LIVE REVIEW: OMI PALONE / MARS TO STAY / LUVV / BLACK FUNGUS / ARTEFACT
Friday 5 December 2014 at the Abacus Rooms
First published by God Is In The TV Zine 8 December 2014
Posing laxly beside the ruins of an upright piano demolished in an art show earlier that week, Omi Palone’s drummer Jack Gillis umms and errs over a challenging question: if he can’t say what genre the band is, then who would he like to be. “George Harrison,” he answers at last, only to be pulled up by their bespectacled lead, Philip Serfaty: “Harrison? Really? He did that awful song about going on holiday, remember. What was it?”
“Yeah! How’d it go? Troppo, gone troppo, troppo / it’s time you know I gone troppo!” Serfaty pulls a sneer. “Lazy.”
If tonight’s line up – a full five bands, hand-picked by Twisted’s Jon Mohajer from the Cardiff and surrounds scene to play at the Abacus Rooms – are anything to go by then ‘lazy’ is an honest criticism. Serfaty and Omi Palone are anything but, tonight marking the penultimate night on their most recent tour with Black Fungus, finishing at Drill Festival on Saturday. Serfaty says it’s been mixed, with their London date rammed to the door while their opening show at Sheffield’s Tye Die Tapes was played to about four people – early afternoon, he bemoans, but at least they got the night off in Sheffield. Drunken slurring about recent pornography bans to a Manchester crowd neared obscenity violations. Now they’re in Cardiff, along with incestuous line up Artefact, LUVV and Mars To Stay, and enjoying the peace. In front of the merch table, three quarters of Artefact’s lineup argue about the relative skinniness of their black jeans.
Artefact are on their second name in as many shows, and boasting an electric sound and image already after just one performance at Buffalo last week. Sharing members with Mars To Stay, the evening’s slowcore representatives, Artefact are a world away with an early post punk sound, raw, open and clean. Each song is a new offering of quivering guitar with the blunt bass providing structure, brooding lead Hannah Saunders’ plaintive chant laying beneath the scratching guitar. Mohajer appears on bass, pumping out severe, aggressive riffs spat over by their blonde guitarist. Though their sound suggests early darkwave musicians like the Banshees and Bauhaus, there’s something ripe and younger about Artefact’s sound – the track ‘Poisonous’, scored over by Saunder’s crying ‘you’re poison!’ has a taste of dark psych, something more colourful than the monochrome squeals of those early punks. In his throes Mohajer manages to pull his pedals off the top of the bass head, with Saunder’s gloomy Sandman-esque act lifting into a smile. “One sec,” she cuts in before Mohajer’s amp howls with feedback then launches straight back in, ten times as loud, and races to their close.
Black Fungus, Omi Palone’s companions on this tour, are a more mature assembly of gaunt faces and plain blacks. Their music too speaks of something more raw, drawing influence from Australian, German and American punk traditions, a clattering noise with Ed Shellard’s baritone vocals in turns between chant and bark. Tamsin MI, behind the kit, plays with a nervous energy and skill rarely seen – there’s something electric about her, and it’s instantly apparent that she has left contact for another zone behind the music. Mark Jasper’s bass provides a punchy undertone to Shellard’s rapid fire, saw tooth riffs, dragged out with distortion into a trade mark frustration and resignation that bring Black Fungus into a level of their own.
When LUVV take the small, tucked away stage their roughness stands out: from the bassist’s broad shoulders and wide stance to the tattooed, skinny frontman. On their page they have filled their members section with “all people are pigs,” and standing before us they form a ganglike, insular group, playing to each other with bolted, aggressive vocals spat by the slurring lead as he dances around the mic as though in a ring and dodging blows. With a piercing tom beat this bad is thunder, a motor behind their frontman with muggy bass as their first guitarist grinds mindlessly into his Gibson. They churn through their set with simplistic lyrics and the band powering along behind: stand out track ‘What You Need’ gives the crowd much needed energy after the brooding prior bands, before the lead singer introduces their newest member, whose name might be something like Kerrigan. “He’s a good one,” he announces, met by a jeer from the crowd: “He’s a wanker!” “You’re not wrong, you’re not wrong,” he concedes, and launches the band into a song titled ‘Drphds’ on the setlist. “I will be your drphds,” he sings, with the band exchanging fleeting looks of confusion and panic behind him. But fuck, it doesn’t matter. What a tune.
Mars To Stay, an oily, reverb throbbing two piece playing patent loose slowcore ballads, face each other in the stage area, politely greeting the audience before continuing their set. Spaced and delicate, their drummer sings with a distinct folk-like style, distant and lonely befitting the name. Each song guilds over reverb and treble with the careful vocals settling on the tracks to gently roost, thoughtful and meditative with the guitarist spinning two movements from his six strings. Each song rises and drops like this, finished with kind, soft-spoken acknowledgements, creating welling atmospheres inside the gallery’s backroom for a curious audience.
Omi Palone take the stage tentatively to this quietly interested audience, the band ever concerned about keeping top quality – particularly after the loudmouthed Manchester gig. They cruise into their set with their signature sound coming easy: melodic, tricky melodies woven over a simple, catchy beat from Gillis into songs part pop, part some other animal. The crowd immediately turns to dancing with enthusiasm, caught up in these quick-footed tunes ringing of American, Australian, Bunnymen; Liam O’Neill, the band’s bassist, betrays earlier the influence of Australian underground music and New Zealand label Flying Nun on the band’s sound, while lyrics such as “You’re not getting older / you’re getting younger!” echo Serfaty’s talk of active doing and taking opportunities at hand. Their new wave aggression plays simply off of Serfaty’s charisma as they push into their single, ‘Singled Out’, from their latest self-titled record to thundering percussion and cheers, until, outside in the gallery, they swear to come back to Cardiff soon – and we look forward to seeing them, any excuse to get our creative punkers out for the night and into the city’s galleries.
‘LIVE REVIEW: Omi Palone at the Abacus’ by Richard Moore.