Incredibly, nearly two whole months into 2009 and last night was the first gig of the year that I have attended. I’m slacking! Anyway, last night was a trip to the Fuzz Club 10th birthday celebrations, for 65daysofstatic‘s first headlining gig in their home town of Sheffield in some time.
But before the headliners, we were able to watch the drunken stumbling of many-a-young student across the rapidly-filling venue, the freshers amongst them making me feel very old indeed – when I was their age (eighteen or nineteen) they were in their second year of school, in the wait for the bands to appear. And when the first band (also local) Smokers Die Younger appeared on the stage, they did so somewhat late.
Which meant that, sadly, it seemed that half of their set was drowned out by most of the crowd talking amongst themselves. A shame, really, as those who weren’t bothering to pay attention missed an interesting band who don’t let possible barriers like genres stand in their way. They are a disparate looking band, whose sound is equally diverse. With up to four vocalists, numerous electronic flourishes, an occasional violinist and an autoharp bolted on to an otherwise standard-looking setup of guitar, bass and drums, at points they came across like Gogol Bordello, at others sounded for all the world like The Arcade Fire, and at other times had so many influences and sounds going on it was difficult to know where to start.
One thing was for sure – they certainly weren’t dull to watch or listen to, and I’ll be interested to see whether they can translate their fascinating and vibrant live sound onto a recorded medium.
At times, this has been something that has affected 65daysofstatic, too. All three of their albums so far have all been great in their own way, but it is in the live environment that this band are truly essential. The last time I saw them was back in September, when they played a short, truncated set that while very good was not the best by their standards.
And frankly, the first song last night, never mind the rest of it, blew that set away. For at least the first half of the set, there was a lot of new material played, and no-one at all was complaining. Heading, as had been suspected, down the route of adding yet more electronic trickery to the soaring, energetic post-rock that the band do so well, each and every new song was spellbinding. A particular note for the awesome centrepiece of the set: starting with a quasi-industrial beat, the track grew and grew before exploding into a freakout with the band spinning like dervishes across the stage, before stopping on a dime and starting again with the beat. They have always been an awesomely tight band live, but this was just extraordinary.
It wasn’t just the new stuff that was eye-catching, though – Retreat, Retreat was despatched with early-on, greeted by a huge roar across the venue and the first moshpit I’ve ever seen at a nominally post-rock gig. Two other tracks appeared in the set from the first album, too – I Swallowed Hard, Like I Understood was as intense as ever, while Hole, complete with the still unsettling cut-up of visuals from Threads to accompany it, remains one of the best and most powerful tracks the band have done.
Things closed, as ever nowadays, with the impossibly pretty Radio Protector, shorn for once of most of the electronic mayhem that usually bookends it nowadays, and then one final new song, that kinda left me in stunned silence at the end. There’s a live album/DVD coming in April, more live dates too, and really, if you haven’t seen them before, go. In fact, I’ll stick my neck out here – is there another band in the UK who even close to how good this band are live?