Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Blue Screem of Death - live at The Head of Steam, Sunday 28th February 2010.

After the blow of hearing that our drummer, Andy Warmington, would be unable to play the gig on account of crippling labyrinthitis, we were in two minds as to whether to go ahead with the show or not. In the end, we stuck to our guns, cut three songs from the setlist, loaded up two car loads of gear and headed off to the venue.

The inevitable panic of exploding wires, missing kettle leads and truly abysmal sound checking performances thus ensued; shaking our confidence to the very core. This was compounded by the obvious quality on display from Dressed In Wires and Onoma, who looked on at our rehearsal of 'Fuck Buddy' with a mixture of horror and disinterest. Luke considered doing a runner. I would definitely have done a runner if I hadn't lugged two car loads of gear to the venue. Our equipment is our collateral against stage fright.

I was surprised to see that the show was well attended for a barely advertised Sunday night gig at the Head of Steam (possibly the most low key night one can programme a show for). The noise hardcore were present and correct for DiW's set; a truly remarkable and punishing tour de force of ultimate sound collision. Quite simply the best I've seen Simon play, which is saying something considering previous performances. He was to be found later in the evening hawking his limited edition DVD by the door. Only five copies have been pressed, and they are £170 each. An audacious move; one I think that is intended to place his work more in the context of an art gallery installation or painting. Despite this he still managed to leave three of them sitting on the bar in a Maplin's bag.

Onoma played a much more beats-orientated set, with less punishment on the ear drums and more use of omnichord, vocoder and synthesiser. I felt they could have played longer, as it was building up towards something really satisfying, but the duo decided they had pushed their ailing computers as far as they dared.

Much of the audience left at this point, easing Blue Screem's nerves considerably. We began with 'Money', which was riddled with mistakes from me, but the conviction of Luke's vocal carried us through to a feedback, noise groaning climax. 'I Want To Die' was another nervy performance from me, but previous shows with Attorney and Loss have taught me to force myself to get into the songs, and enjoy the process no matter how many mistakes are made. We managed to end this one perfectly, which I think gave us a lot more confidence going into 'Cock's Too Big', a song that has more equipment and setting changes than any other. Luke was throwing sheets of paper with knob schematics around, I was plugging and unplugging basses, kaoss pads and amplifiers in a frenzy, leaving the stage a confusion of wires and instruments. We managed to start the song relatively swiftly however, and this was for me the highlight of the set; when noise and performance dovetailed to produce something that we had worked hard at to get right. 'Painkillers' followed, with the happy accident of one of the microphones feeding back slightly though a vocal effects pedal to create a haunting, hooting ambience. The sample of "Sophie, will you marry me?" was thankfully obscured from all (including Sophie, by now working the bar) by waves of delay. There then followed an improvised recital of the BBC Maritime Shipping Forecast, with some odd high hat bits in the background, before launching into a hypnotic version of Shellac's 'Prayer To God'. This went especially well, despite my tom drum swinging in the breeze atop a mic stand a good two feet above the snare. We closed on 'Old Salty Seadog', in a suitably energetic fashion with the keyboard being smashed about a bit and all requests for an encore being flatly refused. Much to our surprise we seemed to have played the entire show mostly as planned.

There then followed the gargantuan task of packing everything up; special thanks to David Littlefair from O'Messy Life in helping us transport three amps, three guitars, three boxes of cabling, two PA speakers, one mixing desk and a plethora of pedals, effects units and samplers back to the Libris rehearsal space.

Upon reflection, Luke put it best when he said that the whole experience had been like "going to Chessington World of Adventures", such were the highs and lows of putting on and playing a show at the same time.

Our EP is now finished, and was handed out to the audience throughout the evening, as well as some sales of Ryan H. Fleming's two solo albums, which were played over the PA inbetween acts.