On a wet, foul night in NW London bodies seeking shelter begin to fill the venue only to have to weather a storm of another kind courtesy of Brighton based noiseniks Sea Bastard. Big beards, big tattoos and even bigger riffs were their order of the day and the band made up of past and present members of Sabazius and Funeral Hag had the venue trembling as their powerful fuzz heavy sound trembled out the speakers. This is a band whose name I knew but it was my first encounter with them and as vocal roars hit it was one I was obviously not going to be shaken off in a hurry as they were certainly leaving their mark on the gathered. This was doom of the heavier end of the spectrum, far removed from any of the delicacy and flowery grandeur of what those here to witness the headliners were no doubt expecting. Trembling bass layers built up and squalls of noise filled every part of the venue, there was literally no escaping as the might left us stranded and shipwrecked trying to drag us down into its watery depths. The band played in shades of blue and green which totally suited the seasick feel that they had us lurching along to trying to stay upright. Suddenly tools were downed and after what seemed like just two songs it was over.
Completely unknown to me were second band, more seafarers Hung On Horns from Bournemouth. They couldn’t have been more different from the openers though as Floydian keyboard mellowness wafted out the speakers and very much toned things down. A slight false sense of security as they started to rock out and despite the vocal croons being on the clean and emotive side there was some ballast here as they went into a more post rock clamour. There is also a very noticeable prog element in what we heard and at full force the trio kicked up a bit of a groove. Songs had almost jazzy like conventions to them at times with rolling drum solos and harmonic stop start breaks the hefty bass playing was if anything reminiscent of Mark King from Level 42. The free form flow left audience pretty much unmoved and I have to admit I was not quite sure what to make of it myself feeling that it was really out of place here. The clean vocal style was off putting and it never went beyond toe tapping musically as far as I was concerned, perhaps they would have got an audience moving if they had been supporting the Foo Fighters and at one point I found myself thinking vocally of Manic Street Preachers which are bands I should never really be citing in a review here; let’s move on to the headliners. (PW)
The air is thick with the heady smell of incense and candles – to those that are sight impaired it would smell as though a hippy has been set alight. However, this is just the trademark stage atmospherics of the ever popular Jex Thoth. With the scene properly set, Jex finally makes her appearance; graceful and mysterious as always, Jex’s vocals are dripping with honey and she puts on a mesmerising performance. It would be easy to assume that, with the cult status her band possesses, Jex would be somewhat of a diva, reluctant leave the stage and get involved with the crowd. However, half way through the set, she descends from the stage, parts her audience and begins lighting incense at people’s feet and touching their faces. At this point, the evening becomes much more than a gig and begins to edge towards ritualistic territory. While Jex herself is a joy to watch, her dulcet tones flowing through songs such as ‘The Places You Walk’ and ‘Keep Your Weeds’, with obvious comparisons to Stevie Nicks abound, the rest of the band are a minor let down. An apparent fear to turn their amps to anything but “off” renders the guitars inaudible and the Sabbathian charm of the riffs are completely lost, with people able to talk and shout over the people with moderate ease. A thoroughly enjoyable show, that could have perhaps been better if the rest of the band could be heard. Although let’s be honest, would anyone seriously have noticed if the rest of the guys had just left the stage and left Jex to her own devices? Probably not. (AD)
(Review Angela Davey & Pete Woods, photos © Pete Woods)