My third NAC gig in consecutive days was for something a bit out of my zone of musical familiarity, I love a good, heavy and loud gig at the Arts Centre but I knew next to nothing about any of the acts performing on this bill, indeed I’d even forgotten that Jo Quail had been added to the billing at all. Within moments of my arriving the buzzer sounded for Jo’s 8pm set. Despite the early start the hall had a sizable crowd gather near the front where she played her electric cello on the floor in front of the stage – there was not a spare inch of stage space left such were the number of amps, the like of which I have never seen at NAC, and not to mention the huge gong for Boris’ set immediately after Jo’s.
Jo Quail plays with an intensity that is absolutely captivating building deep, dark layers using pedals and loops and even bravely played a work in progress – “Imagine it’s a load of Lego bricks on the floor … something that hasn’t been assembled yet” which even in this form turned out to be breathtaking. The half hour set flew by and concluded with probably my favourite of all these pieces, an epic Gold. The music every bit as intense as the performance and delivery and certainly one of those “Wow!” moments.
A mere five minutes or so and it was time for Boris to take to the stage. As mentioned, I came into this gig with little knowledge of any of the acts and no real expectations, I was just in the mood for something loud, powerful and different. This gig seemed something quite out of the ordinary and I was right on that score. The stage was so full of amps that the monitors had to sit on piled up flight cases on the floor and the smoke machines billowed out so much smoke that they obscured the amps, and most of the band members. I could just occasionally make out the sillhouetted double neck guitar on the right. I have never seen anything like this at NAC, the lights, the projections, and then the volume. Hugely powerful and intense, I really couldn’t see too much of the band but it was interesting watching the audience, a sea of silently nodding heads among the drifting smoke, with the occasional horned hand puncturing the mist. The set went on for a long time, probably ninety minutes or so, and although appreciating the incredible visual show – which was hugely impressive – it took me a while to be grabbed by the music, most of which to my untrained ears initially sounded samey and like the closing bars of an epic, thunderous song which went on and on and on … but then something did seem to click and it took me to some place else and I became more tuned into it. There was something of a religious congregational feel about it all and it was certainly an onslaught of the senses. I couldn’t help wondering what it would be like without the volume and “Would I listen to this at home?”, and sadly I do not think I would but in the live setting it is certainly a powerful spectacle and proved a hard act to follow.
Unsuprisingly the take down of this set up took a lot longer than the five minutes between Jo Quail’s and Boris’ sets but when AMENRA came on they were a little less loud but no less intense. In a night of over three hours of such intensity and the sheer onslaught on the senses plus five gigs in three days I was flagging and feeling the sensory overload, or just not feeling it from AMENRA … it was actually my eyes rather than my ears that told me to call it a night before the end of the set. I’m still not quite sure what to make of it all. It was an extraordinary evening and I’m glad I experienced it, especially to see NAC like that (even the merch took up half of the bar!) but BORIS made a much greater impression on me than AMENRA though it is interesting how everyone I have spoken to seems to have a totally different experience of the gig. One of the things I love about music. Having been there the previous night it still seems like a minor miracle that so much could have been set up so quickly, it must have been a phenomenal amount of work. Everything felt slightly different; familiar but yet vaguely unfamiliar, which together with coming to a gig with no expecations gave quite an edge to the night’s events.
It was an interesting night, a heck of an experience and although not entirely my thing I didn’t dislike any of it but it was Jo Quail whose music most resonated with me and whom I am most likely to look out for and listen to again.
AMENRA AND BORIS CO-HEADLINE
THE TWO RESPECTED HEAVY MUSIC LUMINARIES JOURNEY TOGETHER THROUGHOUT FEBRUARY AND MARCH
AMENRA last month released Mass VI via Neurot Recordings, and have been performing select shows in support of the album including an unforgettable album release show at the AB in Brussels. As always with AMENRA, their art comes directly from the souls of the musicians involved. They can establish connections with their listeners more profound than almost any other band because they are direct heart to heart connections, and thissynergy is especially resonant during their live performances. This also notably marks the first full UK tour for AMENRA.
Boris meanwhile, have just returned from a mammoth tour celebrating their 25 year anniversary, and the release of their 23rd full-length album Dear (Sargent House). These latest dates will give audiences in the UK and mainland Europe a chance to experience Dear live, and catch Boris in their element. Boris embrace the excess, pushing their myriad of approaches and stylistic forays to points of intoxicating absurdity. Dear fortifies their monolithic wall of sound while also allowing the individual band members to explore the nuances and intricacies of minimalist riffs played at maximum volume.
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