Despite the Bonfire Night bumper to bumper traffic going into south Manchester, I arrived just in time to see Yorkshire’s BongCauldron plug in and fire up, even though initially I had no idea who they were. Ignoring their truly uninspired name (that I would only forgive if it was an obvious pastiche of stoner doom cliché, and oh Lord, I do hope it is), this trio were undeniably powerful and provided plenty of head-nodding and even head-banging moments through a fairly long set for a bottom of the bill band. In particular their bassist really laid down some thick and fuzzy lines, very much in the gnarled vein of ‘Dixie’ Dave Collins of Weedeater, whom they sounded like quite a bit. Maybe a bit too much. All in all, they were solid enough as a three piece, but it’s not like there was anything new or even particularly interesting about their standard sludge dynamics. Sorry, but I’ve seen it all before mate.
I knew very little about the next band, Rhode Island doomers Pilgrim, but they certainly built up an expectation by taking near on an hour to set their gear up and sort out their sound. There’s no rush at the shabbily anti-slick Star & Garter though – more time between sets means more boozin’ and tokin’ for the great unwashed beard-wearers downstairs as they spill onto the sex-worker strewn pavement of Fairfield Street. Eventually Pilgrim announced their intention to start via an ear-splitting squeal of feedback. This was classy doom, unsettlingly heavy, turgidly slow most of the time and genuinely as misanthropic sounding as the three musicians in Pilgrim looked, particularly lead singer/guitarist ‘The Wizard’. A more fine and threatening reprobate I have not seen – one colleague accurately remarked that he looked eerily like The Son of Sam, David Berkowitz. Spot on. Just to complete the heavy metal eccentricity, the bassist (known as ‘Count Elric The Soothsayer’) was stripped to the waist, in order, presumably, to show off his ‘ripped’ torso. I’d never realised how beneficial soothsaying was for the general muscle development of the chest, shoulders and stomach. Fucking hell, it was like looking at the photos in Mega-Metal Kerrang! circa 1985. Back to the music though, Pilgrim were excellent, and after waiting (and smoking) for so long the audience were suitably impressed by such high calibre doom. Good pair of lungs on The Wizard too. Magic.
Richmond, Virginia’s Windhand (please no more jokey asides about farting into your cupped palm) hit the stage at just after 11pm, reduced to a four piece as one of the two guitarists, Asechiah Bogdan, was apparently taken ill upon leaving the plane and had to sample our world-famous NHS as a result. Blood clot in his arm as it happens. We wish him a speedy recovery here at The Shaman and certainly hope he pulls through to play again with Windhand. Like true warriors though, the remaining four put on a hell of a show, ploughing through their beautifully catchy and soupy thick psych-doom like true practitioners of…erm, beautifully catchy and soupy thick psych-doom.
New classics like ‘Orchard’ sounded utterly amazing, as did a selection of older tracks from their self-titled debut of 2012. Dorthia Cottrell’ superb vocals are obviously one of the most striking features of Windhand’s sound, yet tonight her voice frequently struggled to be heard in the PA. Whether she herself was encountering physical problems or whether it was the sound at the pub, I do not know. What I do know is that Windhand didn’t quite recreate their huge sound (I’m trying not to use the word monolithic – terrible addiction for writers) because of this rather perplexing fact. Obviously the missing guitarist didn’t help either. As it happens though, they played a long and fulsome set, and apologies to the band as I thought they had finished around the midnight mark (they had begun to leave the stage in a blanket of incessant feedback) so I made a dash for the outside world, only to receive a text from Shaman Lee as I was driving off that informed me that they had come back on for an encore. Bugger.
Scribed By: Adam Stone
Photos By: Lee Edwards