Brain Freeze 2015 - The Atomic Bitchwax / RavenEye / Dead Shed Jokers / Lifer / Heavy Flames / Tradish - Ebbw Vale, EVI - 5th December 2015 Print E-mail
Written by Johnny H   
Wednesday, 16 December 2015 03:00

Brain Freeze is a new two day festival curated by the team behind the Pity My Brain record label that celebrates some of the very best underground rock music out there right now. Joining forces with Vive Le Rock, Classic Rock, Odin’s Rock Club and of course Uber Rock, the £20 weekend ticket that allowed the more discerning music fan access to ten stellar acts was something of a bloody bargain make no mistake, plus you could also snap up day tickets for just £12 too, so it came as no surprise that arriving for the second night I was immediately hearing tales of how well attended the previous night was, and just how excellent and varied the line up (headlined by The Graveltones) was.


Poster original


I was in the middle of my very own brain freeze though due to an impromptu bout of man flu, so I opted to stay away from the Friday, plumping instead for an early night and a whole load of max strength cold medication to get me ready for this dream second night bill. I mean The Atomic Bitchwax playing in Ebbw Vale I was not going to miss. My apologies to Cwmbran stoners Tradish then as somehow I did manage to miss all of their opening set, err, no excuses I simply got my timings wrong, and arriving for what I thought was the first band of the night actually turned out to be Heavy Flames hitting the stage second up….


heavy flames


Leading up to tonight I’m positive I’d seen these four lads from Aberdare before but the more they play the more I start to doubt my memory, I mean they never sounded this good the last time I saw them, and they certainly didn’t make me wonder if this is what Biff Malibu jamming with The Damned might have sounded like. Here tonight though that is exactly what Heavy Flames make me think, and in singer David Hill the band have someone who adds just the right amount of psychedelia to an otherwise straight between the eyes dose of garage rock. These guys impressed not only me but most of the fast growing crowd with their angular look at the world rock ‘n’ roll, and I would certainly recommend them to anyone who likes their music played with a certain undefinable edginess. Go seek them out folks.




So just how do you follow a short sharp shock of bass driven psych rock? Well how about with a short sharp lesson in violence provided by the best metal band in Wales right now, Lifer. Having played alongside Gentleman’s Pistols and Orange Goblin the previous night the ease with which they storm into opener (and title track of their second album) ‘Black Mountain Rising’ almost makes me forget these guys are still unsigned and are not playing shows like this 50 weeks of the year. It just seems so bloody natural to the five guys who make up Lifer, even if they have once again tweaked their line up since I last saw them just a few months back at their album launch show. From that second album ‘Shake The Devil’ and ‘Words Of The Wise’ (complete with a quite snippet of ‘Stakk Attakk’ at the end) stand out tonight, whilst ‘Year Of The Hog’ is the type of song Motorhead can only dream of writing in 2015. With the PA volume also cranked up to Lemmy approved levels it’s left to ‘Nothing Left To Lose’ from the band’s ‘’Cursing Them Out’ debut to shake the foundations of the EVI one last time. The people around look visibly disturbed by what they have just witnessed, something you certainly won’t get from the sanitized shite that fills the UK’s arenas supposedly all in the name of heavy metal. Lifer live and breathe metal, and long may it continue off the back of the excellent ‘Black Mountain Rising’, an album any self-respecting metal fan simply has to own before the year is out. Tell the Lifer lads we sent you…




Another band playing in support of their second album are Dead Shed Jokers, and unlike any of the other bands on this weekend’s bill they are the ones I can safely say are like no one else out there right now. Okay maybe if Perry Farrell had been born and raised in Tudor Terrace, Aberdare as opposed to Queens, New York then maybe I would have some kind of parallel, but however much I listen to their ‘Peyote Smile’ debut or their self titled second record they remain for me one of the most gifted and unique bands in the UK, and I guess that’s why someone like Ginger Wildheart sings their praises so highly too. Every time I see them play songs like ‘Magic Teatime’ live they never sound the same, in fact I was half joking that I get the feeling they simply make it all up as they go along, something I know isn’t true, but wow what a rumour to get out there eh! Having suitably topped up my man flu medication in the toilets to stop my fits of cold sweats Dead Shed Jokers totally twisted my melon (man), and that was just what I needed to set me up for what was about to follow.




So, there’s a guy standing slack jawed admiring the guitar skills of RavenEye’s six string slinger. He turns to his mate standing beside him and yells in his ear “this is the best guitarist I’ve seen playing in Ebbw Vale since Oli Brown destroyed the Steelhouse Club a few years back”. His mate calmly replies “that is Oli Brown you fucking clown”. The conversation stops there, as both go back to marvelling in the manual dexterity of the Norfolk born guitarist, although the slack jawed local is now clued in, and yes, this is indeed the same man, although now he’s here to rock our world rather than play us the blues. I personally can’t hear that much of a difference though, Brown still plays like a horn flinging demon and he still has that fine blues/soul voice that makes songs like ‘Get It Started’ and ‘Breaking Out’ truly stand out from the classic rock pack they have chosen to run with. In fact there are times RavenEye actually remind me of Reef, a band who also stood out from the norm, and that never hurt their chances of making it big now did it. By playing a set that lasted just past the 30 minute mark RavenEye also take a page out of the book of punk rock by leaving their audience baying for more, something we will all be able to get when the band return to play UK club shows next January. In the meantime somebody please have a word with bassist Aaron Spiers about his bass strap length, eh! This is a rock 'n' roll band after all, not Level bloody 42. Ha!


Now here’s one for you trivia fans. A U.S. press ad promoting a then new release on Tee-Pee Records by tonight’s headliners directly contributed to the naming of this very website. So you’ll understand why even though I was well engulfed in the enigma of man flu how I still made such an effort to make sure I did not miss The Atomic Bitchwax when they are playing what is effectively my backyard. With the band in Europe promoting their ‘Gravitron’ album it’s fantastic to see a Welsh date on their tour, so kudos indeed to Pity My Brain for securing such a great name as their second night headliner of their inaugural Brain Freeze festival.




Now having formed as a jam band in the bars of New York and with two thirds of the band (bassist Chris Kosnik and drummer Bob Pantella) also currently taking up the rhythm section positions in Monster Magnet things were never going to be quite as straightforward as perhaps I like my music to be, with many of the fine tunes aired tonight containing extended instrumental workouts that showcase the impressive six string talents of Finn Ryan, that’s not to say the band’s mix of punk/grunge and psychedelia doesn’t go down a storm though, it does. In fact the headbanging the crowd participate in during ‘Bitchwax oldie ‘Kiss The Sun’ is some of the most frantic I’ve seen anywhere this year. It’s just that I can’t get this analogy out of my head that these guys are kind of like Rush raised on Black Flag, and that folks means I never quite get into the groove tonight. For yours truly ‘It’s Alright’ from the aforementioned ‘Gravitron’ album is probably the highlight of the band’s all to brief set, the more direct fist in the face approach of this track actually making me forget about my throbbing man flu head for at least 3 minutes. Through my mediated haze I’m pretty damn sure the ‘Bitchwax show ends with the gigantic sounding ‘Coming In Hot’ before things come to an unexpectedly abrupt ending. There’s no encores tonight and that leaves many of my fellow gig goers looking a little bit bemused, many of them standing around looking kind of shell shocked. Me, I’m simply left grinning (and of course sneezing) like an idiot, because this had without question been a hugely successful first weekend for the team behind Brain Freeze, and that folks is all you really need to know about an event that we should all be supporting when it returns in 2016.


Well done Jamie lad…..well done.