On a wet and windy Friday night in November Ste Ackley took a drive over the moors to Todmorden to witness London’s Black Doldrums roll into town on the penultimate date of their UK tour with support from Purple Merlin and Liberal Violence.
Todmorden, is it Yorkshire? Is it Lancashire? I’m not sure if anyone knows, but what I do know is that it’s worth the journey. Only seventeen miles from the centre of Manchester, thirty minutes on the train, the point is that it’s home to the The Golden Lion pub.
We’re spoilt for decent music venues in and around the North West but The Golden Lion is quietly and without fanfare becoming the jewel in the crown. What first appears as a local pub reveals a cobbled-together sound system that wouldn’t look out of place strapped to the back of a truck at the Notting Hill Carnival, and plays perfect host to the impressive list of DJs regularly brought in to entertain local crowds. Previous line-ups read like a who’s-who of superstar DJs with David Holmes, Kevin Rowland, Andrew Weatherall, Mr Scruff and Andy Votel having graced the decks. But if you head up to the function room, that’s where the magic really happens...
Dark Matter, who run the upstairs venue are promoters that are prepared to take a risk, and we love them for their attitude. It doesn’t matter where you’re from or how long a band have been together, if Lou, the head honcho, sees a spark, you’re playing - and with full credit to the people of Tod’, there’s always a crowd to play to.
Liberal Violence are band that are new to me, but made an immediate and lasting impression. Playing a hometown show, this frighteningly young four-piece (they’re just sixteen now and have already been together for two years) rip through a spikey post-punk nine song set that shows real depth to their songwriting. They are a unit not afraid to try something a little off kilter to challenge the listener.
In lead singer and guitarist, Syd they’ve got a a true star. Looking like a young Ian Curtis, he’s mesmerising to watch and has the thousand yard stare down to a tee. That’s not to stay the rest of the band are there merely as support. Guitarist Barney takes over lead vocals on a new song that doesn’t appear to have a title yet, but which matches anything else in the set for quality. Lewis and Peter (bass and drums respectively) are rock-solid, giving the other two room to play freely. I wasn’t the only one commenting that within a couple of years this band will be heading towards the top of the pile. Liberal Violence are definitely a band to keep on your radar.
They played: Parcore Parcore, Clouds & Rainbows, Wake Up Society, Miss You, Home, Patterns, New song, Fading Feelings and Broom Broom.
Next up Stockport’s Purple Merlin take the stage… Channeling the spirit of Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd, they’re brilliant and shambolic in equal measure. None of the songs have got names apparently, but every one of them is fantastic trip into heavy psychedelia. Dogged by technical difficulties they managed to play around five songs tonight before proceedings come to an abrupt end. When the guitar player's amp begins to cut out this doesn’t go down well at all with him and in the preceding melee his guitar is thrown to the floor, then a mic stand and then his attention is turned to the toppling the PA. Forcibly ejected from the building, this leaves his band mates sheepishly packing up their gear and apologising for his behaviour. This is a band that could have it all, but on tonight’s display they are in danger of throwing it away, which would be a real shame.
Black Doldrums are a real force to be reckoned with, playing countless gigs around this country and further afield every year, honing them into a boy / girl, fuzzy, blues, psych-rock monolith. This two week tour has seen them travel the length of the country playing the songs that will make up their highly anticipated debut album, due to be released towards the middle of next year.
Heading to the stage in what has become a highly-charged atmosphere they launch straight into recent single Dreamcatcher. The potential limitations of being a two piece guitar and drum setup are immediately chewed up and spat out, as Kevin wrestles the the opening riff (reminiscent ofTomorrow Never Knows?) from his guitar, three amp and big board of effects pedals set-up, before Sophie’s tribal drums kick in and the reverb-drenched body of the song begins to grow. This same formula flows throughout their set, but never once do the songs sound formulaic because there’s enough variation to keep the listener interested in what’s coming next.
Black Doldrums specialise in long songs, playing only seven in the hour they are on stage, but these extended songs don’t overstay their welcome, changing pace and direction with ease before falling back into their groove. It’s impossible not to be picked up and carried by these tunes, and they had the room in the palm of their hand from the very start. The pair show visible surprise at the crowd’s shouts for an encore, but oblige with Maya, a song Sophie later informs me they’ve not played live for years. You couldn’t have guessed, as it’s served with the same power and intensity as the the rest of their very impressive set.
Black Doldrums played: Dreamcatcher, Those With A Rope Around Their Neck Don't Always Hang, City Lights / Exit City Lights, Sidewinder, There Is No Eye, It's A Dandy Massacre and Maya.
Liberal Violence are on Facebook and Twitter.
Purple Merlin are on Facebook and Twitter.
Black Doldrums are on Facebook and Twitter.
The Golden Lion in Todmorden is on Facebook.
Dark Matter Promotions are on Facebook and Twitter.
Photos by Matt Giddins
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