Oww! My ears!
I have been looking forward to this gig for ages, my favourite local space rockers and Mogwai, a band I’ve loved for years but just never got around to seeing live – at my favourite local venue too. What a great combo! And then they added Forest Swords to the bill. What could possibly go wrong? Well, a bit, as it happened.
It possibly didn’t help matters that I had to drop my son off at 2.30am yesterday morning to get a coach, before going back to bed for three hours and then doing a full day’s work, powered by sugary sweets and caffeine. Add three pints of Erdinger into the mix on an empty stomach and I suspect that I had the equivalent of three days’ worth of hallucinogens partying on down somewhere inside my central cortex.
My chum Will and I got to the venue nice and early to make sure we saw Mugstar open the bill, got down the front easily and really enjoyed the first four songs they played – three newies and, correct me if I’m wrong, ‘Black Fountain’. The new songs were great too, featuring a slightly rockier tint if I’m not too mistaken, the last track almost sounded a bit like Zeppelin in terms of its’ dynamics, some very good Quiet/Loud going on. So there we were grooving, my head hovering on the border between head banging/nodding very enthusiastically, swaying around, lost in the music and then … it was over. 20-25 minutes maximum. It was hugely disappointing and not only for me. Mugstar need longer to hit you in full effect, at least double the time they got. You could sense that they were really getting into it and the crowd too, just as they finished.
Ah well, again, as I am every time I see them, I was so impressed with their musicianship; they are all excellent and Steve Ashton is a real stand-out drummer for me. Until the next time, I consoled myself by buying a copy of their …Sun, Broken… LP from their merch stall, originally from 2010 it has been recently re-released (first time on vinyl) with a great foil cover and sumptuous marbled vinyl (salivates). I also collared their gentleman guitarist Neil later and apparently we shouldn’t have to wait too long for new material.
Forest Swords were next up and I was at the back of the hall talking to some friends at the bar and despite my teenage/obsessive need to be as close to any band I ever see as I can be, I was very glad I wasn’t any nearer on this occasion. Right from the first seconds the bass was so loud and so low that I really could feel my innards being scrambled and this was with at least 500 people between me and the speakers – what it must have felt like closer in, Crom alone knows! The only comparable sensation I have ever had was seeing Jah Wobble & The Invaders Of The Heart about 100 years ago now (give, or take).
Forest Swords are from the Wirral* and they (he?) create strange, dubbed-out ambient soundscapes using a lot of field recordings I’m told. A particular favourite place, featured in numerous of their projections last night, is a favourite place of mine here too – Thor’s Stone – a huge slab of sandstone, supposedly hurled at a giant by Thor which came crashing down here on the Wirral**. It’s a very mystical feeling place hidden away in almost primordial scrub woodland, I go there a lot and, I would gather, Mr F.Swords does too. I enjoyed their set, I like this type of music, it was very inventive and original sounding, but after a while it started to drag on me. I wanted the ‘up’ that a good rock band would give me, that lift of interaction with crowd and I wasn’t getting it from them. It clearly isn’t Forest Swords’ fault but in my view the running order should have been reversed and both support acts given equal length sets^.
Mogwai had a loud, large vociferous crowd all of their own. I think it’s great that such a sonically uncompromising, clever group have found such an audience, a fanatical one at that. It’s a little pointless digging out specific tracks from the set, you have to deal with it as a full-on whole. I recognized bits from all the Mogwai I own and plenty of it I didn’t. I can’t think of another band who are so much about the build-up inside each song, sometimes you get that cathartic release of volume other times you don’t, they just tease you with the possibility of it. I’ve seen plenty of great musicians live too and each and every Mogwai is up there, right up there with the very best – the precision you need to play this type of music to this level is just astonishing, for a band who can really bludgeon you when they rip it up, most of the time Mogwai are far more of a scalpel.
What else can I say? they lifted us up, they let us fall, they lifted us right back up again and kept us there and thanked us for letting them. It was an absolute master class, a very loud master class. A very, very loud master class.
462 Down (still)
*the sticky out bit underneath Liverpool for all you non locals.
**that’s half-remembered legend, always better than stone-cold fact, surely?
^I ordered their 2013 LP Engravings as soon as I got up this morning though.