The marrying of imagination and reality is always a rocky one. The utopian images in your head will always look like what Sir Kenneth Hugo Adam would do to please Sean Connery, but the dystopian vicissitudes of real life sometimes yield a canvas scrawled by a crayola wielding maniac who sniffed too many grammes of bath salts.
So, when you hear the words album launch, you could imagine a fatuous and bombastic gala where a menagerie of extremely well dressed people clink their Manhattan and Daiquiri glasses. Thankfully, the Screaming Maldini album launch gig wasn’t a stuffy meeting of wheelers and dealers, just a collection of three good bands and a fan base that bordered into a cult gathering (replace Kool Aid with Red Stripe cans).
The Harley might not be ostentatious but goddammit, I like the place and the sofas. I also like the sound and the stage and I make the front left side my hiding place. It’s my nature as a camper in most FPS, I guess.
The stage was lovingly set for this event. A big white sign on the top had the hashtag #Maldinialbumlaunch, cardboard spaceships and stars, stolen from William Hartnell‘s secret stash, hung from the ceiling and a chunky rack stacked up to the max with signal processors and effects was observant, in the back, like an Eye Tyrant gazing upon its domain.
A small but fervent crowd was waiting for Low Duo, the loudest quiet musicians that Sheffield has in stock right now. With a swanky vintage suitcase that works as a merch stand (with a happy piggy bank to boot), their set is intense as always. ‘Fifteen years’ can evoke bad memories if you’re still on a break up mood, ‘Ringtone’ seems to be a piercing critique and ‘Circus please’, a new track, has the band downing a few cans of spinach and aiming for a haymaker.
‘No Happier’, that track now infamous for being used in the Suicide Girls film, makes an appearance and the lovely song about starcrossed spiders, ‘Spider’, gets a very warm welcome. As much as you’d think they are miserable from their moody music, they are actually quite funny, like well-dressed buskers with a penchant for the acid dry humour that’s so characteristic of the British. ‘Sparkle’ closes their set, and lo and behold, there’s a bit of distortion on that guitar! Grandiose.
My First Tooth. A lot people sported a “who?” face, but those in the know (or with the advance copy of the album) were giddy with anxiety to hear them perform live. They might have to describe due to their genre mixing, so my glib explanation is: a band that the crew of Serenity would listen to, constantly (especially Kaylee). With one foot decisively placed on a rock labeled “folk pop” and another one doing the Crane Kick movement. Just because. Tracks from Love Makes Monsters (their new album) made an appearance, with the ubiquitous ‘Heartbeat Retreat’ taking the 1st spot. Some jamming took place and their multi-instrumentalist, Sophie Galpin, deserves major kudos, multitasking all those instruments (almost three in one song alone!) without missing a beat. Kudos.
There’s probably a good chance you could get a grant in spatial awareness studies if you decided to explain how Screaming Maldini fit on stage, with 6 members, 2 lorries worth of equipment and a penchant to move a lot. Why, I even almost got a free lobotomy via a nifty (and sharp) Rickenbacker guitar! Their show is coldly calculated and precise, much like a precise shot from a well-trained sniper. Their first salvo was the curiously strong ‘The Awakening’, followed by ‘The Extraordinary’, which does live up to its name.
Screaming Maldini is a band with a sound that comes in waves. Droves of notes and vocals stampede around, creating this cornucopia that can be overbearing for the newcomer, but the fix that the quite addicted fans needed. You could barely move around and I could swear a mosh pit started somewhere in the back. ‘Life in glorious stereo’ is a real treat live and ‘Summer, somewhere’ was the one moment where the line between band and audience, already blurred, disappeared. An encore was fuelled by the immense round of applause and by the end, you could swear The Harley had shut down the central heating and let all the human-produced BTUs heat the place.
Merchandise was selling like scapulars on Resurrection Sunday in México City, people were loudly chattering and frittering the night away and when the clock stroke midnight, it was time to leave, with the party still going strong. I did notice a new set of curtains by one of the windows at The Harley, but that’s a story for another day, as this day was the day for Low Duo, My First Tooth and Screaming Maldini to shine.
Words & Photos: Sam J. Valdés López