For Sledges 50th birthday this year, he decided we should go to the Mono All-Dayer at the Brudenell. We got there at 4 (as that’s when our flier said it started) to find we’d missed one band already (sorry Tense Men). Starting to drink at 4 in the afternoon is a recipe for disaster at our age but if that’s how a man wants to enjoy reaching his half century, who am I to argue…… some of us (ahem) ended up snoozing to the worlds loudest band ‘White Manna’…..thankfully Mark was on hand to keep notes…..
A sunny afternoon at the end of September; what better way to spend it than in the Brudenell Social Club watching LOADS of really good bands at an all day mini-festival. The Mono festival was quite a canny move on the part of the Brudenell’s management team (that’s Nathan & Charlie the dog), cherry-picking some of the best bands who’d played at the Liverpool Psych Fest on Friday & Saturday, and presenting to us in one handy, bite sized chunk. Before we go any further, it’s best pointing out that the definitions of ‘psych’ and ‘psychedelic’ are pretty loose; loud guitars, a plethora of effects pedals, rather more reverb on any vocals than would be considered normal and a delight in pushing the songs slightly further than is practical seems to be the broad themes tying these bands together.
Take the opening act, Tense Men; a power trio sounding as if they really like the first couple of Wire LPs. The songs are choppy, angular and well, tense. But psychedelic? More post-punk, surely? But no matter, they’re very good indeed. Tense Men played in the main, or concert, room of the Brudenell, which presumably anyone reading this is familiar with.
To maximise the amount of music, a second stage had been opened up in the smaller games room, a pleasingly intimate space where you’re at eye level with the performers. That’s a polite way of saying there’s no stage. Opening here were Soft Walls, a side project of one of Cold Pumas (who’re on later, but I missed). There’s a Pete Frame-style family tree in here somewhere based around Cold Pumas & their record label Faux Discx, as quite a few of the bands today are either in the band or on the label, or both, such as Tense Men & Sauna Youth. But back to Soft Walls…they turn in a neat line in reverb soaked poppy drone, and look far too young to be at this sort of thing. They may have heard a Hookworms record or two as well.
Back to the big room for the first highlight of the day; all the way from Guadalajara, Mexico, meet Lorelle Meets The Obsolete. 3 chaps grind out a meaty groove with Lorena’s reverb soaked vocals drifting over the top of it…and then they crank things up a notch or two with sound vicious guitars. Buried under all that noise are some sweet pop hooks that put this band pretty much head & shoulders above everyone else; and there’s some strong competition for best band of the day. So impressive were Lorelle Meets The Obsolete that a planned trip to Manchester the following evening quickly added a visit to the Soup Kitchen to catch them again.
Over in the games room, highlight #2; the most excellent Kult Country, all the way from…Manchester. With a t-shirt over the mic to counteract electric shocks, they crashed through their set with the kind of abandon you don’t see from too many bands these days…well, singer & guitarist Yousif Al-Karaghouli does, and he’s that much of a human dynamo it’s difficult to tell what the rest of the band are doing. Band of the day most likely to ‘do a Hookworms’ and develop a cult (sorry) following.
Next up were Merseyside’s Mugstar, who pushed the ‘psych? Really?’ envelope that bit further. An instrumental trio, if anything their sound would seem more at home in the artier end of metal along with bands like God Is An Astronaut, Adebisi Shank or Pelican. The music suited their appearance; gnarled, muscular, slightly scary. As enjoyable as a slap in the face; not for everyone, something of an acquired taste.
Sauna Youth are far more accessible; likeable bouncy indie pop smothered in overloaded guitar & distorted male & female co-vocals. Are they a Ramones for the psych set? Their songs certainly didn’t hang around.
Gird your loins, people, for it’s time for Gnod; and Gnod are a very singular experience. Psychedelic in the same way Butthole Surfers were, the acid is most definitely bad. I’d experienced them live before with a (relatively) straight guitar, bass & drums set up, but it seems they’ve mutated far beyond that. Hauling their own PA over the Pennines, a noticeably bigger one than the Brudenell’s, Gnod have ditched most of their conventional instrumentation for a heap of machines, effects, tapes and general gizmos. While 5 of them manipulate the electronics, singer (loose term) Neil Von Gnod gives it his all on the floor of the concert room, dragging up lord alone knows what kind of traumas for our entertainment. You’re unlikely to come away from this unmoved, but whether that’s towards or away from Gnod is entirely debateable.
I missed Carlton Melton’s set. The first couple of minutes were noodly drones, and I’d done drone the previous day at the Brudenell. From outside, I could hear their sound grow and expand to a mighty Loop-style barrage, but by the time I returned to the games room, it was pretty much rammed. My only mis-step of the day, really.
Local heroes Hookworms rocked the main room to its foundations. There was much love in the room for them. Sadly, they don’t quite do it for me. It feels like Hawkwind doing Spacemen 3 covers to these ears. Not in itself a bad thing, and it did sound bang on from my vantage point near the door, it’s just I’ve seen it done much better (by the aforementioned Loop for one).
Finally (after missing Cold Pumas for various reasons), the nominal headliners of the day were American stoner-droners White Manna. I say nominal as the crowd had thinned out significantly after Hookworms. Pity really, as White Manna were just what the doctor ordered. This pack of longhairs were an ideal end to a day of loud guitar riffs, cyclical rhythms and warped vocals because they served up an hour or so of the same, only more so. Those left in the audience were bowing down to their perfection of the form. OK, so they only really had one song, but it was a good one. Here’s hoping for something along similar lines next year…oh hang on, there’s one next month in the form of Octernal. The Brudenell continues to do no wrong.