Saturday 4 March 2023

Black Doldrums / Hey Bulldog / slab - Manchester Gullivers - 3rd March 2023

Friday night saw Black Doldrums open up their UK and European tour with a Deco Records night at Gullivers in the Northern Quarter in Manchester. A strong three artist line-up kept the audience entertained throughout with three excellent yet very different in their own way bands.

slab open up proceedings with a forty-five minute set that is about half instrumental pieces which is where they shine most. You get the sense that they'd be equally as happy just the three of them in a rehearsal room rather than up on a stage in front of a very good sized crowd for an opening act. That's not a criticism, just an acknowledgement of the way they have an intuitive connection with each other to just get their heads down and make music for themselves rather than crafting something for other people. And when it's good, which is most of the set, it's very very good indeed. 

Hey Bulldog exist in a similar space. They've learned over the years to open up to their audience more, two new songs Indie Time and CM7 feel a little more accessible as they seek to build on the reputation they've worked hard to create in Manchester as one of the most naturally groove-laden bands on the scene. The longer-form jams of The People That You Know, No Future (Part II) and Losing My Spell form an impressive trilogy to end the set where the trio lock in and let their music take them off to a different head space. The crowd are drawn in by the simple infectious energy of three mates doing what they love best

Black Doldrums have expanded to a trio at some point in the last six years since we last saw them with bassist Matt joining guitarist and vocalist Kevin and drummer Sophie to complete the line-up. They've also released their debut album Dead Awake last year from which a large part of their set is taken including its key two singles Dreamcatcher and Sad Paradise which are dispensed of early in proceedings.  

Kevin starts the gig amongst us, almost taking out a couple of the crowd swinging his guitar around, but when he's back up on stage, Black Doldrums become a force of nature, driven along at an unstoppable pace by Sophie's phenomenal drumming, rhythmic, pulsating and providing the energy that pulls the enthusiastic packed room into their music, no less so when they finish with ten minutes where they just completely lose themselves and take us with them for the ride. 

The addition of the bass gives them light and shade rather than just raw power, there's moments where they channel the raw post-punk energy of bands from this city and others where they embrace the harder purer rock elements of their sound and it gives them a much fuller palette that keeps the audience drawn in by more than raw power itself and the roar they get at the end of each song and the loudest at the end tell their own story.

Black Doldrums are on Facebook and Twitter.

Hey Bulldog's official site can be found here and they are on Facebook and Twitter.

slab are on Facebook.


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