The venue of tonight's gig, The Cobblestones, is precariously hanging on tight on a busy street corner in the Somerset town of Bridgwater - maybe in more than one way. We were horrified to discover that opposite the traditional-looking pub, a corporate monstrosity is being built and could potentially threaten this great little music venue catering for alternative musical tastes: the four star "Mercure Bridgwater Hotel", complete with fancy celebrity chef restaurant. Really? Having spent a few hours around the town and seen the amount of empty, boarded up buildings with a "For Sale" sign attached to them, I wouldn't have thought that Bridgwater was the best place for that kind of venture - or at least the developers could have taken over one of the old buildings (which are lovely, by the way... So much potential!). With live music venues closing up and down country because of newly-built housing developments, I wouldn't give The Cobblestones many chances. I do hope that I am wrong and that it will be allowed to carry on making a racket for many years to come.
At the back of the pub, one can find a great courtyard garden leading to the entrance of the small function room/music venue. We were immediately greeted by a super cute dog with a Batman collar and the news that the first support band would not be playing after all (which is a great shame as they sounded like our kind of thing!)
One of the best things about my years as a music journalist in London was the opportunity to go to many gigs for free and discover a lot of great (and not so great) bands - Flag Promotions' Showcase nights were a good example of that. Now, of course, having moved to Dorset and having to drive long distances to see the kind of live music that interests me, I am not as ready to take as many risks.
But on Friday, I was really looking forward to seeing the support bands (in the end the support band).
The Devon-based The Pretty Fragile didn't disappoint: they looked good and played genuinely interesting and intriguing music. It gives you a little thrill to see a band who dares to experiment with the industrial music format; their tracks are the opposite of formulaic: you never know what's round the corner; each song finds a way to surprise you, changing its pace and atmosphere, switching from massive metal riffs to carefully crafted electro sounds - and not an Apple laptop in sight! Charismatic singer Paul Abrey stops playing his guitar to add some delicate piano notes or to create some pulsing electronic sounds. We Are Obscene could come straight from the Marilyn Manson back catalogue whilst Virus makes a NIN fan like myself smile broadly; I also sometimes caught myself thinking of the dark claustrophobia of Leisur Hive's music. And usually, I don't "do" covers at all, thinking that people really should leave original songs alone, BUT I positively adore TPF's version of Garbage's #1 Crush - and I do think it is actually much better (and way creepier) than the original (I did think it was one of the band's original songs). It always makes me happy to discover a new band I really like, and I will definitely try to catch The Pretty Fragile live again as they are (almost) neighbours!
I am not the type to be nostalgic about things but I cannot deny that Supher's Spray album corresponds to a very special time for me, and I still listen to it regularly (excellent exercise CD, it does get those muscles moving and that heart racing!). The album was part of the soundtrack to my life in North London and its raw edges, getting into the capital's alternative scenes, starting writing for alternative music and culture magazines, hanging out in Camden Market, looking for CDs and gig tickets at Resurrection Records and listening to bands in dark music venues...
Original members Rob Holliday (whom we've seen on live guitar or bass duties over the years with The Prodigy, Keith Flint's Flint, Marilyn Manson and The Mission (!)) and Monti have been joined by two awesome musicians, Davey and Andy - and they played a blazing set - even though one of the speakers was broken. Honestly, how good was it to hear tracks such as Problem, One of Us, or You Ruined Everything live again? The tracks just got under your skin, and were uncompromising in their rawness. Even better, the new tracks, Used and Take a Long Hard Look, out of the forthcoming album, sounded fantastic. Rob Holliday and his bandmates, used to playing in front of thousands, still threw themselves in the performance and sent us home buzzing.
Sulpher are playing the Ministry after-show party at the Electrowerkz on 21st July and also the Black Celebration festival in October, so try and catch them at either of those...
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