Waterfront Fest @ Canalhouse, Hoodtown Sat 20th August 2011

Ooooh it’s here again. That holiest of trinities: Local music, ale and friendly folk rocking out together. All good things do truly come in threes, well except most film franchises. Despite an overcast August Saturday arvo strolling alongside the Trent in the opposite direction to fans attending the Forest Leicester derby (swimming against the gravy tide if you will), I eagerly anticipated the musical spoils I would play willing voyeur to during the next 8 hours.

After being gently lulled round to recovery from the previous evening’s jollity by Mr. Softly-Strum Marc Reeves, I felt the nurturing combo of a well-sugared cappuccino washed down with a pint of rich stout known as Midnight Owl. This omnipotent soundclash complimented the first band’s arrival Prae Vita – dark, brooding, nocturnal and threatening (to small mammals amidst the undergrowth anyhow). After a delayed start following the replacement of some broken equipment it quickly became apparent how and why. Frontman Vaughn repeatedly required microphone adjustments, as the PA never really did their densely expansive sound real justice with his vocal range arching far off the official charts in more ways than one. With Mike Patton-esque mannerisms and a charismatic ‘lost-in-music’ dementia it still all made some form of deranged groove-orientated & reverb-swathed sense. The well-restrained organ-layers swelled around the small upstairs timbers to achieve maximum psychedelic operatic and progtastic effect. Much as their set ended, this review will now slowly self-destruct over sustained delay. 

I present Prae Vita with the ‘Most Sonically Ambitious Award’.

 Next as we strayed downstairs to buy our second pints some enjoyable shoegaze begin to enthral in the form of Strings of Seville who provided song structures reminiscent of Sonic Youth. Through recognition of former Model Morning/Spotlight Kid members, the quartet’s grungy rhythm-led melodic buzzsaw dynamics shot a hole through the main bar much to the surprise of those just arriving – ethereal stuff indeed.

For 4 young scruffy students full of beans, chips and probably vinegar Paranoid Travellers were something were something of an unexpected gem. Unleashing a seemingly limitless supply of doom-laden bastardised blues riffs akin to Clutch meeting vintage Sabbath in an abattoir during a thunderstorm. Drummer and rhythm guitarist shared vocal duties offsetting a well-matched guttural growl with a low semi-tonal moan. Chunky beef drumfills and howling solos were the order of the day in an unstoppable groove-spluttering engine – hugely satisfying.

Hey Zeus felt rather like gate crashing a barely controlled new year’s house party as you peer in through the frosty kitchen window about to have second thoughts. Repeated stage invasions from a whole cavalcade of local hip-hop MCs, beatboxers, drummer changes and singers from Royal Gala and Fat Digester made for a sometimes vocally over-egged assault. Ultimately the core of this group appeared to be a very proficient DJ sampler/scratchmaster and Korg-playing warp bass keyboardist. Everyone’s performance looked mostly improv with thorough smatterings of hype and mad props shout-outs from MC Louie Cypher well on his way and repeatedly requesting approval due to his visibly unstable semi-catatonic state. This crew finished before 8pm but with most clutching bottles like newborns in a warzone some were clearly running on something stronger than adrenaline.

I present Hey Zeus with the ‘Most Lairy & Party Starting Award’

Pirate-comedy punk-folk surely has an unfair advantage over other bands as a crowd-pleasing festival favourite but if you CAN corner the market you’ve got long-term novel (& navel Ar-Har) appeal. With shanties, instrument swaps ago-go and betwixt song scurvy banter Seas of Mirth (Warning: Rated ‘Arrr’) seems to have things sewn-up by way of ever-increasing approvals of ‘Arrr’. Using GCSE marking I’d say they’re about the level of the High C’s/Seas geddit?

Rocking his wispy mohawked megaquiff like a Centurian’s Ghost Messer’s (& Madame) Dick Venom & His Terrortones were determined to convert us to their sinfully sordid filth dungeon of ruckus razor-edged rockabilly despite him losing a tooth on his vintage crooner’s mic after the opening number. A minute later he’s dangling from the rafters by his leather pants and writhing sweat-soaked and topless to earn that dentist’s filling. Two young corset-clad kinkmaidens flagellating him and each other but mostly themselves is only the beginning of the perversely sinful acts that unfold down front. Set highlight? The song about why you shouldn’t knob a big hairy spider. Verdict: Venomous but terrifyingly tuneless overall.

I present DV&TT with the ‘Showmanship in Spite of Self-Harm’ Award

Although we only caught the last 10 minutes of Nina Smith’s timid set she seemed unfortunately unsuited to the average alcohol levels by this time (10pm) i.e. ill-equipped to deal with a baying gang of hounds hungry for tasty rhythms who dispersed quite quickly. Covering 2 Become 1 & Message In A Bottle as an alternating medley prompted the only crowd trouble of the whole event when two blokes presumably had it out briefly over who’d become one with the ‘spicy’ girl in between. Alas her soaring ad-libbed vocal abilities cut through with lamenting tender flourishes deserved stronger backing than stagnant acoustic guitar and occasional beatbox as proven on her recordings by perfectly fitting string sections. Set closer I Won’t Forget You was sadly drowned out by much oblivious group heckling.

I present Nina Smith with the ‘Vocal dexterity despite poorly-tailored timeslot’ Award

A jolly old good time had by all, well 2 of us & not just due to divine salvation in the form of Castle Rock hydration. To briefly summarise: Notts Rocks!


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