@ Electric Ballroom, London, UK
21st March 2014
Review by Kirsty Birkett-Stubbs
Photos by Inty Malcolm
Seems Red Fang are hot property. They haven’t just packed this place out, they’ve done it as an upgrade having originally been down to knock the O2 Academy Islington into shape. Instead it’s the Electric Ballroom doing the honours. Looks like no-one’s brought their dancing shoes though – but elbows are sharpened and necks primed. We all know which way this is going to go down – only the finest pits for Portland’s finest.
Someone’s making a lot of noise. Outside half a borough of mothers are going “turn it down.” Lord Dying can’t hear though (2.5/5). No one can hear right now. This is some heavy shit, probably the heaviest stuff that you’ll hear tonight, all buzzy riffs and thrash-cum-doom style.
The band are pretty static with it though. Kind of makes the bouncer’s warning about stage divers pointless. No-one’s getting amped up enough off that energy for an over the barrier launch.
Sometimes though it lapses into just noise though, not musical noise, but noise noise. Which is a shame because on record Lord Dying are always able to balance that raw sound with a little finesse. Tonight though it feels all a bit ‘turn it up’ and let it ride. Be great if next time though they got across a little more of that depth. Might keep the local mums happy too.
Next up is some long-haired leather-jacketed rock ‘n’ roll with punk pretensions. Or The Shrine (4/5) as this trio from California have monikered themselves. The first minute or two is part jam, part tune-up, part intro – but it’s all good.
And then there’s guitarist/vocalist Josh Landau’s “This one’s about” little intros to each song. It’s kind of nice, something that’s often missing nowadays, that story of why a song is. Even if you’re not sure you’re being told the truth.
He plays a mean solo too. Sometimes it descends into the kind of extended guitar widdling that is usually the privilege of the greats, but proves that it shouldn’t be.
There’s a vintage vibe, but the attitude is all young as evidenced by “Worship’s” punky gang-vocal chorus, whilst “The Duke” takes a more scuzzed-up Sabbath approach. Any one who thinks you need more than one guitar, more than three members to be a proper band needs to go see The Shrine. And say sorry.
Red Fang (4/5) tear straight into the crowd like dogs at an unattended barbecue. But with better beards. Instead of absolute horror though, the scene is an outpouring of reciprocal love. Although if “Hank Is Dead” maybe this is what done him for. Because tonight Red Fang sound massive even when on the surface they’re being more measured. It’s because there’s so much more bubbling under than you’d immediately suspect.
Much of the set is pulled from last year’s WHALES AND LEECHES, but that’s the newbie’s privilege. And tracks like “No Hope” don’t have to make much of a case for their inclusion giving the pretence of being dinged-up stoner rock but actually are pretty slick affairs that go down without much trouble. There’s almost a tag team vibe down in the pit with one kid in and one kid out rules, but none of them are ever in immediate danger. Which will make mums even happier.
Either it’s not coming across so well, or they’ve just not brought it tonight, but sadly a little bit of the Red Fang good-time mentality seems to have evaporated, with this feeling a touch ‘all business’. Or maybe they’ve sidelined the chat so they can give us more tunes. What is nice though is to hear that new material in its sweaty glory. It takes some of the sheen off the recorded versions and makes songs like “1516” feel more lived in, particularly when it comes to the rougher vocals.
“Wires” opening salvo rings out in an upping-of-the-ante before Aaron Beam’s vocals slide over the top, and then there’s “Blood Like Cream”, which has garnered the Fangsters so much attention, with it’s almost indie-chorus line. The Electric Ballroom’s not-even-remotely-badass curfew means the encore is so unmilked it’s all the way back in the cow, but we do get to go full circle to the very start with “Prehistoric Dog” proving it’s still got all its teeth.
The same can be said about the crowd. Because whilst Red Fang brought an A game, ultimately they’re leaving with those chompers unbloodied, and everyone’s still got their molars. The departing masses look rocked, but in the safest way possible. A little spit and polish and they’ll be as good as new. And that’s a shame because the best shows stay with you for a few days. Hopefully next time Red Fang will chew us up and spit us back out, rather than nibble around the edges.