Live Review // Loom, Bloody Knees & Polterghost

The Black Heart – September 4th

loom Photo by Jen Moffat

The Black Heart is, quite literally, in the ‘heart’ of Camden – and by the looks of its clientele, it’s deepest goth heart as well. Though none of the three bands that it hosts tonight could quite fit the ‘goth’ category exactly, they all, in other ways, seem to have a certain ‘darkness’ about them.

First up are the two ex-Fanzine members (vocalist Jock Norton and bassist Kit Jennings, joined by Danny Ward on drums) who have now donned the mantle of Polterghost.  And despite the possible inference of the name, they deliver a set of lo-fi slacker rock with competence that belies their only having played a handful of live shows to date. Head nodders in the front row, whoop and cheer the newly released single ‘Beast’ as its stoner riffs, thumping drums and driving basslines get underway. From set opener, ‘Holy Smoke’, with its squalling guitars, through the Pearl Jam-like sound of ‘Brainfreeze’, you start to see how they have already made an arresting impression.

Cambridge’s Bloody Knees follow them on stage, and the audience are surprisingly less motivated, for what is a band that is rapidly rising up the ranks.  Belting out a set of pop-punk, scuzzy melodics like ‘Ghosts’, ‘Never Change’ and ‘Ears Eyes Ohs and Yous’ with a fierce abandonment, the four-piece look like a set of American college kids let loose with guitars and the inevitable headgear of backward baseball caps. Vocalist Bradley Griffiths provides a vocal tone that is punk harsh, coupled with howls that on ‘100 Days’ could easily have been heard all those years ago from Mr J. Rotten himself.

By the time of Loom’s arrival, it’s a case of hold onto your drinks and stick to the back of the room if you are of a less adventurous persuasion, or just not feeling up to a rumble on the floor. And for those who have been witness to a Loom live experience (or more likely read the copious column inches that have referred to said outrageousness), they will know what to expect. And it’s not long before the band, or at least its frontman Tarik Badwan, get everyone worked up into a frenzy, with bodies flying around – even onto the stage at points – with Badwan himself  at times just standing back to view the ensuing chaos he has created.

The eight-song set runs full pelt through a large selection of their hitherto previously aired repertoire, which while not always pitch perfect, is certainly attention-grabbing. Aside from their own recent releases of ‘Bleed On Me’, (the urgent, reverbed-out debut from last year and which is always a set highlight), ‘I Get A Taste’ (another set marker, with guitarists Matt Marsh and Joshua Fitzgerald ably complementing their audacious singer) and ‘Acid City King’, they include ‘Hate’, together with their cassette cover version of Warsaw’s ‘Warsaw’.

In Badwan, Loom have a frontman who excels in playing the dark, angry young man role, and exuding a ‘don’t mess’ with me aura. But however much this may send shivers of excitement down the spines of their fans, when he goes charging like an angry bull on testosterone through the room, it can – and does – detract from the music; and not least from what is actually a very fine, tight four-piece unit. [Augmented by bassist Philip Todd for live show.] Sometimes there is so much taking place off the stage, that it is almost easy to forget this is actually a gig, and not a gladiatorial arena. Nevertheless, Loom are without doubt one of the most exciting and adrenaline-filled bands you could wish to see at the moment and everyone should try them at least once.

– Linn Branson