Fox & Newt
28th April 2012
Thanks to the Fox & Newt the live experimental/noise/drone call-it-what-you-will Leeds scene has been rejuvenated of late. They can’t take all the credit of course but for a lack of a decent venue gigs of a noisy nature have been thin on the ground. The humble and ever so friendly Wharf Chambers aside there were times when small rooms above pubs in Leeds reverberated to all manner of squawking and banging, there was the Fenton which has gone all righteous, the Brudenell which has gone from Phoenix Nights to Las Vegas and the Pack Horse's lack of noise action is a mystery which only the likes of the Toddmeister and Mel can answer.
Apparently you can book the Fox & Newt for not many pounds and make as much racket as you want. The proprietors are very gracious in this way. The other good news is that the Fox & Newt is a brew pub [the only one n the Leeds city environs sadly] and from what I can gather their brews are worth the trek [I can’t comment, went in the car y’see].
It must have been so long since my last gig in a pokey room above a pub in Leeds that the clean environment offered by the Fox & Newt came as something of a shock. No walls plastered in flyers, no crumbling lino splattered with the dead dots of a thousand stubbed out fags, no air of stale sweat or fags, no brimming ashtrays awaiting their first emptying since 2006, no shiny black carpet or bulbs swinging from busted lampshades bought in 1976, no tatty curtains, no rotten window frames, none of this, the room above the Fox & Newt is shiny and new and then along came Dogliveroil and messed it all up when one of their number took a rather large rubber hammer to a box of VHS cassettes. The resulting bits of plastic and miles of unspooled tape found their way around the room as the resultant racket built to something approaching thunder. Some members of Dogliveroil partook their performance in the farthest reaches of the room as far away from the stage as possible, some wore masks, one blew bubbles, I don’t know what one of them did because all I could see was his bum crack but altogether it was a heartwarming and crazy way with which to start the evening.
I saw Makakarooma play in Nottingham a few weeks back. Then we got a set within which a static drummer whacked out a montone beat whilst the rest of the group whacked along with guitars, mainman the Turdster leading from the front in manic ‘day release’ style. Tonight they began with a radio ad for rheumatoid arthritis, Turdster stood staring into the room, eyes glazed, smile fixed as if in some kind of pre gig delirium and then it all erupted. Turdster stood on a table covered in gadgets his clothing covered in silver spray paint, someone joined in with a homemade two string ‘guitar’, a face mask with pub brasses hanging from his ears. Masked guitarists thraped and the drummer went wild before it all went quite so as the Turdster could walk amongst the faithful. He looked them in the eye, rested his hand on a shoulder and intoned some strange kind of benediction to which some smiled and others felt their bowels go loose. The band put down their instruments and picked up A4 pictures of footballers to which they all chanted. The Turdster was wearing an Ox mask then pulled the string on a speaking toy. He blew a single note on a trumpet and it was all over. Then they handed out sweets. I didn’t get one.
After that it was up to Jazzfinger to blow us away with their deep sonorous drones. Working what looked like amplification built by the Russians in the 1970's they built heavily layered, syrup thick drones of portent that hit you deep in the stomach. One member on keyboards the other on guitar each of them altering a dial as their drone morphed its way to its inevitable climax. There was a point midway when they found a really deep vibe and you could see people reacting to it as they swayed and nodded in solo appreciation but after that I felt it fell away and they were left trying to recapture what had gone before. The keyboard playing half of Jazzfinger showed his appreciation by sweating profusely and sticking his head in the bass bins.
A voice said there’s going to be a Target Shoppers gig. There was some blurb on the flyer announcing special guests so I started to get all flustered seeing as how I’ve never actually seen the Target Shoppers in the live situation. About ten years ago I got so excited about the Target Shoppers that I released an LP by them and then they split up. And then they recently reformed. I missed them at the Wharf Chambers a few weeks ago when I had to leave to fulfill an earlier engagement but they were back in the saddle and I knew that I’d see them again soon. They were all in the room so it made obvious sense; Phil Todd, Joincey, Marky Loo Loo. They got on stage, strapped on guitars, sat behind drums, the Toddmiester introduced the band and then they played for one single second. The Toddmiester thanked the audience and off they strode. I await their next show with much anticipation.
Which left the Ceramic Hobs to further melt the audience’s minds. Having picked up a 21 years old guitarist the Hobs have certainly beefed up their sound of late. They’re also a lot tighter as a band, more raucous and if anything, more deranged. Main Hob and frontman Simon Morris waves a halogen lamp about and when it catches you in the eye its blinding. One member is dressed in a Mexican wrestling mask and plays a plastic toy babies head by rubbing whilst weaving about as if in some kind of delirium, the bass player wears plastic bunny rabbit ears [its Roger Ramjet and he’s back in the band after a lengthy hiatus] the keyboard player plays the keyboards with her arse and it collapses, Morris’s vocal delivery is a deep, chesty scream that's forever on the verge of going hoarse and is still one of this countries best kept secrets. The songs range from one minute all out ghaa to longer excursions of wilder abandon. They reach back into song catalogue going back to the mid 80’s highlighted when Morris announces ‘this is a song that's older than our guitarist’. Rock on. They come back for an encore and go mental for a final thirty second. The teeter between brilliance and chaos. Their day will surely come.