I was asked a question. A very simple one. Straightforward.
“How was it?”
Thoughts were running wild in my head. I wanted to say so many things and yet I barely could come up with anything. My throat was tight. From shouting and screaming. My head hurt. From head banging and being repeatedly kicked and pushed all over the place in the mosh pit. My body was tired and bruised. I was exhausted.
How can you answer, when a simple, straightforward answer simply does not exist?
We arrived at The Castle and Falcon a bit late as the traffic in Birmingham was horrendous. Since Paradise Circuit in the city centre has been closed for major works, getting in and out of the Second City during rush hours reminds us of a military operation. You have to jump lanes, watch out for temporary traffic lights located in the strangest of places, swirl and turn and pirouette on narrow lanes like a ballet dancer. Two and a half hours of this mad dance is enough to tire you out before the show even starts. We sadly missed the first support act, a local Brummie gang named Paper Buoys, but at least we can find the solace in the fact that we have seen them open for the Blinders in February this year at the Sunflower Lounge. Maybe next time we will have more luck. Oh well, c’est la vie.
The second opening act for the night, The Mothers Earth Experiment may also be local but they are well known and respected for their full blown psychedelic sound and mesmerizing stage presence. The sextet is led by vocalist and guitarist Mark Roberts and consist of James Baker (keyboard, backing vocals), Jake Clarke (bass), Reece Greenfield (drums, vocals), Oliver Overton (percussion) and Jackson Younger (guitar). We saw them play for the first time at the Night Owl in Birmingham in August along with our beloved WorcesterWave acts: The Americas and As Mamas and they made a huge impression on us. On stage, Mark Roberts is more of a shamanic priest with a guitar than a musician, his entire body was perfectly tuned to the music. His movements flowed naturally in coherence with the hypnotic rhythm section. Whenever the music stopped, Mark froze in a dramatic pose with his hands raised above his head and eyes open wide (or fully rolled back). Whenever the tempo changed, so did the performance. Blessed with powerful voice, nearly mystical chanting backing vocals and great skills, Mother Earth Experiment are something fresh and an absolute pleasure to watch. They played four tracks off their self-titled debut album released in 2017: “Ignorance”, “Quietus”, “Bliss” and their best known single “Cool Down Mama”. Two of the tracks were nearly 10 minutes each and even that felt like not long enough. It was heartbreaking to hear that this was one of their last concerts together as they decided to go their separate ways. The final performance will take place in Birmingham on 16th of November so if you want to go down in the rock and roll history, grab a ticket now. This will be one of those “I was there” moments worth telling your grandchildren about. We only hope that the remaining members will regroup quickly and return with a brand new, exciting project.
After The Mothers Earth Experiment charmed the audience (including the headliner and their entourage), Calva Louise had a difficult task of raising the bar even higher. The London based trio consisting of charismatic singer Jess Allanic, Alizon Taho (bass, backing vocals) and Ben Parker (drums, backing vocals) put up a great, energetic show full of grunge-like fuzzed riffs, sing-along melodies and angry pop beats. We were glad to hear people singing the lyrics to “I heard A Cry” and their BBC 6 Music acclaimed single “Outrageous”. Being the only woman on stage that night, Jess brought all the teenage girls to the front, where they had a proper 30 minute party. It was good to see their faces alight with excitement, watching a woman shred the guitar, shout her heart out and doing a splendid job. With recent reports saying that nearly half of all new guitar players being females, we need bands (and role models) like Calva Louise more than ever. Their musical style may be very different than that of The Blinders but putting them together on one tour was surprisingly a very good decision. We are looking forward to see Calva Louise in the future on a tour of their own. Maybe with Soeur? Maybe with Estrons or Mercury Prize winners, Wolf Alice? We would love to see the British version of the Lilith Fair tour. It has been long time overdue.
With the Calva Louise set over, the mood inside the venue changed in a matter of seconds. The infectious, melodic vibe evaporated, replaced by nervous anticipation. The crowd thickened, the lights dimmed, voices reduced to a murmur. And once three, dark-clothed silhouettes appeared on stage, you could feel the temperature rising. The beginning was sudden and heavy like a shotgun blast. Bright red lights blinded those nearest the stage but behind our backs, a vortex of bodies erupted. The Blinders started off with “Gotta Get Through” and quickly followed with “L’Etat C’est Moi” and “Brave New World” without any breaks to catch our breath. It has been written and said many times but the band members are extremely skilled musicians. Thomas Haywood can bleed, throw himself on the floor, climb the amplifiers and still play flawlessly. If you have ever seen Luke Griffiths of the False Heads creating his perfect mayhem on stage, giving himself a concussion and still finishing his riffs, then you probably know what we mean. If you have not, then let’s just say that both Griffiths and Haywood are in the league of their own. They could juggle knives and still play their instruments simultaneously. The same can be said of the rhythm section that grinds everything in its path and spits out the splinters behind them. Looking like a young Nick Cave (and always dressed to impress) bassist Charlie McGough delivers thunderous cannonade and drummer, Matty Neale is properly possessed behind his drum kit, hitting the right notes with the speed of light and murderous precision. Such well-developed technical skills are rarely observed in a band that has been playing together for only couple of years. You could easily attribute them to musicians at least decade older.
The Blinders are a rare beast thought and their technical skills only match their song writing abilities. In one moment they can be as brutal as IDLES, driving their audience into frenzied pogo of epic proportions, in another they are delicate, almost lyrical. “Free the Slaves” is actually a poem recited with minimal, Beatles-inspired background music and the slow and dark “Where No Man Comes” showcases maturity in the use of language and metrical composition. Again, it is a common knowledge that the band is inspired by literature and poetry but it still takes you by surprise how well those artistic references are executed. Haywood’s declamation, gestures, half whispered-half screamed monologues are a small masterpiece in itself. It gives the live performance a bit of a theatrical luster and splendour. His charismatic stage persona of Johnny Dream, simple yet striking black make up, make you think of a Shakespearean actor. If he ever gets bored of making music, his next career move could easily take him to the stages of the East End or Broadway.
When you think the band would slow down a bit, the drilling beat and punkadelic aesthetics are back and you are thrown back into the mosh pit. “Swine”, “ICB Blues” and “Ramona Flowers” have the public on their knees and the band covered in sweat. The show goes on with people throwing their hands towards the stage, Haywood surfing the crowd and hanging from the ventilation crate on the ceiling, t-shirts being removed, naked bodies slamming into each other in a wild, almost ritualistic manner. And then comes the final push towards sonic destruction that drives everyone insane – 7 minutes of Dionysian thiasus in the form of “Et Tu”, “Berlin Wall” and “Brutus”. Now everything is allowed, everything is fair – hair is flying in every direction, somebody losses both shoes, the brave ones are stage diving, the meek are dancing and hugging each other. The trio gives it all.
The lights are turned off without warning and we all fall silent, waiting in darkness. Is it the end? We can see Charlie and Matty leaving their posts but Thomas is still hunched on the floor, motionless. One of the technicians is passing him a guitar and he raises, completely exhausted, to perform some sort of an encore, one last song of the evening. It is “Orbit (Salmon of Alaska)” a hauntingly beautiful composition penned as a tribute to a friend who took his own life. We can see tears in the eyes of many people as they sing to “dream the most dangerous of dreams” – to be free.
And then we are free. We are free of our worries, free of bad thoughts, politics, and rotten world that surrounds us. We are happy to experience something unique, a magical performance that brought us all together.
The band is now gone but we are still gathered in front of the stage, hugging each other and re-living the last hour. It will take us another 20 minutes to leave.
“How was it”?
It was beautiful. Cathartic. Impossible to describe.
If a picture is worth thousand words, maybe next time, a hug will be enough to convey thousands of thoughts and feelings? I truly hope so as I may be speechless again.
See you in two weeks in Bristol.
Gotta Get Through
L’etat C’est Moi
Brave New World
Where No Man Comes
Free the Slave
I Can’t Breathe Blues
Rat In a Cage
Orbit (Salmon of Alaska)
“Columbia” is available on Modern Sky UK
Vanadian Avenue would like to thank: The Blinders’ technical crew and their management (for their time), Caffy St Luce (thank you, thank you – you know for what!!), Dizzy Spell of The Zine UK, Christopher Phee of Junior Weeb (happy birthday!), Lee Richardson, Milo Ferreira-Hayes, James Devine and Matt Rawlings of Dead Dads Club (for being the best of friends), Erin and The Cosmics (for being awesome as usual), Mark Roberts and the rest of the Mothers Earth Experiments (you are worth every taxi fare in the world), Calva Louise, Paper Buoys, Mark Stack (for being an awesome companion in the mosh pit), MOSES (for just being there), Becky Bushnell & Daniel Davies (for being absolute sweethearts!), Sonic Gun Concerts with Tom Holloway and Liam Connolly, Patrick and the rest of the Violet and everybody else who bought the tickets and made it such a special evening.
“Never Fight a Man With a Perm” by IDLES and “The Boy With a Bubble Gun” by Tom McRae are especially dedicated to our fellow gig goers.
Take care for now,
We thought that we will add some more photos from the night for the enjoyment of our blog readers. We did not manage to film all the bands, so at least two out of four to illustrate what a wild night it was!
Photo gallery: The Mothers Earth Experiment
Photo gallery: The Blinders
We have been writing extensively about the Blinders on our blog Indieterria, so please have a look if you want to know more.
Introduction to the band:
Interview with The Blinders:
Columbia album performance blog:
That`s all for now