From the moment Black Rooster Black Shag walk on stage, it’s clear that they’re a band who know how to perform. Their darkly pristine, yet casually irreverent appearance, combined with their range of slow, moody tracks such as ‘An Hour Ago’, and the all-out energy of songs like ‘Run Baby’, don’t allow the audience to be bored for a moment. Frontfolk JJ and Mirika supply us with nonchalant drawl and playful sass, while Dan Brown plays the drums vindictively, as though they’d personally insulted him. The band slink and purr through their first couple of numbers, and by their new song ‘Ambulance’, they are in full rock mode; synced with one another to great visual and musical effect. With the thumping jungle drums, solid bass riffs, and guitar parts switching fluidly from crunchy distorted strumming to melodic lilting riffs, the band are clearly enjoying themselves; the drummer in particular, who is gleefully tearing the set apart like a child on Christmas morning. With their infectious energy and melodies, Black Rooster Black Shag deliver an engaging, danceable, varied and thoroughly enjoyable package of gritty sleaze, mixed up with good old-fashioned rock’n’roll.
Then Gang take to the stage, and what was a gig instantly becomes an acid trip. The bassist’s onstage manner goes from the intoxicated wiggle of a fashion model to the frenzied, floppy mania of a demented ragdoll; while frontman Eric Tormey spends most of the gig with his eyes rolling back in his head. This band does not care about what they look like, only about the sounds they produce – and it is immediately apparent that they are experts in their craft. Soft, crooning verses over picked Eastern scales give way to huge choruses of hypnotic, drug-addled distortion. The drummer in particular seems to make a point of messing with the audience – at one point he suddenly starts singing, while the other two band members are busy vibing off one another directly in front of him, giving the momentary impression of a disembodied voice floating over this already psychedelic soundscape. He seems to fall very deliberately and confusingly out of time with the other band members. Furthermore, he plays around with the tempo like nobody’s business, slowing to an agonizing crawl, pushing the listener’s tolerance to its absolute limits, so the return to normal feels like nirvana; the state of mind, that is, not the band, although the latter have exerted a clear influence, not just upon Gang’s overall sound but in particular their complete control of it, to the extent that they appear – one half-expects them to keel over jerking and twitching midway and need to be carried off on stretchers – as though the music they produce is the force in control of them. The result is the summoning up of raw, glistening, intrinsic tribal energy that cuts straight through the listener’s grey matter and grabs them by the gut.
It’s a hard act to follow. Perhaps they were tired, but although skilled musicians, there is something missing from the headliner duo Dolomite Minor’s performance from the word go – and it isn’t a lack of bass guitar. They begin with cinematics, matching the dry ice pumped out over them with lots of fairy dust shimmer from the cymbals and hats, before launching into a very riffy Black Keys-esque first number. The vocal is a drawl, complete with a matching permanent haughty glare. Their sound is technically, well, sound. But due to a lack of commitment from the frontman, who looks as though he might be thinking about his dinner, after some time his lyrics become a disinteresting drone that simply switches on and off throughout the duration of the performance. The band do pick up a little around their third number, with a more driving, engaging guitar part reminiscent of Queens of the Stone Age. There are some promising moments here and there, and Dolomite Minor demonstrate throughout that they know how to play music. Their material is well-crafted, and their most recent piece “Talk Like An Aztec,” does manage to transcend the gap between band and audience – but it could have done so much easier had the band simply acknowledged, on occasion, that they did, in fact have an audience