Review by Paul Castles, Photos by Rich Thompson
Arriving just a little later than hoped for at Scruffys, I descended the stairs with some trepidation as the sound emanating from the basement venue was not too dissimilar to a feral cat being skinned alive. On entering the cavern the sight is not quite as gore-soaked as first feared, although it’s still a fairly intimidating one with local quartet Conjurer in full flow casting their black magic potions across the room.
Last seen opening up at The Rainbow for the likes of Alunah and October File, Conjurer’s burgeoning reputation as blistering exponents of the dark arts, has elevated them to such esteemed platforms as The Black Heart in Camden in recent months. Such was the raging storm of visceral violence that they were whipping up to ever greater heights, that guitarist Andy even had to seek refuge from the maelstrom to play the final song standing among the front rows of the crowd, several of whom looked in perilous danger of sustaining peripheral damage from his stringed weapon of aural destruction.
If you get the chance, catch Conjurer when they return to Scruffys on April 30 alongside fellow local luminaries Kataleptic and headliners Sworn to Oath.
Pist are the musical equivalent of the young Victorian street urchins with their dirty knees, foul mouths and penchant for the demon drink. As their name so gloriously celebrates, these Lancashire lads like to keep the liquid flowing and singer Dave Rowlands managed to indulge in a colourful cocktail throughout their set.
Last seen in these parts when performing on the October File bill at The Rainbow, Pist are one of the most entertaining purveyors of seamless sludge around. Roguish frontman Dave teeters between guitarist John and bassist Michael like a disorientated three-legged lurcher trying to remember where he buried his bone. As he staggers around in circles Dave is nailed on to send shivers down the spine of any health and safety observers in the audience as the mic cable gets wound ever tighter around his neck. Pist endearingly play on their reputation for slovenly sludge but they even managed to outdo themselves on only their second song when a misunderstanding over the playlist saw singer and guitarist launch into completely different songs entirely!
While most fans ‘get Pist’ rather than actually ‘get pissed’ one mothballed miscreant managed to leave his unwanted mark on things in a most inglorious way. As Dave offered a bottle of the hard stuff to the front row in the spirit of spirits, this clown grabbed it and managed to neck half the bloody bottle! This went down like a lump of bread pudding with the Bury boys who refused to play another song until this dozy deviant had gone to the bar to replenish their alcoholic stocks, or at the very least buy a pint or two.
As the by now bewildered bandit showed very little interest in putting his hand in his pocket a kind of stand-off ensued. While not exactly gunfight at the OK Corral, an increasingly agitated crowd started to tell this bottle swigger (rather than gun slinger) to get his money out and buy the band a pint. As frustration levels grew, Pist decided the show must go on, finishing the set in brilliant fashion. Our whisky warrior was determined to have the last word however, jumping up on stage to give Dave a bear hug and even grabbing the mic to address the by now open-mouthed Scruffys crowd. This was taking one liberty too many, at which point Dave unceremoniously shoved this sad soul of a human being, sending him tumbling backwards onto the floor in Madonna like fashion! Fortunately it will take more than one halfsoaked halfwit to dislodge Pist.
With the Scruffys clientele still struggling to get their heads around the unwanted intruder, Bong Cauldron, in their typically blunt Yorkshire manner, made it clear from the off that they would not be getting bogged down with any similar shenanigans. With an earnest declaration, “We’re from Leeds and we don’t give our beer to anyone!” the bearded trio immediately kickstarted a seismic swell of percussion that neatly picked up the baton laid down by Pist.
At times veering into drone territory as their relentless grooves threatened to open up a crater deep enough to swallow a truck, everyone – almost literally – got carried away by Bong Cauldron’s fuzzed up psychedelic joyride. After a song from their new EP, they then invited Pist bassist Michael on stage to take the mic for a song. Unfortunately we didn’t get very far into it before a broken string brought proceedings to a brief halt, although this provided the perfect window for the wittier members of the audience to hurl abuse and platitudes at the grinning trio.
Having papered over the cracks, Bong Cauldron continued the onslaught of sludge-lavished tunes that at times were so thick and sticky it was almost like wading through treacle. With guitars downtuned so low they were almost scraping the floor, Bong Cauldron’s pounding performance included more distortion than a 1970s TV in a thunderstorm. With rhythm and bass ricocheting like billiard balls after a particularly powerful strike, Bong Cauldron bowed out with another monster number consisting of riffs so heavy they almost needed to be carried out on a stretcher.
Following on from Pist and Bong Cauldron were the third and final piece of the self-proclaimed ‘Filthy 3’ jigsaw, Gurt. The Londoners are a few notches up the ladder from the rest of the bill, having played at Bloodstock to rave reviews last year. Once again they did not disappoint with their sounds straight from the swamps.
Gurt’s stoner sludge mix is so tasty you just have to return for second helpings. The heaviness is thunderclapping good but the riffs will literally set your bones popping from their joints. Gareth Kelly is a manically mesmerizing performer skipping across the stage as though he’s just been found after living a life of solitude on a remote desert island.
Their new EP features such glorious tracks as the riotous ‘8 Out Of 10 Cunts’ with Gareth insanely pirouetting through the chorus of ‘around and around and around we go’. All in all, a simply stunning night.