Review by Steve Dean
Photos by Stuart F. Steele (click on pics to enlarge)
Truly satisfying to see plenty of folk in the Glebe for the final Wrongpop gig of the year, the venue being filled with good spirits and an air of high anticipation of the night’s music ahead.
Ox Scapula began proceedings and I have to say their performance this evening was the best I’ve ever seen them play. Their particular brand of gutsy, semi-discordant, avant-garde rock always goes down a bomb with the Glebe audience and the numbers from their new CD were received just as enthusiastically as the older ones. To me, their music has a kind of raucous desolation to it; conjuring up bleak landscapes and darkened city skylines. Guitarists Carl Fedarb and Mark Deavilles' almost shouted vocals only add to the effect, whilst Sarah Dobson on bass and drummer Richard Dooley nail the syncopated and at times purposely disjointed rhythms down most effectively. Having heard them a few times now, ‘Cuts’ is the track that stands out furthest for me and anyone new to Ox Scapula would get a good idea of their overall sound from checking it out. It is available to listen to on their Myspace profile.
They are also shortly to begin a tour with Wooderson, the next band on the bill. Down from Sheffield, trio Wooderson are in a similar vein, only a bit more up-tempo and feedback driven. A confident outfit, they knock out their raw and crunching tunes with plenty of attack and give every impression of enjoying themselves immensely; chatting amicably with the crowd between songs with natural aplomb. Shared between bassist and guitarist, the mainly half sung/half shouted vocals are put across with easy, but solid conviction. Powerful and dextrous drumming is at the root of their strength and considering how loose everything sounds, they are extremely tight. Playing a set of but four lengthy compositions, their dynamic arrangements leap from well-timed silent rests to sudden jaunty riffs in an instant, as is most evident in ‘Heard About it’, a track to be found, as recommended with Ox Scapula, on their Myspace profile. I wish both of these accomplished bands good luck with their prospectively nationwide tour ahead.
I understand that Normal Wisdom, before the addition of guitarist Al Munger, were originally known as Dragon, one of those bands I’d always intended to see, but always missed for one reason or another. Seeing Normal Wisdom this night, I can only say that I didn’t know what I’d been missing. This is without a doubt one of the best groups of musicians I’ve seen since I started reviewing and that’s saying something. All four members are of an exemplary standard and their three number set was an experience in itself; seemingly over in no time. Musicians of the calibre of Miles Davis and Billy Cobham came readily to mind as trumpeter James Davies and drummer David Hayward, a.k.a. Doog, demonstrated their chosen craft. Munger and bassist Rob Hunt were equal to their performances and it all added up to a thoroughly enjoyable instrumental set; fundamentally jazz/rock liberally coloured in with ballsy riffs and spectacular incidental parts. Aside from first class musicianship, the quirky time signatures and meandering musical paths kept the audience in appreciative and respectful awe until the very last note. Wonderful stuff.
Being the last Wrongpop this year, due to the Glebe sadly being forced to close, promoter and organiser Steve Clarke took to the stage to thank the large and loud audience for their support over the past 19 gigs and he was given a well-deserved ovation. Hopefully, the Wrongpop gigs will be back in the new year at a different venue, yet to be confirmed. Let’s hope so. The Stoke-on-Trent music scene will not be quite the same without them.