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Chubby and the Gang @ The Scala

 

 

Taking a page out of Dr. Sebastian Von Gerkruldhaar’s playbook, I too went to a punk show. Or did I? We don’t really want to get into what ‘punk’ means because it’s a whole lot of stuff from a beer to an adjective and a genre. It’s just a lot of things. Dumping things into manageable categories is reflexively human, but you can’t fit Chubby and the Gang into any one category and they’re anything but manageable. That, in my opinion, is punk AF. 

 

Usually, we’d like to give a bit of a back story on who we’re covering but we feel in this case Loud and Quiet’s article already did a great job of that. We will say this though, we’re confident that, if in the first few bars of any of Chubby’s songs you’re not instantly hooked like we were, you do not have a pulse and should be considered legally dead. Our staff are St John’s Ambulance First Aid Responder certified so we’re pretty confident in making the former statement as medical fact.  

 

Entering the Scala for the first time in nearly two years, about 40 minutes after doors, we take the familiar path to the stage. The scene feels straight out of Scott Pilgrim with a very battle of the bands vibe and an audience made up largely of what seems to be a cross between a skate park and a Weezer gig. To our surprise, the venue is largely empty, even though a strict vaccine passport policy has been put in place. We guess nobody wanted to take any chances just before the holidays, but you know what they say, no risk-no reward. The vibe, nonetheless, is electric. You know, like before one of those storms that flips the sky inside out and full of psychedelic colours? The last time it felt this way in the Scala, Sports Team tore the place a new arsehole, and a giant papier-mache shark as well.  A perfectly styled Ethan (@johnny.hellride) Stahl lopes out for soundcheck before their set. Like with their music, within the first few strums, I know. I just know. 

 

As the hair on the back of my neck transitions into plank position, I realize my mind’s been wandering again, big surprise. Around this time of the year, some of us are spending a lot of time in church, although I wouldn’t go so far as calling this crowd ‘Punks for Christ’, I would say we are in a place of worship. The pews, the barricades in front of me. I pull my hands from them and in lieu of aromatic incense burning from a thurible, the acrid smell of corrosion, clearly visible in the dark and through the black paint, rises off them. In place of carols and holy water, we’re all about to be baptised by song and fire. Unceremoniously, Chubby Charles Manning Walker and the Gang spill out from backstage. I don’t think a second goes by from here until the end the of the 14-track set where the band doesn’t relentlessly rain hot fire down upon us all.

 

I’m going to stop here for a second. Everyone has told me ‘I need to see them’. They are promoters, the internet, unsupervised children seemingly underage by the side of A-roads drinking Stella with their friends, even the band themselves. Chubby and the Gang rule, O.K.? Everyone. I don’t like getting polluted with all that, if I’m being honest, I want to be pure going into the show. I want to be that white sheet with a hole in it keeping the noise out while I peep through; everyone's noise about what I should and shouldn’t do sullies my soul and frankly ruins my good time. I don’t much care for it. That said, heed my words, ‘You Need To See Them!’. The band is less of a flesh and blood organism than a collection of finely tuned mechanisms, more machine than persons, pumping like a piston kicking in your ear drums (kids, wear earplugs tinnitus is a thing). They have been on the road five weeks, going on 500. They are honed and tuned, a shaky needle on a gauge that’s about to explode. They are, by all accounts, a controlled demolition circumnavigating the globe. Go, right now I mean it, go look at their tour dates, seemingly never ending! Halfway through their set Chubby, a man who runs his finger across his throat so many times throughout the gig and is seemingly unafraid to meet his maker, he leaves permanent red line scorched across it. Minutes later, he makes us all far too aware of our own mortality. Straddling the fine line between this life and the beyond, “I’ve been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, we’ve been touring for five weeks, the GP told me I need to slow down, take it easy”.

 

"People don't really like hearing you admit mistakes. Although I'd never wanted to dump on the musicians that were involved in that."- Joe Strummer.

 

It’s hard to catch the essence of what a punk show, or punk for that matter, even is. To me, it’s simultaneously a siren’s call and a lighthouse by the jagged cliffs of life. I wish I could’ve heard more of the lyrics because the vocals were either turned way down or drummed out but the music was crisp, fast, energetic and as incredibly appealing as it was harmonious.

 

"For me the music is a vehicle for my lyrics." - Joe Strummer.

 

Yea I know, two Strummer quotes in a row, grin and bear it, my dudes. Everyones look and rhythm on stage were on point. The performance was hard hitting, solid and pulsating. The group, a swirling ball of gas born of a culmination of beliefs and ideas, came together through a counterculture narrative, the fair practices as a fundamental truth, labour unions, unjust crimes against humanity and social justice, 'Grenfell'. To me, personally, this is why I was hoping to hear more of those banging vocals. Niggling details like these were quickly washed away by thrilling and sweeping guitar solos when ‘Pressure’ was played or the harmonica whipped out on Uxbridge Road which was the finale in the set. Although, I wish it were ‘Take me Home to London’. Again, just a personal preference.

 

The band, their struggles, their wins, their bright spotlight on a voice which normally doesn’t have a soapbox of its own to stand on and their seemingly endless metamorphosis throughout their individual careers and as a unit is a living testament to these words.

 

You only live once? False. You live everyday. You only die once” – Dwight Schrute.

 

With that, I leave you with my last live review for the year, and what a note to go out on (Chubby’s not mine). So, from us and ours to you and yours we say, Oi to the world, Oi to one and all.

 

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Molchat Doma @ Kentish Town Forum

 

 

Don’t even bother, I already know what you’re going to ask, comrade, ‘Captain, how does one even weaponize walking?’. Simple, walk downhill in the wrong direction, twice the distance to your planned destination. Subconsciously, I was probably punishing myself on purpose, putting myself in a cold war era mindframe. Trudging around Kentish Town’s blustery streets towards the breadline outside The Forum to indulge in the people’s band, Molchat Doma on this frigid evening.

 

In case you’ve been living under a slab of concrete, burning goat fur to keep yourself warm and haven’t heard of this dark wave gothic trio from Belarus, probably the only good news coming out of there at the moment to be sure, they’ve been consistently depressing audiences globally circa 2017. Now with three albums under their belts, the latest being Monument, an absolutely beast with superb mixing and production values. A varied and lengthy setlist was to be expected. Spoiler; we would not be let down. There was just, one, teensy red-flag. Two words, ‘venue-upgrade’ hung in the smog filled ether. We know what you’re probably thinking, ‘Hey that’s great, now I can go too, I saw a flyer about this in my res at St Martins!’. Look, it’s a given I’m going to feel low listening to Egor’s incoherent lyrics and melancholy tones, that’s what we’ve signed up for. What awaited us was something completely different.

 

20 minutes after doors, we arrive to be met with an already full pit area, this does not bode well. Standing in a small cubby, by the bar, my friend and I at least have a decent vantage point. Personally, we don’t enjoy gigs to their fullest unless we’re pressed against the barricades by the stage. Minutes before the support act, ‘Sam’, a random drunkard imposes himself upon us, without any clear means of escape we resign ourselves to our fate. Sam cannot fathom why we’re not buying cassette tapes to flip online after the show at a profit (they’re crystal blue man). Furthermore Sam, whilst spilling his pint all over our shoes, tells us he’d normally be chugging a bottle of Hennessey were it not for the fact that he had to look out for his friends that night (they were off their faces on a combination of mood-altering substances). That, and Sam is on probation at his work, which comprises of sensitive cancer research studies at an unnamed laboratory facility, for ruining two multiple year studies (leukaemia/lymphoma) causing a cascade effect, knocking back progress by ‘who knows how long’ he confesses with a shrug (the long and short of it was he was fucked at work). I excuse myself, disgusted from the unsolicited conversation and to grab a pint, £7 for a pint of San Miguel, I nearly consider wringing out my beer-soaked Vans instead. ‘Venue Upgrade’, to be sure.

 

Oh, faithful readers, not even the aforementioned were enough to detract from what we were about to behold. You don’t have to read this review (no seriously, have you heard about reddit?) to know that you’re not at this gig to listen to lyrics. As they’re all in Russian, you just let them wash over you; the meanings come across. You’re not here to see anyone on stage dancing, it’s as empty and bleak as the shelves at a Tesco. You’re not even here to see any kind of emotion What.So.Ever. That was, until Monument. When Egor ‘The Scarecrow’ Shkutko sang ‘Ne Smeshno’ he began pacing back and forth on stage like a caged tiger. He hurled the lyrics ‘Neeeeeeeeeya’ into the microphone, and at the audience as a whole, the way David threw stones at Goliath. To make an impact.

 

‘Обречен / Obrechen’, another new one, was as beautifully melodic as it was a morose ballad without sucking the air out of the room. ‘Utonut’, for us, brought the house down. This song encompassed all the best elements that drew us to this group but opened up a future of possibilities, mainly that you could dance to it, look out Ian Curtis! Pavel Kozlov (bass guitar/synthesizer/happiest member of the group) strode over to Roman Komogortsev (guitar/synthesizer/drum machine/squinter) at one point to jam with his fellow bandmate on this tune. The optics on this was like a stripped-down version of the antics you’d get from a hair metal band’s stadium tour. Think more sepia with clunky frame rates than Twisted Sister.

 

Joking aside, the boys played a solid set, at or just over, an hour and a half! We couldn’t stick around for the encore, the tube would’ve been a mess and quite frankly we got sick of the yobs chucking their half empty pints through the air, but we did not leave unsatisfied. Speaking of which, the guy next to me must’ve been totally blissed out as he must’ve forgotten where he was. Turning to us he gave a crooked smile lighting up a Marlboro in the venue. What a drag. 

 

 

 

 

 

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I Went To A Punk Show

 

 

By Dr. Sebastian Von Gekruldhaar

 

As I lay in bed, head on pillow and staring at the ceiling, in between my high-pitched humming ears circles a quote I just can't shake. It was from an American musician named Kurt Cobain, who unfortunately passed away at age 27. His reply to an interviewer of "what is punk?", he simply stated "punk is musical freedom. It's saying, doing and playing what you want." I've wrestled with that idea for a while tonight, in relation to how the punk music I recently experienced fell into that broad definition Mr. Cobain quipped for us.

 

So tonight, November 7th, 2021, I went to a punk show to investigate on the behest of a close friend.
My first unusual observation was the sight of shaved heads. I know this aesthetic has been heralded for decades within the punk community, regardless of country, but I can't help but wonder if this is by choice or by some coincidental, genetic grouping. Perhaps some do it to show off their fancy tattoos, emblazoned millimeters away from their cerebellum, the section of brain that regulates balance and posture. I hope this won't hinder their balance and freedom of movement. I think that would be very "unpunk".

 

"Barkeep!" I shouted to the bearded and pierced alcohol server behind the old oak. "One glass of your finest rosé, my good man!" I didn't understand what his initial facial response meant, but at least his follow up was more forgiving. A sale is a sale, n'est pas?

 

Post-sale, I felt it was necessary to wander the crowd and assess the environment and patrons.
The ratio of men to women was about ten to one. Lots and lots of men! Is punk rock music inherently more masculine and as such, deters female involvement? I was certain it be more obvious once the band performed. These fans of punk, these outsiders and non-conformers, absolutely had their own sense of style. It signals to others that they are their own group and refuse to fall into society's norms. In fact, they have their own norms and aesthetic which inexplicably makes this a unique sociological study. Shaved heads, tattoos, bomber jackets and fresh polo shirts. A significant number preferred the top button of their polo buttoned, which personally, I would find uncomfortable, but not these gents. These male patrons gave off a hard-knock, ruffian disposition, which gave me pause while closely viewing their dungarees. The like of which, I have not seen since my elementary school years, when denim hand-me-downs needed to be rolled up as a necessary tripping avoidance.

 

I kept a steady pace meandering through the crowd with a stiff grip on my drink and leather-bound notebook. As the band was entering the stage, The Reckless Upstarts, members of the crowd took notice and shifted to the front with their lagers in hand. A couple of these men had their arms around each other's necks which signaled a close bond, a brotherhood even. But to enter a public house each covered in the same aesthetics, this concert must have acted as a ritual of sorts.

 

The band begins. The song stops after about two minutes. Then again. And again. And again. It's so gosh darn loud and between ruptures of applause and hollers, all of these songs begin to sound the same. But the crowd, and especially this brotherhood of patrons, are overwhelmingly ecstatic.

 

By the eighth song, the singer announces "Okay, fuckers, I think you all know this one." And like a rocket, the drummer pummels our collective eardrums with a boom-cha-boom-cha-boom-cha-boom-cha. The men are riled up even more than before. Shouts of "Oi! Oi! Oi!" cast across the bar's ceiling over a couple dozen raised pints. I guess these patrons really did know this one and it clearly wasn't lost on the back-of-the-head tattooed fan flailing around, completely void of self-awareness and his body's rolling around and off of the fans standing close to the stage.  A leather coat-clad pregnant woman with black-rimmed glasses paid no mind either. She was indeed (I'm told this is what these people do), "moshing" in "the pit", during which she entered my personal space, causing half of my rosé to spill upon my leathered notebook. I really should have found a table. The song ends with a raucous applause and patrons edging themselves onto the stage to the indifferent reactions of the musicians.

 

From what I could tell, the music is definitely powerful. So powerful, and loud, and moving, that it is able to unite these ruffians, these outcasts. A brotherhood of outsiders. Lyrically, what I could make out through the noise mirrored just that, along with standing with the proletariat, contempt for corporations and Nazis, while paying homage to the struggling working-class parents to whom these musicians came from. Topics of which are all understandable coming from a working-class town, and to hear it reflect it in music is a bonafide proper, artistic representation within the geographical area and our local zeitgeist...  But does it have to be so darn loud?

 

Dr. Sebastian Von Gekruldhaar

 

 

 

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Noon Garden @ Bermondsey Social Club (Live Review)

 


 

Dedicated to Gareth Pugh

 

 It’s a darker than usual, and even chillier than usual, evening. I’m arriving, not only on the wrong side of the river, but the wrong side of the tracks. Mainly, under the tracks. I’m loitering by the entrance of the Bercial watching Scout (@Scout4Ever) soundcheck. No one seems to mind my presence, or even notice it for that matter, which I take as a silent compliment. Am I supposed to be here? The perfect crime. I actually am on this occasion. I’m meeting up with Charles Prest, by night known as Noon Garden, and on other nights also known as a founding member of Flamingods. I will in about 25 minutes, to his face no less, call the band Flaming-Gods, because I am socially illiterate and have the reading comprehension of a six-year-old. 

 

Charles rolls up with Josefine, Los Bitchos’ (@LosBitchos) bassist, who’ll be plucking bass at Charles’ gig tonight. I lunge (and inadvertently trip) from out of the shadows, half yelling ‘CHARLES!’, which he takes surprisingly in stride, turning to face me, asking how my day’s been. He’s as disarming as he is amiable. We walk through the hanger and out towards the garden, but not before stopping at the bar to grab a couple of suds, we’d need them as our five-minute chat turned to nearly a half an hour of pleasant chatter. I won’t bore you with the specifics here, I’ll do that later with the interview. 

 

Just after eight, Scout, a small three-piece roll up and pump out rich sounds off stage. The moody synth pop trio weave a rich, unhurried set, and really bring it together with ‘Never Fade’ as their finale. Ziyad Al-Samman, formerly of Blackby and full time Frank Zappa impersonator, unveils his new solo project, ejaculating dance moves and ballads onto an unsuspecting crowd below him. Everyone seems to be having a very nice time of it indeed. Between sets, 75% of Los Bitchos churned out some pretty sweet jams, including but not limited to, the latest by Deerhoof, of which I most heartily approve. 

 

By this point, the former train arches are filled (by the looks of it beyond capacity) including everyone who’d come in from Over the Garden Wall to catch Noon Garden’s final show of the year. A tropical storm, both in terms of music and attire, was about to wash over the audience. There’s a lot to unpack on stage and I’m a little irritated that I have to do so if I’m being honest. I’ve got to stay focused and objective. The crowd, unrestrained by such obligation, have all started hurling their bags and coats at the front of the stage and dancing. Reluctantly, perhaps not the best choice of vocabulary, I turned my attention back on stage. It was held there by the subtle metallic twangs of an Oud being plucked, or a feverish scale slipping over the Korg by the hidden tiger. Charles is absolutely murdering a wah pedal by the way, I’m also picking up a thick dollop of math rock and other influenced elements of groups like Animal Collective and Battles coming through. Everyone can see and feel Josefine’s bops coming through the bass, while the drummer, in a loud blazer/shirt combo, relentlessly attacks the high-hat with equally loud zest. It all feels like a studio session that’s had the fourth wall drop. The set rounds off with Sarah of Los Bitchos yelling, churning the air with a clenched fist from the DJ booth.

 

This gig felt different from most. I hesitate to use words like energy and vibes because their recent appropriation in the parlance of our times has nearly rendered them meaningless. Perhaps it had to do with the location, the people (T.R.C. crew) or a combination of the two. Regardless of the reason it’s my opinion, both from the one-to-one session with Charles and then group therapy with the crowds, that you’ll find yourself in an enjoyable, safe space, and with music that you’ll be able to engage with hassle and ego free. Although this was Noon Garden’s last show, fear not, he’ll be back in the New Year. In February, he’ll be releasing his first full length album and touring with Los Bitchos as support on their UK/EU tour. By the time your dry January’s through, you’ll be ready to whet your appetite on these fine chops.

 

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Black Marble and Discovery Zone @ The MOTH (Live Review)

 

 

I wake suddenly, soaking, from a vivid dream where a giant ice-cream cone is holding me by the legs and licking two fun-filled scoops of Captain Stavros to death, only to realize it’s just Poppy, the miniature Dachshund I’m looking after, licking my face. I must’ve passed out on the couch again after a rousing bout of tug of war. A minute later my alarm goes off, doors at the MOTH in 15 minutes. It's our first time back under the golden speckled dazzling Christmas ornament arches in over a year, and fuck ya, if it doesn’t feel good to be getting festive again. Missed this place.

 

20:45 Discovery Zone (@DicoveryZ0ne) takes to the veiled stage. An unassuming human who could just as easily be sitting in the train car, across from you even, destination unknown. Maybe they’re ordering a coffee in front of you, or perhaps even walking out the Tesco shooting a quick smile of acknowledgment your way, DZ is a ubiquitous person of interest but when they’re on-stage, attention is attributed rather than demanded. Their set starts off with ‘Dance II’, a cover, followed by ‘Nu Moon’, ‘Blissful Morning Dream Interpretation Melody’ and by track four, ‘Remote Control’ the audience had gone quite mad. Discovery Zone’s sound comes together with elements of Computer Love meets a remake of the Heathers soundtrack driving wildly out of control into Chromeo, in the ‘80s, on a theremin. Don’t ask questions, feel for a pulse (it’s there and then some, especially when DZ’s cutting shapes on and off stage throughout their set!), call for emergency services, take some pictures, and slowly slip into the night knowing the sounds and images can never be unseen and you’ve been forever changed. We were lucky to enough to be treated to a TON of new material too, you’re in for a treat. Never skip the opening act, kids.

 

21:30 Black Marble (@BlackMarbleNYC) take the stage. Soundcheck took forever and a day. 21:45, Black Marble actually take the stage. Worth the wait? I dunno, I can’t hear your over the ROARING BASS, liquidous aquatics of the keys and strings, such weavery would put Daisy Taugelchee to shame. We’re definitely getting a Wild Nothing vibe here and, to be fair, both shows were sold out and both played to packed audiences. Not only that but, both Jack and Chris have a similar band structure of revolving members. Fast and loose is the key to their success but it’s anything but sloppy.

 

Everyone and everything on the stage is sooooo New York and looks the part, nonchalant-chalantness at its best. Sure, with short cuffed trousers, high Adidas socks and matching trainers, it’s norm core on steroids, but the music is sound and all is forgiven. Although Black Marble might look like a bunch of suburban dads, I don't care because those vibes are easy to shake off. Visual stigma aside, you’re going to enjoy the clean sounding wavy tunes, the crowd certainly did. They’re up in arms, literally, claps everywhere the 'woooooooo' factor is defo there.

 

Slinking out after some crowd negotiations, I miss the encore on my way to the less than crowded loo, who’s having a midlife crisis off-stage now? Out the door I run into Tigercub’s drummer James Allix looking like a cool AF Billy Idol in his heyday. He tells me about an ‘80s ballad night he’s waiting to check out after the gig and I talk about B.M.’s bassist slapping like there’s no tomorrow the whole way through, haunting me like the riff off ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’. He smiles and listens politely like only someone stuck waiting in a queue can.

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Odonis Odonis, Phog Lounge, Windsor, Ontario (Live Review)

 

Why weren't you there, huh? Yes, I know Phog Lounge has a 75-person capacity and its space is limited, but honestly, you really should have been there.  We've all been waiting for live shows and this was one not to miss, but it looks like you did. I feel so, so sorry for you.

Odonis Odonis (Toronto) made their Windsor debut performance with an intense, two-person, darkwave, industrial danceable light show. Distorted synths on top of the triggered drum loops, felt like a vertical blanket of sound. The type of sonic wall we have been longing for all through the pandemic.  I spoke with one local, Freddy, who said it was his and his brother's first live show in 2 years. I was fortunate enough to listen to the band's latest release (Spectrums) beforehand, so at least I knew what to expect. Freddy and his brother's virgin ears were walking into Phog on Friday night deaf and blind. And if Odonis Odonis' set was any indication of success, Freddy was still down in front dancing out, pint in hand, exposing himself to that sonic ferocity and singer, Dean Tzenos' meanderings through the standing crowd.

You really should have been there.

My friend Anderson and I were chatting with Shawn, the show's organizer of Happy Little Crowd Productions (@happylittlecrowd), when Dean approached us. I offered Dean a handshake with a "hey man, that was beautiful". He smiled with approval and agreement, “Thanks! That was fun”.

And you know, yeah, it was fun. Even as aggressive as the music is, it's totally enjoyable. Not for everyone, but for those who "get it", they'll feel it, love it, and will reap the rewards of spectating.
The recent round of shows the pair have are going without a drummer, who recently succumbed to a back injury, leaving him unable to tour and perform. This left some adjustments to their set which was noticeable for having a couple false starts.

Dean's cohort, Denholm, approached our circle and felt the same as Dean on their performance.
"If we're traveling this way, we always play Detroit. But their crowds are so hit-and-miss with us."
WHAT!? DETROIT!? What the hell is wrong with you, Detroit? You would think given Detroit's long-standing history with house and electronic music, that Odonis Odonis would be well received consistently there.  Detroit, just like their Red Wings, lost out that night. But speaking for Windsor, the crowd was very receptive, to which Dean spoke for duo, "we're definitely coming back in the new year".

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