Friday, 6 May 2011
Hands aloft, singing every word like Moses has just arrived with them etched onto a stone tablet, the crowd surges and lunges towards the stage. You half expect them to begin talking in tongues. As the lights get brighter and the music gets louder, the sweat pours. The resurrection has begun.
It’s been six years since we’ve heard anything collaboratively from Sebastien Grainger and Jessie F Keeler, but it’s clear from their ever-so- nearly sold-out appearances at the Forum (of which this is the second) that the fans have stayed loyal – praying, watching, waiting. As the lights go down, the roar is almost as deafening as the sound that’s going to follow it. A girl standing next to me raises her arms to clap her approval, revealing a tattoo of the group’s logo (the band members with elephant trunks) on her wrist. For a little known hardcore dance-punk band from a backwater in Canada, with only one full-length album and a particularly acrimonious divorce behind them, that’s no small accomplishment.
As Keeler later points out, bands that sell out The Forum usually have hours worth of material to draw from. DFA1979 play their entire discography, manage a bit of audience matchmaking, and sample Michael Jackson in just over an hour, including an encore.
But what an hour it is. Each riff, as massive as a skyscraper, crawls under your skin and makes you want to thrash and fight and punch and fuck. The pounding drums bring out some kind of deep primeval urge in the crowd, who bounce and sway and fall as one, like a sweaty human centipede, or cells wiggling in a petri dish. And then come the keyboards, crunching and fuzzing with feedback, as heavy as if Metallica and Slipknot held a thrash-off. It never lets up. The intense, arsehole-tearing wall of sound is what I imagine soldiers listen to in Apache helicopters when they’re getting ready to nuke something. If I had to psych myself up for a bombing raid, this and Slayer would be first on my playlist.
And then, no sooner has it begun, it’s over. Battered and confused, blinded by strobes and assaulted by speakers, the crowd stands shellshocked. They may not have cured leprosy, but DFA1979 rose from the dead, converted the non-believers and pacified the faithful. They’re probably backstage right now turning water into wine. Amen to that.
Wednesday, 4 May 2011
Osama bin Laden may have been shot in the head and thrown to Davy Jones’ Locker, K-Mid and P-Willy may finally have had that snog on the balcony, but really, the bank holiday was about one thing and one thing only: The Crawl. Combining all that’s great about festivals (the desire to drink cider at 10am and, you know, bands and stuff) with actual toilets and a convenient ride home, North London’s finest institution turned ten this year. We celebrated by getting drunk and seeing some music. Once more unto the breach dear friends…
First up is Veronica Falls at Dingwalls. Their Primitives-esque tunes and adorable boy-girl twinkliness make us feel all mushy, and best of all, singer Roxanne’s red dungarees remind us of climbing trees, riding bikes, and the time our Mum let us play in a massive puddle of mud. Hearts warmed, and bowl cuts ruffled, we hop, skip and jump our way to the Black Cap for Eagulls, a slightly spikier proposition. Their non-hardcore hardcore may not have appealed to fans of the night’s final act, Cerebral Ballzy, but their sound is still ear-splittingly loud enough to crack a few pint glasses. Passionate, angry and delightfully jangly, the band take the best bits of The Las, The Smiths, The Sex Pistols and even Maximo Park, and channel them through sing-along tunes. Not your average punks.
Any eulogies for the death of hardcore are premature though, as we find ourselves faced with the sheer hilarity of Ballzy. It’s always hard to know if they’re joking or deadly serious, but whatever the case, the Brooklyn skaters are having the time of their lives. Bursting onto the stage with a swagger only New Yorkers can truly pull off, their multicoloured shirts and songs about puking, pizza, being rad and killing cops, make us feel like we’re thirteen and angry at the world. Despite their energy, the set falls a little flat though, perhaps because the long thin room feels a bit vacuous, and there isn’t really enough space to get a convincing pit going.
We start the day with a sense of déjà vu and another encounter with Ballzy, this time at the Red Bull arena. The fresh air must have revitalised them, as they seem less stale, more able to energise the crowd, and most importantly, louder.
Perhaps they’ve been taking tips from OFWGKTA who have the crowd whipped into a state of frenzy before they even take to the stage. As chants for their arrival fill the arena, it’s clear that the hype machine is in overdrive, and not only because Nick Grimshaw has been tweeting about them all morning.
It’s only their second ever gig in England and the pressure is on, but thankfully they don’t let us down. From the minute they bound on stage wearing balaclavas and spy coats, all bets are off. These guys are hands down the festival’s highlight, entirely justifying every column inch. Voices like DMX and Ol’ Dirty combine with dance beats, sick, weed-soaked lyrics (“Fucked a pregnant bitch and told my friends I had a threesome”) and Black Flag attitude to create the punkest non-punk show we’ve ever seen. There’s crowd-surfing, fights with bouncers, a stage invasion and a suicidal leap from the speaker stacks, as well as a moshpit that threatens to swallow Grimmers whole.
As we gasp for breath and shunt ourselves back onto the High Street we can still hear the band’s roadies begging people to stop partying: “Please get off the stage. We don’t want anyone injured. We still have a lawsuit pending from that gig in Belgium…”
Elsewhere, (on account of a programme misprint) we catch Benjamin Francis Leftwich, smooth of tongue and fresh of complexion, at the Forum; Flats – earth-shatteringly loud in a tightly packed upstairs venue; Treetop Flyers – all dandy hats, beards, double denim, truckers' caps and romance-at-the-rodeo four-part harmonies; and then, of course, Graham Coxon.
Indie’s foremost Alan Bennett lookalike takes to the stage a little late, but he’s so well loved by the crowd (who have earlier partaken in a rowdy sing-along of 'Parklife') that he could pretty much roll up whenever he fancied. Wearing his trademark stripy t-shirt, he roars through material old and new, veering from tight pop punk to post-punk, and even throwing in a bit of electronic-backed agit pop. Despite being described as ‘our generation’s greatest guitarist’ by Huw Stephens, he grimaces his way through chord changes and looks at his band in relief as he manages them, making it clear that it’s something he works hard at. Buzz saw don’t come easy.