When Uncle Acid’s Glasgow show was first announced (around about the time that people without Black Sabbath tickets were resigning themselves to never being able to see them hit this fair city) it quickly became one of those ‘must-attend’ kind of shindigs, although the support announcement earlier this year made it that little bit more essential. It’s Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell that are up first and, to be honest, it makes you worry a little bit for the rest of the bill – they’re that bloody good.
They certainly look the part, with the leather-and-steel-clad Johnny Gorilla practically a stand-in for From Dusk ‘til Dawn’s Sex Machine (including the mean moustache), Louis Comfort-Wiggett’s muttonchops a natural wonder and Bill Darlington the personification of Easy Rider with the stage presence of Animal, though any expectations of Spinal Tap shenanigans are dispelled with the dirty groove of ‘Do It Now’, a speedballing fiend of a song that sounds like Sir Lord Baltimore packing heat. It’s the embodiment of riffing done well but there’s plenty of showiness on offer, with Gorilla’s extravagant solos equally as impressive as the slick runs of Wiggett, and a sea of headbanging seems the only reasonable response.
Only Devil’s Island marks a return to their debut though it seems the most apt choice in keeping up with their Check ‘Em Before You Wreck ‘em cuts, especially the hefty dive-bar punch of Running From Here and Bulletproof’s loose and soulful swing, and though it’s certainly nothing that hasn’t been heard before, it’s refreshing to hear anyone attack riffs like these with so much fire, joy and enthusiasm. Their between-song quips and exchanges prove to be as entertaining as the music and as the honky-tonk-stomp of The Thicker The Better draws their set to a close, the mix of good-time rocking and tongue-in-cheek heavy metalisms finally collide in a pile-up that keeps toes tapping right up to its last beats. Quite frankly, topping them is going to be a real challenge.
To be honest, though, Black Moth don’t really try to. The ominous build-up makes it clear that they’re playing a different game entirely and when vocalist Harriet Bevan takes the stage, the polish she adds to the heady wafts of doom takes the night in a wildly divergent direction. The feeling is compounded when they get round to The Articulate Dead, a noticeably more upbeat and more aggressive piece that Bevan twists into a noisy indie-psych chimera of the loudest kind, and while her approach is a more subtle one than her bandmates take, bassist Dave Vachon endlessly pacing the stage while laying down a simple yet potent riff on the Sabbath-grunge of Blackbirds Fall while Dom McCready hammers out an insurgent’s rebel beat, her evenness never seems to restrain the band.
There’s really plenty to like here, and the more psychedelic moments give their songs a chance to expand and explore away from the stoner-doom walls they’ve built up around themselves, but they have the misfortune of being placed in the middle of tonight’s bill and, like talking to a pleasant chap whose brother owns a brewery, no matter how interesting the conversation is it’s hard to tear away from thoughts of the eventual payoff. That being said, it’s clear that they’ve got plenty going for them and it’s doubtful that many in attendance would say no to a headline slot from them sometime in the near future.
But still, there’s always that sweet, sweet payoff, and that comes in the form of four English lads with long hair and a taste for the darker side of 1971, and that’s Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats. Lit only by the rear stage lights, it’s almost impossible to see their faces but that doesn’t matter. It’s pure sonic evil that matters, and that’s exactly what is provided by the graveful. They sound huge, shedding the retro tinniness of their albums and going straight for the jugular with a hefty backline and the creepy sweetness of Kevin Starrs (a.k.a. Uncle Acid) to steer their aim. Yutam Rubinger’s tight rhythm work adds extra weight to the looming presence of Mt. Abraxas while his messianic appearance lends its mountaintop dealings a dash of authenticity.
The first real surprise of the night comes with a revival of Crystal Spiders from their elusive debut album and while it might have been completely unknown to some here, it’s still a far cry from the original, sounding much more alive tonight. It’s faster, harder and more direct, and it ends up as one of many highlights of the night, as does a fearsome I’ll Cut You Down. While it’d be quicker to list the weak points of the evening, it would be a challenge given how few there are. It’s a performance that not only serves to highlight the quality of the material but it builds on it too, adding life and mystique and danger. You know, all of those things that make rock great.
Starrs proves himself to be an inimitable frontman, both energetic and sincere, and there’s doubtless a cheekiness there when he dedicates Poison Apple to Charlie Manson as the image of Sharon Tate looks on from the drumkit behind him, or when he playfully flicks a tiny spring-mounted Jesus (yes, there was indeed a springy Jesus on the kit too) as Desert Ceremony draws to a close. He throws himself into the show with a gusto that the Deadbeats match admirably, and in the end it feels like being lost in some early 70s timewarp, an hour-long musical version of Simon, King of the Witches but with white-suited hippies instead of naked wiccans and psychedelic riffing instead of Technicolor trip sequences. It’s been a sexy, accomplished and effortlessly cool evening of dirty riffs and odes to serial killers and, as far as Wednesdays go, that makes for one of the best.
Scribed by: Dave Bowes
Photos by: Alex Woodward (www.crimsonglow.co.uk)