(review by mwj)

Friday the 13th lucky for some, as the start of a weekend where 9 bands were seen over two days at a couple of local venues. It was also warmly reassuring for me on such a stormy weekend to see folks turning out, offering a bit of balance to the recent debate on the death of live music. Personally I think it’s always been bumping along the bottom, sometimes it may get better for a while, occasionally it gets worse but the fact is it continues all the same. In some ways North Wales has an advantage of scarcity of gigs, where at least they can be more of an event when they are put together, as opposed to somewhere like Leeds where I was hearing there were literally 17 gigs on one single night. To us bumpkins it may look like they are absolutely spoilt in the big bad cities, but even there there’s just not the number of available and motivated gig goers to mean that the majority of these will succeed as sustainable promotions. Maybe it’s just an extension of personal philosophy for me, but I start with low expectations and am therefore pleased with anything achieved above that.

So, a grim night, missed the train, contemplated not bothering, but then faced with an evening in my own company (the horror…) drove over (to inflict it on others…), maybe just have a couple, see how it went. As usual, especially as it’s not the most spacious place, Speakers at least gives the impression of being busy. It’s had its own ups and downs and critics but it is now still consistently offering open access to all manner of eclectic stuff, even all in one night like tonight turns out to be. I’d known a couple of the five bands on but it turned into one of those “small world of North Wales” of meetings of people who’d come from all directions to this central point.

Ugly Fashion on their second gig are young and somewhat awkward with it, but not in a shy way, more in the uncoordinated energy. A mix of punk covers of the like of “Blitzkreig Bop” and “I Wanna Be Your Dog” with some of their own material mixed in that has at least flashes of the unusual, maybe just because they haven’t settled into something contrived or yet become obsessed with theory.

Also on their second appearance is Juggling Grenades, more punk covers though to don’t know if I recognise any. Maybe this is good in that they are selecting more than the flogged horses of the standards, more likely down to my own ignorance. So while there wasn’t much polish to their performance, perhaps just a fun hobby project, they were ably fronted by Milton and got better as they went along

A dramatic turn of sonic events next as the one man Merciless Savage set about his creation of some brutality. Fair play, considering working on solo live stuff myself and it does take some conviction in your stuff and balls to carry it off but Raz’s blackened death metal was delivered with confidence and skill. His guitar and vocals backed by laptop that has some limitations in bringing definition to the songs but still created plenty of atmosphere. Impressive, a visiting Hecate Enthroned member and me signed up for the potentially soon to be expanded band!

The rejigged order saw Tramp With A Plan next, but as time had gone on the contingent of their fans who had come over from Pen especially to see them (including an ex-Blacklisted/now Shivering Hills guitarist!) only got a few songs before their taxi. It was enough to see that they continue to develop as a band from the couple of times I’d seen them before. Underpinning the strength of Dan’s vocals, that really demand the attention of those left, they were moving on from the more conventional rock approach with some occasionally striking driving riff work. There’s obviously difficulties in riding an edge between musical accessibility and innovation but the hope would be that they don’t sacrifice one for the other.

Finally, and almost without ceremony as things had wound down at the end of the night, another surprise in the form of Aura Distorter. A solo act by (I believe) an ex-Impaled Existence member we treated to some breakbeat noise experimentation on a sampler plus including what may have been the eponymous device, the same weird thing that I’d last seen Whitehouse using to deadly aural effect. Here though, waving hands through the field just added to the warped out sounds and though we were robbed of some potential MC’ing with a lack of mike function it was still all a bit of extra and spice.

A much enjoyed evening all round, no doubt helped by an early offer of a lift home that meant I could abandon my car and was moderately destroyed on selected drinks by the end of the night but it wasn’t just that that had me with a positive outlook (in spite of learning of the Slayer tour cancellation halfway through). Life is just better with set to some live music.