Previous to the Friday evening’s planned entertainments, it had been a bit of a weird and sometimes bleak feeling week at NHC MUSIC. Negativity can so often seep out of our pores like a virus, infecting everyone it touches with a downward tug of the lips, a stuttering of the soul, and a lowering of the gaze. We had taken more on than usual, even for dogged promoters and reviewers such as ourselves, and the strain had finally taken its toll. Snapping like a taut elastic band and falling to the floor just as uselessly as the burden of the negative thoughts themselves.
To hell with heavy thoughts, we humans are without a doubt our own worst enemies sometimes, we seem to revel in self-despair above self-repair. Our time on this space hurtling rock is far too brief for such empty doubts, I’ll cater to those thoughts no more.
There is always something to look forward to, and on the horizon this time was a great night of music, and a veritable fountain of cider to be consumed, the latter within arm’s reach in the NHC fridge. If only it hadn’t been scrumpy Jacks though. If only I hadn’t started drinking the stuff with a selection of strange, delightful, surreal music aficionados far earlier than normal. Lessons had not been learned from previous devilish dalliances with the scrumpy, and similar lessons will very probably not be learned this time either. Lessons are for gleeful school kids and forward thinking students after all. I’m now a more than occasionally inebriated adult, with a second-hand record shop. That mix generally makes for good comedy and great conversations… and not much else. So, it’s with these two things we make do. I’m okay with that though, some people have much less and we find true richness in the things we love, not in the things we covet.
My perch for the night of the gig was by the door, or on the door to be more precise. It seemed a crazy place of power to put the obviously drunk guy, but it was so crazy it worked. Hell, the Trongate’s even fed me more cider as I arrived, and kept my appetite sated during the entire night, god bless their feisty musical souls… (I had my very own guardian angel on the door too though, I think she stopped me wandering off into the night a few times). Come to think of it, the sheer amount of cans they fed to me probably led to my torn shirt, missing money, damaged knee, and sever case of the next day fear. Four things I was met with the next morning upon awakening half-clothed, and half-couched. Those four things could of course be a medley of unconnected coincidences, but it’s doubtful, that’s just as likely as me paying someone to tear my shirt and kick me repeatedly in the knee before dragging me home, half undressing me, and propping me half floor, half couch, before making their way back into the night to fuck up someone elses evening like some kind of twisted littlest hobo episode.
Anyway, I digress, let’s get onto the acts;
First up on the night, and freshest in my hazy memory was the fantastic duo of Steel Valley Saints. They call themselves Outlaw Skiffle, which I kind of love as a moniker as these guys just dripped old school Americana. Well, oldish school anyway, as the lads still look fairly young, almost too young to be playing with so much skill, confidence, and lyrical swagger. Let us not forget though, that the flush of youth onstage may also be caused by my inebriation levels, which by act number one were already pretty high on whatever chart inebriation levels are monitored. I would not have been surprised to have woken the next day, dragged my dead leg off the couch, dressed the half of me that I had managed to undress the night before, popped on their Facebook page, and seen two wrinkled and sun-worn old bearded musicians staring back at me from the laptop screen. If the skills they have don’t come with age, then they must come from some dark bayou magic. Surely normal folk can’t just learn to play this well. That’s just madness. You must be molded into the skills from birth, at the supernatural whims of some music loving elder God who likes his songs like he enjoys his liquor, with a hard edge and a mean kick. This was quite the opener, to open up an event starring the Dark Vibes and The Rum Riots, you would have to be.
In between the musical efforts, we were also treated to the often savage, but always entertaining lyrical talents of Victoria McNulty, who fills the usually boring between band times with acerbic wit, comedic truths, and brightly spoken moments of pure uttered genius. Usually the between times are spent uncomfortably chatting to folk who you realise you know, but don’t remember their names, or when you last saw them. Victoria saved us from those moments. Every gig should have a poet, and from now on that should be an unwritten law. It's one of the few laws I could get behind (along with the biggies of course), I hope to see Victoria again at an event soon.
Next up was the always brilliant Joe Bone and the Dark Vibes, and once again I could easily find myself running out of words to describe just how good a live set this band bring to the stage. The songs themselves are more than tinged with darkness, they are oozing it from every pore. Please don’t think that I mean dark as only in relation to the absence of light, I don’t mean that at all. You can never have one without the other to balance it out after all. There is plenty of light in The Dark Vibes songs, it’s just a different type of light. No happy clappy fake pish happiness on display here, this is real life poured into a microphone and unleashed on an unsuspecting crowd. The Dark Vibes are bottled up, shaken, opened, and thrown all about your face with glee, and we fucking lap it up. These guys need to take this gloriously depraved stage-show on the road, as the rest of the UK needs to experience this for themselves. A tiny laptop screen, or music blaring from speakers just does not do them justice, and I feel I cannot either, not with words alone. You need to see them to believe them.
Last up on the night, as it’s their album launch after all, are the very hard to pigeonhole (or even describe) Trongate Rum Riots. The reason they are hard to describe is the very same reason we call anything we deem remotely exciting and energetic ‘lightning in a bottle’, even though Benjamin Franklin should have called the remnants of his kite experiment ‘flashy beautiful compact brilliant radiance’ and not been so damn literal (to be fair on old Benji boy he probably wasn’t known for his banter). The latter is of course way more descriptive, but it’s also so hideously chaotic as a descriptive term that we have no way to know what the fuck you are talking about… We need to instead talk about two things you already know, and put them together for a clearer descriptive reference. You know bottles? Good, then we have one of them. You seen lightning before? Good, that’s good. Now imagine the lightning inside the fucking bottle. Inside the fucking bottle. There you go. Now use that to describe everything that is loud, energetic, bright, and amazing. The Trongate's, if I am being literal (or as close as I can be), are a seven piece sea shanty-esque big band style turbo folk group, but to me, that just sounds, well, it’s not really as exciting a moniker as the band deserve. In my head these guys aren’t just lightning in a bottle, they are lightning escaped from the bottle... they are the shitstorm that erupts when Benjamin Franklin accidentally ingests hallucinogenic mushrooms pre-experiment, panics right after the lightning strikes his beautiful fucking kite, and starts smashing up his lab with the lightning arcing and leaping from point to point all around him as he goes totally apeshit. Now imagine all that happening while a hoard of pirates nearby, sing sea shanties at twice the speed as they should normally be singing. There you go, that’s more like it. The Trongate Rum Riots buck all trends and are quite literally unlike any live act you have ever experienced. They don’t set your toes a tapping, they set them ablaze. Get out and see them god damn it.
I end my night taking selfies, blabbering to folk I don’t know, trying to get served at the bar after last orders, failing to get served at the bar after last orders, then blacking out.
All in all, it was a damn good night. I raise a glass to many more like it… not with scrumpy though. Never with scrumpy.