The Tunnels is a strange venue. Long and slender, its main room resembles a phallus. A big black phallus, a giant dong whose impressive length is contrasted by its distinct lack of girth. On busy nights – say, Every Time I Fucking Die tearing up the gaff – the phallus becomes blocked, its front section rammed and its stairs, midway down the shaft, all but impassable.
It’s a small price to pay though for watching three raucous bands drip blood, sweat and spit through the PA system. The devil’s music is very loud and very hard to make out, but there’s no disputing that it’s his handiwork alright.
Making out the Grader
Take local support act Grader for instance. Officially, they’re a metal and hardcore quintet – y’know, shouty with a hint of melody – but tonight they sound like the third-heaviest band in the world. Sludge and molten lava ooze through the PA, rendering their frontman’s every grunt and yelp unintelligible.
Whenever I’m watching a band for the first time, I enact the metal test. To pass it, they must leave me with a riff seared in memory. A breakdown. A something.
With Grader, this just doesn’t happen. It turns out that five guys thrashing down-tuned guitars, uttering guttural screams and treating a drum kit like, well, a drum kit make hella noise. Who knew?
A circle pit breaks out and a guy starts repeatedly stage diving. It’s all happening.
Drowned in sound
Grader’s finer points – assuming they have any – may have been lost in amplification, but I make a mental note to listen to them later, cos I care about the music. Dude, I fucking care. In 2014 we can make a metal cube balance on one corner but we haven’t found a way to audibly mic up a band. Our generation needs to get its priorities sorted.
Update: Grader are pretty good when you can actually hear what they’re playing. Check ‘em:
The Story So Far
On record, the world’s second-heaviest band – The Story So Far – aren’t heavy at all. This is The Tunnels however, where Lordes could play an acoustic set and it would come through the PA sounding like Carcass. Tonight, the pop punkers have been transformed into a jump-tha-fuck-up hardcore band, and it’s pretty cool. The secret to making the poppy sound heavy? Amplify everything below 300 Hz and dingy the mid and treble altogether.
TSSF seem to only have one song, but it’s an upbeat song, the lyrics to which would probably be super uplifting if I could hear them. Then they play Empty Spaces and I realise that I was wrong – they have two songs and one of them’s a banger.
Back in the day
Old faces. New faces. Pretty faces. Faces you haven’t came across in a long time. Faces you always wanted to come across but never got a chance to. Tonight they’re all here at The Tunnels.
- Back in the day, people used to attend gigs before going home and posting a review. (I should know – I was one of them.)
- Back in the day, people used to attend gigs without feeling compelled to play with their phones. Tonight’s gig is at The Tunnels, where all the phone networks in the world couldn’t summon a bar.
- Back in the day, when a known alternative band came to Aberdeen, my mates would be there in force and the show would be sold out. Tonight’s gig is sold out and, looking round, I see a lot of familiar faces.
- Back in the day, I used to listen to Every Time I Die. Ten years on, ETID are playing Aberdeen.
Yo, sorry for the pause there. I just nostalgia’d so hard I deactivated my Facebook and traded my S3 for a 3210.
Every Time I Die
The venue smells of sweat and weed. Or is it just sweat that smells like weed? The world’s heaviest band are on stage, grunting, slamming and rocking their way through a bunch of songs that sound suspiciously identical to one another. My favourite ETID record is Hot Damn! Tonight, they could have played the album in its entirety and I wouldn’t have known. Perhaps they did.
What the PA may subtract in sonic subtleties however the frenzied crowd adds in fist-pumping action. The guy who stage dived all the way through Grader’s set is still going. Where do these people go the rest of the time? It’s hard to imagine him in a suit and tie working for the man. I’m pretty sure he’s cryogenically frozen between gigs before being reanimated every five years and given dispensation to throw shapes for a few hours. It’s the only logical explanation as to why a man would dedicate an entire evening to hurling himself off a stage in the expectation that someone will catch him before his skull is rudely interrupted by the floor.
Feel the noize
I want to describe the headliners’ set, but there’s nothing to describe. It’s just noise. Angry distorted noise bleeding through the speakers and rumbling through the room. It’s OK though; we get the sentiment. We get the energy. Heavier than a hambeast and tighter than a pair of skinny jeans, they are the demonic orchestra that presides over an ocean of bodies. Every band sounds heavier live. Every Time I Die sound heavy enough to break through the earth’s core and barrel all the way to China.
A few years ago, I worked in a hi-fi shop. My colleagues genuinely loved their music – that shit was their passion. Pink Floyd. David Gray. Alison Krauss. If they’d been at tonight’s gig, they would have hated every second of it.
And that’s the highest compliment I can pay Every Time I Die. ETID take you back to a time when rock was actually alternative. A time when tattoos marked you out as being different, before every football ned and slap-encrusted tart was born sporting a half sleeve.
Towards the end of the band’s set, I nip to the toilets, where I bump into a mate. He shrugs: “It’s a racket, but you get the gist of it.” And that’s what it’s about. It’s not a sound. It’s not a riff. It’s not a chorus.
It’s a feeling.
It’s about being able to say yeah I’m older now and I’ve got a job and responsibilities, but inside I’m still that same kid, listening to music cos I know my parents would hate it. Sometimes you go to a gig to sing along to your favourite songs. At other times, you just wanna be reminded of why you fell in love with rock in the first place.
“Don’t grow old it’s a trap,” reads the graffiti in the bogs. Ten years ago, I would have read it and laughed. Now I just nod.