Live Report - Blackhole/Strike Anywhere/Protest The Hero: Cardiff, 02/12/09
Live Gig

Release year: 0
Reviewed by James

Fuck late starts. Seriously, fuck late starts. For whatever reason, this gig started 20 minutes late, setting us up for a night with, for the large part, a rather ramshackle feel. Luckily, the wait was worth it, as I managed to plonk myself directly in front of the stage, ensuring a prime position. Only to find myself nudged aside by the frontman of opening act Blackhole, as he vaulted the barrier in order to play his set in the middle of the crowd. A worthy attempt at making his band stand out a little, but sadly it falls a bit flat due to the venue being way to big to pull it off, resulting in him seemingly getting lost in the crowd, and the fact that his compatriots remained on stage, meaning that those of us at the front really didn't know where to look. The lead on his mic effectively acting as a trip wire didn't help matters, either. And what of the actual music? Think the pugilistic punk n' roll of UK hardcore golden boys Gallows, minus their almost gothic levels of great British gloom, and you've got Blackhole in a nutshell. Fitting, as frontman Richard happens to be the little brother of Gallows throat Frank Carter. Originality levels may be low, but at least they've got heart, and seem to win over a few fans.

Next up, after a set change that seems far longer than it should it's melodic hardcore stalwarts Strike Anywhere, one of those bands who seem to have build up a cult fanbase through sheer hard graft, touring relentlessly. Aforementioned cult fanbase seem to be out in force, tonight, as the second the band start playing I'm squashed against a barrier by a horde of people singing along to every word as if each one means everything in the world to them. And although their particular brand of punk isn't exactly my thing, you can't argue with the strength of their live show. Frontman Thomas Barrett is big on audience participation, which is probably how this reviewer ended up with a crusty punk dreadlock in his mouth. Nice. It's just a shame that due to time constraints their set time is oddly brief for an established band, and matters weren't helped by their mics cutting out halfway through, forcing them to halt proceedings mid song. Their set resumed, but it's another reminder of the somewhat thrown-together nature of tonight's show. Indeed, even before their set started the band looked ready to take a swing at the sound guy, so frustrating were the pre-set hold-ups.

It was getting on for 10, two and a half hours after doors were supposed to open, and we'd been treated to less than an hour of music so far. So thank god for Protest The Hero, the prog-metalcore wunderkind who seemed to attract a surprising share of the audience at this very hardcore-based show. For once, setting up seemed to go to plan, and bassist Arif was kind enough to keep the audience entertained with goofy jokes during sound-check. And before I knew it the band were ripping through last year's masterful Fortress pretty much in sequence, playing to a crowd who seemed to know every word (the microphone was even thrust into the crowd so we could sing along to the interlude between Bone Marrow and Sequoia Throne). Rody Walker is a captivating and charming frontman, with his eccentric mugging and silly dancing, so much so that your often distracted from the sheer chops on display here. It's in a live setting that we really get to see the skill necessary to play Protest The Hero's music, and to their credit the band are frighteningly tight throughout. With this level of energy from both audience and performers, and the tunes to back it up, we should be set for a gig to remember.

Oh, but of course there's a hitch. After Limb From Limb, a roadie hastily takes the stage to tell the band that due to tonight running behind schedule, they're going to have to cut down their set. And so, after a hastily thrown-in and flow-breaking song from Kezia we end on a somewhat anti-climatic Spoils. All in all, a set that had the potential to be amazing, but one that was merely great due to factors outside the band's control.

It's worth mentioning that Protest The Hero weren't in fact the headliners tonight. That honor goes to seminal militant vegan beer-spilling hardcore punks Propagandhi, who due to the late start I didn't actually get to see because I had to leave before they even came on. And judging from the mass exodus following Protest The Hero's set, so did many people present. And so a dodgily run gig had the knock on effect of the headliners playing to a half empty room.

Killing Songs :
James quoted
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