Live Music Review: Cancer Bats (+ Mitzi’s Revenge, Turbogeist and Shock Horror)
Venue: Fibbers, York, UK
Date: Saturday 8th December, 2012
I think, as I write this, I’ve decided a few things. First, clubs are the best place to see bands. The atmosphere and proximity are unmatchable by any other type of venue. Second, punk rock acts are brilliant live thanks to their vivacity and how they interact with their crowd. And, finally, Cancer Bats are one of the best live acts I’ve ever seen.
Fibbers, in York, is one of those bars that runs underground. It’s dark, dingy and you’re crushed up against everyone. In other words, it’s perfect for a lively gig. I arrived about 5 minutes after the doors opened to a pretty lengthy queue in the freezing cold. Thankfully, the guys at the box office were rather efficient and ushered us through the doors nice and quickly. As I walked in, the merch stands were already swarming with activity and a crowd were hanging lazily around the bar getting drinks and half-watching the first support band, Shock Horror, get ready to begin.
Shock Horror are a Huddersfield-based band playing old-school punk rock in the style of the Sex Pistols, or the countless other punk bands who cropped up during the 80s in Britain both musically and in dress and attitude. They cite influences including Black Flag and Green Day, and although their sound is different, they exude the same energy in their performance. The band were clearly enthusiastic at getting to support an act as big as Cancer Bats and they took the opportunity to aggressively advertise themselves between songs in an attempt to build a name for themselves. Personally, I thought their opening was weak, suffering from a ‘wall-of-sound’ problem with no real definition between instruments and some slightly off-beat drumming but they rallied magnificently and ended up putting on a wonderful, if criminally brief, show. India Mycock provided a barrage of rather impressive screams supported excellently by the two guitarists and backing vocalists; speaking of them, both guitarists managed to pull off a series of searing solos, batting them back and forth easily. My only real complaints were probably the already-mentioned slightly-off drumming and the lifeless bassist, who stuck out in amongst an otherwise energetic band thanks to his determined effort to not show any enjoyment in his otherwise solid playing. The lyrics were also sort of hit-and-miss. On the one hand, some songs featured rather simplistic lyrics – “Fashion following fuck!” was repeated a good few times serving as a chorus to one song – but really these suit the style of punk rock they played and lent themselves well to crowd participation.
Up next were Turbogeist, a London-based band who describe their sound as powerpop-thrash. Personally, I disagree. I’d simply call their sound a massive disappointment. As they walked on, I admit I was filled with a sense of dread. First on stumbled the singer and guitarist, Jimmy, sporting chinos and a long Sherlock-style coat. Looking out from behind his hair his eyes were unfocused and his speech slightly slurred as he gurgled into his microphone that they were indeed Turbogeist. Now, I know punk bands tend to eschew conventional ideas of image, but clearly these guys were so self-reflexive that they had gone full-circle and come out looking like a Killers cover band. Still, image means bugger all really – I’m really just picking on them for having an apparently-stoned frontman and a listless rest-of-band with no stage presence. Then they start playing. Oh dear. The crowd falls silent quickly as they turn out to be an experimental band – they possibly consider themselves avant-garde, but all they really turned out to be was bad. Awkward key changes, badly played out time-signature shifts, guitarists who couldn’t manage to play the solos they’d written and mashing together different genres so that a song that started out in punk could abruptly switch to a blues riff before turning again to a prog section. Ultimately the end sound was jarring and awful to listen to, although I can’t fault them for taking the risk and trying something experimental.
As if that weren’t enough, the band’s stage performance was laughable. The aforementioned stoned Sherlock impersonator vocalist-guitarist spent his time awkwardly and half-heartedly hopping, rubbing his guitar neck up against the mic stand to make some terrible sound and lifting his leg like he was one of those women in old movies who’ve just kissed their new-found love. The other guitarist also pulled some vocals duty, breaking out some decent screams. However, the effect was mitigated by his face turning bright red and puckering up while his legs crossed and he stood up on tip-toes. Really, the only solid performance was the bassist, who spent his time grooving out on stage left, almost a separate entity to the rest of the band. Finally, a last nail in the coffin – their set finishes, the feedback rings out and Sherlock decides the best course of action is to crack the mic stand one and smash it to the ground. Nice move, dude, break a microphone why don’t you? Be disrespectful to the staff at the venue, that’ll gain you brownie points.
The third and final support act were Mitzi’s Revenge, and were a welcome band after the preceding travesty. Possibly the best way to describe their sound is as a Yorkshire version of Cancer Bats themselves. In fact, they list some of their influences as Cancer Bats, Gallows and Slayer and boy does it show. Fast-paced and unrelenting, they dominated the club from the second they started playing. Opening up, Rich Goss let out an incredible scream and threw himself over the barriers and right into the middle of a newly opening circle pit while guitarist Ryan Duggleby laid down an awesome barrage of head-destroying riffs. Once he’d returned to the stage Rich threw himself into his vocals with the same vigour, jumping around stage and riling up the crowd. At no point in their criminally short set did they let up in their energetic performance, even managing to form the night’s only wall of death – and it was a rather impressive one as well, managing to enlist the entire crowd minus the front row who were all staunchly refusing to move, and in the face of this performance who can blame them? Again, they seemed to suffer from the curse of the invisible bassist who was standing directly in front me the entire set but seemed content to not move from his little corner spot. Still, nothing could spoil this performance – Mitzi’s Revenge were simply fantastic.
Finally, it was time for the main event. After teasing the crowd by flashing the lights in their prep room while the crowd were enjoying the venue’s Rage Against the Machine setlist, Cancer Bats came out to the expected massive cheers. All the band members were at the top of their game tonight as well; Mike Peters’ drumming was bombastic and constantly pounding the stage to bits, Scott Middleton’s guitarwork was as powerful as ever and Jaye Schwarzer’s distorted basslines drove through the entire crowd. In fact, he was equally as energetic as vocalist Liam Cormier, getting up on the barrier and jumping down in front of the front row in amongst dealing with a dodgy microphone stand (possibly the one damaged earlier by Turbogeist). And, of course, Liam was thoroughly at home throwing himself into the crowd and around the stage all the while dealing out an array of screams. He’s a fantastic frontman, perfectly riling up the crowd and leading the entire band. They played a large array of songs from across all 4 of their albums, as well as a track from their first demo. They also included some of their most famous tracks, leading out the end of their set with their cover of the Beastie Boys’ Sabotage and single Hail Destroyer. I have only one nitpick, really – that for the entire set the band were hocking all over the stage. Chalk this one up to my sensitive English need for manners. I mean, I don’t suppose it really matters, but it was kind of disgusting. Not that it affected their music or performance in any way. In the end I came out deafened, neck-aching, bruised along my ribs, drenched in sweat and water (cheers to Mike for upending a bottle of water on my head, I was pretty much entirely dehydrated by then and it was a lovely experience) and having enjoyed an incredible 3-and-a-half hours.
Shock Horror – a great new old-school punk band; recommended
Turbogeist – rubbish experimental noise; avoid
Mitzi’s Revenge – the UK Cancer Bats; recommended
Cancer Bats – strong, lively and great interaction with the crowd; recommended
(Originally posted on The Escapist: http://www.escapistmagazine.com/forums/read/326.395685-Escapegoats-Live-Music-Review-Cancer-Bats-Shock-Horror-Turbogeist-and-Mitzis-Revenge)