Things are ominously quiet when I arrive at The Croft (yes, I know it hasn’t been The Croft for a long time now, but I’m old and grumpy so let me get on with it), but then it’s a tough Thursday night – the day after Bongzilla and just before a weekend that holds both Astral Festival locally, and Desertfest over in that London.
Chatting about these matters with Snuff Lane’s man on the door and the chaps from Dirty Nips it’s clear that the socio-political context of touring in the foul year 2022 has made things difficult, and expensive. I guess both of the bands tonight have a bit of a hedge against that risk though, Dirty Nips having only come across town as a last-minute stand-in and a new band making a name, and Sacri Monti have other dates, including Desertfest, ahead of them which will surely bring a bigger payday than tonight.
So, to the bands…
Dirty Nips get to it without much fuss, a relatively young lot with one short release out there on cassette and digital, the three-piece have a surplus of charm and cheek. Someone asked me recently where all the ‘stoner rock’ had gone, and I think I might have found it. What do we even mean by ‘stoner rock’ – rock music made by/for stoned people? Slacker music that’s somewhere to the punk side of classic rock? With a bit of grunge and metal edge, but informed by Pink Floyd and the psychedelic tradition since the 60s? Well, yeah then I guess we can call Dirty Nips a ‘stoner band’, if y’know, you’re all hung up on labels and shit. Maybe we can borrow one of their song titles and just call it ‘basement rock’ since no one has a garage these days. Whatever aspect of their sound the trio are belting out at any moment, there is a joyous lightness about it, not too caught up in the serious business of musicking that many bands rely on for legitimacy. I’m sure I’ll see this lot again (yes, on Saturday) and look forward to it.
the three-piece have a surplus of charm and cheek…
Slightly different vibe from Sacri Monti, they’re pissed off to be playing to a handful of people and aren’t going to pretend otherwise. That said, there’s no sense that their performance is any less for it, firing on all cylinders straight ahead on their progressive groove mission. Strangely, in a broader musical scene that would include bands like the openers, who also clearly draw influence from American sources, Sacri Monti have a sound and a vibe that is definitely from the other side of the Atlantic. This has nothing to do with local scenes either, as it speaks as much to the East Coast griminess of bands like Naam or Ecstatic Vision as to the epic doomed-out prog of Ancestors from the other side of the landmass.
firing on all cylinders straight ahead on their progressive groove mission…
There’s a rhythm-and-blues heritage in their instrumental set-up (drums, bass, keys, rhythm and lead guitars) that comes through in a certain classicism in songwriting, but they push beyond to find the blues groove in proto-metal, and the progressive twist in stoner/doom from which they make their Texan stew. If this makes things sound a bit extemporised then that is far from the case, Sacri Monti know these songs, and they’ve been written with a clarity of purpose that stands in contrast to the looser jams that we heard earlier in the night. This is matched with great skill as players (such bass work!) which allows them to take a cover by lost legends Iron Claw and move the simple bones of their work to a much grander and richer place.
An intimate show then, for the lucky few. Thanks as ever to promoters Snuff Lane who are getting back on track with keeping Bristol supplied with the good stuff. Others will see Sacri Monti at other stops along the way, but this was Bristol on a dead Thursday night, and I’m glad I made it. I can only hope that we can entice Sacri Monti back some other time and show them how things can go here on a good night, if not, then I guess I have a new reason to travel somewhere to a groovy festival elsewhere in the future.
Scribed by: Harry Holmes