As I enter the top corner of Shakespeares, two things hit me; deafening volume and a woman with a sax. It sets the tone for the evening, and she sets it for her band. The first act, Champion Lover, rally around their female saxophonist/frontman for most of the set, who conjures Eastern doom one minute and euphoric blitzkrieg the next. The songs themselves are build on chaotic jamming, and like a preserve, things get messy when you throw it around. Add to the pot a drummer with one VERY LOUD beat and a mic with TOO MUCH echo, bake for ten minutes, and get quite a sight for sour ears. In fact, the whole performance acts as a giant centrifuge, shooting off all the onlooker who aren’t sucked into the maelstrom, mainly for the door back downstairs. The noise is disorientating, alien and wonderful but it’s weird when the guitarist chats about t-shirts at the end. This is the sound of stars dying, surely?
Next up Blood Sport, the self-styled ‘aggro-beat’ savants, saunter on to a growing room. Two thirds of the band look like Hollywood dweebs, but it’s their glasses that trigger this particular analogy. At first they reminded me of Ghostbuster’s Egon but, since hindsight is 20/20 vision (ho!), I’m now certain Blood Sport have been studying that other hilarious white-collar, Patrick Bateman. Behind the ‘horn-rimmed non-prescription’ frames and civility, who have thunk there’d be a bunch of masochists, who feel nothing to beat a riff to death for their own sick kicks… for at least seven minutes a song. Like Champion Lover, Blood Sport are all about the heavy noise event, but without a bassist, you’re left with carpal tunnel drumming and cleaving guitars slowly, agonisingly shifting the rhythm between them. The frontman looks up exactly twice, as if to ask, ‘You still here?’
Finally, Mud Cats Blues Trio come onstage and the drummer snaps his snare drum. After another awkward wait, they’re off into a classic blues noodle, like the last two bands avant-noise never happened. The bassist is wearing a leather jacket, people. Business is meant. Yet he isn’t the singer despite being centre stage. In fact, from song to song the guitarist does the vocals, sometimes the bassist, sometimes the drummer, I guess whoever they feel is best for the job. The lack of egos basically means that they can do the music justice, whatever it takes. Champion Lover and Blood Sport were all about drawing people into an impersonal, bodily experience and it strikes me that the Mud Cats aren’t too far from this either, because they don’t mind cutting themselves out of the music in order to draw the audience into it. Also, they do a mean guitar-face.
If the lovely twelve-track CD given out tonight is anything to go by, featuring Sheffield stalwarts Hey Sholay and Dead Sons to party starters Squires Of Gothos, Not What You Know isn’t just about sax terrorists or electric blues, it’s about getting to know the bands you might have missed. Let’s hope more people turn out for nights like this as NWYK rolls on.