Having fallen head over heels in love with the latest album Mutants from offbeat, genre-defying trio Mutoid Man (well not just the latest album to be fair…) to find out they were playing the short jaunt up the M5 in Bristol was an opportunity to scratch them off my live bucket list.
And another actually, when it transpired that support would come from Jimbob Isaac’s Silverburn, the triumphant return after the dissolution of former band Hark. Having been a fan of his work since hearing Taint’s phenomenal Ruin of Nova Roma debut a lifetime ago, I have had the pleasure of covering his work for The Shaman for some years now, with the exception of this latest venture (Damn you Lee B!).
The Pink Dot promoted gig at the Exchange is the perfect venue to get up close and personal with the action; small, tightly packed and hotter than hell but full of atmosphere. Arriving proudly displaying my new Spider Kitten shirt, it was a pleasant surprise and slightly amusing to run into Chris West of said band, finally, to both our joy.
As Jimbob and his live band of Adam French Henderson (drums) and Ross Barrington (bass) squeezed themselves around two bands worth of gear, you could be forgiven for wondering how their fiery, combative, post-hardcore brand would translate to the audience.
Fortunately, the answer is increasingly well with each slab of violent, metallic bludgeon that barrelled forth from Silverburn at crushing volume. About two minutes onto the first track, I was grateful I had remembered my big boy earplugs.
Blending moments of discombobulating electronics into the ferocious assault added an atmosphere that bristled with intensity as the temperature began to rise and sweat appeared on Jimbob‘s guitar body as he hammered out riff after riff. Despite the onstage showmanship being confined due to the lack of space on stage, the band were laser-focused on delivering a tight set just under forty minutes long that scythed through the Self-Induced Transcendental Annihilation debut and the force emanating from the speakers made it feel like the very air was pushing against you.
the force emanating from the speakers made it feel like the very air was pushing against you…
Silverburn sees Isaacs back, version 3.0 as it has been dubbed, and whilst there was little in the way of vocal crowd interaction, save to introduce the live crew, the communication of gratitude that people showed up and enjoyed it was plain to see and the band rightly walked away with new converts.
Hopefully, they are just getting started.
Crowd interaction is not something that is sparse for the headlining act. As seen on their regular appearances on YouTube show Two Minutes To Late Night, the pairing of Ben Koller and Steven Brodsky not only functions as a union of two of the bright musicians in the scene, but they possess a comedic chemistry that makes their gigs a zany celebration of fun, reflected in Mutoid Man’s musical output.
They wasted little time by charging into Call Of The Void, before pausing to tip their hat by introducing their new man on bass, and legend in his own right, Jeff Matz before he rumbled through the introduction to Bridgeburner and we were truly off to the races.
Over the next seventy minutes, the Exchange was treated to almost every track they could have wished for as the band ploughed through anthem after anthem in a set that spanned their entire career including old cuts like Savages from Helium Head, Reptilian Soul from Bleeder and lashings of numbers from 2017’s War Moans and Mutants.
As much as the music, a Mutoid Man gig wouldn’t be the same without that devilish twinkle from the frontman and the drummer. Whilst Matz played the straight man, Brodsky proclaimed the audience better than the previous night (Leeds) in what could have well been playing babyface to the passionate Bristol audience; pronounced the gig was going well before dicking about with his tuning for too long, whilst Koller’s request for more drums prompted banter with the crowd concluding with the stickman telling a good-natured heckler that he doesn’t ‘tell you how to fucking mosh’.
the tiny room was a joyous pit, filled with people singing the poptastic choruses one minute and slamming into each other the next…
The numbers came thick and fast with new tracks like Setting Sun and Siren Song nestling in alongside Kiss Of Death, Melt Your Mind and Date With The Devil. As the set wore on, sweat could be seen literally running off the pair out front, whilst Koller seemed oblivious, gurning and throwing his sticks during fills as the majority of the tiny room was a joyous pit, filled with people singing the poptastic choruses one minute and slamming into each other the next.
Bringing it down to tease Purple Rain, the band got mellow with the awesome Bandages before they cranked it back up again. For all the fucking around and goofy stage antics, the one thing that is certain from these three vets is that they are incredibly tight. You might think there is an air of chaos, but in the blink of an eye, they drop into note-perfect renditions of complex and deftly written songs.
Brodsky, towards the end of the set, observed that this was his hat trick of appearances on the Exchange stage in 2023 – both Old Man Gloom and Cave In having graced the venue earlier this year – and how much he loved to be seeing the faces of the audience, playing with his friends and having such a great time. When you witness the chemistry and bond between band and crowd it almost seems like Bizarro World to think that at one time Cave In were opening for Foo Fighters.
Rounding off with Gnarcissist and its rousing chorus, the band left the stage to cries of ‘one more song’. Sadly, this wasn’t to be and selfishly I was gutted not to hear their version of The Animals Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood, but that is a small complaint, and the buzz of the whole evening kept me going on the hour-and-a-half solo journey back home.
Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden