In true Crippled Black Phoenix fashion, the band kicked off their European tour in U.K. backwaters and Getintothis’ Simon Kirk was there to see it all unfold.
Scunthorpe’s Cafe Indiependent may just be one of the finest music venues in the UK. There it is, folks.
Split over three levels, Cafe Indiependent is filled with vintage furniture, bookshelves homing an assortment of literature and walls littered with frameless sketches of artwork and discarded musical instruments. Did I mention the life sized penguins dressed as handmaids tales, too?
All told, it’s home to artistic bric-à-brac and coincidentally, tonight Cafe Indiependent welcomes possibly the UK’s biggest bric-à-brac artist – the rough diamond that is Crippled Black Phoenix.
On the subject of their homeland, Crippled Black Phoenix have been an elusive bird of prey; their natural habitat seemingly on the European continent as opposed to the U.K., with shows here over the years being far more sporadic. Having chosen North Lincolnshire’s Scunthorpe as the town to kick-off their European tour only adds this mystery.
Crippled Black Phoenix are the ultimate crossover band. A band for the punks. A band for the greebos. A band for the crusty rockers. A band for the average Joe. A coalition of music enthusiasts all sharing a desire for this band’s raucous discord and apocalyptic balladry. So, where Britain is concerned, why does their music all but fall on deaf ears? A hidden gem to some, casually discarded by others. It’s baffling.
Local act, WeirdWolf, kick off the night. It’s no nonsense, meat and two veg’ desert rock on uppers. It resonates with the small crowd who are drifting in from the high street.
Next up is Fotocrime, which is the new project from Ryan Patterson, also of post-hardcore rockers, Coliseum. Quite frankly, we have to double-take who it actually is, such as his physical transformation.
“I don’t give a fuck about anything in the world except for what’s in front of me,” he says, urging the crowd to push forward, which they do.
Now looking like a chiselled out figure who could easily be mistaken as the President of the Louisville Kentucky chapter of the Hells Angels – Patterson has reinvented himself in Fotocrime as a pure anti-rock maverick.
Usually a three piece, it’s just Patterson and a drum machine with the set comprising of bourgeoning post-punk ditties from 2018’s excellent debt album, Principle of Pain. Highlights includes The Rose and The Thorn, Love in a Dark Time, All Is Hell and Nadia.
Dressed from head to toe in black, it’s a stirring performance – a perverse spin on performance art. Patterson has shed his skin into true original in the who-gives-flying-fuck department. It’s spellbinding.
It’s time for Crippled Black Phoenix to emerge and present their shadowy interpretations of hard-rock to the Scunthorpe faithful.
Following the spoken word denunciation of You Brought It Upon Yourselves which hauntingly drifts from the speakers, the eight-piece occupies the stage and give us Great Escape‘s To You I Give. A solid opener from an album which is their finest in years.
Bronze pairing, the thinly barbed No Fun and Champions of Disturbance Pt 1 & 2 ricochet around the room with a deadening emotion. Personally, it’s not an album that finds its way to the turntable platter too often, but live these tracks open up a corridor that shines a light. They are loud and visceral.
Guitarist and CBP founding member, Justin Greaves, confirms that the latest incarnation of the band has only been together for a week, with a new guitarist, drummer and bassist (who is Ryan Patterson) having only rehearsed these songs for three days prior to embarking on this voyage.
To add further insult to injury, various band members are full of cold. If ever there was a self referential album title then CBP‘s 2009 album, 200 Tons of Bad Luck, seems fitting in this latest spate of hard knocks which seem to incessantly haunt the band.
Rain Black, Reign Heavy follows, negotiated by Belinda Kordic who drags the band through this end-time ballad with ease.
“This one’s for the animals,” says Grieves, and with that more diatribes leak from the backing track.
“To the animals, all people are Nazis…”
Nebulas is delivered with a punchier tempo, courtesy of CBP‘s fill-In drummer, Gaspar, who arrives all the way from Budapest.
Great Escape Pt I is spearheaded by luscious piano from Helen Stanley. The mix is perfect all night. Grieves‘ wailing feedback and Patterson‘s booming bass underpin the track and unleash an element you don’t fully recognise on record.
You Take The Devil Out of Me First is not only a surprise because it’s a key number from the Joe Volk era of the band, but the fact that Kordic takes the vocal reigns, monetarily shaking off the lurgy and becoming the most animated band member onstage – and doing it fucking well. It’s one of the night’s shining beacons. The song itself has been transformed into this karaoke rocker. Well, if the jukebox was situated in the Upside Down World or worse, the Dark Lodge…
Daniel Änghede does a fine job negotiating us through more of former vocalist Joe Volk‘s material, with the brilliant one-two fire and brimstone of Fantastic Justice and We Forgotten Who We Are from the brilliant I, Vigilante. They both sound barnstorming, filling the room with untamed noise. Stanley‘s performance on the piano yet another standout of the night, injecting a gentle touch which counterbalance the mustered CBP aggression.
While there has been a ninety minute maelstrom which has unfurled from stage, the crowd seem to have had their drinks spiked with sedatives, for the band leave the stage with barely a limp applause. It’s an odd moment where the collective enthusiasm seems to have been blunted by the band’s choice of closing track – a cover of Pink Floyd‘s Echoes and one that Greaves confirms will never be played in Britain again before exiting the stage.
It’s an odd track to close with, as the band’s finest conception in Great Escape Pt II would have blown this night into another stratosphere, despite certain technical difficulties, late personnel changes and illness. It seems a tough slog for Crippled Black Phoenix but like all good bands, they plough through and tonight saw a fucking good band being – well – just plain fucking good!