Evil Blizzard headed up a stellar bill at Preston’s Guildhall for what will be their only outing of 2019, Getintothis’ Peter Goodbody wasn’t going to miss this one.
It’s a line up to provide shock and awe and, outside of Pzyk Fest or Wrong, it’s difficult to think how it could have been improved. Save it’s an all male bill.
There is no shortage of all female or female fronted bands (Witch Fever, Dead Naked Hippies, Kiss Me Killer) that would have been right at home in this line up and right off we think that was a mistake. But, be that as it may, the six bands on offer tonight would prove to deliver an impeccable show right from the 5.15pm start time.
It’s clear from the set up and the sheer amount of gear on stage this is going to be a special night. Blizzard have pulled no punches here. It’s a pretty big deal for them – 1,000 fans at a home town gig and they’re marking the occasion in style.
“How big’s your dog, How big’s your wife?” Preston locals, Fighting kick it all off with Competition on the massive stage in Preston Guildhall’s big room.
Along with Strange Bones, Fighting are one of the two bands on the bill we’ve not seen before and we’re impressed by their punkish style and irreverent attitude. “My parents are in the audience” quips lead singer, James Hodgson. “Sorry about the swearing, Mum, but it doesn’t really count cos it’s just lyrics.“
“You’re all hardcore, you lot. Thanks for coming down so early, but you do know you’ve six hours of drinking ahead of you.”
The band’s bass player runs a pie shop, so the merch stand has Fighting branded pork pies for sale as well as the usual cds badges and stickers. Genius.
Part Chimp were one of our faves from Wrong a couple of years ago. They turn up tonight with two guitars and two basses, plus a drummer and proceed to tear the place apart, which for a 6pm slot is no mean feat.
It’s a relentless head bang of a set, although we’d be well advised to lay off the superlatives this early in the evening. It’s every bit as good as we remember from last time. This kind of dirty aggression makes for a strong live experience and we’re well up for it.
We guess if you haven’t heard them and want to know what they sound like, then you should know most of the band were wearing Hawaiian shirts on stage. They sound like the complete opposite of a Hawaiian shirt.
We’re starting to get the vibe of this gig. Blizzard fans are all in on the joke that you’re supposed to declare the band are shit, their songs no good and generally the whole enterprise is a time waster where we should be glad, even thankful, they’re only playing one gig this year. At least we don’t have to spend more cash on travelling to see them elsewhere. The band plays along with the joke and actively returns the abuse. It’s all a bit of a lark.
But, actually what that does mean is a there is a real sense of collective tonight. There’s almost a common bond that doesn’t happen at other gigs. We’ve spoken about this atmosphere before at events like Comic Con and Rebellion. It’s a safe space where like minded people can gather together to indulge a common passion.
Maybe ticket sales hadn’t been what Blizzard would have liked, or maybe it was a deliberate plan, but the day before the gig, the band announced any ticket used at the door before 6pm would admit two. The idea was to encourage people to get down early and see the supports.
So far, we think that was a good plan. Until Strange Bones hit the stage at which point we know that was a good plan. Another band we haven’t seen before and a revelation as singer/shouter Bobby Bentham decides this biggest of stages isn’t big enough for this caffeine infected Beastie Boys impression. Covered in tattoos and not really caring whether he’s on stage or off it, this is a raw and powerful Fight for the Right to Party kind of mash.
“Let’s see some energy Preston” as he leaps off the pit barrier once more. He’s got plenty to spare and if he bottled it to sell he’d be a rich guy.
We’re also happy to report that Fighting have sold nearly all their pies by this point. It was indeed a smart idea.
The Membranes arrive, unusually, sans choir. It feels like they’re the most “normal” band on the bill. Until John Robb announces: “We’re The Membranes, welcome to outer space”. Although, apparently the edge of The Membranes’ universe is Reading. Or Fleetwood. Take your pick. It makes no sense. But neither does Do The Supernova, other than it’s a cracking rock song.
The band have pretty much shed their original punk material, but not the ethos. It’s another classy outing that plays around with rock, punk and dub reggae to great effect.
“Anybody wanna dance with The Membranes?” asks Robb before Black is a Colour. A bass heavy behemoth of a tune that has quite a few accepting his invitation. It’s hotting up in here and we’ve still a way to go, yet. There’s a new album coming out in June, which is welcome news.
“Where’s the choir?” shouts out one of the audience. “They’re in my pocket.” says Robb ,”Do you know how much it costs to bring them out?” To be honest, while we love the extra texture brought to a Membranes gig from the choir, John Robb can hold the room in his own way without them.
Nature Takes Away from the new album has an almost Joy Division feel about it. We approve. That The Membranes continue to write new music, to evolve is encouraging. And good.
Now for Pigs, Pigs, Pigs, Pigs, Pigs, Pigs, Pigs: “It’s a bit like Castle Donington isn’t it. We’d like to thank Thin Lizzy who were on before us and Judas Priest who are on next. We have been Twisted Sister”
Matt Baty doesn’t take himself too seriously as he makes full use of the stage’s real estate, jumping and prowling around half naked as he tells us what’s what. Pigs’ brand of psych is uncompromising, visceral and exciting. There is not a lot to compare it with.
There’s a reliance on a very heavy rhythm section and Baty’s voice put through a reverb (although perhaps less now than when we first saw them). They can rattle off a three minute number of power rock with ease, but they’re at their absolute best on the longer numbers where 10 minutes or more gives them the chance to explore experiment and develop a theme. It’s prog/psych if there is such a thing. It’s utterly brilliant.
They may be playing to one of the biggest crowds they have encountered to date, but that, surely, is their choice. Of course it’s great to see them in a 100 or so capacity venue such as The Shipping Forecast, as we did last year, where the sweat drips off the walls and Matt Baty is almost right in your face. But this band deserves a bigger audience and a wider appreciation of what they do. There are plenty of people out there who get this style of heavy, noise rock and we’re sure they could be at a bigger stage near you soon.
Blizz take to the stage to the usual torrents of abuse. “Are you tired or something?” drummer Mark Whiteside retorts, “We can’t fucking hear you”. It’s pretty typical for an Evil Blizzard gig. There’s an inflatable cock being bounced around the audience, in stark contrast, deliberate, perhaps, to the guy in the audience dressed as the Pope. Maybe Sacrifice is an appropriate song with which to open the set in the circumstances.
The classic Unleash the Misery gets an airing early on and the packed Guildhall is well up for this now. “We’re gonna slow it down now. This one’s for all you people who took your partner to Paris for a romantic weekend, only to discover he’s a raging alcoholic“. Whiteside says by way of an intro to Pull God From the Sky. True, it’s a bit slower than most of their work and brings a bit of a pause to the proceedings, but it’s still a powerful piece.
That, in part is down to the line up which is four bass guitars and some keyboard knob twiddling, but whichever way you cut it, and no matter how high the guitars are tuned, you’re always going to get punched in the stomach by this lot.
“There are people here from as far away as Newcastle and Southampton,” observes Whiteside, “We can’t emphasise how fucking stupid you are – It’s almost like you’re enjoying yourselves.”
The band finishes the set proper with Are You Evil, a song which kind of says all you need to know about this band. They taunt us with a couple of encores before wandering off stage with contempt.
As we file out of the venue we realise there’s a final sting in the tail. All night the PA has been playing punk classics in between bands – lots of Pistols, Clash, The Ruts and the like. That changes as we leave and the music choice has switched to 80s disco. Blizzard know how to make a point.
All in all this was a terrific night. There were new bands to discover as well as crackers we’ve seen before. What a mini fest that was.
Images by Getintothis’ Peter Goodbody