Friday, August 27, 2010

Muppet drummers, Paul the Rapist, and a vanishing guitarist. This was MK Round 9.

MK Round 9 – Order 66, Corpus, and Gravity Takes Over

We knew this would be a quiet one, *shakes fist at Unibar Band Comp final*, but with these bands, we were guaranteed a good night.

The rowdy mob up the back shouted mock insults at Ryan Beveridge and his crew, as the Order 66 frontman squinted through the lights and threatened them back, “It’s pretty dangerous saying anything, because I can narrow you down to one of five people in the room.” (The author would like to stress that there were in fact more than five people present, thankyou). The night was shaping up to be a friendly jam with mates over a few beers. “We’re the Howling Tongues,” Ryan said, as Order 66 slammed into their unique breed of oh so hard to pigeonhole off-beat rock n roll.

Now Ryan, in his suave John Travolta-esque collared shirt, unbuttoned to the point of being suggestive, is well known for defying the limits of microphone, guitar lead and stage. He took it to the next level on this occasion when he walked straight out of the band room. The rest of the Order boys exchanged puzzled glances and kept right on playing, as Ryan indulged in a lengthy frolic in the stairwell, beer garden, or possibly in the cordoned off ground level dance floor. He could have gone to the bathroom for all we knew. By the time he eventually came back we were all very relieved that nothing serious had happened to him.

“So last night,” Ryan mused, “I spent 35 minutes and 21 seconds listening to 100 ways to love a cat.” Prompts to “sing it!” emanated from the back of the room, and Ryan treated us to a few minutes of priceless tuneful tips on the subject of platonic feline love. As for their cover efforts, these guys took the song Hit the Road Jack to a whole new level. Ryan’s voice belted out (most of) the high notes, his obvious love of singing written all over his mischievous face. The song started out fast, heavy and dense, before they stripped it right back to a slow guitar riff, and some sparse drumming, providing the perfect platform for Ryan to introduce the band members one by one for some instrumental solos. They somehow turned this old blues number into an Order 66 rock-with-punk-undertones classic.

Jamie Pye-Respondek is an asset to this band, his long hair thrashing about to the beat of the music, his voice impossibly high and moreish in its uniqueness. Bassist Daniel Simpson appeared lost in the music, eyes closed in mysterious concentration for the entire set, while Kuz (I still haven’t worked out his real name) Cozens thrashed out a flawless beat on his kit. Ryan played half a song standing on top of a speaker, the other half with his hand-painted Explorer guitar behind his head, and then ran to the back wall, returning to the mic. breathless and a few words short of a chorus.

Order 66 tick all the boxes of a strong, well-rehearsed, solid rock act. They’ve got presence, they’ve got charisma, and the way that they slam out their heavy riffs and solid drum beats leaves you feeling satisfied. Their songs are so catchy that I’ve had that ‘please don’t change your evil ways’ song of theirs stuck in my mind all day.

When MK sound guy extraordinaire Matt O’Brien told Corpus to “just try a beat”, they offered up a deep, bassy, enticing taste of what was in store for us, that sent all eyes searching the room in bemused approval.

Corpus’ musical style played on the unexpected. Their songs would trip between quiet and suspenseful, where nothing but the odd well-positioned drum beat and resounding note would have us craning our necks in anticipation, before crashing into a heavy assault of drums, guitar and dual vocals screamed into the mic. I have never heard two guys make so much NOISE! More importantly, I have never heard so much noise sound so good! This wasn’t some artsy pile of wank – these were considered and well-written likable songs that sounded more complex and layered than I would have thought possible for a two piece.

Singer and guitarist Keiron Steel is a firecracker packaged in skinny black jeans, leather lace up boots, and a shaggy Beatles hair cut. He had more energy than The Who’s Roger Daltrey, his body shook to the music, his scat-sounding vocals were frantic, his eyes wildly focused on something that no one else in the room could see. Meanwhile Jack Bruun-Hammond smacked his drum kit with all the unbridled insanity of Animal from The Muppets, and a look that brought to mind The Gorillaz bassist Murdoc Niccals. It was as if Jack was two people in one. While the song was in progress, Jack screamed backup vocals into the microphone like a creature possessed, his face contorted in pain from his injured wrist, teeth clenched, eyes squinted, sweat dripping. He finished off each song exhausted and utterly defeated, a look of agony etched on his face. As soon as the song ended, he snapped back into his other persona; jovial, friendly, and ripping on the unruly audience at each given opportunity, until the music started up again and his untamed reaction resurfaced. Their long-time supporter Paul served as the comic relief for the night – the boys affectionately lavishing insults on him to such an extent that for the rest of the night he was referred to by everyone as Paul the Rapist.

Their set ended with Keiron collapsed into a crumpled heap of distortion on the floor, while Jack gleamed in exaltation and intense pain from his arm, the audience cheering with all their worth for what was unanimously agreed to be an incredible experience.

A big sorry to Gravity Takes Over - I spent the first part of their set outside on the street talking with Corpus. I did get my EP signed though by Keiron, Jack, and Paul the Rapist, who left independently of the band for questionable motives – something about hitchhikers and dubious necrophilia jokes which may or may not have been inspired by actual events. By the time the rest of us made it upstairs, Gravity was already down a snare and a bass string. Much to everyone’s amazement, Gnarly didn’t break a single string throughout the entire set (refer to MK Round Two Review).

Dave has requested the band be hereby known as Dave Takes Over, since he was substantially more enthusiastic than Gnarly was about putting down his cigarette in favour of playing the gig. Some would say, considering the broken bass string, that Dave’s enthusiasm was somewhat overzealous. Dave would also like it duly noted that the women in the audience went crazy, and there was much hurling of bras and knickers in his and only his direction. In all seriousness though, Dave really does rock that classic bass stance, head banging along to the beat, feet set wide and stable, his eyes obscured by his edgy fringe.

It struck me how far these guys have come since their debut gig two months ago at MK. Gravity now looks like a real band – Gnarly stood out the front, a commanding presence with a wild-eyed breathless slack-jawed lunacy reminiscent of The Vines lead singer Craig Nicholls, while drummer Daniel ‘Rattus’ Radcliff remained composed and in control, the calm in the storm, sporting his enviable Brett from Flight of The Concords sweater. Their sound is tighter than ever, and there was even a new co-written song in the mix. Gnarly’s voice, powerful and rasping, sounded more like the result of a high end effects pedal than anything achievable by a lowly human being. With a heavy finish, influenced more by the missing bass string and broken snare than anything else, the night was sadly over.

Next week, we’ve got Eden’s March, Electric Air and My Little Underground.

Here’s Ryan’s favourite song. It will ruin your life:

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