Looking forward to another wet cold night in darkest Digbeth can only mean another Capsule show, this numbering three out of ten for their tenth birthday celebrations this month. Boasting a return to Birmingham for perennial favourites and sonic demolition artists Lightning Bolt the lineup was bolstered by two support acts spanning widely varying styles, yet with a shared love of volume.
Having performed at the initial Supersonic festival back in 2003 as one half of electronics duo Teatowel, Pete Prescription sees the man himself fly solo, armed only with a laptop, guitar and samplers. Reminiscent in spirit to the uniquely eccentric games developers of the early 80s for the Spectrum, with his fractured, 8-bit melodies fighting for space with insistently melodic guitar lines before changing direction again to break out a glitchy happy hardcore number underpinned with Rainbow samples. With a wealth of ideas in his arsenal, Mr Prescription veers from zany to thoughtful in a blink of an eye, always seemingly toying with the sonics at his control, pitch-shifting and circuit bending with glee. The final track, a looping guitar line over increasingly ominous backing was a direct amalgamation of his concepts and finished the set on a high note.
Tweak Bird were an unknown quantity to me once they took to the stage, but in the short time between then and writing this review I’ve devoured most of their content floating around on the web, having swiftly ensconced themselves in the top half of my ‘favourite new band’ table.
A duo featuring the Bird brothers Caleb and Ashton on guitar and drums respectively, Tweak Bird make an almighty racket, drawing comparison to Big Business on more than one occasion, two-piece lineup aside. They share the same ghostly, haunting vocal style as well as the relentless, rolling drum rhythms, performed with such power by Ashton you’d expect him to go through drumheads at a rate of at least two per song. But whilst Big Business come from a more noise-rock type of background, Tweak Bird are fully rooted in stoner rock, with hints of Blue Cheer, Sleep and Fu Manchu coming together to make for a much more visceral sound.
With deceptively simple riffs played through a shedful of effects and filtered through serious amplification, the material was impressive in its groove, in its catchiness, and in its sheer heft. Mixing things up slightly, the band also introduced a third member of the band at points of the show to add saxophone and flute, the latter particularly bringing a late sixties folksiness to the atmosphere. With their tracks being relatively short on record, live they added extended jam sessions and longer build-ups to stretch their material out, as well as giving the guest instrumentation time to shine.
Having already shared the stage with Tool, Melvins and the aforementioned Big Business, I anticipate Tweak Bird enjoying plenty of column inches in the new year, when their debut full-length is due to drop. I for one will be waiting, eagerly.
With the Vivid warehouse home to a really solid and powerful PA system, it was slightly disconcerting that after Tweak Bird had finished, and my ringing ears were finally starting to readjust, that the PA was being dismantled and replaced by Lightning Bolt’s own personal one. One that looked like a particularly evil Decepticon parading as a sound system. Whilst Tweak Bird made an immense, glorious noise, it was nothing compared to the unremitting, single-minded reverberations that now filled the room.
With Brian Gibson on a five string bass consisting of both bass and banjo strings plugged into a PA setup the size of a small chimney stack via numerous effects pedals, at times he appeared to be mindlessly noodling away at his instrument – befitting given that most LB tracks have developed by way of improvisation – before dropping into swathes of lead-bottomed, ferocious heaviosity that was frankly astounding.
His counterpart on drums and vocals, Brian Chippendale was also blessed with a similarly colossal rig, his multiple Marshall stacks acting as a vocal amplifier / monitor for his unique microphone – originally constructed from a telephone mouthpiece – nestled in the front of his disturbing Scarecrow/Teletubbie hybrid facemask. With three snare drums at his disposal, Chippendale was the focal point of the band, providing a churning rhythmic undercurrent from the off, looking every inch the eye of a particularly overdriven tornado.
Peaks and troughs in the set were all relative with the vocals, bass and drums coalescing into one thick, million decibel morass that assaulted the senses, although the sold-out crowd – gathered around the band as is Lightning Bolts wont – treated every song with rabid enthusiasm, and at multiple points audience members spilled into the band. Wildly and wilfully careering into such musical reference points as grindcore, mathrock, doom – even techno and drum n bass, Lightning Bolt may not seem like the ideal band to shake your ass to, but by the end of their set the mob had gone wild to such an extent the dancefloor looked like a nightmarish Hieronymus Bosch painting in neon crayons.
It’s now almost twenty four hours since the show and my ears are still ringing, I’m experiencing the odd spell of dizziness every now and again, and I can’t get their rhythms out of my head. The scariest part is that this gig is followed up by the quintessential lords of volume Sunn o))) this coming Thursday. Lack of ear plugs can not be an option.
Review – Duncan Wilkins
Photos – Katja Ogrin