Before 2024 gets into full swing, I wanted to take a quick look back at some of the live highlights from the second half of 2023. The first six months of the year saw outstanding shows from the likes of Dawn Ray’d and Savageheads (From Black Flags to Corpse Paint), but the next six were not to be outdone…
Yet, if working backwards, we actually have to start off with the biggest disappointment of my gig going year – reaching Hackney in mid-December, looking forward to catching another fierce dose of Stiff Meds, only to find out that they were unable to make the show. Now, Jesus Piece’s blend of beatdown meets death metal, as well executed as it is, is unfortunately not really my bag. That said, I’ve always found watching waves of stage divers strangely soothing, so all was not lost!
A couple of months earlier in October, I had the unexpected pleasure of catching the return of As Friends Rust at The Boston Music Room. I must confess to be being unreasonably excited as I headed to the gig, memories of brilliant previous shows, most recently in 2008, still surprisingly vivid in the memory, and further sharpened by the strength of their excellent new album, Any Joy, the band’s first new release in twenty years. As I wrote at the time (Returning Ghosts And Determined Friends), there is something strangely primordial, almost instinctual, that grips you when you see the return of a band who have been intrinsic to your music listening over a long period of time – as you bellow lyrics thought long forgotten, and find yourself sucked inexorably into the swirling pit, you come to realise just how deeply ingrained their music has become. Everyone left sweaty and smiling, which is as good a benchmark as any for a successful hardcore gig.
September brought the final ever Static Shock Weekend and Tom Ellis had pulled together quite the line-up to sign-off in style. But there was one particular band that I was determined to see and that was Spirito Di Lupo (SDL), who released their debut LP Vedo La Tua Faccia Nei Giorni Di Pioggia earlier in the year, and it has proven a mainstay on my turntable ever since. They did not disappoint. The live setting surprisingly saw their guitars less scuzzy in tone, almost flirting with the psychedelic, while the rhythm section locked into its powerfully infectious groove. At the heart of SDL’s sound is their duelling twin vocalists and their taut, almost chaotic, interplay brought a fierce vitality to their performance. The more deadpan shouts of Francesco and the energetically impassioned yelps of Vittoria combined to pack a truly invigorating punch.
And talking of stacked line-ups, it took one of formidable depth for me to shake off tiredness and head out again after a long trek back from West Wales in mid-August. Golpe opened proceedings at Studio 9294 with swaggering intent, before Bad Breeding literally stomped everyone into submission. It was going to take quite the performance to bring the night to a suitably crushing crescendo. That Cloud Rat would do just that, however, was never in any doubt. The brutal intensity of the band’s musical onslaught is remarkable to behold, and Madison’s vocal performance becomes ever more visceral – aggression untempered, emotions stripped utterly bare. A set that was as punishing as it was cleansing.
Finally, we arrive in mid-July. And it was a week where every European tour seemed to be descending simultaneously on London. But there was a show that kept quietly asserting itself – Diploid at New River Studios. Diploid hail from Melbourne and this was their first ever European tour, despite having been prolifically active in the Australian DIY scene for the past decade. Their new album and fourth full-length, I Am Yours. And I Am Here Again, had seen them take their fierce fusing of chaotic hardcore and grindcore to new levels of ferocious inventiveness. And while my expectations were high, nothing quite prepared me for the battering that was delivered that evening. Every aspect of their set from Mariam’s raw screams to Reece’s demonic roars, from the ferocious riffage to Scarlett’s brutally frenzied drumming was amplified beyond what felt physically possible. Cathartic doesn’t even begin to describe the impact, and as the set ended you found yourself almost breathless, so intense had it been.
So, not a bad six months at all and 2024 is shaping up to be just as exciting, with forthcoming shows from Fairytale, Deaf Club, and Unbroken already whetting the appetite!