Mr Davy Wales has been at it again! He was one of the lucky few present at The Railway Hotel on 14th May. He kindly reviewed the gig for us!
Hospitals, Hexes, Black Lungs. the Railway Hotel. Southend. Saturday 14/05/11
Well as far as bills thrown together at the last minute go, it’s gonna take something a bit spesh to top this one. What should’ve been Southends new wave of punk ‘coming out party’ is dampened slightly by some insane health and safety legislation at the venue that only allows sixty people upstairs at any one point tonight, so the lucky few on course to collect their new scene badge by showing up early are rewarded with HOSPITALS. Cut to the case, no mucking about, Hospitals are my favourite new band. Opener “Winter Nine” sets the tone for the concentrated ball of brutality to follow, the venue lights drop out as the build up hits it peak and then bam… we’re in, sit tight and enjoy the ride motherfuckers. Still carrying plenty of the urgency that made previous outfit We Fight Tigers such a venomous prospect they now come with an added cerebral twist to add more of that salty-knife-in-the-eye factor to the intensity stakes. “Control” (working title) is particularly punishing in it’s delivery tonight, every beat & bass line feels like it’s being pushed from the stage and through the crowd like a wave from one side of the Thames estuary to the other, it’s thick and it’s dirty and it’s OURS. Lovely.
Following Hospitals is the first of two sets by BLACK LUNGS who feature Wade MacNeil from Canadian giants ALEXISONFIRE on vocals. Now AOF’s brand of postercore hasn’t really registered on my radar so I’m taking Black Lungs purely on the strength of their performance tonight and, truth be told, it’s a pretty awkward affair from the offset. An early MacNeil tirade about the venue becomes kinetic when he takes an opportunity to launch across the floor and finish one track screaming in face of the Railway manager who happened to be innocently collecting glasses at the time. There’s mix ups between the band over the setlist and a look of shock on certain band members faces when MacNeil makes the announcement that after their forthcoming London show they’ll be calling time on the band completely. There’s no denying that by the second half of the set when Black Lungs really get rolling they are a very capable punk n’ roll act but considering the baggage that comes with having such a big name in the ranks even gems like “Stay Outta Parkdale” struggle to set them apart.
By the time HEXES take to the floor whatever venue ruling was in force earlier in the evening seems to have been abandoned as the crowd size appears to quadruple and given the reputation that precedes Hexes, this is with good reason. Frontman Dan Carter’s career makes impressive reading; from early days in Beacon to the Roadrunner signed Above All, through his time hanging out in the charts with A, to the Lucky Nine & Bloodhound Gang and now as a successful collaborative songwriter and Radio 1 DJ he’s stepped on pretty much every rung of the musical ladder, but tonight it’s all about Hexes. Proceedings hit a touch of turbulence early on as technical problems force the band to finish one track without a guitar but thankfully this just serves as a spark to recover & finish out the set in a more determined vein and they’re eminently better for it. Ultimately they are a band that would benefit from larger venues as their racket is infinitely more vicious when they have a decent sound system to back it & if the delivery is as consistently tight as it is tonight then those grander settings are in serious trouble of being torn down at the hands of Hexes.
So to round out the evening there’s a second set by BLACK LUNGS. Now something must have happened between their two sets but it could only be comparable to a musicians version of Alex Ferguson turning up and giving the band a half time hairdryer, whatever it is the turn around is overwhelming. I’m going to put it down partially to one factor that I believe makes punk and hXc great- the people it draws in and sense of community when all the posturing is put to bed. What transpires over the next half hour is exactly why live music is on the ascension again, the interactive connection where both fans and band are absolutely essential in surviving that precise moment in time, totally reliant on each other and stronger because of it. The front of the room is instantly turned upside down, stage and dance floor become the same thing with musician and punter braided together with limbs and cables, speakers are sent reeling, bodies pitch then collide and fall only to be dragged straight back up by comrades. MacNeil sums it up as going from “probably the worst gig I’ve played in my life to probably the best gig I’ve played in my life, all in the space of an hour…” and appears genuinely humbled by the energy that’s exploding in front of him. He even passes his guitar to one fan and has the mic stripped away by another before joining the unfolding carnage himself. It’s riotous, honest and exciting, it’s rock n’ roll as it’s meant to be played and a totally captivating experience. As I said, I don’t care about AlexisOnFire but I gotta say, I do now care about Black Lungs.