All Out War / Stigmata / A Belgian Band
July 6 1999
Not sure on the name of the first band. I'm not even going to bother with offering you an excuse for missing most of the set, I was just late. As I arrived, the bloke on the door said, "they're from Belgium and they've got a couple of songs left probably." And he was right. Shame in a way, because although they didn't stand out as anything special, they sounded ok. Ok in the standard very heavy metal wrapped up as hardcore thing, but with the added value of a few sections where they turned into Life Of Agony, especially on the vocals. Maybe I should've actually asked who they were.
No need to ask about Stigmata, because the board at the door had something to do with the words New York hardcore and legendary. Which seems a little over ambitious to me. It feels like anything that comes out of that city and is hardcore and has been around a while, is now legendary. Which it isn't. Fair play, the guy says towards the end of the set that his band couldn't make it, so he came on his own with "some friends", one of whom is one of the guitarists from Merauder. As such they're pretty tight, but didn't really move me in any way apaart from the fact that if you want an evening of listening and seeing live hardcore, then it served it's purpose. Unless you're talking hardcore porn, in which case you're way off the mark!
And so to All Out War, who I've not listened to before. They warm up with the guitarist widdling and peeling off thrash riffs, and the bassist playing some metal noodlings. Then when everything is ready, they start, and it's, well, it's actually full on Slayer based metal if you ask me. Nothing wrong with it, but the comment that "this is a hardcore show, come down the front, don't stand around" seems a little incorrect. It's mordern hardcore, but really, it's metal music dressed up in the hardcore posturing. The bassist however is taking out the front rows, leading in a manner similar to Ian from Stampin' Ground. It's not bad, but again, in a crowded scene, it doesn't stand out enough for me to get me over enthused.
There's a group of about 5 kids who it seems has followed the tour round the country from London. And they give it some. If it wasn't for them, there'd probably have been no reaction down the front, so you have to respect them for that. Especially as they kept it going through all 3 bands. But, it was full on high jumping pirouette, finger pointing, windmilling and what looks like the actions of punching and kicking someone when they're down. It kinda looks impressive, but when the vocalist goes "wake up and join in", well, it's not really going to happen is it. Should you have to be brave enough to stand in there, or athletic enough. It looks and feels like you have to belong to join in. I ain't going there. And the spotlights looked worried as they shake from side to side after being hit by a stray windmilling arm. Bit like how a punchbag goes really. All very visually impressive, but like I said, it's the hardcore posturing. This sort of music 10 years ago was greeted by the headbang and the mosh. Now it's the kick boxer.
Samiam / Caffeine / Douglas
June 23 1999
I only managed to catch the final song of Douglas' set, which is a shame, because I've heard and read good things about this Cardiff based band. One song isn't enough to judge, but we're one a melodic punky hardcore trip here. I can tell you more when I've listened to their CD which I bought at the end of the gig. So expect a review in Yaz 11.
Now Caffeine on the other hand I've seen once before in all their glory. The subsequent review in the printed Yaz 10 is barely readable due to the crap font I used. But it's maybe appropriate. Have you ever had that thing where there can be 2 bands playing almost identical music. One band makes the connection with you and it works, you can enjoy it. The others seem utterly pointless, a waste of time and highly derivative. For me, Caffeine are that second band. Sure, I reckon that if you listen long enough and like this NOFX based musical style, then the songs will kick in and sound good. But, it's so pointless and derivative. Between songs there are awkward quotes, including, "for those that have seen us before in Derby ... we love you". Yeah right. Of course there's that Dead Or Alive cover, cos every wannabe NOFX has to have a funny cover tune. They're unceremonisouly told that they'll have to cut their set. "What do you want us to play" is the slightly optimistic question asked by the bare chested bassist/vocalist. I may be in a minority, but I don't want them to play. Sorry, stressy day in work where death died at an inoportune moment, so maybe I'm just looking for an easy target. But Caffeine have "easy target" tattoed on their collective skatecorepunkwannabe forheads.
And so with the frame of mind, I was ready to lambast Samiam. Partly cos I believe they're regarded as something of a semi-legendary band, they're American which means they've pulled a way decent crowd, and I've never heard one of their tracks. No, I lie, I've heard one on the Big Cheese compilation. But yeah, come on, let me rip you apart.
So who feels the fool now? Me of course. They were utterly excellent. Very melodic emo-style sort of music that had me thinking of yer Sensefields and Sunny Day Real Estate. Easy going, fun, unpretentious, with a bunch of songs that on first listen make me think that it's about time I familiarised myself with their material. The only title I can give is Mexico, which apparently is "a new song to us". Which I may be being pedantic about, but I reckon probably makes it a new song for the crowd as well. Anyway, the singer reminds me of Bob Hoskins. Ok, so that may just be because my mind and logic operates at a different kind of angle to most peoples at times, but whoever he looks like, he seems to be pouring his everything into the songs. And he's singing. Real singing, not some gutteral grunt. It just works. The 45 minutes fly by, and during it, there's a few thoughts fluttering through my mind. One is that it's bloody hot in here again tonight. The other is it just highlights how redundant Caffeine are. And the other? Well, I'm saving that for another possible rant / piece for a future Yaz.
Rock City Review - Free!
Got a bit worried when I saw this. All glossy cover with System of a Down staring out at me. Crikey. Competition. Can the ego take it? Probably not. Anyway, personally when I read it I found it a bit disappointing. Or maybe I didnít, maybe I was relieved. It was just a review of the System gig. A bunch of messages pulled from the Rock City newsboard on the net. Some interviews, Gary Numan and that sort of thing, and a miniscule review section which also featured more NME style bands than anything else. Itís kind of an extension really of the gig guide, which is the centrefold pull out (steady lads) and I know a lot of people complain about the musical direction in which the venue is progressing. This kind of emphasises that. Sure, I keep saying you should have an open mind, so in that case it applies to me as well here, but it is somewhat disappointing.
It also feels theyíre claiming they do what they donít really. Support local talent and new unsigned bands. It may change in the future, but just because they hosted a battle of the bands competition, it doesnít mean they are fully supportive. Sorry, I am being over critical here, but thereís extravegant claims to "advertise here and reach over 20,000 people." Itís like they can use the name and the reputation, and that makes what Iím trying to do somewhat redundant. But I hope that they will back up that usage with some real content that makes it all worthwhile. Much like thatís my main gripe with Kerrang! I hope this doesnít fall to the same failings.