earthtone9 / Stampin' Ground / Skindred / Vacant Stare

Nottingham Rock City

October 7 2000

I've been looking forward to this one for a while now, and there were a few things that struck me about the gig. Luckily none of them were fists attached to other people. First was - people. There were people. As it was part of an all-nighter, things kick of a little bit later. So arriving at about 9.50, I had to queue for about 10 minutes to get in. Now I don't often go to RC, so I don't know if it's a normal phenomenan at this time of the evening, but I was well shocked. And apparently it's been the way of this mini tour. The Bristol gig was sold out, and last nights Garage gig was pretty much oversold out. And the second thing, which I guess is kind of related to that, was the heat. Now, it's all well and good having "hot sweaty gigs", but there comes a point where it's really not fun or pleasant. Not healthy. Sauna doesn't even begin to describe it. There must be some kind of legal standing with all this. I don't know, but it was unbearably hot. I probably didn't help myself by deciding to indulge in a nice bottle of red before going in order to try and stay away from the overpriced watered down beverages that the place serves, but the number of people that I heard walk in and go "aaargh, heat" or just look at each other before half melting and deciding to walk back out with what little of their body they had left, means that something surely was amiss. So I apologise to anyone who had the misfortune to stand next to me as I was drowning in a sea of sweat. I'd blame it on me, but blaming it on others is soooo much more fun, and in this instance, accurate.

But there, that's me for you, whinge whinge whinge. If it's "there's not enough people" then it's "there's too many people." Still, it was good to see, if pretty hard to stand. First on as I get in are Skindred. I like them, but I'm still trying to work out exactly why. I don't know if it's because they partially risen from the wreckage of Dub War, or whether its solely Benjii's vocals. The music is good, a lot harder than DW, at least the tracks they played tonight, but it's the soul in Benjii's vocals that sets them apart. Having said that, the song towards the end, Shut Up, was far too nu-metal by numbers, even down to the vocals. They can do a lot better than that, as the proved in the first half of the set. But Benjii also knows how to work a crowd, and his parting shot of "support British bands, there are good British bands" is spot on.

I'm not even thinking of getting down the front for Stampin' Ground. Not in this heat and with the fervour that one of their sets is certain to induce. "Respect to Benjii for wearing a shirt for the entire duration of their set, how the hell did you manage that" asks Adam mid-set. Yet despite the heat they still manage to go for it in typical SG fashion. It's not subtle, just a brutal barrage of Slayer / Earth Crisis fuelled hardcore, bodies flying, Adam cajoling and the kick drum being far far too dominant in the mix, almost drowning out the guitars. The new album is well represented with the likes of The Symmetry of atred, Mid-Death Crisis, and By Whatever Means Necessary fitting inside older material such as The Death You Deserve. Adam even manages a "scream for me Nottingham, SCREAM for me Nottingham, - ahh, that felt good" before Lesion. Another SG that goes down well with their hordes.

This tour, and its apparent success is of course a testament to the four bands playing, there's no doubt about that. But I'm pretty sure that most people that attend will have a favourite band out of the lot, and there's nothing wrong with that. And it's probably no surprise to anyone whose read any of my ramblings before if I was to say my faves on the tour are earthtone9. Right, no surprise there then. I was wondering if there were going to be any surprises in the set now that the awesome Arc'tan'gent has finally been released. And to answer that first, well no, there wasn't really. Which given the rest of the bill is probably a wise move.

What did surprise me though was just how much better this gig was than just about any other I've seen them do. I've seen a few, so as easy as it would be to say "yeah, they were good", it would be just as easy to say "but it was the same old same old." But it wasn't. From the moment they step on stage and Karl announces "I'd like you all to sit down. I don't often encourage people to move, but I'd like to encourage you not to" there's I don't know, a more confident, relaxed air about things. The big step up appears to be with Karl, who has always been fairly acerbic on stage with his comments to the crowd (which are actually pretty funny), but he appears more at ease, interacting more with the crowd. He's hanging from the lighting a few times, that "I'm going to kill the mike stand" kind of shuffle is even more violent, yet it's in his vocals which are so much more assured, confident and consistent that the major change appears to have occurred. Like on the album, he's moved on in leaps and bounds. Indeed, when they tackle p.r.d chaos, he handles Ishmael's parts with consumate ease.

"Sorry, about that," he apologises after the "rock star use of a towel" in order to try and wipe away a bit of the sweat. To the trained ear, they're probably having a hard time staying in tune due to the adverse weather conditions we're suffering in here, but as I don't have a trained ear, I can't really tell, though the "solo" in Tat Twam bears only a passing resemblance at times to that on the CD. "4 for a sauna isn't bad is it? I know the other bands didn't complain, but we're queerer than they are". It's stupidly hot. To be honest, if it was pretty much any other band, I'd have gone out the room on a number of occassions during the set.

I-nagual-eye opens proceedings, before we get Off Kilter, Grind & Click (complete with death metal styled vocals and a "fucking hell that was amazing" from somewhere behind me at the end), Tat Twam Asi, Evil Crawling Eye, Star Damage (for beginers), Approx Purified and more. I forget altogether (now there's a surprise). It would nice to be able to say I was there from the start of all this, but that's simply not true, but even so, it does give a bit of a smug, self satisfying glow inside to see people finally, finally dancing to these songs and starting to give them the kind of reception they deserve. As someone who doesn't particularly want to be right at the front at gigs, I hope to be able to further distance myself from the band during the sets, cos that means that there's more and more people in front of me, which means them getting the recognition they deserve. The recognition for tracks like Star Damage may still emerge on the basis of magazine cover CDs, but hopefully it's now only a matter of time before people really do start putting the puzzle together and realising that all those e9 tracks that they like off the magazines may mean that the CDs are worth investing in.

It kind of reminds me in here tonight of the last time I saw Pitchshifter play downstairs. It's rammed - if there wasn't a club night going on upstairs you'd have bouncers turning people away its so busy, much like it was for Pitchshifter - and then they made the move upstairs, after plying away for years releasing critically acclaimed albums before the public (yes, including me) finally picked up on them. I dunno, there just seems to be a similar pattern. Or maybe I'm just seeing things given that the band are about to head out on the European tour with the 'Shifter boys.

"Where's the clingfilm", or something similar asks one person. "That was the summer look, we're in the Autumn look now" deadpans Karl. They bring out Ben, the ex Kill-II-This drummer, to join in. Forget which song now, and some other guy does the main vocals for Karl. Mid song Simon departs the drum kit, leaving just Benny, and flys into the crowd. Everything kind of falls apart a little, but the band don't seem to care, Owen, Dave and Joe all with massive fuck off grins on their faces.

Withered is offered up as the final offering tonight, somehow everyone managed to survive the heat, and despite having seen them on numerous occassions, they've managed to turn in one of the performances of the year as far as I'm concerned. Absolutely phenomenal.

And in case anyone was wondering, you can blame them for the lack of CD reviews 'nall. See, at the moment, to get a review, you've got to displace arc'tan'gent from the CD player, and that is proving mighty mighty difficult. I truly haven't listened to an album this much in I don't know how many years. And nothing else comes close. They really have produced one of THE albums of recent years, probably at least 5. Kerrang! may have said it's the "best album of it's kind by a British album that you'll hear all year", but they allowed geography to come into music, and that's a combination that doesn't work. It's simply the best album of its kind that you'll hear all year. Period.

Mind you, as I'm being lazy on the CD reviews, a quickie here. Bought the new Steve Von Till solo album today, and if you like spartan, acoustic, dour, bleak music, you'll quite possibly love it. It lacks variety in that it's kind of like pick on guitar line and then repeat for the entire duration of the song, but still, I enjoyed it cos I am a bit of a sucker for the stripped down, acoustic sort of thing. You can only take so much noise. Nice stuff. And there's a new Godspeed You Black Emperor CD out on Monday which I'm definitely looking forward to.

But it's not finished yet. Vacant Stare are on last, even though they're the opening band on the tour. It's what the Mighty Rocky City does on these all nighters. So around 1ish they come on. By now I'm wilting, and although they're good at what they do, what they do doesn't really tickle me in the sack you know what I mean. They manage to retain a decent number of people though, and it's still far too hot even though it's cooled down a bit.

But it's just gone 2am, and being an old man of rock, I should be safely tucked up in bed by now, so I'm off. Besides, I really need to get out of these clothes as they're far too drenced with mine and everyone elses sweat. Good job they're going to the laundrette in the morning. If I wasn't so fat, I may join them in the machine. Well apart from not then being able to close the door and put the money in. And it being a bit dangerous and stupid of course.