‘VARIOUS ARTISTS’, ‘MUTATIONS FESTIVAL’ – ‘VARIOUS VENUES’, BRIGHTON 1-5.11.23
‘Mutations Festival’ is considered one the UK’s hottest festivals for new music. So naturally the Brighton & Hove News Music Team were in attendance and managed to cover more than half of the acts that were taking part for this year’s bash.
The full lineup can be found in the online ‘Mutations Festival’ programme HERE. We have listed our reviews in performance order, and so without further ado, lets get going…..
‘VARIOUS ARTISTS’, ‘MUTATIONS FESTIVAL’ – DUST, BRIGHTON 1.11.23 (OPENING PARTY)
The 2023 event was officially launched with an opening party event at Dust (formerly Zahara) in East Street on Wednesday 1st November. The separately ticketed event witnessed performances from headline act Fat Dog along with support from Borough Council.
DUST 8:00pm – c8:35pm
First up were Borough Council, who let’s face it, don’t exactly have the most dynamic or catchiest band name in the whole world! But having said that, I honestly had high hopes for this three lad outfit, having enjoyed hearing their song ‘Prescribed’, but I think that for them this evening the sound didn’t quite work out. Maybe as they were the openers the sound levels weren’t quite correct or maybe it was because my ears were still buzzing from the excessive wind and rain from my journey down to East Street? Borough Council seem like nice guys, I’d like to see them on a different occasion and hopefully hear them at their best. Despite the weather, I was raring to go, but unfortunately, for me, these openers didn’t totally grab my attention.
DUST 9:00pm – c9:40pm
Fat Dog on the other hand were good high energy fun. But then the Brighton & Hove News already knew that having reviewed them at this year’s ‘Great Escape’ festival back in May, where they were the Music Editor’s choice act! The adverse weather conditions had ensured that tonight’s opening party wasn’t at full capacity, but it’s no overstatement to say that everyone had big smiles on their faces during the set. The singer spent most of his time with us in the crowd, where he was successfully whipping up a mosh pit (albeit a mini one). One of the tracks was a solo number from the keyboardist who was wearing a hooded cloak. It’s fair to say that their euphorically uplifting bouncy set was a big hit with ‘King Of The Slugs’ being the choice cut that went down a storm! The band were all having a good time too which is always nice and enhances the overall atmosphere. I would very much like to see Fat Dog play live in Brighton again pretty soon! Over to you lads!
‘VARIOUS ARTISTS’, ‘MUTATIONS FESTIVAL’ – ‘VARIOUS VENUES’, BRIGHTON 2.11.23 (DAY ONE)
LATEST MUSIC BAR 4:15pm – 4:45pm
Opening the first full day of ‘Mutations’ 2023 was Naima Bock. Naima performed a solo acoustic set in Latest Music Bar, rather than with her full band. It was just her and her guitar without any backing track, which gave her beautifully crafted set an intimate feel. Her folk voice was very dreamlike across slightly different vocal styles. She utilised a second microphone with an echo effect to add to the atmosphere of the sound. Her voice on ‘Some Day’, introduced as “not the Strokes song”, was more direct and powerful. On the last song of her set, ‘Giant Palm’ there was an almost choirlike feel to her singing as if it were a hymn. Naima included several new songs as she explained “I like to keep it fresh”. Some of which she’d only just written. These fitted well alongside highlights like ‘Campervan’ and ‘Giant Palm’ from her debut album. The audience were respectfully quiet during songs, which Naima said she appreciated. This appreciation was mutual as the early crowd at Latest Music Bar clearly enjoyed her performance.
DUST 4:40pm – 5:10pm
It was another solo set for the next artist, Heka. There was melancholy running throughout Heka’s lo-fi style and haunting aural landscapes. She even joked, “I’m going to be playing more sad songs”. At the start of her set, Heka played electric guitar with a backing track, while later she played unaccompanied. On one song in particular you could hear two very different guitar parts. While your eyes saw a solo artist; your ears heard a duet. Better just to close your eyes and just enjoy the dreamlike otherworldly sounds. The songs’ subject matter may have been sad, but judging by the audience’s reaction, they were very happy with Heka’s performance.
CHALK 5:15pm – 5:45pm
Things were running a little late over at Chalk, as Chartreuse were still sound checking 10 minutes after their scheduled starting time. Chartreuse are a four-piece band from the Black Country whose warm sound had notes of soft rock and Americana. Within the band Mike Wagstaff and Hattie Wilson alternated on vocals. On their latest single ’Whippet’, Hattie sang solo before Mike joined in on vocals. Unfortunately, as the song built, Hattie’s mellow voice was somewhat drowned out, which was a shame. (This may have been because of the rushed soundcheck.) The balance on the sound did improve as their set progressed. Chartreuse started playing with the typical line up of drums, guitar, bass and keyboards, but on one song all except the drummer played keyboards. Chartreuse closed an entertaining set on a high with an up-tempo number, leaving the audience happy.
CHALK 6:15pm – 6:55pm
The Bar Italia trio of Jezmi Tarik Fehmi, Nina Cristante and Sam Fenton were joined for their live performance at ‘Mutations’ by a bassist and drummer. The enigmatic Londoners’ sound hinted at 1990s alt-rock (such as Pavement or Sonic Youth) and 1980s Cure with a touch of Brit pop Elastica. Even with the low stage lighting for Bar Italia’s set, they asked for it to be turned down after the first song. The dark lighting fitted the moody intensity of their sound and persona. With each of the trio having a different vocal style, the shared vocals between Jezmi, Nina and Sam worked well across the set. Musically it was varied with jangly indie pop in places and Psychedelic late 60s Velvet Underground sounds in others. From conversations after their set, Bar Italia didn’t just leave an impression, they left several. Other than the opening comment “Hello Brighton, looking sexy”, there was no other chat from the band. This meant noticeable dead time as the band retuned between each song, which led to some people thinking it was more like a practice or rehearsal. It also divided the audience with some taking this as moody, while others thought it impolite. Although I thought the music played by Bar Italia was some of the best at ‘Mutations’, as a live performance it was too stop-start, lacked a flow and was disjointed.
DUST 7:20pm – 8:00pm
There was no gentle slow start to London-based Modern Woman’s wonderful set, with the band attacking from the opening notes. The band’s music drew from a diverse range of influences from post-punk and 60s folk music to free-jazz and noise. Singer Sophie Harris mixed her vocals from spoken word to screaming. On the second song, there were hints of early Altered Images such as ‘Insects’ in her singing. Later in the set she sounded like a nightclub cabaret singer. One of many highlights was ‘Juniper’ which had a mystical feel from Sophie’s vocals mixed with dance feel from its bass line. By contrast on the following new song, with more of a pop sound, Sophie added an imposing, authoritative tone to her voice. It was a very entertaining varied set from Modern Woman with their new tunes fitting in well with their recorded material. It was good to see they’ve kept the kitchen colander as a percussion instrument
CHALK 7:25pm – 8:10pm
I’ve seen Prima Queen (who play Brighton’s Chalk venue) quite a few times now, and they never disappoint. With their intelligent and varied material and their genuinely joyful performances they really can’t go wrong. They open with fan favourite ‘Chew My Cheeks’ which has ‘classic’ written all over it. ‘Butter Knife’ remains one of the most moving songs that I’ve ever heard. Throughout the set Louise McPhail’s lead guitar playing is relatively understated whilst simultaneously being fluent and fluid. Kristen McFadden mostly plays rhythm guitar and occasionally adds violin, most notably on ‘Crows’. Prima Queen are a band whose time must surely now be coming. Great singing, great playing, great material: what’s not to like?
CHALK 8:40pm – 10:00pm
Headlining the Chalk stage on Thursday were The Staves, an English indie folk trio of sisters Emily, Jessica and Camilla Staveley-Taylor from Watford. For their live show, it was two of the sisters performing, Jessica and Camilla. The identically dressed sisters started their set playing acoustic guitars, and they were joined by a full band. Their clever vocal harmonies worked impressively. Towards the start of their set the two of them shared the vocals, while later each took turns as the lead. There was plenty of variety in the band’s modern folk sounds. A recently released song ‘You Held It All’ was a louder more up-tempo song with a more prominent synth part and the sisters’ acoustic guitars were swapped with electric ones. That was followed by more of a rock track with a heavier sound. There was a change in pace for ‘Nothing’s Gonna Happen’. Before it started the other musicians left the stage apart from the trumpet player. Jessica and Camilla sang this beautifully with just their acoustic guitars and the trumpet. Later there was a piano ballad. There was entertaining banter between Jessica and Camilla. The sisters were amused by the name of the festival, ‘Mutations’, joking about mutating into something else with a silly dance. The Staves’s indie-folk sound, similar in style to First Aid Kit, provided both a thoroughly enjoyable set and a refreshing alternative to the many post-punk indie bands on the ‘Mutations’ line up.
THE HOPE & RUIN 8:40pm – 9:20pm
I toddle up to The Hope And Ruin for Unflirt. Unflirt is a singer/songwriter who is seemingly somewhat less than keen to divulge her real name. Tonight she is on guitar, and is backed by another guitarist (Louis), and Damon on drums. There is no bass player, and the bass is on the backing track, and is at times embarrassingly prominent. That however, is my only criticism of Unflirt. The material is good, and Unflirt’s voice oozes vocal purity. The drummer is really powerful too. So much so that the bass on the backing track could possibly have been abandoned. The band sound better live than on record. Unflirt fingerpicks on ‘Crash’,which is wonderfully delicate. However, for the loudest song in the set she plays acoustic. It works though. I would say that Unflirt are to a degree a work in progress still. One to watch out for though.
THE HOPE & RUIN 9:45pm – 10:45pm
I remain in The Hope And Ruin for ĠENN, who have been recommended to me by many people, not least by Nick Linazasoro from the Brighton and Hove News! ĠENN turn out to be recommended for a good reason, as they’re an absolute treat for the ears! They are Brighton based, although vocalist Leona Ferrugia, guitarist Janelle Borg and bassist Leanne Zammit are originally from Malta. Drummer Sofia Rosa Cooper is a Brightonian however. ĠENN is Maltese for ‘frenzy’, which is a very apt name for the band. The band start playing before vocalist Leona takes the stage. She makes martial arts moves before she starts singing. I wouldn’t mess with her that’s for sure. Leona’s voice is awesome. At one point she ululates. Some of her singing has a very definite North African/Middle Eastern feel, as does the music occasionally. Quite frankly, this band are utterly superb. I already know that the opportunities of seeing them in a venue this small are going to be limited. Their debut album ‘Unum’ came out last month, and they tour the UK in February and March next year. Unfortunately they won’t be playing Brighton, but they will be playing London’s Lexington on 6th March. You know what to do.
‘VARIOUS ARTISTS’, ‘MUTATIONS FESTIVAL’ – ‘VARIOUS VENUES’, BRIGHTON 3.11.23 (DAY TWO)
THE HOPE & RUIN 3:20pm – 3:50pm
Originally hailing from Cambridge, but now residing in London, Ugly opened Friday at ‘Mutations’. The six-piece band fused a mix of styles from various backgrounds of choral, post-Rock and the 60s/70s pop both in their set and within individual songs. At times it even seemed as if different members of the band were playing different styles at the same time. The vocals were shared between three members of the band on most songs. As each had distinct voices, this harmonised well as one juxtaposed another. The last song of the set, which could have been five or six songs rolled into one, typified Ugly’s overall sound and approach. It started with all six of them singing a cappella together, then singing in a round, next synths and guitars joined in for an instrumental part, before a crescendo to close the song. Ugly’s sound was complex, fluid and genuinely unique. The early crowd at The Hope & Ruin largely seem very impressed with Ugly’s interesting take on crafting songs.
THE HOPE AND RUIN 4:10pm – 4:40pm
Next up in The Hope and Ruin are Blue Bendy, a six-piece experimental post-punk outfit based in South London. House left to right, we have Joe, jangling a Danelectro guitar with a fancy gold scratch plate. Olivia wrangles some squelchy retro tones from two Korg synths, one of which is a mini analog with rotary knobs and a tiny patch bay. It looks like it’s been scaled down for your Brian Eno action figure. Drummer Oscar thunders around the kit with brisk fills and plenty of stops and stabs. Harrison, on acoustic guitar, has a shaven head and wild staring eyes and plays seated, which looks freaky in this context. On the opening number, ‘Goodnight Bobby’, he finesses the tones from his array of effects by violently shaking the instrument. Vocalist Arthur wears a heavy leather coat and a scarf. Both are soon discarded. Sam’s pink 6-string bass is going through an octave generator, which should offer considerable sonic potential, but he mainly plays chords which get a bit lost in the busy overall sound. An unnamed new song “about Jackie Chan” has a lovely dancing synth line, and on ‘Alone On The Continent’, Joe is bouncing a guitar slide on the strings up and down the fretboard, emitting a wonderful juddering sound that gives me goosebumps. ‘The Day I Said You Died’ is a big carnivalesque swirl of keyboards, and ‘So Many Evil’ features some tasty work on the acoustic by the manically intense Harrison. Most of the tracks are from a forthcoming album, which I’ll look forward to hearing. They end with two previous singles. ‘Mr Bubblegum’, with a big snare roll opening to skittering keyboards, and ‘Cloudy’, which builds to an expansive playout. Personally, I’d prefer the lead vocal a bit more prominent and delivered with a bit more showmanship. This is dense and busy music that cries out to be fronted by someone going the full Peter Gabriel. That said, I enjoyed the set and would be very keen to hear more from Blue Bendy.
CHALK 5:00pm – 5:30pm
While Storm Ciarán may have been battering parts of Sussex outside, inside Chalk, Peaness brought summer sunshine with their indie pop sound. Their happy upbeat music sounded like it had influences from the likes of The Popguns and The Darling Buds. Even a song introduced as “about hating yourself” had a catchy tune. Peaness took sometimes sad lyrics, added great hooks together with Jess’s and Balla’s sweet vocal harmonies. Their feel-good music soon had people dancing along. It would have been difficult not to, as simply put, it was toe tappingly good. Their sad bangers were an instant hit with the crowd, who seemed to love Peaness’s great show. I certainly did.
PATTERNS 5:35pm – 6:05pm
Patterns is host to Godcaster, a six piece based in New York City. Their music is noisy and complex. They’re not for anyone looking for easy listening. It probably wouldn’t necessarily be a good idea to get their current self-titled album for your mum as a Christmas present. Their music sounds like an unholy marriage between Pavement and And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead. This band may not sell millions of records (well, who does these days?), but the people who like them will like them a lot! They are currently on tour in the UK, and whilst they have no further Brighton gigs booked, they do play the Pitchfork Festival in London on 11th November.
CHALK 6.00pm – 6:40pm
Some slots in my festival schedule are highlighted as not to miss, and former Beta Band frontman Steve Mason is definitely one of them. He’s based near Worthing, so plays Brighton fairly regularly, and his dreamily eclectic psych-tinged anthems are always a pleasure to review. The stage at Chalk is cluttered with multiple drum kits, but it’s just Steve and regular keyboard player Darren Morris tonight. Never fear: drums, world music backing vocals, and all manner of orchestration are safely contained in Darren’s rack-unit-on-wheels, waiting patiently to be released from their captivity via an Arturia KeyLab 88 master controller keyboard. Opener ‘I’m On My Way’ glowers through a slow but intense build before bursting in a shower of sonic magnificence. The vocalist, clad in pork-pie hat and a long raincoat, rattles a tambourine above his head. The coat is soon discarded to reveal he’s taking no chances, and has a cagoule underneath in what looks like gold lamé, ideal for outdoor raving. Fortunately the rain outside hasn’t made it into Chalk, and we board dry for the air-punching rabble-rouser ‘No More’. Javed Bashir is sprung from the rack unit to deliver a guest vocal while Steve grabs some drumsticks to get busy on a set of bongos. “The future’s just there,” says Steve, pointing stage left, after some well-received anti-Tory invective to introduce ‘Travelling Hard’, which bounces along nicely on sampled bass and chunky live piano chords. ‘Brothers And Sisters’ is touchingly dedicated to Steve’s friend and collaborator, the late Martin Duffy, and ‘Upon My Soul’ really grooves, accompanied by disembodied gospel vocals and some entrancingly busy house-style piano from Darren. There’s a lot of dancing and clapping along, and the excitement intensifies with the inclusion of the Beta Band psych classic ‘Squares’. Could it get any better? Yes it could, as Steve and Darren launch the extended lolloping gorgeousness of ‘I Walk The Earth’, from the King Biscuit Time side project. I’m utterly transported. Introducing the final number, ‘The People Say’ Steve poignantly wishes “peace to every human being on earth, and an end to the f*cking genocide”, and the song’s call and response vocal is enthusiastically taken up to the ecstatic punters around me. I think I might have just seen one of the best sets of the festival, and it’s only 6.40pm on Friday.
MARY IN THE JUNKYARD
PATTERNS 6:35pm – 7:10pm
Mary In The Junkyard also grace the stage at Patterns. I’ve seen them described as being experimental. I’m not sure that I necessarily agree with that particular description, as I didn’t really hear much that was new per se. However, I must confess that I certainly found them to be very interesting. Their material is quite wide ranging. They’d be difficult to label, which to my mind is a very good thing indeed. They swap instruments here and there, and bassist Saya Barbaglia also plays viola, which adds another flavour to their music. Vocalist Clari Freeman-Taylor has a superbly flexible voice, which helps with regard to the variety of their material. This is a new band with a shed load of promise. They play London’s Corsica Studios on 27th March 2024. I’ll definitely be there.
DUST 7.00pm – 7:35pm
The shared entrance to Dust venue is cunningly disguised as an upmarket but seedy gentleman’s club, or “titty bar”, as a female fellow punter more bluntly puts it. Nonetheless, plenty of festival goers have found their way in to catch Bollo Bollo, a young indie four-piece from Buckinghamshire. I like them straight away, their intriguing sound roaming the broad spectrum between grime punk and synth pop. Frontman Brad and guitarist Sonny favour Fred Perry tops and monkey boots, whilst bassist Colin rocks a more indie look. Drummer Luc sports a frizzy fringe and tidy beard, and is getting busy with plenty of stops and pushes on opener ‘Nineteen’. For recent single ‘Melt This’, Sonny’s pedalboard has processed his guitar to sound convincingly like a synth keyboard, which raises a few eyebrows, and there’s some excellent funky bass on ‘Screen Time’, which ends abruptly with a beautifully executed synchronised double-clap by the front row players. ‘Forever Stay’ starts slowly with shuffling snare, before developing into an impressive grime rap section which sounds like a slightly less muscular variant of Riskee and the Ridicule. Brad is a particularly engaging performer, and takes off his guitar to get into the crowd for ‘Say It Twice’. I’m delighted to learn that the title refers to the band name, which is indeed inspired by the simian familiar in ‘The Mighty Boosh’ TV show. The steady paced ‘Liquid Heaven’ has a keyboardy vibe, and set closer ‘Swimming’ starts with a contemporary pop feel, rendered more interesting by some freakily inventive use of effects. It builds steadily to a big clanging playout, and Brad is crouched down on the stage, playing his pedalboard to achieve an oscillating howl. It’s been an energetic and enjoyable performance, and I’ll certainly be looking out for this band in future.
CHALK 7:10pm – 8:00pm
For Porridge Radio, the Chalk backdrop changed from the ‘Mutations’ logo to a moving image of the artwork from their 2022 album ‘Waterslide, Diving Board, Ladder To The Sky’. Brighton’s Mercury Prize-nominees Porridge Radio went straight from their soundcheck into their set, taking many in the audience unaware as many conversations carried on over the opening songs. From the outset singer Dana Margolin put real emotion and had a sense of pain in her voice. Keyboardist Georgie Stott took a larger vocal part alongside Dana, compared to their previous shows. At the start of their set, there seemed to be a lack of Porridge Radio’s usual edge in their art-rock indie-pop sound. Thankfully this didn’t last and their angry edginess surfaced, as the guitar parts took on a harsher sound. To use a sports cliché, Porridge Radio’s performance at ‘Mutations’ could be described as a set of two halves, as they cut through over the chattering Chalk crowd.
PATTERNS 7:55pm – 8:30pm
Flamingods are one of the acts that I have most been looking forward to catching at ‘Mutations’ on the account of witnessing their fantastic live set at Suffolk’s ‘Latitude’ festival back in July. The band features Kamal Rasool, Karthik Poduval, Sam Rowe and Charles Prest. As back then, their choice of equipment reflects their background with some members having grown up in Bahrain. The instruments on offer tonight were drums with Roland drumpads, Korg MS2000 keys with Roland keys, Gibson Les Paul Studio guitar, Casio keyboard, Washburn 5-string bass guitar, a Turkish long-necked lute called saz (also known as bağlama), possibly a Turkish Zurna (flute), and of most interest a Taishōgoto which combines the mechanics of a typewriter with an instrument that is played via a violin bow. Flamingods work is hypnotic, but not as in stationary trance, but upliftingly euphoric and as a result from the beginning of their all too short set at Patterns I was merrily bopping away whilst holding onto the crowd barrier. By the conclusion of their wonderful set, it’s fair to say that the soles of my feet were well on the way to getting sore! Flamingods dropped their latest LP ‘Head Of Pomegranate’ on 13th October and the future bodes well for them, as the choice cuts from their set are contained on this new platter, those being ‘Gutterball’ and ‘Dreams (On The Strip)’, which sadly was dedicated to the band’s cat Nelson who had been run over just two nights ago. If you want to feel rejuvenated and full of the joys of life, then a Flamingods gig is the answer. Thankfully they informed us that they will be returning to Patterns for a headline set on Tuesday 19th March – Purchase your tickets HERE.
DUST 8.05pm – 8:45pm
Polemical punk poet Meryl Streek looks fairly innocuous when he arrives in his John Lennon cap and fishtail parka, toting a cabin bag that I imagine contains his merch and backing tracks. It quickly becomes apparent that he may well be the angriest person alive, a densely packed singularity of compressed rage and fury that a devoted crowd has gathered to see unleashed. The house lights are turned completely off and he prowls the stage like a caged tiger, lit only by the strobing flash of a hand-held LED torch. The source of much of the anger is revealed by the backing track, a montage of news clips about the child sexual abuse scandal involving the Catholic Church in Ireland. This is ‘The Start’, from the album ‘796’, a title referring to the mass grave of babies found in a septic tank at a mother and baby home at Tuam. It’s grim subject matter for the ensuing stream of invective, forcefully delivered in a snarled Dublin brogue for the furious ‘Full Of Grace’, underpinned by a post punk backing of chugged guitars and swooping synth. The parka is off for recent single ‘Death To The Landlord’, and the artist is into the crowd, getting up close and personal with his audience. The flashing torch is sometimes held, but is thin enough to go into a mic clip, so can be left on a stand when both hands are needed for emphasis. It’s an extremely intense performance, and a challenging listen, lightened slightly by the revelation that it’s the singer’s birthday. “We’ll go back to the happy music after this,” he quips. The crowd absolutely adores him, something confirmed when they all spontaneously sing “Happy Birthday To You” at the set’s conclusion.
PUBLIC SERVICE BROADCASTING
CHALK 8:30pm – 10:00pm
Public Service Broadcasting are a unique South London-based outfit consisting of original founding member J. Willgoose, Esq. along with Wrigglesworth and J F Abraham, as well as Mr B on visuals and set design (for these live performances) and guest Eera from Berlin on occasional vocals and keys. The band (who are all clad in white this evening) mostly plays instrumental music and they take samples from old public information films, archive footage and propaganda material. On stage at Chalk there is a host of instrumentation on offer including no less than four keyboards, drums, guitar, bass guitar, flugelhorn, banjo, tambourine, shakers and two laptops. With Public Service Broadcasting being tonight’s headline act, it doesn’t come as a surprise that the venue is absolutely rammed, and they have previously filled the Brighton Dome as well (Review HERE). Tonight’s 15 track (12 main and 3 encore) performance is very much enhanced by the screen to the rear, which Mr B adds in live images of the band atop the historic films, which myself and the punters very much enjoy, especially the space themed ones of NASA missions, and Russians missions (for ‘Sputnik’ and ‘Gagarin’). The final number film of Edmund Hillary’s conquest of Everest was good, as was my choice track ‘Spitfire’, which commences “This is a song about a plane…a Spitfire bird”. The electronic synth sounds often rock out psych style and it gets rather otherworldly at times, in fact so much so, that back in the day their music would have been an ideal subject for a special lazer performance at the Planetarium in Baker Street London. My thanks goes to my partner Jordan Mooney (RIP) who introduced me to the band xx.
DUST 9.15pm – 10:00pm
Next in Dust are Glasgow five-piece Walt Disco, who play a fun and infectious sort of 1970s inspired glam pop with a hint of pomp rock. The room has gone from full to packed, suggesting it’s a popular combination. Lead vocalist Jocelyn is a mesmeric presence and is into the audience straight away in first number ‘Gnomes’ before aborting a foray onto the unexpectedly wobbly bass bins. The vocal style is quite operatic, ranging freely from a rich baritone to soaring falsetto. The rest of the band are giving it some too, the front row doing a cute synchronised dance at the end of ‘Cut Your Hair’. Drummer Jack looks like he’s come straight from an audition for a New York Dolls biopic. Bassist Charlie sports a pair of those voluminous baggy flared jeans that were popular in the early 1990s, whilst the artily attired Finlay is busy on keyboards and guitar, sometimes simultaneously. There seems to be a new guitarist, Lizzie, who is coaxing some cool tones through a glowering board of effects. Every song’s a winner. I like the disco stomp of ‘Selfish Lover’ and the strutting rhythm of ‘How Cool Are You?’. Before too long, the vocalist is dangling upside down from a ceiling beam, and we can confirm Walt Disco have truly got the party started.
THE HOPE & RUIN 10:20pm – 11:00pm
The secret gig at The Hope & Ruin announced that morning was local favourites SNAYX, (pronounced “Snakes”). There was a packed expectant crowd for the trio of Charlie (vocals), Ollie (bass guitar) and Lainey (drums). I know several in the crowd had left their previous ‘Mutations’ band early, so as not to miss out on what was to be a special performance. Ollie had dyed his hair purple, maybe to match ‘Mutations’ branding, while Charlie opted for green. What didn’t change was the energy level that SNAYX brought to the stage. From the first lines Charlie was right at the edge of the stage, literally singing in the faces of the front rows. ‘Boys In Blue’ kicked off the set, perfectly showing the band’s political messages and social commentary. As was ‘H.A.N.G.’ with its reaction to the minimum wage and cost of living crisis, which they dedicated to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. Before the song ‘Work’ Charlie asked people what jobs they did. Nobody admitted being a banker given the song’s message. No surprise to anybody who’ve seen SNAYX live, a mosh pit soon formed, which Charlie quickly joined, as if it needed any further encouragement. All the while Ollie and Lainey belted out strong punk infused Alt-Rock with hard-hitting bass riffs and thumping powerful drums. SNAYX successfully combined their strong social message with energy, anger and honesty to create one of my ‘Mutations’ highlights. This was one of the performances that people were talking about over the rest of the weekend.
‘VARIOUS ARTISTS’, ‘MUTATIONS FESTIVAL’ – ‘VARIOUS VENUES’, BRIGHTON 4.11.23 (DAY THREE)
GREEN DOOR STORE 12:30pm – 1:00pm
The violin in the soundcheck beyond the curtain at the Green Door Store was a clue that Man/Woman/Chainsaw was opening Saturday at ‘Mutations’. There was a packed crowd for the London six-piece experimental collective. While some bands start with a slow build to their sets, Man/Woman/Chainsaw started with their brash, unadulterated noise-pop on the song ‘Maegan’. Guitarist Billy took the vocal lead with a more spoken delivery on the first couple of songs, with bassist Vera’s screaming style taking over on the third track ‘Back/Burden’. Man/Woman/Chainsaw showed very skilful musicianship balancing the sounds of all the instruments within their unapologetic intense sound. On some tracks, individual musicians had sections in which to shine. For example, Clio’s violin solo started ‘Grow A Tongue In Time’ with Vera singing more gently. Man/Woman/Chainsaw closed an intense set with ‘What Lucy Found There’, which was an impressive layered wall of sound with a jazz feel. The shared vocals between Billy and Vera worked particularly well on this song, and they added an almost demented tone towards the end. The track, and the set, closed with a crescendo of noise. Man/Woman/Chainsaw were loudly cheered by the packed crowd. If you missed ‘Mutations’ or were one of those unlucky people who couldn’t get into the Green Door Store to see Man/Woman/Chainsaw, I thoroughly recommend checking out this exciting new band.
ALPHABET 1:10pm – 1:40pm
I’m starting Saturday in Alphabet, for the Bella Union showcase. First up, on the precipitously high stage, is Colouring. This is songwriter Jack Kenworthy, seated at a Nord Electro 4 stage piano and smartly attired in a suit with an open-necked shirt. He has a control surface to trigger sampled drum sounds, and a Line 6 multi-effects unit to vary the keyboard output. A previous album ‘Wake’ came out in 2021, but this set is new material for a forthcoming release on Bella Union. ’How’d It Get So Real?’ is a languid piece with a plaintive vocal, underpinned by chunky piano chords with atmospheric overtones. There are some dreamy psych sounds over the drum-machine-led ‘For You’ and ‘I Don’t Want To See You Like That’. For variety, ‘A Wish’ is played standing up with an acoustic guitar. The vocal soars over strummed chords. ‘Lune’ has been released as a single and is rather lovely, the voice floating over shuffling drums and staccato piano. The vibey and ethereal opening of final number ‘Coda’ develops into a slow and thoughtful piece delivered with a falsetto vocal. I’ve rather enjoyed this set. I doubt you’ll see a mosh pit at a Colouring gig, but I imagine the new album will provide an excellent soundtrack for mellow moments relaxing at home.
THE PRINCE ALBERT 1:15pm – 1:40pm
The Prince Albert is the setting for Alien Chicks, who are a trio based in Brixton. Their music encompasses a variety of genres. The early part of the set is energetic math rock with some very interesting tempos. Later on however other influences seep in, including rap, particularly in ‘Say Fish’. The speed of guitarist Josef’s vocal delivery in this song is particularly impressive. There are hints of ska as well. Some of the music is really quite complex. Indeed, I get the impression that they could probably play just about anything that they put their minds to. One song that isn’t complex is what sounds like a death metal version of ‘The Teddy Bears’ Picnic’! Drummer Martha appears to be singing backing vocals but doesn’t have a vocal mic! Maybe she’s just got a very loud voice! ‘5/4’ does exactly what it says on the tin, and closing song ‘27 Stitches’ features what sounds like jazz chords. Here we have another promising new band, but that’s really what the ‘Mutations Festival’ is all about. See for yourself: they play Brighton’s Green Door Store on 10th February 2024.
THE HOPE & RUIN
2:00pm – 2:30pm
I trot around to The Hope And Ruin for Legss, who are a four piece from South London. Vocalist and guitarist Ned Green looks as if he has the world on his shoulders. His occasionally agonised sounding falsetto only adds to that impression. Indeed, he makes Thom Yorke seem positively cheery in comparison. Frequently they do stray a little too far in the direction of Radiohead. ‘OK Computer’ has a lot to answer for! Having said that, they do make for an interesting 21st Century post-punk take on Radiohead. They employ a lot of ‘loud and quiet’. By and large their quieter sections tend to be the most interesting. I would say that thus far Legss are a work in progress, and are still busy building their band’s identity. I look forward to seeing and hearing the finished article.
ALPHABET 2:00pm – 2:30pm
I saw Plantoid fairly recently at the Green Door Store’s ‘2 3 4 Fest’ and was hugely impressed by their superlative musicianship and expansive sound, which ranges freely from prog to psych to jazz. They seem to have acquired an additional member for this show, a percussionist called Nathan, who adds an impressively effective extra rhythmic layer over drummer Louis’ breathtakingly quick triplet fills, as the whole band gets busy on opener ‘Pressure’. They segue into the jazzier ‘Modulator’, with a lovely floaty vocal by Chloë over her rhythm chords, and a stunning break from lead guitarist Tom. Recent single ‘Dog’s Life’ starts with a wonderfully angular clipped guitar that contrasts nicely with the smooth vocal. Needless to say, everything soon gets super busy, with bassist Bernado’s bouncing hammer-ons particularly catching my ear. When you have players this good, you can just have a jam in the middle of the set, which they do, with plenty of shred and showboating. “We’re going to play a really long song,” Chloë informs us, to no one’s surprise. “Like, ten minutes.” Those minutes are utterly blissful, with a medley that develops into another jam. The highlight for me is some Zepplinesque riffing from Tom, who is a guitarist I could listen to all day. I’ve also really enjoyed the extra percussion, and I hope it’s a permanent addition. Apparently, it’s Nathan’s birthday today, though it was the audience that got the treat. If you like psych, and can cope with a bit of jazz and prog, you need to check out Plantoid.
GREEN DOOR STORE 2:15pm – 2:45pm
With the queue back down the stairs at The Prince Albert for Dust and the band already playing, it was a quick change of plan to go over the road to the Green Door Store for Basht. This turned out to be a very good decision. Basht. (spelt with the full-stop at the end) are an exciting young rock band from Dublin, with a loud fast post-punk sound. There were good variations in their set with some moodier gentler numbers. While musically their sound is led by the guitars, the quality of the drums also shone through. Basht. were simply a very good no-nonsense rock ‘n’ roll band.
ALPHABET 3:00pm – 3:30pm
Cuboza is the project of Brighton-based producer Jack Wolter, who is also in the band Penelope Isles. You can tell he’s in an established act, as his guitar collection has its own aluminium house to withstand the rigours of touring. He sometimes plays with other musicians, but today’s performance is a solo operation, with lots of samples and a skittering drum machine forming the base for guitar and dreamy vocals. The visuals are very much the focus, with an interesting and eclectic projected video montage, a mix of brightly coloured patterns and old archive footage. The stage itself is shrouded in a thick fog of haze, with no lights on the player. This material is all new to me, and I’m not sure of the song titles. Audio clips of children’s voices introduce a number I think is ‘Choke’, with sparkling guitar jangling over a shuffling electronic rhythm. Jack is originally from the Isle of Man, and some of the samples and visuals have a clear connection to the island. Some commentary from the TT races starts ‘Buckle Up’, which builds steadily to an insistent groove. Jack moves to the keyboard for ‘Barcelona’, with a beautifully oscillating motif. The set is a very immersive experience, with the songs, visuals and audio samples all merging into a dreamlike procession of random juxtapositions. I enjoyed it very much.
THE HOPE & RUIN 3:00pm – 3:30pm
Also at The Hope And Ruin are Hotline TNT from New York City, who are the brainchild of Will Anderson, previously in Weed. They are a five piece boasting (count ‘em) three guitarists! They also have a sampler which is operated by guitarist Olivia Garner. Will’s vocals seem to be a bit low in the mix, but that might be because I’m right at the front of the stage, so sound-wise not really in the best place. I’ve seen the band described as being shoegaze, but there are not many pedals on stage. Having said that, the guitars are all subject to a great deal of distortion. Indeed, Olivia’s guitar is so distorted and trebly that it sounds like a crash cymbal! Hotline TNT would probably best be described as ‘noiseniks’: the music is distorted but the music remains tuneful. All in all it’s a pretty crunching affair. I like it! Should you wish to see Hotline TNT, they play at the George Tavern in East London on Friday, and at London’s Pitchfork Festival on Saturday.
CHALK 3:50pm – 4:20pm
When I arrived at Chalk, a photographer friend warned me that Snooper would be loud from hearing their soundcheck. He was spot on. The five-piece band from Nashville, Tennessee started their set with a recording of a sound bite, which ended with the line “Now play the music”, which they did. That music was fast, loud thrashing guitars, manic drumming and pop vocals. If there wasn’t enough noise, guitarist Connor Cummins also had a whistle. Total respect to vocalist Blair Tramel for making herself heard clearly above the guitars and drums. No loud then quiet parts around the vocals with Snooper. Plus, she was one of the most energetic performers I saw across the ‘Mutations Festival’. When she wasn’t singing, she did star jumps or ran on the spot. Snooper played recorded footage, but unlike Public Service Broadcasting, this was between songs while retuning, not over the music. There were some similarities with Brooklyn punk band, Surfbort. The NME describe Snooper as “the devotedly silly band reminding punks how to have fun”. They certainly knew how to do that from their ‘Mutations’ showing.
ALPHABET 4:00pm – 4:30pm
No Brighton festival would be complete without congratulations (note styled with a lower-case ‘c’), and since their last EP was released on Bella Union, it’s no surprise to find them here in Alphabet at that label’s showcase. The room has suddenly become very full. Brightly coloured outfits are the band’s trademark, and today’s choice is the fringed jumpsuits, which look fantastic in a freakily retro sort of way. The music and performance is high-energy and lots of fun, with a punky urgency tempered by a funk sensibility. Former single ‘Lucy Lucy’ is a strong start, with guitarist Jamie firing off leg kicks to emphasise his super-sharp riffing. Vocalist Leah strikes poses and pulls faces, while bassist Greg and drummer James lay down a powerful groove. I really like the stomping strut of the second number, whose vocal refrain is “Hot foot for love”. The posing goes into overdrive, there’s a massive drum break and a nifty false ending. ‘Junk’, from the recent EP, has a juddering riff and some big stabs, culminating in a tasty section of wah guitar. The stagecraft is outstanding, with Leah and James swinging high kicks, running on the spot, and for ‘Easter Island Head’ doing a weird chicken dance. They conclude the set with the epic riffing of ‘Zeitgeist’, also from the recent EP. The crowd are enthusiastically clapping along, and we’ve all had a rather wonderful time.
BUZZARD BUZZARD BUZZARD
CHALK 4:45pm – 5:15pm
I head off to Chalk for Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard, who are late replacements for Panic Shack, who have had to pull out. As shaven headed frontman Tom Rees puts it: “you were expecting your mummies but you got yer dad!”. Well, that’s one way of putting it I suppose. I was really looking forward to Panic Shack, but Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard are more than worthy replacements. They are purveyors of riff-driven rock with a punky edge. There’s some excellent dual lead guitar courtesy of Tom Rees and Zac White. Whilst no hats are tipped in the direction of classic rock, Tom is wearing a Black sabbath t-shirt, which is kind of apt. The keyboard player (who seems to be anonymous) looks as if he has come straight from a 1980s office. However, his playing adds another dimension to the band. At one point he plays a wonderfully fuzzy, funky bass part on the keyboard, then as the song gets heavier he positively batters his instrument. Should there be any doubt, this is a ROCK band, and they’re well worth seeing live.
CHALK 5:40pm – 6:10pm
I’ve made my way to Chalk to catch KEG, a band I particularly like. They’re an angular and experimental art rock seven-piece, with trombone supplying a jazzy tinge. I first caught them at ‘Mutations Festival’ in 2021, when they were crammed onto the rather smaller stage of The Folklore Rooms. They’re coming to the end of a tour, so should be well prepared for this performance. I’ve bought their two previous EPs, but this set is mostly new to me, and I’m glad I’m right at the front in sight of a setlist. ‘Lamposts’ has a slow and vibey start, horn-led with keyboardist Will adding some glockenspiel. It soon livens up with clipped trebly guitar from Frank and Jules. Current single ‘Quip Quash’ has a manic feel that reminds me of The Cardiacs, and frontman Albert is punctuating the bellowed vocal with nifty skips across the stage. “Teach your children to swim, because one day Michael Phelps will be king,” is the surreal lyric to a number named after the former olympian. Bassist Joel and drummer Johnny are locked in tight on the skittering rhythm. Trombonist Charlie moves to keyboards for ‘Gringotts’, with Will supplying a third guitar part. Arthur is doing a sort of stationary moonwalk, and we end in a big flurry of stabs. There’s a number called ‘Love Song’, which is pretty standard, except the object of the affection here seems to be psychedelic veteran Robert Wyatt, if I’m hearing the lyric correctly. And why not? I’m very impressed by the continuing creativity of KEG, and I rather hope all this new material is heralding a forthcoming vinyl release.
PATTERNS 6:35pm – 7:15pm
We’ve got some adverse weather in Brighton today, so I’m glad there’s no queue when I get to Patterns to catch local favourites DITZ. Needless to say, it’s absolutely rammed inside though. If you’re not familiar, the band inhabits the noisier end of the post-punk spectrum. Lead vocalist Cal is wearing a rather fetching little black dress, and wastes no time getting straight over the barrier into the crowd during opener ‘Seeking Arrangement’. The lineup looks a little different for this show, with Ed Lamb from the band Staff Party depping for Jack. He’s doing a fine job too, fitting in seamlessly with Anton to provide the twin guitar attack. Bassist Caleb and drummer Sam get tight on the big builds and stabs of ‘Gayboy’, and Cal has taken an interest in the venue’s moving light fixtures, helpfully giving them a bit of a dust. Tonight’s merch sales patter includes an intriguing offer of a private view of CCTV footage from last night’s show in Bristol. Apparently Cal “stacked it….blood everywhere.” I can’t say I’m too surprised. After the thudding bass of current single ‘Riverstone’, the singer’s back into the surging crowd for ‘hehe’, before taking it up a level by walking precariously across a sea of willing hands during ‘Teeth’. There are dramatic stops and stabs in ’18 Wheeler’, with Cal alternately shushing the crowd and then conducting cheers. The set concludes, as is customary, with ‘No Thanks, I’m Full’, and it’s all getting very lively indeed. A bass break and a swirl of effects lead to a massive ascending build, accentuated by strobe lights. Cal encourages the audience to do the classic get-down-and-jump-back-up, and the ensuing frenetic playout inspires some vigorous moshing. A glowering circle pit opens up during a slow reprise, which builds rapidly to predictable mayhem. A performance by DITZ is usually a powerful and intense experience, and this was no exception.
CHALK 6:40pm – 7:20pm
I’ll be upfront and say that Dundalk based Irish 5-piece Just Mustard were one of my must-see bands at ‘Mutations’. The Chalk lights went down after Katie Ball’s vocal soundcheck. Almost immediately Just Mustard started their set with ‘Seven’ in their distinctive style with distortion on the guitars of David Noonan and Mete Kalyon, thumping drums and in total contrast Katie’s silky-smooth vocals. There were respites from the noise, ‘I Am You’ had a mellow start and finish, with Katie’s transfixing haunting voice to just Shane Maguire’s drums either side of the guitars. On ‘Frank’, a slower tempo song, Robert Hodgers Clarke’s bass lines took a prominent place. It was one of the loudest performances I’ve seen from Just Mustard. At times you had to concentrate to hear Katie’s voice and tambourine over the deafening distorted guitars. That tambourine sat on one of the cymbals to create an extra sound from the drum kit on some songs. On ‘Frank’ Katie sang “I watch TV to fall asleep”. There was no chance of falling asleep to Just Mustard’s industrial strength wall of noise. It wasn’t just high volume for the sake of making a loud noise, but crafted layers of sounds, similar to My Bloody Valentine only harsher musically and dreamier on vocals. I went with high expectations of seeing Just Mustard again, and I’m pleased to report they not only met them, but massively exceeded them.
DUST 7:15pm – 7:45pm
Los Angeles based Ill Peach (stylized all in lowercase) this evening in Dust consisted of Pat Morrissey (keys) and Jess Corazza (vocals). This was to be a memorable performance for them as this was their first ever gig in the UK, so I’m rather chuffed to be here and see what they have to offer us. Jess informed me that they usually have a guitarist and drummer with them, but to be honest, I’m glad that they didn’t, as the duo setup of the AKAI APC Key 25 along with a Korg synth, and a laptop and effects, truly highlighted their American electronic pop sounds. Only a few hours earlier, they had dropped their debut long-player ‘This Is Not An Exit’ and this was plundered for tonight’s set, although they kicked off with their debut single ‘Gum’ from back in 2021. ‘Blah Blah Blah’ from the album bounced along nicely, whereas ‘Hush’ flitted between gritty dirty beats and an almost Scandinavian synthpop vibe, but the choice track was a tune that reminded me of Jessie Ware’s ‘110%’ with added New Order style guitar, which I reckon was ‘Capillary Bed’. I would very much like to see Ill Peach play live again, so fingers crossed they will again cross the pond. For fans of anything in between CHVRCHES and The Sundays.
CHALK 7:40pm – 8:20pm
For producer and vocalist Grove, there was a huge table packed with laptops, keyboards, synths and a mixing desk. Also on stage with Grove was a DJ on synth and backing vocals. Grove sang over highly danceable heavy bass lines with fast tunes mixed over the top. From start to finish Grove’s set was packed with energy and attitude. The DJ on stage provided a good counterpart to Grove, with a more laid-back style and dreamy backing vocals. During the first track, Grove shouted, “Chalk we don’t want your apathy; we want your action”. The second song ‘MILF MAGNET’ was dedicated to “hot mums and strong bold women”. Grove soon got the Chalk crowd dancing. The penultimate song, ‘Sticky’ was introduced with “We need to finish this in a sticky way”. It had another striking dance beat designed for sticky night clubs. Grove’s material had big political messages with the need for social action. Before ‘Big Boots’, an anti-monarchy anthem, Grove explained “Energy is high in here and it’s warm. Get the energy up, but it’s what we do with it”. The final number, ‘Stinkin Rich Families’ was about rich people who do anything for money, even start wars and suppress people. Grove’s infectious dance tunes and relevant social comments created a really great atmosphere at ‘Mutations’, and was one of my festival highlights.
PATTERNS 7:45pm – 8:30pm
It’s still pretty cosy in Patterns, with a packed crowd in for Dream Wife, a four-piece who combine powerful feminist and political statements with a bouncy and infectiously danceable sound. Last time I saw them was on the larger stage of Chalk, so I’m interested to see how they come across in a more constrained area and intimate setting. Pretty well, is the answer, with a big chant underway early on for the anthemic ‘Hey Heartbreaker’. Rakel is an engaging presence on lead vocals, whilst Alice wrangles high-speed riffs from her distinctive white travel guitar, customised with fluorescent fret markers. The rhythm section are super-tight with plenty of groove: Alex behind the kit and breathtakingly nimble bassist Bella firing off high kicks whilst playing. For ‘So When You Gonna…’ we get some fast tremolo strumming and a scratchy lead riff. Rakel poses the question, “So when you gonna lose yourself on the dance floor?” and it all gets pretty lively on our side of the barrier from that point on. ‘Hot’ dispenses sensible advice not to date a musician, and inspires enthusiastic clapping along from the audience, whilst ‘Orbit’ is based around a delightful hammered-on guitar riff. Between songs, Bella’s vocal mic is too low to clearly hear the explanation of why a large and weighty-looking object is balanced on the bass player’s head, but it’s another impressive demonstration of athletic prowess. I can barely hold myself up these days. The set is a lot of fun, but the message is serious and never far from the surface, summed up by the lyric of ‘Somebody’: “I am not my body, I am somebody.”
THE HOPE & RUIN 8:15pm – 8:45pm
Hot-footing it from her support slot the previous night in Manchester for Big Joanie was Maria Uzor, who many of you will know as being one half of Norwich duo, Sink Ya Teeth, with Gemma Cullingford being the other member. I witnessed them perform at ‘Mutations’ at Chalk back on 6th November 2021, where I observed “The eager punters were most certainly rewarded with a masterclass in nostalgia-tinged post-punk retro-electro”. Would this evening’s performance be along the same lines? Thankfully yes! Although this set was very much the case of a whole host of presets, knobs to twiddle and a laptop. The result was throbbing beats with layers of vocals and electronic sounds. It was an animated performance from Maria, who went for a walkabout amongst the punters during the set. It was chugging beats all the way, with the set highlight being the penultimate number ‘Innocence’ from back in 2021, with its catchy “Innocent is what they always think; Innocent is what they always think” repeated lyrics. As DJs would say “tuuuuunnnne!”. Having whipped the crowd up into a (dance) frenzy, Maria concluded the set with a slower tune, which reminded me of the Belgian New Beat tunes from back in the day, which if on an album would sound better if played at 45rpm instead of 33rpm. For me it should have ended on ‘Innocence’, but my friends Tina and Alexander who I was standing with totally loved everything about the set.
FAT WHITE FAMILY
CHALK 8:50pm – 10:00pm
I’ve made a quick dash through the rain to Chalk to catch Fat White Family, who have gained some success and plenty of notoriety with their nihilistic and sometimes chaotic post-punk experimentation. The last time I saw this band was as a stripped down version, playing a socially-distanced show during the pandemic. My suspicion that this will be a rather more lively experience is immediately confirmed as an impressive crowd bounce gets underway during opener ‘Wet Hot Beef’. The lineup is always fairly fluid. Alex is house left, sporting a beret and honking a massive sax, and guitar duties for this show have fallen to Adam Brennan, clad in a long coat. Frontman Lias, on the other hand, is shirtless other than a draped scarf. His brother Nathan is house right, on synths, brimming with mischievous enthusiasm. Tumbling drums underpin ‘Without Consent’, and during the manic screaming of the urgent ‘Tinfoil Deathstar’ it’s all getting pretty crazy out in the crowd, with drinks being flung about and a rather alarming surge underway. By the time we reach ‘Touch The Leather’ a circle pit has formed, luring the reckless and foolhardy to step inside. For ‘Hits Hits Hits’ Lias has a gong to bang, and I notice a slower number that seems new, called ‘Religion For One’. He sure can pen a witty lyric. I’m pleased to hear the chugged stomp of early single ‘I Am Mark E Smith’ (“I’ve got the paperwork to prove it”), and the “don’t fail me now” hook of ‘Feet’ seems particularly appropriate in the midst of a vigorous mosh. The soaring electro throb of ‘The Whitest Boy On The Beach’ is utter bliss and the crowd are loving it. Someone is dancing with an open umbrella. It’s that sort of day. The setlist suggests the band were planning to play ‘Bomb Disneyland’, but Lias has had enough and it all peters out rather messily. To be fair, I wasn’t really expecting a slick showbiz ending. I sure was glad I caught this must-see set though.
THE PRINCE ALBERT – 9:10pm – 9:50pm
Toronto based artist Debby Friday brought her haunting electronic melodies and basslines to The Prince Albert on Saturday night. Before Debby came on, Ben started the music from the variety of technology set up at the side of the stage. Debby delivered an amazing vocal performance, full of feelings and emotions. Her voice was very soulful, and when needed she effortlessly shouted out the lyrics. Debby made full use of the space on the stage, as she danced sensually during her performance. Later in the set, she left the stage to sing in the audience. It was a very confident assured performance from Debby Friday, which I and most of those at The Prince Albert enjoyed.
THE HOPE & RUIN 9:15pm – 9:45pm
Five months on from her previous performance At The Hope & Ruin, Vanity Fairy was back at it to win over some more new friends. Anyone that was present last time will rightly observe that this evening’s set is virtually a carbon copy of the last one. Divine disco diva Daisy Capri (aka Vanity Fairy) once again made an immediate impression with her unmissable costume of long glittering dress and elaborate neck rings. A look partly taken from the roaring twenties (1920’s that is) and the Jazz Age. While there was a sense of nostalgia about Vanity Fairy, with the visual look and sounds from kitsch-pop and classic disco, her performance was anything but dated, making use of current technology via various presets located on the floor (once even being pushed by a fan in the audience). Opening with ‘Sentimental Lover’, it was apparent from the off that her vocal range was falling in the Barry Gibb and Kate Bush bracket. It’s fair to say that Daisy laps up the attention and at the end of the set, the adulation from the crowd, she even admitted it herself. It was very much a case of forgetting your worries and just rolling with the late 70s disco’s HI-NRG vibes akin to the likes of Divine and Laura Branigan from this somewhat eccentric person. Rarely stationary, Daisy seemed to be everywhere in the venue, including behind the stage curtain, in the sound booth and even outside the door to the room! ‘Top Of The Pops’ (out in February) with its 80’s US power pop sound was undoubtedly the crowd favourite. Prior to exiting the stage, Kama Sutra positions cards were handed out with stickers (of her social media contact) covering the naughty parts. For me there was a very strong whiff of theatrical cruise ship Karaoke about the set, but the punters really enjoyed themselves!
THE HOPE & RUIN 10:15pm – 11:00pm
Out of all the many acts I witnessed at this year’s ‘Great Escape’ new music festival back in May, Acid Klaus were the third best act and a must see again and again and again show. I knew that I had to see them at the ‘Great Escape’ as I had first witnessed the memorable artist/outfit three months earlier at ‘Lewes Psych Fest’, where they (for me) totally blew all the other acts out of the water! Acid Klaus being the brainchild of Sheffield’s Adrian Flanagan, who’s spent two decades working on the fringes of alternative music as a songwriter, wordsmith, musician, producer, remixer, DJ and cultural agitator. Adrian (a long-time purvey of electro-pop), his three chums, a Yamaha Reface, plus another keyboard, and a drum with drum pads, were here to entertain the full venue crowd with 11 choice cuts across the 45 minute set, which commenced with ‘Party Sized Away Day’, which featured Cat Rin on lead vocals. Cat was at it again for tune two ‘Bethlehem Or Bust’ which is totally sung in Welsh. Adrian is quite an outspoken character and some would argue he’s a sarcastic bastard, but I wouldn’t have him any other way, as he makes me laugh and if you don’t get his Northern brashness, then you certainly have the full on dance music to fall back on! Adrian takes lead vocals for ‘Blow Your Speakers’ via the use of a vocoder, which I totally love! There’s a new tune in the set tonight, ‘Physical Jesus’, which features both Rosey PM and Cat on vocals. For ‘Crashing Cars In Ibiza’, Maria Uzor returned to the stage to sing the vocal lead, after which Adrian was back on vocals for ‘Bad Club Bad Drugs Bad People’ and also for ‘I Used To Be A DJ In A Club’. Adrian even ventured into the crowd and even crawled through a guy’s legs at one stage. ‘You’re A Freak’ (with Rosey PM on vox) reminded me of Colonel Abrams ‘Trapped’ and they signed off with ‘Heavens For Sale’ and it’s fair to say that I was feeling deliriously happy and rather sweaty from my 45 minute bopping workout. For me THE best ‘Mutations’ 2023 act, end of!
THE PRINCE ALBERT 10:15pm – 11:00pm
American rapper Fly Anakin was the final act on at The Prince Albert on Saturday. Fly Anakin was joined by a producer / DJ. He described the double act as “One makes the beats, the other writes the rap”. Those beats were soulful and even included a piano ballad. Fly spend a lot of the set asking people to “make some noise”. The performance did have a fairly amateur feel, as if being made up as it went along, with comments like “What’s the time. What’ll we do now?” mid set. This may have been deliberate or down to the beer supplied and the tequila bought for the singer. Overall, it was an amusing almost comedy performance, closing with Fly saying in typical fashion “It’s 11, we’ve got to get the f*ck out of here.”
‘VARIOUS ARTISTS’, ‘MUTATIONS FESTIVAL’ – ‘VARIOUS VENUES’, BRIGHTON 5.11.23 (DAY FOUR)
THE PRINCE ALBERT 2:05pm – 2:35pm
My Sunday starts at a rammed Prince Albert for Automotion, who feature one Lennon Gallagher. There is certainly a buzz about this band, but my concern is that it may be purely because of the presence of Liam Gallagher’s son. I am worried also that Automotion’s music is going to be a tedious Britpop re-run, but their music couldn’t be further away from that, thankfully. They are fronted by Lennon’s schoolfriend Jesse Hitchman on guitar and vocals. However, Lennon also takes some lead vocals. He doesn’t sound like his dad though. His vocals have a dreamy psychedelic feel. Much of Jesse’s vocals are spoken, as per Grian Chatten of Fontaines DC. Jesse’s lead guitar playing is awesome. On one song he taps, a la Eddie Van Halen. This is a brave step to take, but he does it well. The songs feature some interesting elongated instrument sections. The playing is so varied thought that at no point do they sound self indulgent. During a comparatively short set they effectively surf genres: there’s post-punk (isn’t there always?), there’s psych, math rock, pastoral fingerpicking, crunchy art rock, and (whisper it softly) hints of jazz. This is one very interesting band. Catch them at Bedford Esquires on 3rd February 2024, and Bristol Outer Town Festival on 13th April 2024.
THE PRINCE ALBERT 3:05pm – 3:35pm
Although the Brighton & Hove News have reviewed Currls a number of times over the past four years, as far as I can recall, this was to be my debut encounter, although I had previously met vocalist/guitarist Holly Deanna (with curls) at the rather wonderful new Bella Union shop located just down from Queens Road. The Brighton based DIY trio these days is also made up of Jack Smith (with curls) on bass and Hannah Websdale (no curls) on additional vocals/drums. The Currls sound this afternoon at The Prince Albert is loud and is a compelling mix of garage rock, punk and pop. The venue is not surprisingly rammed for the seven tune performance, which commenced with the opener from last year’s ‘Hello, My Name Is’, in the form of ‘Honey’. Immediately, my hips start shaking, my head starts bobbing and my foot gets tapping, Currls have got my attention, despite the fact that Holly is on the lemon and ginger tea in order to assist her sore throat. ‘Nerve’ from the same EP get’s an outing, but obviously Jack was having too much fun as his Fender Precision bass amp started playing up, cue sound engineer Zoe to the rescue. All is well with the world, and the catchy garage/indie rock tunes continue, with Holly showing us what she can do with her Fender guitar. There was jovial banter exchanged with the crowd throughout the set which set the perfect tone. They saw the set out with the 2018 single ‘April Fool’, which was the second best tune of the set. The premier cut being ‘Family Man’ (from the EP), this being the fastest and most punky tune and like many of their tracks coming in at under three minutes. It was worth being here to simply hear that, it’s an absolute gem! More like that please guys!
FLIP TOP HEAD
DUST 3:20pm – 3:50pm
Brighton-based septet Flip Top Head started the final day at ‘Mutations’ at Dust. Their very diverse set opened with ‘I Can’t Wait Till I’m Old’. This started gently with Bowie Bartlett’s vocal delivered as poetry to Alfie Beer’s trombone before building and ending with Bowie’s unaccompanied vocal. The next song ‘Seventh Bell Number’ worked as an organised mix of sound with a free jazz feel overlayed with Bowie’s haunting voice. Bertie Beer took over lead vocals on ‘The Weightlifter’. His more direct vocal style contrasted beautifully with Bowie’s eerie chanting on this and later songs in their set. There were many changes in pace and style throughout Flip Top Head’s 6 song set, both between and within songs. The whole band switched from dreamy to jazz funky and back seamlessly in a single note as one. Within the diverse range of styles played, there was plenty of instrument swapping by the multi-instrumental band members. Alfie swapped trombone for acoustic guitar, while Ollie White went one further with guitar, synth and tambourine. (He may even have played egg shaker too.) Flip Top Head’s captivating mix of folk, jazz and rock created huge soundscapes. That was combined with wonderfully haunting and also spoken vocals delivering a unique, interesting and totally enjoyable performance.
THE PRINCE ALBERT 4:05pm – 4:35pm
I remain at The Prince Albert in order to catch Aziya, which we learn is pronounced “Eye-Zigh-Ah”. She also informs us that she has hot-footed it from the USA and that her two chums (on Fender bass/Moog keys; and drums with a single strip drumpad) were rather worried that she wouldn’t make it here in time. Aziya, as you would expect, is on vocals as well as switching between two Fender guitars, one being a Jaguar. Unfortunately, many Currls fans had decided to depart the venue and Aziya was left with less than half of those who had seen the previous set. I felt sorry for her, as clearly this young musician deserves to be heard, but I guess, being a festival, there are so many clashes to deal with! Aziya’s set began on the rocky side with ‘Chain’ from the new ‘Lonely Castles’ 4-track EP, followed by ‘Maratona’, and then onto ‘Mars Retrograde’, which witnessed Aziya ditch her guitars in favour of vocals only and she made a brief journey into the sparse crowd. ‘Girl Meets World’ is a quieter number still and was written from the perspective on how she can make an effect in the world. ‘Atomic’ (not the Blondie tune) injected some more life back into the set and thankfully the Moog has to have a small cameo role. The next lively number was ‘Wundagirl’ which is about having to be almost like a superhero in order to make it in the music business. The photogenic trio signed off with set highlight ‘Slip’, which we learned was the first ever song that she had written. A relatively pleasant set!
GIRL AND GIRL
DUST 4:20pm – 4:50pm
Next up for me is Girl And Girl at Dust. They are from Australia and feature Kai James on guitar and vocals, his Aunty Liss on drums, Jayden Williams on guitar and Fraser Bell on bass. They sound like an unholy marriage between garage rock and The Wedding Present. The lyrics are quite emotional. I do hope that they’re not written from experience! I’m hearing occasional hints of The Smiths. All in all they sound as if they have just materialised from the mid to late 1980s, which is by no means that terrible, as long as they don’t sound like Kylie and Jason (which they absolutely don’t). Their final song “is a bit of a country & western song,” which possibly sells it a little short. It starts in more of a rock ‘n’ roll vein, and then speeds up enormously. If it is a C&W song, then it’s probably one of the fastest ever written. It’s ace. Aunty Liss looks like she may have a heart attack before the end of it, but if she does, she’ll have it while having a whole lotta fun. They have no more UK dates planned unfortunately, but they do play the Pitchfork Festival in Paris on Saturday, if anyone fancies a last minute trip on the Eurostar.
CHALK 4:35pm – 5:10pm
The stage at Chalk was very crowded with three drum kits, at least two keyboards and numerous guitars for the bands playing there later on Sunday. Yet the first artist on stage was a solo singer, Fears. Fears sang to electronic and acoustic samples. Fears mixed music with visual art with her imagery on the stage backdrop to each song. Her moving vocals and later in the set her guitar playing was very pleasant. Perhaps the choice of opening at the largest venue wasn’t the right setting. Fears may have worked better somewhere like Latest Music Bar rather than Chalk.
CHALK 5:35pm – 6:15pm
It was a quick return to Brighton for English Teacher, having played here the previous Sunday. English Teacher started with ‘The World’s Biggest Paving Slab’, and dropped the tempo slightly for ‘Mental Maths’. There seemed to be a louder punchier sound compared to English Teacher’s show only the previous week. They do have a habit of keeping things fresh, with different interpretations of their songs when played live and at different shows. After ‘A55’ singer Lily Fontaine announced “Time for some slow new songs”. For these, drummer Douglas Frost moved onto keyboards, and guitarist Lewis Whiting swapped to an acoustic guitar. The two unreleased tracks ‘Mastermind Specialism’ and ‘You Blister My Paint’ showed a gentler, more soulful side to Lily’s voice. ‘Polyackward’ was an example of the band’s ability to switch between controlled atmospheric and frenzied energy within the same song. ‘Nearly Daffodils’, their most recent single, was a faster song which got even faster through the song. On ‘R&B’ Nicholas Eden played one of his best bass lines of the set. Before the final song there was an impromptu drum solo, which from her laughing, seemed to take Lily by surprise. English Teacher closed a special performance with a great indie pop tune ‘Good Grief’. This was played louder and faster with Lily and Lewis facing each other playing a guitar crescendo. I was more than happy to see English Teacher again, so soon after their last Brighton show.
DUST 6:30pm – 7:10pm
I’m at Dust again for Another Sky, who although they may not necessarily wish to be described as such, are a prog rock band. They’re an astonishingly good one too. They met whilst studying music at Goldsmiths, University Of London, and comprise Catrin Vincent on vocals, Max Doonan on drums, Naomi Le Dune on bass and Jack Gilbert on guitar. Catrin has an incredibly powerful voice, and is one of the best vocalists that I’ve seen for years. Indeed, all four musicians are incredibly good at what they do. Their material is interesting too, both musically and lyrically. Riverbed is about viewing yourself as a fish. ‘Beach Day’ was written as lockdown was gradually lifting, and is about the incredible feeling of freedom engendered by actually being able to go to the beach again. ‘The Pain’ is about running away from your ex. It’s actually a pretty bouncy song, so maybe that’s more about a feeling of freedom too. ‘A Feeling’ is about a Universal Credit work coach. “She sucked” apparently. ‘Uh Oh’ is punchy, heavy, happy and tuneful. As Catrin says: “that was happy wasn’t it? Now back to reality.” ‘Avalanche’ is delicate early on, then gets much heavier. One thing that is very noticeable about this band is that they rock out really joyfully! The final song in the set is ‘Psychopath’, which Catrin says might get her a defamation charge. Hopefully the song’s subject won’t realise it’s about them! What a great band. Apparently another album is in the works, and they tour the UK in the autumn and winter of next year.
DUST 7:40pm – 8:30pm
There was a long delay before Chappaqua Wrestling at Dust, because of issues with the singer’s mic. So their set started late. It could have been even later, as the band said they didn’t want to keep people waiting any longer. The band soldiered on with their indie dance guitar sound. Although from the front we could just make out the vocals, I suspect that those at the back couldn’t. When the band asked “Are you up for a dance? Who’s ready?”, most people were. It was a lively crowd who really seemed to be enjoying the performance. It was worth staying and putting up with the technical issues early on, as they were fixed (or worked around), and it turned out to be a good set by Chappaqua Wrestling.
GREEN DOOR STORE 9:10pm – 9:50pm
I now trek up the hill to The Green Door Store for Miss Tiny. They consist of Dan Carey, from Speedy Wunderground records, who has produced Wet Leg, Fontaines DC and Squid amongst others, on guitar; and Benjamin Romans-Hopcraft from Warmduscher on drums and vocals. They are also joined by a lady bassist, whose identity appears to be a closely guarded secret. She’s very nice though, as I had a brief chat with her afterwards. Ben normally plays bass with Warmduscher, and halfway through the set he tells us that “it’s weird playing drums”. Weird it may be, but he makes a good fist of it. Opening song ‘River’ begins as the most traditional-sounding song that I’ve heard all weekend, in that it has a bit of a blues influence. Dan plays both chords and lead, often sounding like two guitarists. He reminds me a bit of Wilko Johnson. ‘OMG Pam’ heads towards the more experimental end of the spectrum, which is always interesting. ‘Summer’ is particularly punchy, and has a nice meaty bassline. Dan is riffing on the bottom three strings of his guitar whilst soloing on the top three, which reminds me ever so slightly of a certain Mr Hendrix. Not too much though. I really like side projects as they give musicians the opportunity to do interesting things that they might not necessarily get away with in their day jobs. Miss Tiny are a prime example of this. The only problem with side projects is that they rarely seem to play live. Miss Tiny are a prime example of this too!
GREEN DOOR STORE 10:15pm – 11:00pm
I finished my ‘Mutations Festival’ this year at Green Door Store to cover CumGirl8, which is more than the band’s stage outfits did. From the look of the four-piece New York band, I was expecting a punk or riot grrl sound. From their first song ‘Goth Girl’ CumGirl8’s sound was more the new wave / art-punk from their home city than hardcore punk. Singer Lisa Fox rarely had to scream or shout. At times she was even softly spoken. Although the song ‘Take Me Home’ did have more of a punk edge. I maybe should’ve guessed their New York new wave sound from guitarist Avishag Cohen Rodrigues’s appearance. She did have a striking early Debbie Harry look with black lipstick, sunglasses, leather jacket and trousers. Early in their set the band asked what people had had for breakfast. That introduction to their song ‘Waffles’ probably works better at home in the United States. The next song ‘Cicciolina’ was about the porn star turned politician, who the band want to meet on the Italian leg of their European tour. CumGirl8 may create a first impression with their provocative outfits, but they don’t hide behind them. Musically they were very good and tight, especially Chase Lombardo on drums. Avishag’s guitar and synth work in particular caught my eye. For the final song ‘Picture Party’, Chase came out from behind her drum kit to play another synth. There was a dance rave feeling to ‘Picture Party’. Despite having her foot in a cast, Chase still managed to dance along with guitarist Veronika Vilim to their final song. CumGirl8’s performance definitely brought ‘Mutations Festival’ 2023 to an unforgettable closing climax.
‘Mutations Festival’ 2024 will be taking place across Brighton from Thursday 7th to Sunday 10th November 2024. Tickets are on sale now – Purchase them HERE.