YAK + Broken Hands + Eighteen Nightmares At The Lux
The Barfly, London
September 16 2015
Words: Linn Branson
It's an impressive three band line-up at the Barfly for this midweek X-posure night hosted by the former XFM, now Radio X, presenter John Kennedy: any of the three able to headline in their own right. And anyone looking for a quiet night out with a few tunes and a couple of beers would have found themselves in the wrong place as there was nothing short of blue touch paper lighting as the intensity built up during the course of the night.
About to release their debut album, tonight acts as a showcase for Canterbury's Broken Hands with all eight songs of the set being taken from the record. Not, however, too surprising given that they not so long ago opted to discard all their previous material and began experimenting with a new approach. This new part psych, part dirty blues-meets-garage rock - with added spacey distorted electronics, just for good measure - still packs all the punchy riffs and vivacity that has been in evidence for the last few years.
Vocalist Dale Norton channels a controlled, urgent energy whether balancing over the edge of the stage for 'Should I', his gaze penetrating far out to the back of the room, or taking to amp standing during new single, the dark and mesmerising 'Who Sent You'. Both songs, all wiry guitars and hypnotic beat, get the head nodders and body shufflers out. '747' may be a slower tempo'd number, but no less intense as weighty drums lend a base for its big build to the chorus line that meets with an appreciative response. Likewise, ‘Meteor’, which powers full force, hitting the walls of the room with fuzz sonics and electronic feedback and fizzing on its wing tails of light.
Closing the set on the double whammy of the powerful three minute fuzz blast of ‘Death Grip’ and album title track, the dark riff tumbler, 'Turbulence'; the latter which sees Norton spend almost its entirety on the floor amidst the crowd, who part obligingly to allow his passage through - a bit like Moses parting the Red Sea. It's a fitting end for a band whose direction change seems to have firmly superglued any slightly fissured parts of old.
It's not far into headliners YAK's set before it becomes apparent that this is a band in whose case the hype has proved not only accurate but actually underplayed just what an impressive live act they are. There's not one moment when you don't take for granted that you are witnessing something quite special as they blast their way through a set that rocked, rolled and sent you into a headbanging frenzy.
When Peace's Harry Koisser described the trio as "sexy and dangerous” he hit the nail on the head. With only a couple of EPs and singles (their debut single 'Hungry Heart' released back in January) to their name so far their reputation has been built much on their live show - and you had better believe that their recorded work gives little indication of the electrifying atmosphere they create live.
‘Cumberland Gap’, which they lead with, is their extended 10-minute version of an original Appalachian folk song that was reworked by skiffle king Lonnie Donegan in the 50s, and now turned into an audacious and electrifying psych-out, with Oli Burslem's feverish deliverance on vocals and guitar working the whole work into a swirling hypnagogic triumph. And it's just the start of how wild and feverish things become.
In Burslem, YAK have a vocalist and frontman who is simply riveting to watch. It's not just that looks-wise he bears more than a passing resemblance to a young Mick Jagger - all shaggy blond hair and voluptuous lips - but his vocal range is equally as dynamic, ranging from smoky blues crooning on 'Kid Yaself' and 'Alas Salvation' - the latter also including an unexpected howl to wake the gods - to a Jim Morrison-like drawl on 'Hungry Heart', the thrashing psych monster with its driven reverberating guitar thrash that just charges its way into your head. As the familiar chords hit the sweat-dripping walls, serious moshing ensues amongst the exuberant front rows, ignited up to boiling point as Burslem dives in amongst the throng.
As they draw the night to a close with 'Plastic People', while screeching guitars and unrestrained drums work from Elliot Rawson took place on stage, off it it was time for full-throttle crowd delirium when Burslem catapults himself into the audience to be carried aloft - flat on his back and still clutching his guitar - almost as far as the back bar.
At the end of a show that no-one wanted to end, that left everyone from the crowd, to John Kennedy and various record industry big-wigs, in awe, there are not sufficient words to describe this band: fascinating, exhilarating, intoxicating, mind-blowing are a few. But one thing's for sure, tonight, the Barfly witnessed new rock gods in the making. All hail.