Sound Circus, Bournemouth
Friday 29th May 2015
Luke 'Loki' Milne
In recent months, Sound Circus has played host to some fantastic names in alternative music. Skindred, 36 Crazy Fists and Funeral For A Friend have all taken to the venue's stage - much to the delight of the local alternative crowd.
Say what you will about the regular club nights (which arguably suffer at the hands of ever-changing student trends and "cliques"), the venue still manages to shake off the shackles of commercialism when required to deliver some great opportunities for the avid live music enthusiast.
Tonight's performance bears no exception to the rule, as Evil Scarecrow return to grace their Dorset fans with a taste of things to come at their Download Festival performance later this month. Supported by local acts Aand? and Tripwire, this show comes just weeks ahead of their appearance at Donington's famed festival weekend and forms part of their warm-up tour, including shows at Bristol, Exeter and Wolverhampton.
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The notoriously bizarre and self-titled "porncore" three-piece Aand? kick into action as the first band to perform for the night. With roots that stretch back as far as 2001 (according to the band's Facebook page), Aand? hail straight from the heart of Bournemouth and are certainly no strangers to the live music scene.
The band's members - Dan Evans, Lewis Somerscales and Pip Sampson - are all seasoned musicians who have performed in multiple bands of varying success throughout the years, and as such Aand? Have quickly amassed a cult following of local supporters.
For those uneducated in the ways of Aand?, they're quite a spectacle to be beheld. Not sure what I mean? Just keep reading.
Amid the recorded backing audio of farmyard animals - complete chicken executions and a sobbing woman being silenced with a swift slap - Aand? sport their trademark checkered morphsuits and deliver a setlist that takes a dive into the wilder, somewhat uncharted territories of musical entertainment.
Presenting a healthy mixture of awkward tongue-in-cheek humour set to a soundtrack of noisy, in-your-face Metal, their performance switches seamlessly from blisteringly short songs - like 'What Is Wrong With Your Face' and 'If You See Me' - to slightly longer bursts of aggravated, hard-hitting music. It's fair to say that the more drawn-out compositions performed by the band are not to be taken lightly, creating quite an impressive experience from a musical perspective.
The exaggerated musical entertainment takes pause only to dip into some well-executed (yet entertainingly awkward) crowd banter, which not only populates the time between songs but also the songs themselves – demonstrated multiple time throughout their performance with the inclusion of quick, witty humour. A little later into their set, Somerscales even takes pause to hand his bass guitar to a crowd member mid-song, showing which fret to press (yup, just the one!) and allowing the happy chap a chance to play along with the band. Nice touch.
In spite of the obvious humour presented by Aand?, the relentless twisting of dissonant chords and double-bass roars is oddly captivating, creating a wall of sound that attacks the ears with effect, showing the band to be much more than a disposable slapstick comedy acy. The unique and cooky stage antics may be loved by some and hated by others, but with some interesting riffs, blood-curdling vocals and roaring rhythmic aggression, it's hard not to feel a little engaged by the tight, technical and... trippy(?) performance delivered by the "Porncore" three-piece.
Up next is a relative "New Kid On The Block". Tripwire have a mere eight months under their belt as a live music act, and yet have generated an impressive amount of buzz among Bournemouth's fanbase - thanks in no small part to a regular live performance schedule.
It can be a little hard to pass judgment on a band that hasn't truly been worn in yet, and with less than a year's experience under their current guise, some might argue that it's a little early to tell. Yet as the band work through their setlist of high-energy, chuggy modern metal, I can't help but feel there's something missing from their performance.
To be sure, this mystery element is not related to the band's charisma; lead vocalist Aaron Hammersley presents an engaging and energised performance, making good use of the stage area and spurring the crowd on as their music unfolds into the venue. While being showered with a bottle of champagne, Guitarists Jay and Hammer continue to work in conjunction with one another to play out an entertaining visual performance onstage, with their music performed with tight execution from start to finish.
Though Tripwire's aggressive and kinetic physical display is well-executed and effective, and certainly generates a response from their fans, it seems that their music fails to deliver the same amount of intrigue – at least in my mind. As their set hits the midpoint with a cover of Sepultura's 'Roots Bloody Roots', I start to find myself a little less excited by the action onstage and a little more concerned about the band's stake in originality.
The menacing, face-covering masks worn by four out of five of the band's members scream heritage from the likes of Slipknot, with musical composition that is arguably similar to boot. The inspirations listed on Tripwire's social media outlets cite bands like Machinehead, Devildriver and Lamb Of God, and almost all of their songs contain elements that can be traced to these bands. It strikes me that perhaps, in their quest for similar success to their heroes, Tripwire may have fallen into the trap of sounding just a little too generic in the process.
This isn't entirely a negative point, however. As the saying goes, "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery", and Tripwire pull off their flattery with a good level of skill and professionalism. There's enjoyment to be taken from both their musical and physical performance, and while it's not ground-breaking material, it certainly has it's place in the music scene.
Perhaps my judgement has been somewhat clouded by the fact they've followed a completely bizarre and unique act like Aand? - and this is certainly a point that is raised by one or two punters after the band have exited the stage - however I struggled throughout Tripwire's performance to get truly excited about their musical content. As mentioned, they're a fairly new band and although they have many tell-tale signs of an excellent band, I'm sad to say that unfortunately Tripwire haven't completely blown me away on this occasion. Sorry chaps...
The final act of the night approaches, and the sounds of Evil Scarecrow's intro track reach out to the crowd. Admittedly, Scarecrow seem to be performing to a slightly lesser crowd in comparison to their last performance here at Sound Circus, however this is probably down to the fact that there are only a few weeks until their festival performance; many will likely be saving their money for the big gig.
Regarless, their set kicks off with a mighty crash as they launch into 'Rise', a track which appears on their latest album, 'Galactic Hunt'. Costumes, painted faces and over-the-top stage antics in check, Evil Scarecrow waste no time in getting straight to the point, delivering their polished and well-rehearsed set. It's one that Bournemouth fans are familiar with, and yet never fails to generate the same level of excitement every time. It's not long before the crowd are moshing, headbanging and dancing in the twin cages that border the stage area of the venue, responding to the band's encouragement with full support.
It's the third day of Evil Scarecrow's Download Warm-Up tour, and if the band are tired, they're certainly not showing it. Lead vocalist Dr Hell delivers a witty and engaging stage presence, with some great crowd banter and even a bit of beer chugging showboating – though guitarist Brother Pain tops his bandmate by downing two beers instead of just the one.
The parody black Metal act certainly live up to their label, with inserts of humour that raise plenty of laughs, including handing out party poppers to the crowd before explaining that it's their version of Rammstein's signature flamethrower guitars. The freebies don't last too long and litter the floor in seconds as the antics continue with an invitation to join bassist Kraven Morrdeth on a strange sort of Metal conga around the venue.
Further still, the band later take it upon themselves to act out a bizarre imitation of their puppet selves, which feature in their recently released music video for 'Space Dementia' - currently up for nomination for a Best Video award. I'm not allowed to tell you which magazine is running the awards, but their name rhymes with Metal Spanner.
It's not all fun and games, of course, and the band deliver the usual high standard of musicianship, with a well-formed performance and captivating sound. Beneath the slow-motion moshing, crab hand gestures and robotic arm movements lies a band that takes its music very seriously in spite of the comedy elements, and tonight's performance is no exception.
As Evil Scarecrow wind down their set and retreat to the bar for a drink and a mingle, it's clear to me that in spite of a slightly smaller crowd and some technical issues with sound (which admittedly have affected all performances of the night), Scarecrow are most certainly ready to take Download Festival by storm.
With Bloodstock Open Air already under their belt, an album release AND a music video up for nomination this year, nobody can deny the fact that this hard-working, slick and imaginative band are more than deserving of an excellent reception at Donnington. Good luck chaps!
Photos by Rebecca Hailstone, Hailstone Images, www.hailstoneimage.co.uk