like ‘Shake! Baby! Shake!’ and ‘Cult Vs. Cunt’ ensued, plus some oldies and an ace new number that rolls along like classic Discharge grappling with Saint Vitus for control of the wheel. Paul’s drumming was characteristically crisp and dead centre precise and he and Danny more than make up for the absence of a hand free vocalist. My only gripe is that Charger didn’t play for longer than half an hour and that the sizeable crowd weren’t pissed or brave enough to start moving about to their visceral hardcore fury, only managing polite claps and the odd cheer. Playing in their home town, these legends deserve frenzied local adulation, not a sober reception. Personally I think they should have headlined.
Instead we got a pub rock outfit called Firebird. Don’t get me wrong, they know their shit, they can play, and if early seventies rock is your God then Firebird tick the boxes, but… they simply bored me. I knew they would when I sat listening to them on MySpace a few weeks ago. If you play this kind of stuff then you need real soul and big hooks and sublime melodies, just like the immortal Cream, Free, Hendrix, etc. Firebird haven’t. I feel a bit of a mean shit saying what I just have, but I must call it as I see it. That’s my responsibility as a reviewer. If I sit on the fence and aim to please every fucker then I’m a liar. I choose to articulate my thoughts and opinions to the readers of this beautiful little webzine. Such is this democratic process known as free speech. I’m sure Firebird don’t give a shit what I think. It’s just that I do. Like a few other bands on the Rise Above roster, Firebird’s infatuation with classic seventies vibes largely remains an exercise in style over substance. Good luck to ’em. I am genuinely glad that Bill Steer is doing something that he believes in.
I left early, sporting my new Charger ‘Spill Your Guts’ man-bag. It goes nicely with my t-shirt. Cheers Future-Noise Dave. I just need the baseball cap now. And maybe some Charger underpants, with ‘Shake! Baby! Shake!’ on the crotch.
Scribed by: Adam Stone
Photos by: Lee Edwards