Review: Detestival

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Wet Nuns have done The Great March from being in “Man and his dog (and a bowl of jambalaya)” gig to the big ones, like SXSW. Now they are armed with enough dark mana to organise their own festival, which, in tradition of their penchant for puns, is called Detestival.

Fuelled by the righteous rum Kraken and with not a single bag of Bombay Mix on sight, two days of music (gently kickstarted by a free gig on Friday night) ensued in that good ol’ place, Queens Social Club.


Detestival day one : The Me(n)tal Age

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Just like the pagan spells of Constantine the Trickster, the day started with a disconcerting and completely enthralling performance by local trio Blood Sport, a band who deftly puts a “one song megamix” show, relentlessly ploughing through conventions, with songs like ‘ø’ and ‘Palomar’ becoming mesmering moments of “post rock meets samba” tinkering. The guitarists’ only stop to do some pedal trickery and adjustment, while the drummer keeps soldiering on. This goes well with the Spanish Lovecraftian film projected on the screens.

As you do.

If there were a couple of Shoggoths and Mi-gos in the audience, they would be completely fanatical of the dynamic hard rock that Black Moth creates. These titans of rock have developed their sound quite well, alternating between melodic hard rock and some sludgy moments, similar to those peddled by stoner rock. If they ever start their own cult, I’d like to be a bishop. Do pay attention to ‘Savage Dancer’, their new single, a nice morsel of what surely is a cracking new album. If not, listen to ‘Chicken Shit’ or ‘Blackbirds’.

Dry Heaves and Thrones are the Martin Luther and John Calvin of Black Moth’s Catholic Church.

Allow me to clarify: they are of the same creed (hard rock), but they’ve splintered after a genre schism, with Dry Heaves taking the neckbreakin’ speed of Black Moth and Thrones gladly going for a sludgey, entombing sound. This was a trifecta that pleased anyone looking for a dose of proper hard stuff.

I was really looking forward to Hookworms (no Toblerones on sight) and you can tell that the effort that went into making their album sound so good is a product of their obsession over their sound. Nevermind the antagonism with the sound engineer, their show was tremendous; a grand tour of psychedelic music with enough drones for the fans of the genre to wet their whistles (and then drink some more). ‘Away towards’ was simply intoxicating.

Speaking of intoxicating… what in tarnation do Bo Ningen play? It’s like the ending of Evangelion: you know something is happening in front of you. You know there’s a form and an end to it, but you don’t quite grasp what it is. They are very technical AND emotional, with a massive stage presence and a neverending source energy. Between changing a cymbal without missing a beat, doing a whirlwind attack with the guitar and doing some nifty bass attack, the confusion lasted a few seconds; the Rapture-like emotions lasted very well beyond their set’s finish. Bravo, certainly a spectacle that should’ve intoxicated even the more cynical in the audience.

Wet Nuns were a bit concerned being after Bo Ningen. “How do you follow something like that?” wondered Rob Graham (guitar/vocals/growls/bandanna) before sharing some rum with the people in the front. It mattered not, as they opened with that killer track, ‘No Death’, where vocals are shared between Rob and Alexis Gotts (drums/vocals/perfect torso). A classic tune of theirs, evolved and becoming a great opener.

It’s hard to pinpoint Wet Nuns’ best song live, though, as they are a tenacious band that can do slow grooves like ‘Why you so cold?’ to a crowd pleaser like ‘All the young girls’. A precarious climb to the top of the amplifiers worried a couple of fans, but it was all good. Always a pleasure seeing them live.

If Bo Ningen were the surprise leftfield act that floored me, Wolf People was the sidewinder that finished the deed. Although you could feel they had a formula (bit of lyrics, then a lot of guitar wizardry), every song felt special and well-crafted. Even when a string decided it couldn’t take it any more, the guitarist kept shredding. Take ‘Fire’, ‘Morning Born’ and ‘Castle Keep’ as your starting points for the discography of Wolf People. Extra kudos for the box of Yorkshire Tea on the amplifier, proving their great taste in tea reflected their great taste in notes. Slightly proggy and very bluesy, I can only think of Son Volt and Wilco (Kicking Television era!) as stepping points for a comparison, but they do have their own, definite and flavourful sound.

Detestival day two : The Dark Project

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Missed Temple of Coke, which is a real damn shame, as they are an entertaining show. Salem Rages are guttural and quite fierce, a shot of energy for anyone still tired from the day before. It was through them that I find out that Hawk Eyes had to cancel as they were one man down. It happens.

John J. Presley is an amazing band live. The sheer stage of presence of his dirty blues, part Rob Zombie (pre Foxy Foxy era) and part Dr. Teeth’s Travelling band (on histaminics) is enough to justify the price of admission. Between some seedy riffs and a snake-charmer approach to guitar playing lays a band who has wrestled the stage into submission, completely displaying a talent that allows bravado to go unpunished. Filthy rock for the lost souls. Check his soundcloud for stuff like ‘Rise to my confession’ to get a taste of what his show is like.

Kult Kountry were the band where it all got very dreamy. Shell Zenner (from Amazing Radio, who drove all the way from Manchester for the day) had recommended this band previously and after their set was finished she asked me “well, what do you think?” “I’m tripping without drugs” I replied, still feeling the reverberated chords and soaring emotions from the band’s lovely set.

As Hawk Eyes’ slot was now gone, there was a bit of space for the bands to change gear. Temples might’ve pushed it a bit far, with a brazen remark of “we are not late, we are out when we need to be” delivered to the respetable publico (aka the audience). Anyways, Temples do have a flair for theatrics and there is a lot of gusto put on every single song. Perhaps the most accessible band of the whole festival, but by no means disposable pop (everything but). ‘Shelter Song’ is a good track and hopefully they use it as a stepping stone to something that will exploit their psychedelic abilities even further. Sure got the chops for it.

Toy came in and the area surrounding the stage became pretty crowded. You know they were the band many a punter was waiting for and without seeing them before, you can see why. There’s a definite stage presence that ushers a sense of completeness to the music played by the band. They might have only one album under their arm, but it’s a gem of an album and it works quite well live, with that blend of psychedelia and shoegaze.

And then it was house lights, a few minutes of conversation and then an overzealous security man told us to bugger off. It felt a bit Monty Pythonesque (see: Quest for the Holy Grail), but it fits the spirit of the festival quite well.

There were afterparties and DJ sets at the Gatsby’s and from the photos I’ve perused online, they seemed to have drunk the place dry (or done a pretty good try). It’s a celebration well deserved, as Detestival was an enjoyable way to introduce a festival (and many a band) to the mix. It certainly beats having to watch Biblical films too.

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Words & Photos: Sam J. Valdes Lopez

 

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