GOD DAMN, SLATE HEARTS, WARDENS: OXFORD CELLAR, 22/05/2016
Bit weird. He was here a second ago – the God Damn singer, I mean – wandering around offstage, mic in hand, mixing it with the punters, and now he’s… not. Where go he? And why is everyone looking in my direction?
COZ HE’S STANDING ON THE BAR AND OVER MY HEAD, straddling the beer taps while screamo-ing a ‘nasty little song with a horrible title’ (his words, not ours. We Don’t Like You, mebbe?) over our heads. And it’s only the second track of the set.
Welcome God Damn, the Wolverhampton two – sometimes three, so let’s call ‘em a two-and-a-half for tonight – who knock nine shades of brown out of the guitar-drum format and pulverise the place, but we’ll get back to them soon enough coz tonight we’ve got a three-strong bill that’s two-parts local.
Up first are Wardens, a trio of quiet-looking Ox lads who look a bit like two brothers and a tall singer, probably because they are… two brothers and a tall singer. Tidy, punchy set mind, packed with small but perfectly-formed anthems in a Foos Manchu kinda way, catchy enough to make you feel like you know their stuff even if – like me – you don’t. The funkier Go Figure is a highlight, as is the Cobain-ish grit in the vocal. Nice work, Wardens. Good warm up.
Next on the Cellar stage are Slate Hearts, another local three-piece but now we have looseness and MOVEMENT up there, all limbs and shirts and flop-hair flying. The look might be early 90s indie – Steve Lamacq would cream hisself – but the sound is a harder blend of twisted Sub Pop-erama and Mudhoney frazzle-fry, with more going on than first meets the ear, I reckon. Definitely another one to check further.
Right then: God Damn, on the road touring their Vultures album, and if you wanna see a band put shit-eating smiles on strangers’ faces with a set that’s Holy Devoted to guitars, drums and the righteous power of unadulterated amplification, this is where you go. Vultures the album nabs some desert-scene groove and roughs it with Winnebago Deal attitude, but God Damn live are way bigger than a two-piece has any real right to be – when Thom Edwards stomps his pedal board, hits Kyuss oomph mode and ups the force of an already tidal riff, you KNOW you’re alive. Starting the set with Vultures itself, and ending with the nine-minute backporch intoxication sludgecrawl that is Skeletons, God Damn give us a good-time gig that’s loud, life affirming and just a bit fucking mental. Planet Rock Radio might well be the place ‘where rock lives’, but God Damn gigs like this are where rock comes ALIVE.