Tue 21st November 2006
Support from Blutch, Suns Of Thunder
I get to the gig a bit later than I'd have hoped due to late shifts at work and sorting out dinner etc and so was expecting to've missed both local bands but as soon as I arrive I bump into Adam (Suns Of Thunder lead guitarist and gig promoter) who advises me that Black Eye Riot have had to cancel due to unforseen circumstances and the Suns are about to take the stage.
So straight into Suns Of Thunder we go. Tonight, coincidentally, is Adam's birthday so I'm expecting a good sized crowd even by SOT standards (being arguably the only band in Swansea guaranteed a respectable turnout with many of their shows feeling more like a party than a gig). So I'm more than a little disappointed to see that Monkey is arguably more empty than normal but the boys get to it and open with one of their newer songs. Now I'd love to be able to say that it's effortless, gloriously groovey business as normal but wether as a result of birthday celebrations, the lack of a crowd or the (for once) frankly stupidly loud PA, everything seems to get a bit bogged down in the mire and the boys themselves seem to be not quite 100% into it and generally just a little bit off. This doesn't mean it was a bad gig of course as in all the years I've been watching the Suns play and develop as a group they've never once been less than head and shoulders above the majority of their contemporaries but they're definately not gelling as well as they normally do. Still, all heads are nodding and a good time is had by all and after a handful of songs (baring in mind the average SOT track racks in somewhere around the eight minute mark, with more than a few of them happily stretching into double figures) they end with 'Time Pt. II', accompanied by Maria on vocals (as per the recorded version on their 'Last Of The High Rollers' album) and despite complaining furiously and calling Greg every wanker under the sun for making her sing she soon gets into it and they finally seem to find their feet and by the end of the psych tinged jamathon they're at last firing on all cylinders. Better late than never.
I buy Ads his birthday beer in the between band respite and repair outside for a chat with a mate I haven't seen pretty much since Glastonbury and then head back in for the next lot.
Now I have no prior knowledge of Blutch so am pleasantly surprised when they blast out a huge, sludged out doomfest (complete with wailing-feedback-as-part-of-riffs songs) and promptly nearly fall over laughing when the first thing they say to the audience (dwindling by the minute as per normal for Swansea whenever a proper heavy band play) is "Hello, we're Blutch from Belgium. NOT from Germany... No, DEFINITELY not from Germany" (ninehertz forum regulars will be aware of Adam's geographically based gig poster faux pas already). Unforunately however, it quickly becomes apparent that Blutch are a perfect example of why bands that are this heavy need to have at least a reasonable amount of focus behind the song writing as the songs here seem to have no real direction and tend to meander off on tangents that detract from the overall good, meaty fare that's on display here. Fortunately the second half of their (I must say unnecessarily long) set shows a much more structured and often more uptempo side to their sound and is far more enjoyable as a result but by now it's getting late and the PA is still painfully loud, officially pushing this lot up from 'punishingly heavy' to 'endurance metal' and (in the nicest possible way) I'm glad when they finish. In way of an overall indicator I'll say that having spent the entire set trying to decide if I want to buy a cd, I finally decide not to. Painfully good, but not necessarily in all the right ways.
Again I admit to being entirely ignorant of headliners Black Cobra but as soon as they hit the stage I'm won over. Think Winnebago Deal covering Neurosis but playing the songs THEIR way. It's all very well constructed post-doom or whatever you wish to label it but (at least for about two thirds of the set) it's played at break neck speed by two VERY accomplished musicians and, in a genre where bands seem to be constantly attempting to out-slow each other, I find it suprisingly effective as I don't think I'd ever really considered that this kind of music could work at this tempo. Fortunately for the twenty odd people still left by now (it's nearly 1am before they take the stage, mind) the PA has finally been nudged down from 11, although this is somewhat counteracted by the fact that the guitarist has two amp heads running through four cabs but still, it's 'punishing' in a good way rather than just flat out punishing like Blutch were. Again the set seems rather long but they easily hold the attention the whole way through and then it's "thank you, good night!" and the lights come on.
I wish Adam happy birthday again, make my excuses and aren't too surprised when I have to turn my mp3 player up by about 6 or 7 notches before I can really hear it whilst strolling home. I also find that my senses have been so thoroughly battered by the sheer volume of the festivities that, despite only sipping my way through two pints, I'm staggering about the place, all off balance as if I'd had a fair few more! Honestly, the things you have to put up with for a bit of Heavy in this town...