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Venom Seeds signVenom Seeds
The Astounding Trephinations
Maggie's Bar, London
Saturday June 28 2008






For anyone who recalls the dominance of club culture during the 1990s, the current surge of enthusiasm for live music is quite a phenomenon. Every bar in town now has a live music space where once it merely had a DJ console. Here at Maggie's Bar, a designer watering hole at the trendy end of Stoke Newington, the bands squash uncomforably into a small alcove in the corner of the cellar. There's no stage, the PA looks only marginally bigger than a home hi-fi, and the sound engineer, stationed at his miniscule mixing board, is practically standing in the midst of the bands. In short, it's not the enormodome.

But it's a gig, and that in itself is something. Only a few years ago, the best we'd get in a place like this would've been a DJ The Astonding Trephinationsspinning dance classics.

The proprietors of Maggie's bar have obviously found that putting on bands is a good way to attract custom – it's free entry tonight, which presumably means the venue is bankrolling the bands in the hope of getting more eager drinkers through the door. That amounts to a neat illustration of the pull that live music has these days. Yes, things have certainly changed.

The distinct lack of Enormodome-style facilities does not seem to bother The Astounding Trephinations, a band with a name like a circus act and the demeanour of off-duty used car salesmen. They churn up a good old pub rock stomp, like a reincarnated Doctor Feelgood, while the frontman jerks around in manic fashion, accosting random audience members, gurning horribly at anyone who catches his eye, and generally being rather scary in such a small space. Good fun, but don't know if I'd buy a used Nissan Cherry from these gents.

Two girls in chinese dresses, one bloke in black. Vocals, guitar, drums. Punk rock minimalism filtered through Captain Beefheart's mutant blues. There, in a nutshell, you have the Venom Seeds. As a concept, that sounds good to me. What's more, the sound sounds good to me, too. In spite of the bare-essentials line-up, there's nothing minimalist about the racket this band generates. Staccato drums hold everything together, while the guitar slides as if on a rock-strewn scree from one fuzzed-out chord to the next. Impressively, tthe guitarist maintains an air of studied cool, even as she's ripping shreds out of her vintage Gibson.

Up front and in our faces, the singer free-ranges around the bar (and, occasionally, on top of it), stomping on tables with her assertive boots, all the while shrieking fit to shatter the crockery. The Venom Seeds know how to handle dynamics, mind: they'll take it down and bring it back, reduce everything to a pounding drum, and then unleash a guitar-avalanche in G. It's an Venom Seedsexhilarating demonstration of killer musical chops lightly worn, plus a decent dollop of punk-attitude showbiz. in the confined area of the band corner in the cellar of Maggie's Bar, the effect is a bit like being put through a glamourous and noisy rock 'n' roll sawmill.

But here's where I must switch to the past tense, for it now appears that this was the last Venom Seeds gig. Unexpectedly, abruptly, and with more gigs lined up to play, the band split shortly after laying waste to Maggie's Bar.

Did they have a big argument? Was it those good old musical differences? Did someone want to do a 'Jazz Oddessey'? Or was there a sudden bizarre gardening accident? A brief note on the band's MySpace page tells us only that the drummer 'decided to move on to different projects'. Fair enough, although I don't quite know why that has to be a fatal error. I mean, why not just get another drummer? The woods are full of 'em at this time of year.

In the grand scheme of things, of course, one band more or less won't matter. Maggie's Bar will have no trouble booking more bands to fill their cellar. Live music will continue to surge forward without a hiccup. But what a shame that we'll see no more of the Venom Seeds. All together now: they coulda bin contenders!

Venom Seeds

Essential links:

Venom Seeds: Website | MySpace

Maggie's bar: MySpace


For more photos from this gig, find the Venom Seeds by name here.

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  Page credits: Review, photos and construction by Michael Johnson.
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