|Slugfe5t - Abertillery, The Railway Inn - 6th & 7th July 2012|
|Written by Gaz E with Dom Daley & Johnny H|
|Friday, 20 July 2012 04:00|
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Slugfest, the most entertaining, most debauched, and most essential free music festival, returned for its fifth glorious year in a different location. With its spiritual home The Mount, a victim of identikit corporations and their all too willing sheep-like followers who stab their own in the back like pissed-up Judases, now a boarded-up graveyard of drunken memories, the event moved to The Railway Inn for its full (-on) weekend of musical hedonism.
But while the shift in venue would, some twenty-something bands later, prove to be a seamless and effective one, one difference between the event of a year ago and the one of 2012 shone like a beacon: the man whose two-fingered salute to us all from the event poster situated behind the bands on the opening (Friday) night may well be gone but, like The Mount, must never be forgotten. When the Slugfest family lost Robert 'Goobey' Greenow earlier this year at the horrifyingly young age of forty they lost more than just a regular attendee; this man, as well as playing the event, was also one of its (and its spin-offs) most loyal supporters. Slugfest lost a piece of its fabric the day he left, many of its followers (myself included) a friend. It's important that everyone connected, everyone who knew him, thinks about him every once in a while, and smiles, then he will never really have left us....
To the music.
With surely their most stable line-up ever, Gallini, as is tradition, cut the ribbon on the festivities with their monosyllabic masterpiece 'Ma Baker'. They use the instruments of the first band proper which are no doubt now haunted, cursed like Def Leppard or the cast of Poltergeist.
That band, Sensory Chaos, don't so much kick things off as kick the friggin' doors in. This heavy-duty five piece from Newport lays waste to latecomers with a short set that sets the tone for the entire weekend by being both musically brutal and of a frighteningly high standard. Reminding me of Devildriver at times, this band stomp and shred and shout their way through a set so impressive that everyone in the building is staggered at just how great a weekend this is gonna be if a band like this is the first on of what is essentially the finger bang to the next day's brown love. A great start.
When Ross, frontman of Bring To Ruin, walks to the mic wearing a cadet cap and looking uncharacteristically sedate I fear that perhaps he has taken the warm-up label a tad too seriously: this thought lasts about twelve seconds. His hat is discarded, his crazy Killer Klown/Doc Brown hair unleashed like punk rock pipe cleaners, and he is up on the backs of seats, launching himself out of the bottle bin, and generally showcasing how much of a frenetically hypnotic frontman he has become. They might have crawled out of the rubble of previous bands like Rejected and Threat Manifesto but the members of Bring To Ruin are currently in the best band of their respective musical careers. This stun grenade of an outfit is primed to go off at any moment.
Those of a heavier persuasion had but a few minutes to get their horns in order after the DNA of the previous band's singer had been wiped from every surface in the locality of the stage area. Doomchild cloak the entire venue in swathes of the gloomiest, sludgiest metal to ever crawl out of the swamp and make its way to the former industrial strongholds of South Wales. You know they're coming, you know that a truckload o' doom riffs are about to bruise your ears and your senses but, no matter where you are in the venue, when they arrive you can't help but nod your head and pull your gnarliest metal face in time with them. This shit is so heavy that no airline would ever agree to carry these tunes....unless it was Air Doomus, of course. This band gets better every time I see them, let's hear it for the boys.....
"That bloke has more extras strings on his bass than I could ever play on mine!" Yes, stood alongside me while Tempestora tear into their highly-anticipated set is the legendary Zoot, a sandwich board for care in the community made flesh. The eleventeen string bass hanging around the metalli-frame of Sam Shiers may well have a neck wider than Zoot's simpleton grin but it throws out leaden low end as the young trio thrash (literally) out a stormer of a set. Would I be right in saying that Tempestora on this very night incite the very first wall of death in Slugfest history? Okay, so it might have only consisted of several speed metal-hungry punters but it showcased the ability that this gargantuan Gloucester three piece have in commanding attention with their noisy, technically excellent metal. Another band that I have seen mutate into a formidable beast.
Goat Leaf's appearance at Slugfest 4 was disappointing for just one reason: nowhere near enough people were still conscious to witness it last year. Switching shifts to the opening night works wonders as wide-eyed and wanton music fans marvel at the soundscapes pulsing out of the speakers - and kudos to all involved in making every band sound great - as frontman Jonny Maycock, possibly the best dressed gentleman in the room, throws out shapes and sounds that traverse decades. The real Johnny H, guitarist John Hodgson, may well be a member of Warrior Soul but Goat Leaf is anything but a side-project; this is a sonic assault that grooves out of the band and into your life, warming your soul and retrofying your mind as if you were flicking through the pages of a vintage, sun-bleached magazine. With a second album in the can waiting to further your musical education, things are, deservedly, moving forward for Goat Leaf. I need recommend this band no further: they will gradually be absorbed into your consciousness and you won't even know it.....but you'll love it.
With the opening night climaxing without a hitch, an unaccustomed early(ish) night had by all, attentions turned to the Saturday, worryingly dubbed 'The Mainline to A&E' - happily, the only things to be broken, shattered and bloody some twelve hours later were morals.
Confirming the thoughts of everyone with fully functioning auditory canals, Gallini is the only band that gets progressively worse with every gig and rehearsal that they sully humanity with. 'Sheriff of Cwm' makes an appearance - the song, not the infamous lawbringer who has more sense - alongside 'Satsuma' and a new power ballad dedicated to a member of the audience, 'Fuck the Pseudo Giants'. There is no 'Gaz Loves Shaz' as promised though, the only reason I troubled my ears with these conmen. Redemption comes though in the form of a classy tribute to the Rock Of Ages morono-movie, the fake Johnny H guesting and looking remarkably like Paul Stanley of Kiss-lite and singing better than the senile starchild as he murders a slew of soft metal classics, a slaughtering of 'Hit Me With Your Best Shot' the one that induces the phlegm to be coughed up into my mouth. Utter shit, as always.
The drummer of Hacksaw, Roy Hacksaw, obviously born to be in this band, is wearing the same t-shirt that he wore at last year's Slugfest - Slipknot change their outfits more than this punk rock duo who worship Bath City and have, in 'Golfing Comedians', one of my favourite songs of the weekend: anyone who can fit the names Stan Boardman and Kenny Lynch into a song and make it essential listening are my kinda band. 'Bogroll' finds the Andrex assault as violent and achingly funny as ever and provides the venue's staff with a much needed clean-up run-through. Noisy, funny and all-round nice guys - Hacksaw belong at Slugfest.
With a stage at either end of this uber-cool venue you can hardly pause for breath as another great band opens their set while the feedback from the previous band's final dirty chord is still ringing around the rafters. Turning 180 to face the opposite end of the building, a legion of sweaty Slugfesters are suddenly victims of a 'Mass Mutation', turned into 'Zombicidal Maniacs' by the high octane thrash attack of Mutator. This terror trio never disappoint and the bad times are hardly gonna start on a day like today with a cadre of old school thrash fans hanging on their every riff. The twentieth anniversary of Pantera's 'Vulgar Display Of Power' is celebrated with a great rip through 'Mouth For War' before 'Fields Of Endless Pain' plays us out in epic fashion, a monster born of frantic soloing and mammoth riffmongery. Massive.
Heads spinning like Regan MacNeil's, bloodshot eyes are met with what looks like the aftermath of a car crash outside Marigold fancy dress hire. Trigger McPoopshute, in the year since the last Slugfest, have turned into proper rock stars. They have a CD, t-shirts, personalised dart shirts and gig notches on their bedposts from venues stretching the length and breadth of the United Kingdom of Rock. The curious quartet don't let this new found fame trouble their commitment to entertainment though, chucking out haymakers o' gutter rock like there's no tomorrow. These gloryhole vipers love to play dirty and frontman Sutton, blessed with the singing voice of Ronnie Biggs, steals hearts with his tender delivery of trashy classics like 'American Manc' and the legendary 'Sheep'. Credit too to stixxman Lee Nichols for, although being the target of much abuse over the weekend, rising above the haters to perfect that drum playing lark. A bit.
Before Jamie Morgan can win the award for the drunkest person ever at Slugfest - and that shit takes some doing! - he has to strap on a bass and make a mess of the venue's PA with Deathbullet. Seriously, these guys just get better every time I see them. The vocals of Russ Cullis, cleaner than many of the gnarly ne'er-do-wells performing, sets this band apart from many of their contemporaries and certainly offers a different, and noteworthy, dynamic. Drummer David Church smashes out an impressive performance while guitarist Paul Clothier drills out the riffage as the band turn in a performance that is definitely the finest I have seen from them. High quality metal with a hit of desert rock sand blasted into its core.
Almost perfecting the owl-like movements between stages, the tropical patrons of the good ship Railway - monsoon outside, sauna inside - wipe the sweat from their monobrows as they ready themselves for the 'Punk Rock Debauchery' of The Guntys. Noisy and infectious, the three piece spit out a set so typical of their gritty punk meets Celtic jiggery-pokery, a musty hint of ginger polluting their bloodstream. They get everyone bouncing and grinning simultaneously and, with the heavier bands seemingly winning all the plaudits this year, hit the bullseye for the punks in attendance with their simple yet effective three chord anthems. As entertaining as ever.
'Talion', the debut album from Ebbw Vale steelcrunchers and gunpunchers Fell On Black Days, release imminent, has to be one of the most highly-anticipated releases from a Welsh band since the much-promised rock opera from Lotus. This long player, if the way the five-piece attacks the stage area is anything to go by, will be one of the year's most essential, and brutal, purchases. The more melodic backing vocals of new bassist Glenn Newbrook offers something a little different to a band that can only go from strength to strength. Frontman Gavin Robinson owns every eye on him and the twin guitars shred and slay in equal measure. Feed this band by buying its new album and watch it grow into a monster.
There may be less hair in the Outgunned ranks this year, there may even be a band member that polarizes opinion a little amongst the metal militia present but, man, can these guys play and put on a show. The band's 'Embers' EP that was released a few short months ago won over all at URHQ and the mix of Machine Head-esque riffage and technical metal is an impressive one to say the least. Frontman Tom Damsell experiences some issues with his guitar, going so far as threatening to use Sutton's Gallini guitar before realising that it would forever stunt his prowess, but carries on regardless and guitarless, grabbing the mic and head banging his way around the songs like he was a natural: if you've ever seen a guitar playing singer try to perform without his six string crutch end up looking like they'd shit themselves then you'll know how difficult a task this could be. With guitar strapped back on, he is the ringleader to the deserved pit that opens up....directly in front of the venue's doors: the cheek clenching of newcomers is audibly evident.
Classed as a warm-up to the band's first 'official' gig a week later, Trackstar/Pornstar take to the floor at the ladies toilet end - not symbolic, hopefully. Formed by members of 100,000 Bodybags and Dead Radio, Trackstar/Pornstar threaten to play the kind of unashamed punk rock that their aforementioned bands had begun to move away from, somewhat. It works too with memorable choruses vying with infectious noise for supremacy, political polemic coursing through many of the between-song white noise. A fine (non) debut.
I lost count of how many members of supposedly rival bands came up to me as I waited for the arrival of Black Tamanous, the Swansea serial-killer obsessed outfit, to tell me that they were the best fucking band in South Wales. Their album, 'Tacoma', hinted at this when it creepy-crawled its way into URHQ a few months ago, so I was ready for this. Or so I thought. Every voice in my ear obviously belonged to a cultured music fan as this band floored with me with one of the best performances of, fuck, not just this Slugfest, but any Slugfest. Heavier than the seven gates of Hell melted down and fashioned into some kind of twisted monument dedicated to gore, murder and misery, Black Tamanous hammer their way into the crawlspace behind your eyes and work their way around your head until you can resist their black advances no longer. Members of Lifer, Doomchild and Bloodlung join them for a stabbing version of 'Lost' - like this needed to get any heavier - before leaving bleeding and bruised attendees floored with their brutality. These people are punters no longer, they are victims. Staggeringly awesome.
Deadbeat Deluxe appear to go on hiatus more than your average hernia. It's good to have them turn up to offer the Slugfesterers a different take on their punk rock, however. Having shared stages with the likes of The Urban Voodoo Machine, Vince Ray and the Boneshakers and The Grit (who have sadly disbanded recently), their off-kilter, rockabilly takes on the genre lay alternate cards on the table. Their cover of 'Russian Roulette', the seminal Lords of the New Church tune, has us all nodding along approvingly, even if it is simply because another great song has entered the building.
After arriving fashionably late for this year's Slugfe5t I take up my spot down the front for the slimmed down Hip Priests: I say slimmed down because they are going to tackle this year's festival minus a body as Nathan Von Cruz is missing in action. Rather than let down the South Wales massive Austin Rockett, Lee Love and Skintight Tim carry on regardless and decide to play as a three piece with Brother Lee taking the mic for one night only. Before you have a chance to ready yourself this rock 'n' roll beast launches straight into 'Wrist Action' and for the next thirty minutes us mere onlookers are taken to a place that can only be described as Rock And Fucking Roll Heaven. With a fair smattering of tracks from the storming new album 'Full Tilt Bullshit' as well as a few old gems like 'Fuck The Priests', tonight they might only have been a six-legged groove machine but they pack the power of a busload of bands and, again, I'm left scratching my head as to how goddamn long the wider music public can ignore the sheer excellence of this band. Even if I'm in a 'Gang Of One' then that's fine because I know on this one that I'm right and The Hip Priests once again blow me away (if there is a better band out there currently making music in the UK then do let me know). Lee Love did a sterling job on vocals but at times when Austin and Skintight joined in it was like a fucked up sleazy punk rockin' Bee Gees for fuck's sake. The songs sounded brutal as they proceeded to jab and punch the packed room with a menacing purpose. To round the set off they closed with the rip snorting roundhouse of 'Terminal Lust'; Slugfe5t suddenly knows that rock 'n' roll has finally arrived in Abertillery Rock City. Oh yeah, get well Nathan you lightweight because it looked like Lee Love was enjoying the spotlight and Abertillery wasn't the same without your presence. The bar had now been raised to what seemed like an unachievable high for what has to follow that, sheer class! (Dom Daley)
Unachievable? Mr Daley has obviously never let himself be fully seduced by the five young bastards (well, four and that old geezer with the ginger beard) from Bakewell who break hearts, eardrums and the mould and are collectively known as Scutty Neighbours. With Rusty Chaos's stagewear taken down from its glass case on the wall of Jack Nadal's where it has resided for almost a year - what the auburn aural aggravator would have worn if his Obituary tuxedo hadn't received international clearance is anyone's guess - the glunk (copyright PM Williams) superstars plaster grins on the faces of everyone who can be bothered to watch them: they're highly sexual garage (cock) rock predators who can reduce a person to an adulterous mess with but one arpeggio - not being able to face them is understandable. They still wish Lemmy was their dad, they're still taunting those 'Snapback Losers', but they've upped their rock 'n' roll quota with a slew of new ass-kickers like 'Graveyard Smashers' and set closer 'It's A Trap', and a crazed cover of 'Venus' dedicated to the hot mamas in Bananarama, these trash-fuelled mofos too young to remember the song's origin. Rusty's shotgun micstand is pure metal cabaret and, when guitarist Kenny Bueller later describes a band (no names mentioned, of course) as sounding like he imagined AIDS sounded, I realise that I love these fuckers a little bit more every time I see them. Sublime, sleazy, genius.
After the briefest of intervals it's back to the stage for South Wales' finest The Sick Livers, and since the Hip Priests showed how it's done, Ginge leads his merry men through another incredible performance, seemingly benefiting from the performance of Messrs Love, Rockett and Skintight. The Livers simply kicked down that bar and proceeded to shove it up Slugfe5t's backside before the usual Slugfest insanity kicked in when someone deciding to empty the contents of the Times Square ticker tape parade over the band - You knew this was going to get messy, and I mean messy. Ginge climbs on people in the front, centre and back of the room and even manages to knock over the PA system whilst the band knock out some impressive new tunes. Not standing still and with purpose the band launch into 'Blood On Your Halo', 'Cocaine Jeans' and other new tune 'Gimme The Drugs' and it sounded like the Sick Livers have their collective fingers on the pulse and are in ownership of some great songs that they locked down and knocked out sounding tighter and more powerful than before. Looking around the room it seems that the evil powers of rock 'n' roll are indeed working and beaming faces can be seen from the front to the back as the band are absolutely killing it on stage. Before they finish there is just enough time for them to unleash the huge new song 'Bummed To Death' on a very appreciative crowd. They came, they saw, they most definitely conquered. Apologies to the cleaners for the carnage left in their wake but it was all worth it even if I was still picking out bits of paper from my barnet the following morning. God bless The Sick Livers and The Hip Priests the embodiment of what counts in the rock 'n' fucking roll trenches; if either of these bands lead the charge in the fight against musical mediocrity then I'm a heartbeat behind them, no question. The crazy barstuards! (Dom Daley)
Having finally totally escaped the sunbed intensity of merch stall spotlights, I emerged suitably orange of colour to find the first of the two Darrel Sutton approved acts on tonight's bill ready to strut their stuff. Wonk Unit had travelled down from London for Slugfe5t and had only just made it by the skin of their teeth due to a faulty brake pad on their motor. With the assembled throng that was still left standing quietly edging their way in around the lip of the makeshift stage area, singer/guitarist Alex Johnson and his Wonkers decide to utilise the 40 odd minutes they have in our company to open up our minds just a little. They do this by throwing some art school prose into some fiery punk pop that bizarrely has almost a kind of grunge edge to it. I'll be fucked if I can make out any of the song titles (largely due to the aforementioned frontman's penchant for doing his intros all Oscar Wilde like), but there appeared to be plenty of tunes about animals, and plenty of angsty stuff flying past me like literary bullets. If you can imagine what John Cooper Clarke might have sounded like if he'd grown up during the 'Nevermind' years then Wonk Unit really aren't too far away from that strange and maybe rather awkward combination. (Johnny H)
Talking of strange combinations tonight's headliners (?) Dirtbox Disco simply are just that. This is a ten-legged monstrosity of a band made up of some of the freakiest fuckers you will ever lay your eyes on, but boy oh boy can these guys from Burton write a mighty fine tune. Playing a set crammed full of gems from their already uber-approved 'Are You Ready?' EP and debut album 'Legends' this really was the only way to end an already awesome day of music. Set highlights? Well, 'Burning' has everyone dancing like idiots whilst 'Tragic Roundabout' manages to savage The Arrows' immortal 'I Love Rock N Roll' lyric by sticking a banging Ramones/Misfits style donk of a chant-a-long chorus on it. It's all quite staggering in its simplicity but damn does it stick in your head. As the band launch into their Boney M tribute Sutton suddenly pops up next to me like some sweaty reject from the Hitler Youth (he's wearing lederhosen folks) to scream "See I told you they were fucking excellent" in my ear, and I simply cannot disagree with him. Dirtbox Disco really are THE live band to experience right now and in 'Let's Get Wasted' they have birthed a song that every Slugfester will be humming for years to come. For those of you lucky enough to catch this awesome set remember to tell your friends what they missed. (Johnny H)
With the following day reserved for a chill-out session with acoustic performances and a pie eating contest that couldn't possibly top the waxing of a hairy manbeast in the middle of a packed venue on a Saturday afternoon (could it?!), the opening hour of Sunday morning heralded the closing of the fifth Slugfest and an end to all its electric punk rock and metal lunacy.
A massive shout-out has to go to all involved: the stage set-ups were hugely successful and worked well with nary a hitch. The Mount was missed, it always will be, The Dolls House too, but the staff of the Railway need to be severely applauded for pulling this one out of the bag: professional yet respecting of every musical outsider, fuck up and social misfit that crossed their threshold. Perhaps Rusty Chaos said it best: "New venue but it still kicks fucking ass!" Poetry sir, poetry.
Let's do this again.....
It's never too late to make a Slugfe5t donation. Just click the following link for the event's JustGiving page. http://www.justgiving.com/slugfe5t-hov
[Photos by Ian Cates: check out www.iancates.co.uk for the chance to view or buy photos of all bands and many of the beautiful people who attended Slugfe5t]