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Warsaw flyerUlterior
Russell And The Wolves
Islington Boys' Club

Warsaw @ The Common Place, Leeds
Wednesday March 9 2011




Well, this is the first time I've been to a gig in a punk rock bicycle repair shop. But that's what The Common Place is, among other things, when it's not hosting rock 'n' roll activities.

In a way, it's a surprise to find such a resolutely non-corporate venue in Leeds, for the city likes to see itself as ruthlessly slick and modern these days. Every other building seems to be a designer night club, and high-spending hedonism has replaced heavy industry as the city's raison d'etre.

But down a cobbled street on the wrong side of the railway tracks, the ragged, radical heart of the People's Republic of Yorkshire still beats. The Common Place styles itself an 'autonomous and radical social centre', and if that seems almost self-parodically right-on, not to say a little vague, at least we know we're not in a designer night club. Ramshackle and grubby in a good way, this is an appropriate place to catch some autonomous and radical bands doing their stuff.

Islington Boys' Club face the traditionally cautious never-seen-them-before reaction from the crowd. Everyone hangs back, but, encouragingly, everybody pays attention. They're a curious bunch, these Islington Boys: three heads-down laddish rockers churn up the noise in the engine room, while an elfin, almost otherworldly singer makes mime-like moves like a slightly spaced Mick Jagger up front. He sings in a melodramatic croon, as if he's filtering Chris Corner out of IAMX through some sort of outrĂ© sixties sieve. It's a stylistic mish-mash, but the Boys carve something cohesive out of elements that you woudn't instinctively put together. That's a result in itself.

Islington Boys' Club / Russell And The Wolves

I've never heard of Russell And The Wolves before, but tonight that puts me in the minority. The band seems to be some sort of Leeds local heroes, and they've got a crowd of boisterous mates leaping around down the front to prove it.

Well, Leeds local heroes they may be, but somewhere inside their heads Russell And The Wolves inhabit a garage in California. They churn out a Crampabilly sturm and drang, two guitars doing that chime 'n' buzz thing while the drummer nails the beat to the ol' barn door. Curiously, for a style of music that is at least 50% about madcap showmanship, the guitarists and drummer maintain a heads-down muso introspection - the female guitarist, stage left, toting a Poison Ivy-style semi-acoustic, is hardly more than a mop of purple hair throughout. Fortunately, Russell And The Wolves have a singer (presumably Russell himself) who enthusiastically embraces the showmanship side of things, even if he isn't quite sure where the stage ends and the audience begins. Hollering mightily, he lurches into the crowd, accosting innocent bystanders and generally being as loomingly intimidating as it's possible for a man in a red frilly shirt to be.

As a grand finale the female guitarist takes off her shoe and plays a noise-guitar solo with it in a manner that I'm sure Genesis P-Orridge would appreciate, although, as she does this at floor level while hunched, mop-haired, over her guitar, I suspect few people even notice. That's the paradox of Russell And The Wolves: showmanship and shyness wrapped up in rock 'n' roll.

UlteriorUlterior don't deal in paradoxes, and you certainly couldn't call them shy. They're unashamedly, almost aggressively, a Rock Band, capital letters and all. They're all leather jackets and hard stares, and enough attitude to pin the audience to the back wall of the venue.

Mind you, you'll have to take my word for the leather jackets and stares, because the band are barely visible in the belching cloud of smoke which fogs out the venue from the start of the set to its eventual finish.

Add to this the constantly flickering strobe, the ever-shifting green lines of the laser in the corner, the almost complete absence of any other lighting, and that relentlessly pow-pow-pounding Ulterior-beat , and the whole experience is a bit like being trapped in Dante's inferno on disco night.

Ulterior hammer out their devil's music regardless, fuelled by melodrama and manic energy. The careering blast of 'Sister Speed' roars out of the murk like an unexpected train; 'Sex War Sex Cars Sex' is an implacable, if somewhat fogbound, statement of intent. Technical hitches occur, things go wrong, strop-levels rise - but somehow it all fits the atmosphere. 'Just play!' shouts a voice from the crowd, as the band grinds to a halt amid crackles and fizzing from the PA. 'Who's the big mouth?' enquires Ulterior's vocalist, half rhetorically, half spoiling for a fight. Perhaps fortunately, the noise cranks up again just in time. Ulterior floor it to the finish. 'Aporia' pours on the drama. It's a punk rock power ballad, the swagger off into the sunset. The final rumble dies away, and Ulterior are done.

The smoke settles, the damage is assessed. I think the band got way with that one on spunk and nerve, really. There were several moments when the technical hitches threatened to bring the show down, but victory was snatched from rock 'n' roll chaos under cover of the fog. The People's Republic of Yorkshire still knows how to have a good time.


Ulterior: Website | MySpace | Facebook

Islington Boys' Club: Website | MySpace | Facebook

Russell And The Wolves: MySpace | Facebook  

For more photos from this gig,
find Islington Boys' Club and Russell And The Wolves by name here.

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