KEN Mode @ Ottawa

Posted in Gigs, Travel with tags , , , , , on November 3, 2013 by Noise Road

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Despite of, or maybe because of, a series of questionable life choices, Noise Road has some unique experiences in some disparate parts of the world burnt into our skull. Music is my first love, and my days are soundtracked. Whenever I can get away with it, an IPod is jammed into my ears – on the way to work, at work… on a slow train to Oxford, or a budget flight to Helsinki. My last 4 years have been punctuated by killer gigs in the UK, but also in Europe and now in North America.

When Ken Mode launched into the opening riff of Daeodon, my eyes shut, my body grooved… and I had a memory jolt of looping that track, Irvine Welsh novel in fist, on a train between Amsterdam airport and the Roadburn Festival. It may not seem like much to you, but these flashes of good times make me think that not all my life choices have been wrong. I have seen and heard some cool shit in some unique places.

It was 21 degrees in Ottawa a couple of weeks ago. I was glad that the weather had held for a minute on my arrival into Canada. This morning it was -7 degrees. The locals didn’t even blink. This isn’t cold. Wait for winter.

So in 3 layers of clothes, I booked on over to Cafe Deckuf. Downstairs, Orange Goblin played the main Mavericks room. Orange Goblin are great live. It was a shame to miss them. But KEN Mode, dude. KEN Mode!

Ottawa locals, Black Oak Decline, kicked off the evening with a bass-driven, sludgy-hardcore set. Most of the punters were here already, and an energetic set on a Tuesday night was warmly received.

Full of Hell truly play Noise Rock. That is noise and rock. Their knob twiddling feedback and reverb ebbs and flows, saturating the room with noise, before they locking in to furious blasts. Its like Eyehatedgod on speed… well, Eyehategod on more speed.

KEN Mode open the attack with Counter Culture Complex. Before boarding the stage, KEN Mode seemed like a bunch of laid-back dudes. They chatted with the punters and with local faves, Fuck the Facts. Now KEN Mode fully embody their Black Flag inspired name, Kill Everyone Now Mode.

Vocalist/Guitarist, Jesse Matthewson, has the crazy eyes. The dude looks like he wants to kill everyone now. At the close of the last song, he picks out individuals in the crowd and holds a stare at them. I was one of those dudes. I came back from that void broken.

Secret Vasectomy and Your Heartwarming Story Makes Me Sick may have jokey titles, but there is not an ounce of irony or humour in the set. It is flat out intensity.

KEN Mode and Ottawa, you have burnt a fresh memory into my skull.

Cancer Bats / Bat Sabbath @ Mavericks, Ottawa, Canada

Posted in Gigs, Travel with tags , , , , on October 21, 2013 by Noise Road

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In a heavy-music landscape where genres are continually, and passionlessly, subdividing like asexual starfish, it is difficult to gain consensus on what is metal, and what is good. Black Sabbath is that consensus.

There are death metal fans that won’t listen to anything with clean vocals, serious fans that pay no mind to any nonsense about satan and wizards, grind freaks who won’t tolerate anything decipherable or beyond 30 seconds in length, technical prog freaks who can’t truck with anything in 4/4 and that doesn’t last at least 17 minutes….

.. But all of them agree on Black Sabbath. And if they don’t, don’t you trust them. As Phil Anselmo said “Your trust is in whiskey, and weed, and Black Sabbath”

Crowds at hardcore/metal crossover shows can be particularly splintered. I remember a Converge show at Fowlers where metalheads on the perimeter gave death stares to hardcore kids windmilling in the pit. Cancer Bats attracts both hardcore and metal kids, and everything inbetween… yet here we all are, singing along to old Sabbath standards. These are our hymns. This is our traditional folk music.

Splitting my lungs with blood and thunder to War Pigs is one of the funnest nights I’ve had in a long while. That shit should be prescribed to the clinically depressed. Free Cancer Bat gigs should be added to ObamaCare.

The fun started early in the night. Quebec’s Dance Laury Dance surprised with a swaggering hard rock set, complete with duelling solos and the odd high-pitched, power-metal scream. The majority of the set was fist pumping, anthemic stuff to neck your Keith’s Red to.

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Off topic, but I love the North American system of tipping every beer order. Tip decently, and the bartender searches you out at the bar. They remember your order. I don’t know anyone in Ottawa yet, but several bar tenders are already opening my preferred bottle as I approach the bar.

This was my first show since starting my 3-year bit in Ottawa a few weeks ago. Its not just the bartenders that have been friendly. The friendliness of Canadians has made the move a lot easier. Also, the weather holding for a few extra weeks, has alleviated my fears of walking straight into the ice planet, Hoth.

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Tonight, Ottawa’s packed Mavericks venue bursted with enthusiasm. The crowd’s cheers never relented between Cancer Bats’ songs. The frontman described it best, calling it a rager.

Cancer Bats bring so much positive energy to the show. It’s just so much fun.

Deathsmarch has that old-school, positive hardcore feel, with the room yelling “Hey world, you’ll never break me…”. The punters bounce to Bricks and Mortar . The heavy riff of Hail Destroyer has the kids throwing themselves into each other… And the room explodes for the excellent Beastie Boys cover, Sabotage.

It is all so smile enducing…

A refresh at the bar, and we’re back at it for Cancer Bats second set as their Black-Sabbath-covering, super-villain, Bat Sabbath alter egos… And good lord, I challenge you to not groove out to their rendition of Supernaut.

Bat Sabbath’s covers are surprisingly faithful. War Pigs swings like it should. The solos are spot on. Maybe that jazzy Geezer/Ward feel is replaced by a bit more of a straight-up, punky energy… and a caped frontman definitely brings a hardcore yell to cope with Ozzy’s challenging vocal range.

I would take this sweaty energy, this intimacy, and this fun version of Sabbath over the bloated “real” Sabbath playing arenas around the world this year. No doubt.

After the group sing-alongs to Paranoid, Iron Man and War Pigs, I walked out into the Ottawa night.

Ottawa, I think you and I are gonna work out.

A Fair Warning to Canada

Posted in Admin, Travel with tags , on October 21, 2013 by Noise Road

Noise Road is in you.

Melvins Play Stoner Witch

Posted in Gigs, Travel with tags , , , on August 17, 2013 by Noise Road

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Stoner Witch is the weirdest album of all the Melvins records on the display across the last two evenings. Melvins just don’t care, and that is the definition of outsider art – art made without an audience in mind.

When I got into the Melvins in the nineties, Stoner Witch was second only to Houdini for my favourite Melvins album. The teenage version of me remembers the big grungy rock of Queen and Revolve. Back then, I tolerated, and often skipped, the weird noise sections. Now I know that the weirdness and noise is what makes Melvins… And it is what makes Stoner Witch.

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The set was bookended by long, repetitive drum tracks. After the extended noodling at the start of June Bug, the big tracks kick in. I was unable to resist entering the throng for Queen and Revolve.

Stoner Witch does not have the consistent moshibility of Houdini. The crowd were in a stop/start animation. However I think that the album, and consequently set, has more depth. It is certainly a different experience to last night’s Houdini set.

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I don’t know if Melvins care about crowd response, but they have to be happy with level of crowd sing-along tonight. The crowd joined in the whistle outro of Roadbull, like they were at Wacken singing Maiden’s Fear of the Dark. I know that does not happen everywhere.

Although the crowd response probably was not always ideal. Late in the set, there was some fisticuffs in the front rows.  Bouncers quickly descended on the scene and dragged the punters out, as a girlfriend comically, limply, slapped the bouncers back.

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Once again the night ended with Buzzo leaving the stage, the drums driving the riff and Jared, the bass player, descending into the crowd. This time he marched through the crowd with his cardboard, homemade sword and shield.

2 nights. 4 very different sets. Melvins retain their championship title.

Melvins Play Bullhead

Posted in Gigs, Travel with tags , , , on August 16, 2013 by Noise Road

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First off. Boris. Holy feck, is that track huge?!

“I say I can’t! But I really mean I won’t!”

Every successive set that the Melvins play at this Endless Residency makes me think “No. This is my favourite Melvins album”. Once again the set was loud as feck, with the drums pounding throughout.

Oft Melvins collaborator, Trevor Dunn, referred to Melvins’ Ozma album as outsider art. Bullhead is in the same vein – but it is a little crowd friendlier. The short bursts of odd riffs, are balanced by the long droning repetition of, well, odd riffs. It’s a half way house between Ozma and Lysol… and, of course, the huge drums never fail to get the crowd moving. It is weird stuff, but it is still rocky.

A Weekend in the City

Posted in Travel with tags , , on August 16, 2013 by Noise Road

A day of annual leave in London, with last night’s Melvins gig still ringing in my ears, and tonight’s set eagerly anticipated…

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Working to a budget to ensure we had bus fare for work for the rest of the month, Noise Road set up digs in a hostel above a pub in Paddington. My dorm buddies were an interesting assortment of characters – an accountant from Texas celebrating graduation and the securing of his first proper gig, a software dude from New Zealand drowning his sorrows after England destroyed the Kiwi cricket team at Lords, an Irish dude checking out some awful electro-pop at Brixton Academy… and a stereotypically stunning Scandinavian girl from Finland, who was way too pretty to be staying in a mixed dorm. She had just finished high school. Everyone back home was worried about her travelling by herself. I understood their concerns. If I ever have a daughter, fresh out of high school, she ain’t staying in a mixed dorm…

The Finnish lass was frustrated by her friends and family coddling her. The Kiwi and I told her it was nice. No one in the world was 100% sure where the Kiwi and I were. If we went missing, days would pass before anyone really noticed. It’s like the Ginsberg riff…

who wandered around and around at midnight in the
railroad yard wondering where to go, and went,
leaving no broken hearts,
-Ginnsberg, Howl

I left the Kiwi to nurse his head, and the Finn to write home. I headed over to the British Museum. There is no need to travel anywhere outside of London. The British Empire have stolen anything worth seeing in the world and conveniently housed it for you in one place, the British Museum.

Ancient Egypt is of course the draw. I am always amazed at being able to walk amongst these millinnea old marvels. The Rosetta Stone stops me in my tracks every time. Of course, I soundtrack the visit with OM’s Thebes and At Giza… But then there is only so many times you can see Alexandria written down, before you queue up Pig Destroyer’s best track on your IPod.

In desperate need of a haircut so that I can win a new job, I braved the extortionist London prices. The girl cutting my hair told me that my accent was very southernised. What the feck does that mean? Whatever it means, I’m pretty sure that I should be offended.  Are you saying that as an Australian, I’ve magically picked up a southern English accent whilst living in Scotland?… but she was a nice alterno girl, and she dealt me the best haircut I’ve ever had. Too bad, I’ll be dealing wristies for the foreseeable future just to cover the cost.

I continued my museum run the following morning, before my exit to Glasgow.

The Melvins albums, Lysol and Bullhead definitely bring thoughts of outsider art. So when I saw the add for the Japanese Outsider Art exhibition at the Wellcome collection, I decided to book across. The exhibition was great! I love weird stuff. It’s why I love the Melvins. Life is pretty homogenised and boring. Melvins rock – but they do more than rock, they challenge without being pretentious… And most importantly, they just do things differently.

On the advice of Rosie, my new hair girl in London, I also tried to hit the Bowie exhibit, but it was way too busy, dude. So I headed back to the hostel and attempted a jog around Hyde Park… Dodging the squirrels and locals sunbathing under the chilly grey May sky, I completed a successful lap of the long water. With a bit of exercise, I felt vaguely human again… and ready for night 2 of the Melvins Endless Residency…

Melvins Play Houdini

Posted in Gigs, Travel with tags , , , on August 16, 2013 by Noise Road

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Noise Road has seen Melvins play the Houdini album before. It was mid afternoon, in Melbourne… possibly above a Chinese restaurant.  Buzz, Dale and Trevor Dunn were touring Oz as part of the Fantomas Director’s Cut sets at the Big Day Out. With a Houdini live album recently released under the Buzz/Dale/Dunn configuration, the band used the opportunity to play a couple of sideshows in the one day in Melbourne.

So, this should be something that I know. Nothing new here, right… Wrong. This is the Melvins after all.

Although the order of tracks was different to that on the record at the Melbourne show, it was a reasonably straight-up rendition of the tracks. In contrast, the London gig was a honed live beast of a set rather than a replication of the album.

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Houdini is probably the Melvins’ heaviest, rockiest release… but that is tempered by the noisey and experimental tracks on the album.

Tonight’s set went for the jugular. Hooch had the crowd moving, but when the opening riff of Honey Bucket kicked in, the crowd exploded into a frenetic mosh. I’ve seen Melvins shows all over the world for the last decade and I’ve never seen such a manic crowd response. This is the same crowd that nodded their heads for the previous Eggnog / Lysol set.

I do not know if Melvins really wanted the kids throwing themselves around and crowdsurfing, but they had loaded the front end of the set with the rocky numbers. As the crunch of the Lizzy chorus kicked in, the frenzy was unleashed again.  The pop punk of Set Me Straight had the crowd bouncing.

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The noise/experimental tracks were saved for the end. Buzz left the stage, while the dual drums drove the riff, and bassist, Jared, gave us a performance art set on the mic as he wandered into the crowd.

In 15 years of Melvins gigs I’ve never been as surprised. An almost straight-up rock show from the Melvins. I left far sweatier than I intended, but as entertained as I had expected.

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