Ethereal Aggression, Elegant Moshing

Saturday night at the Static Shock Weekend (left to right: Spirito Di Lupo, Es, Belgrado, Tramadol, and Poison Ruïn)

And so it came to pass, the final Static Shock Weekend.  And if Saturday night’s show is anything to go by, it was a fittingly euphoric send off.  At a festival so regularly packed with fine bands, choosing what night to go is often the biggest challenge.  Preference is for the smaller venues (so definitely New River Studios over The Garage), and logistically for Thursday or Friday nights, which typically work better.  So yes, I plumped for the Saturday night show at The Garage, for the simple reason that the bill that night looked positively stacked.

And so, it proved.  I managed to squeeze in just as Tramadol kicked off (although the balance of this piece does not follow a strictly chronological order).  They laid down a furiously discordant wall of noise which, when the band surged together as one, segued into a series of brutally heavy breakdowns, ensuring a venomous start to the evening.  As ever, Es brought their insidiously danceable, dystopian synth-punk to the table, with Everything Is Fine proving a particular highlight of an excellent set.

Poison Ruïn, meanwhile, locked into a punishingly precise groove straight from the off – Pinnacle of Ecstasy was particularly vividly rendered, but the most visceral reaction of the night was reserved for set closer, Not Today, Not Tomorrow.  Powerplant are currently building quite the head of steam and went down a storm, but I must admit I’ve never quite clicked with them.  But I did like their crow mascot.  I’m a big fan of crows, in fact, of all members of the corvid family.

Prior to the show though, there were two things I was particularly keen to see.  Firstly, how would Belgrado’s electronic reinvention translate to the live environment?  I must admit to certain doubts when I heard that the band’s first LP in seven years, Intra Apogeum, would see their cold austere guitars and jazz-inflected drumming replaced by synths and drum machines.  That said, this courageous reimagining proved quite the triumph.

Playing live would, however, inevitably pose a whole new set of challenges.  Although, having had the pleasure of catching Fatamorgana (an electronic side project of vocalist Patrycja and new bassist Louis) at the DIY Space For London back in 2019, I had few doubts that the band would overcome these.  And (bar the yearning spiritual chasm of where the drum kit should be!) Belgrado did so with impressive aplomb.  Perhaps inevitably their set veered closer to the theatrical performance of pop – a charismatic vocalist backed by three essentially static band members – than I am naturally comfortable with.  But the punk heart that still beats within the band was palpable throughout.  Not least when Patrycja leapt into the crowd to create one of the most elegantly joyful mosh pits I have ever seen.

And the second thing?  To see Spirito Di Lupo (SDL) full stop.  SDL’s cracking debut LP Vedo La Tua Faccia Nei Giorni Di Pioggia has rarely strayed far from my turntable since it landed earlier this summer, and I couldn’t wait to see the fresh dynamics that the live setting would spark.  And they did not disappoint.  Sonically, their live sound was cleaner, less scuzzy, than I had anticipated, the guitar taking on an almost psychedelic edge, the bass and drums locking into a powerfully infectious underpinning rhythm.  An almost ethereal aggression.

But the key to SDL’s sound, perhaps, lies in their fiercely dualling vocalists.  Throughout the album they clash and complement in equal measure, a taut yet almost chaotic interplay, separate but seemingly also organically as one.  Difficult to recreate live?  Not a bit of it.  The more deadpan shouts of Francesco and the energetically impassioned yelps of Vittoria are superb individually, but when they come together in unison, they pack a truly visceral punch.  A brilliantly invigorating set and definitely my highlight of the evening.  Hopefully, it won’t be too long before they return to these shores again.

So, all in all, quite the send-off for the Static Shock Weekend and a big thanks to everyone who worked so hard to pull it together.  Now, we’ll just have to look forward to Damage Is Done IV, heading our way next March!