The Scene

Elevant, SPQR, Black Pudding, Salt The Snail & Bleach Sweets: IWF Substation, Liverpool

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Fri 20 October, 2017

Paul Riley embraces the Freak Scene – and the whiskey – and the rock – at Loner Noises’ Freak Scene All-Dayer. 

Have you ever heard someone say that rock is dead?

Well, there are reasons for that. The bands I loved when I first started listening to rock have either died or mutated into horrid, bloated and self-aggrandising versions of themselves. That is why people sometimes despair of rock music.

At its most exciting, rock music is innovative, shocking, sweaty, compelling and exhilarating. It inspires, at least for this writer, a sense of belonging and of ownership over the music like no other sort of show – when it is a good show. The key to a great rock show is the intimacy of a small venue, and the dilemma for the successful bands in the genre is how exactly to continue those intimate relationships with fans when you get past a mid-sized venue; there is absolutely nothing inspiring about seeing matchstick men roll out a greatest hits on a stage half a mile away in a soulless uber-stadium.

To continue to be a rock fan one has to work at finding new acts and new scenes. Another issue with this is that naturally, when attending lots of shows, the quality of the acts is variable. There is an attritional element to the life of the rock fan – you have to wade through quite a lot of chaff to find the wheat.

So, when we heard about Loner Noise, the Liverpool label started up by the bloody wonderful Elevant, we were rather pleased to say the least. Someone had done the work for us. Loner Noise currently works with nine other acts, and rather conveniently, they were all slated to play the all day show last weekend at Invisible Wind Factory. Lovely stuff.

We weren’t expecting to love all of the bands on the bill – and it is important to say that really, because we wouldn’t want people to think that the bands we didn’t get on with aren’t worth checking out. Loner Noise is not a one trick pony. The one thing, perhaps, that all the acts on the label have in common is that they are pushing boundaries. That meant that a couple of the acts weren’t to this writer’s taste, but I would rather see a day full of interesting performances than ten bands all trying to do the same thing.

A varied roster makes for a healthy label, and also helps to build a level of interest that supports the artists, which is a very valuable thing when it comes to making an impact and maintaining a presence. The bands of Loner Noise are an exciting group of artists and we would suggest that anyone who is into a bit of weirdness or has a leaning towards the heavier side of life, go and check out their acts post haste.

Bleach Sweets opened proceedings with a lot of noise, and a lot of feedback. Memorably, we’re pretty sure that one song was entitled We’re All Going To Be Fucked To Death, and this was closely followed by the funniest lyric of the day, which went something like ‘You showed promise / Like the trailer for Phantom Menace’. Excuse us if that is slightly wrong; we got carried away with the freak scene and started in on the whiskey as soon as we got through the door.

Salt the Snail made an impression by being a funny band with great stage (and sometimes running through the crowd) presence, who also have good songs and also can play them well. This is an unusual combination. We appreciated the incredible lazer light show which has to be seen to be believed. This was also the first show at which we’ve ever been bombarded by cheese and onion sausage rolls.

Perhaps the most ‘traditional’ band of the day were Black Pudding, whose crushing bass and wall of noise approach brought a headbanging vibe to the proceedings. They also get the prize for the best t-shirt on sale at the merch stall.

SPQR were rather spellbinding in their craft and execution – jangly and jarring whilst also somehow deeply pleasant to listen to. A lot of space between the parts, a keen ear for arrangements, harmony and melody will make this band stand apart and we look forward to their debut dropping next month.

Before we go on to talk Elevant, we feel it is only fair in the interests of full disclosure to talk about what was certainly the low point of the evening. Invisible Wind Factory, for those who have yet to go, is currently in the middle of nowhere. In a few years’ time this area will be full of cool stuff, but for the moment, if there is no food to be had at IWF itself then you are left to scavenge on the empty, post-industrial streets north Liverpool. All we could rustle up was a cold, shit pork pie from a petrol station. Boo. Sooner these guys build a kitchen, the better.

At the death of the night, we had somehow managed to keep a lid on the whiskey crazies and were still pretty much able to function. This was rather fortunate, as Elevant were the band that got us interested in this show in the first place. They are that rare beast who is able to write great rock songs and melodies with rather severe earworm abilities. Whether it is an ethereal guitar sound, a phased bass line or a vocal part, there have been a number of their songs flitting around this writer’s head all week.

Perhaps their most authoritative release so far, also their most recent, is the best example of this. Happily, they opened their set with the last two tracks. Normal Life is reminiscent of Reuben at the peak of their powers; the titanic riffs and intelligent songwriting paired with a bittersweet lyrical reflection on the struggle of life in an independent band. The second song off that EP, and the most important rock song we have heard in a while, is Somewhere Safe.

It is incredibly hard to write songs with political themes without sounding insincere, contrived or patronising. Somewhere Safe manages it deftly and succinctly. This is a great song.

We won’t go into the message of the song – it’s probably best to just let it speak for itself. Go to their Bandcamp and listen to it. Even better, just buy the damn vinyl. We did.

Photos by Graham Smillie

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