Ginger Wildheart’s Halloween Bash @ Slade Rooms, Wolverhampton – Friday 31st October 2014

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Review by Ian Savage

A drum-and-bass combo in the literal sense of the term, openers Oaf have unleashed a bizarre blitzkrieg of distorted jazz rhythms propping up vocals that alternate between howling and yelping within thirty seconds of walking onstage. An odd choice to anyone unfamiliar with Ginger’s habit of picking out, um, ‘challenging’ acts to open his shows, a brief “We are Oaf, we come from the seaside and we play punk rock” precedes a twisted gut-punch twenty-minute set interspersed with bassman/singer Dom’s genuinely hilarious asides.

Song titles like ‘Disgusted By Your Genitalia’ and ‘Fuck Off Seagull’ may give you an inkling of the Brighton duo’s musical bent, and they manage to set heads bobbing and voices straining across the rapidly-filling Slade Rooms (which tonight, incidentally, somewhat resembles the green room for a Rob Zombie film). Different for sure, but somehow not at all out of place, Oaf should have deservedly gained a few new fans here.

Tropical Contact definitely have. Everyone this reviewer spoke to after their perfect-party-soundtrack set was impressed, making the confirmation that rumours of their imminent demise were exaggerated even more welcome; kicking off with ‘The Wheel’ and proceeding to blast through almost the entirety of their superb ‘Go Getters, Jet Setters, Heavy Petters’ EP against the clock the new lineup have thankfully rediscovered the fire that makes them great.

Singer Ben may have got his appropriated Pagan celebrations slightly mixed up (appearing in a blood-soaked Santa outfit in contrast to his corpse-painted bandmates) but he has got the spirit of the evening absolutely right. Despite almost-constant feedback troubles he straddles the front of the stage with true rock star cojones, throwing out toilet rolls and a Christmas-wrapped inflatable penis in between finely-honed power-pop choruses (climaxing with an incredibly well-received cover of ‘Power Of Love’) – a slightly rough-and-ready set from the new line-up for sure, but it’s great to know that they’ll be around for a while longer.

The evening’s mainman could be seen loitering side-stage during TC; to massive appreciation he takes a few steps forward to join Baby Chaos on second guitar and backing vocals to attack opener ‘Sperm’. It’s apparently been four years since the band last played live (a revelation that makes more than a few present slightly depressed by their own vintage) but their new material sits very comfortably alongside old familiars and there are plenty on the barriers ready to party like it’s 1995.

If anything, the band have introduced a more soaring, expansive aspect to their output (new offerings providing a mature, textured filling when sandwiched between more straight-ahead semi-classics like ‘Breathe’ and ‘She’s In Pain’), and the Glasgow(ish) quartet are barely phased even by a mid-set total stop due to a broken kick drum pedal. There’ll apparently be a new album from Baby Chaos in 2015; here’s hoping it lives up to the potential on display tonight.

It seems that every band featuring more than two people must suffer some form of major technical difficulty this All Hallow’s – Scaramanga Six‘s comes around three songs in. After they’ve admirably won many of even the previously unfamiliar over with ‘I Didn’t Get Where I Am Today’ and ‘Walking Through Houses’ despite a ropy vocal mix. With theirs they out-do both previous bands with a full-bore lights-out blown fuse (“We can’t see our guitars!”) – which does however serve to highlight guitarist Julia’s magnificently Nigel Tufnell-eqsue glow-in-the-dark ribcage T-shirt.

They pull themselves through to closer ‘Pincers’ with massive audience support despite never quite getting back into top gear – a performance for which the adjective ‘spirited’ was coined, and a band which this reviewer will definitely be digging into.

Eureka Machines have their work cut out for them tonight, then. Fortunately the Yorkshire lads have the material and the showmanship to more than up the ante; after powering through opener ‘Love Yourself’ they can afford to take their foot off the gas slightly as the evening is miraculously running broadly on schedule.

“Flattery will get you everything – as long as everything you want is an 8-bit drum intro” frontman Chris interjects before the massive riff and colossal chorus of ‘Affluenza’ sets folk jumping across the room. ‘These Are The People Who Live In My House’, ‘Pop Star’, a couple of unnamed new tunes which shame themselves not at all, a punked-up cover of ‘Kids In America’; cramming the longest time-slot of the evening so far with pop-rock gold and the practised presentation we’ve come to expect from EM it’s a set that will shock no-one who’s seen them before but is absolutely perfectly-placed to prime the punters for the night’s main attraction. After the closing chords of ‘Champion The Underdog’ have faded away the band’s name is still being chanted for a good few minutes; as fine a testament to how far they’ve come as any.

gingerbashAnd so, the finale. As befits the spooky feel of the evening, Ginger Wildheart emerges in a black face-covering body sleeve beneath a sharp white suit, leaving us guessing whether it’s actually him until his distinctive Geordie drawl introduces ‘Lock For Rock’ and the Slade Rooms go appropriately apeshit. With sweat by now dripping from the ceiling he unsurprisingly removes the mask a few tunes into the set (although drummer Denzil (probably), like a trooper perseveres with his own Scarecrow-esque mask throughout) – and what a set.

By all accounts it’s almost totally different from the York show the previous evening, the faithful who sold this gig out within days rewarded with first-ever live renditions of a large chunk of the G.A.S.S project (“I love playing new songs!”), despite a still not-perfect vocal mix. ‘Only Henry Rollins Can Save Us Now’ (“this is a song about someone who used to be a hero of mineā€¦and, um, isn’t so much anymore”) is given the full-bore rock treatment mid-way through before ‘Albion’ track ‘Cambria’ heralds a more familiar home leg, with the guest musicians coming thick and fast.

‘Burn This City Down’ and Silver Ginger 5 tune ‘Sonic Shake’ light the touch paper, and those who haven’t stood well back by the time ‘Do The Channel Bop’ explodes have only themselves to blame. The ever-bubbling moshpit bursts forth, and the band respond in kind; even a couple of false starts to closer ‘Inglorious’ can’t halt the carnage as almost the entire crowd sets themselves to testing what the venue’s foundations can take.

The party continues well into the night. In terms of top-class live rock musicians, there’s little to touch the ensemble that Ginger has put together here – and there’s barely a non-UK player amongst them. If you weren’t here, commiserations; just make sure that you get out and see any of the six acts from this evening as soon as you can. You will not be disappointed.