Gig Review: Young Widows, the Plague Sermon, Bear Feet @ Brighton Prince Albert (18.02.09)

It’s been a while since I wrote about a gig on this blog. I often have the desire to do so, but this usually occurs the morning after a show, and at such times I’m usually feeling a little under the weather (a civil euphemism for being stinking hungover). Today I’m either level-headed enough to get away with it, or I’m feeling opinionated enough that my wish to get wordy is overpowering my postalcohol-induced lethargy.

(…he says, writing half of this review on Thursday and then not getting round to finishing it until four days have passed.)

The room’s about half-filled as Brighton three-piece Bear Feet take to the stage. I’ve not heard of the band before and they’ve only been on MySpace for five months, which coupled with their not so fresh-faced youth leads me to the conclusion that the band’s a relative newcomer to the local hardcore scene. Fortunately any concerns about their ability to deliver a bruising tune are quickly dispensed. Bear Feet eschew guitar entirely, focusing instead on the low and brutal sounds of intertwining bass and drums. Sometimes their tunes seem so fast that the band themselves are struggling to keep up, but I’m impressed – this music is simple, raw, dirty, and sinks its hooks in deep.

Criminally it’s more than a year and a half since I last saw the Plague Sermon – long enough that I don’t remember much about their sound beyond “loud, also fast”. As it turns out this still applies, but you can also add “intense”, “furious” and “intricate”. In contrast to Bear Feet, Plague Sermon boast three guitarists plus one thing-hitter and zero pluckers of four strings. Their songs are composed of carefully layered riffs over a solid foundation of violently pounding drums. The constrained energy of the music is exemplified in vocalist Aaron, who delivers his words in passionate screams barely audible over the music and thrashes his guitar about like he’s about to fling it out the nearest window. This is severely pissed-off screamo; if you want to get pretentious about it, these intricately built songs are as fine a metaphor for tautly controlled emotion as the subgenre has managed.

After the preceding set I’m wondering if Young Widows might actually have been upstaged. Regardless they take the stage with quiet confidence and presence and kick into a set that wrong-foots me for a third time in the night. Rather than the raw, punchy and gritty hardcore songs I’d expected after 2006’s Settle Down City, or even the faster and tighter violence of past bands Black Cross or Breather Resist, we’re confronted with expansive, sludge metallish riffs that remind me more of Torche‘s stoner doom or the Melvins than what I’ve come to recognise as the Louisville hardcore “sound”. It’s a good surprise, and puts me in the zone: for 40 minutes, I’m focused solely on the music that fills the room, head nodding and heel slamming. The alcohol helps, sure, but I’m liking where Young Widows are going, and it’s clearly time I came along for the ride.

Bear Feet | the Plague Sermon | Young Widows

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