Das Fenster and the Alibis “Won’t Go Back” album launch at Epic Studios, with Tibetan Night Terrors, and The Grazing Saints “Selene” album launch at The Blueberry Music House with Jessie Q and the Earthquakes, and the O’Linski Ensemble. 23 January 2015
When I arrived at Epic The Tibetan Night Terrors had already started their set but I was able to catch a couple of numbers. I was surprised at how upbeat, funky, and even Southern African it sounded, in an 80s kind of way, but of course this was the perfect foil for the dark things which were to come later.
The whole gig had a live internet stream and Das Fenster & the Alibis had gone to extraordinary lengths to decorate the room with nautical flags draped all above, a set with dramatic backdrop and props aplenty, not least some sinister looking skulls and that notorious Voodoo Shrine.
I am not sure if the lights dimmed above when the band came onstage but it felt that way as they bring their own darkness whenever and wherever they gather. Drummer Stagger Lee was brought onstage in chains before being released to take his place at the drum kit. Battered and bruised he stripped to the waist, revealing more cuts, bruises and tattoos but he played like a beast unleashed whilst the moody, menacing and cool Das Fenster himself orchestrated proceedings from centre stage, flanked on either side by bassist Pearly Gates, and new addition to the band, Bad Penny on guitar, keys, violin and accordion. She adds a lot to the band, her presence is perfect and she is the final piece in the musical jigsaw, making their sound fuller but also providing the musical additions here and there that are the pieces I never previously realised the band needed. It’s perfect and a wise decision, also providing a brilliant Cramps-esque onstage tension. She doesn’t say a word but she has the expression both musically and visually.
The wildly exhuberant and over-excited to be free Stagger Lee almost sets the place alight at one stage but doesn’t break stride, there are rock and roll moments aplenty tonight. The place is just about full and very appreciative with some good dancing taking place at the front. The album itself makes a most fine job of capturing something I was not sure was possible, the darkly theatrical aspect of the band’s live shows and the incredibly dry tongue in cheek humour. Of course the set was triumphant and well received, seeming to be over in minutes but it was actually a set of over an hour. Top marks too to Das Fenster for championing Norwich and our rich local musical talent, and dedicating set finale Time Bomb to the much loved Chris Hawkins who passed away some days earlier.
As the gig finished relatively early I headed across the road afterwards to The Blueberry. I caught a song or two from The O’Linski Ensemble before they made way for The Grazing Saints who appeared to be having a second launch party for their outstanding new album. The set today was fierce, loud, highly intense and almost angry. Joe looked tormented and possessed at times making the most incredible sounds and high howls from his guitar whilst his outstanding rhythm section kept everything together. The Grazing Saints live are always a captivating experience, it may not always be easy to watch, there is much pain in the lyrics but much beauty too. Joe’s voice is the voice of a tortured old soul and he channels this angst and intensity in the best way possible, in raw swamp blues rock. Incredible band.
For their previous launch night at OPEN, they were supposed to be joined by Jessie Q and the Earthquakes but sadly, due to illness they had to pull out, so this was my first proper chance to hear them in their complete form. They got better and better as the set wore on, powerful, at times hypnotic and very visual too. Jessie is a compelling performer, theatrical and wailing like an Indian goth Siouxsie or Danielle Dax. The band are astonishing and despite there being no bassist they had an insistent, chugging beat that reminded me of Killing Joke and Youth but there are also elements of Hawkwind, and even Led Zep’s Kashmir. It all fell into place brilliantly for a set highlight for me of an as yet untitled ten minute epic which definitely had Indian, rock and some reminders of a few of my favourite 80s dark bands. I don’t think I have ever heard a band sound so BIG in a pub, it was stunning. Big chords, huge sound and a vast array of influences which they do not hide they do however have their own distinct sound and identity. Despite all the reference points I can’t think of anyone else doing anything quite like this. I liked them a lot!
I do miss Sarah and her crew at The Blueberry though, the place does need a bit of TLC and some work done on the stage electrics and some new flooring, it would be a shame to see the place suffer through lack of investment. The staff are still lovely but that floor …
Many thanks to Das Fenster & the Alibis, Jessie Q and the Earthquakes, Grazing Saints.
photos and video (c) all rights reserved Shashamane, 2015