Billed as a South West show case, the inaugural Wax Music Presents went down on the 21st April at the famous Cavern Club, Exeter.
Responsibility fell on local post-punks Dead Camp to kick things off in a suitably raucous fashion. Frontman Andy Hawkings‘ haunting croon, which sits somewhere between Nick Cave and Echo and the Bunnymen frontman Ian McCulloch, rides above a dark wave of angular guitars and a deep, pulsing rhythm section that brings to mind ‘The Rat’ era Walkmen. With some unexpected twists, turns and tempo changes thrown in for good measure Dead Camp are not only compelling live but prove a tantalizingly dark prospect when they get around to some recording.
The steady thump coming from the kit of drummer Ben Woods announced Pastel Colours arrival on stage as they settled into the insistent groove of first single and set opener, ‘Hands Like Silk’. Naturally more muscular than on record, any comparisons to The Byrds give way to a sound more akin to the experimental spaciness of Soft Machine but with the immediacy of Nuggets regulars, The Seeds. With the current psych revival there are plenty of bands looking to the same references as jumping off points for their own sound and, all too often, opting for style over substance. But as ‘She Can’t Decide’, with its ultra-infectious chorus, brings the short set to an end in a swirling cloud of flange drenched guitar and oscillating synths its evident that the Falmouth five piece have got plenty of both.
With something of a stark change of pace The Red Cords launch into what is a relentless set of garage hyper-punk. There are brief moments of respite coming in the form of the comparatively pedestrian chug of ‘Dead Heat’ and singer/guitarist Charlie Murphy requesting a replacement for a faulty patch cable, but that doesn’t hamper the trio in any way. The set comprises mainly of new material from the Dead Heat, like the one-two punch of EP standouts ‘La-Beeve’ and the kinetic, strung out ‘Punk Eye’. By the time they end the set with ‘The Dodo‘ it feels like they have been on stage for a painfully short period of time.
It seems the fate of final band Towns is that their name can’t be mentioned without immediate comparisons to My Bloody Valentine. Its quite a cross to bear but the Bristol quartet seem to have taken it in their stride. As a live entity the band have honed their performance with a confidence and swagger that tracks like ‘Marbles’ and ‘Young At Heart’ demand and would easily translate onto a far larger stage. Not that the set ever seems overly choreographed; there are plenty of moments where the set descends into a squalling cacophony, composite frontman James MacLucas dropping to his knees or holding his guitar at arms length, a sustained chord feeding back as he seethes rather than sings, eventually disregarding the instrument altogether. Much has been made of the bands ability to bring together both sides of the musical north/south divide of 90’s UK and nowhere is that more evident than when they play live, the baggy rhythms of the Factory Records bands with the more experimental alt-rock of their southern shoegazing counterparts.
Video: Sid Coppi & Ross Jones