It’s back to the 70’s tonight and we could have been trooping into The Music Machine or The Rainbow to see some fresh new bands, reeking of patchouli and covered in beads. But no we were fuelled by beer rather than anything that had us having flashbacks to those times, anyway who am I trying to kid we were not quite that old and even back then the likes of Top Shop probably weren’t selling Black Sabbath shirts that some of the hip young things were sporting tonight!

Ignoring ironic clothing faux pas we were keen for letting the music play and first to do so were an unknown quantity named Crystal Head who are apparently natives to London town. We were presented with a clean cut singer / guitarist, and grizzly bearded bassist but the focal point really was the drummer, tattooed, ginger beard flowing pounding away on his pushed forward kit. Loose limbering licks flowed as the band got into their leaden groove. The thing that struck me was that whereas many bands of this ilk elongate their songs to disproportionate meandering lengths this lot kept theirs short and snappy. This made the weed-eating Dixie stomp more than accessible and they kept things moving fast from one rocky nugget to the next. It was also quite tricky to define as they occasionally drifted into an expansive Americana post rock style with some vigorous and muscular melodies that were suitably meaty. At other points there was almost a grunge vibe about things as well as plenty of beard stroking fuzz for good measure. Pitched up in an arid desert the fast flowing licks kept on coming and had us drinking away at the fast pace they were fired out. A more than interesting new discovery!

Serpent Venom were far from new to us having been on our radar and been covered quite a few times before. They spread their doom in blood red light and had us swaying in their grip. Their classic hoary weathered sound had the audience virtually bowing down in the grasp of doom dementia and singer Gaz spent a good part of the set contorting himself into weird shapes too as though possessed by the spirit of the music. If you had to suddenly eat your entire stash rather than be busted this was the sort of sound your next couple of days would feel like and to be honest the band played a monster set some of which I missed talking to others outside, surprised to find them still playing on getting back in. At times the musical shapes were a craggy downer laden morass that consumed all before the number suddenly burst back into life and surged out the speakers in heady shredding fury. It was not music to move to and had the audience rooted to the spot virtually unable to move as the venomous bite infected. It has to be said after this heavy set we needed a breath of air and something a bit lighter and thankfully that was to come.

It’s not often in the world of fearsome extremity that my viewing of bands normally consists of seeing members actually having flowers in their hair but Orchid are from San Francisco and have their heart and soul in the flower power era so I guess we can excuse them. Musically they instantly hit us in all the right spots that should have had us shuffling flares but at least had us shaking legs.  ‘The Eyes Behind The Wall’ opening cut from debut album ‘Capricorn’ had me thinking that there was a hefty collision of Stones, Sabbath and Zeppelin all in the house. It loosened us up nicely but it was the stomp heavy pound of new cut Mountains Of Madness that really saw both band and audience really getting into the swing of things. The velvet top clad singer Theo Mindell seemed completely in his element here grabbing a tambourine to add to the hippy happy rock nirvana of the music. We may have thematically been looking into a Lovecraftian abyss but never has one been quite so welcoming as the hooks of this excellent track infected us all. If the riffs from this were not going round in your head on the way home you must have done the journey comatose.

The band were splitting the material between new and old nicely even if the old was not that old (it certainly sounded it) and Black Funeral slowed the pace for a while and spread a tinge of doom. This was much darker and occult stuff, the sort of song a band may have dabbled with early in their career before spooky happenings made them shy away from the dark side into the light. Capricorn itself was a fuzz laden wah wah laden groover that put that heavy stomp back in proceedings leading us to classic times. With mentions of wizards it really saw Orchid blooming and we reacted to the flamboyance and showmanship that went with it. One of the songs that I really wanted to hear as it is the new album that really has got to me was Wizard of War and it did not disappoint in the slightest as it chugged out causing those not too wrecked to move to fire up the pit and get into a momentary burst of wrecking. By the encore the singer had not only done the flowers and maracas and got away with it but he also had the ladies swooning (and maybe some of the men) as he stripped off his top for the encore of ‘Saviours Of The Blind’ wrapping up their last song of the tour in a complete psyche out that had us giddy and virtually falling out the venue. Apparently in 1972 a bus and tube fare home would have cost about 8p, even if the song partly remains the same a lot of things haven’t!

(Review and Photos © Pete Woods)