Adecidedly retro feel connects the two bands starting tonight’s entertainment. For openers Lo Chief, it’s primarily in obvious early-70s influences – classic Deep Purple meets The Doors – and their gutsy, endlessly enthusiastic andenergetic brand of swampy blues rock goes down extremely well.
With Switzerland-based instrumental combo Monkey3, it’s hard to avoid similar 70s-vintage comparisons. From the swirling, spacey intro, which could have easily graced a Hawkwind gig, through to encore Through The Desert, which veritably screams Echoes-era Floyd before building to a hard and heavy crescendo and a big finish, the band seem to channel early Rush, Sabbath and a doom-laden parallel universe T-Rex.
There are rich, evocative, even cinematic soundscapes vying with dirty riffing and a pounding rhythm section, all given aural glue courtesy of Boris’ fluid soloing and multifaceted guitar textures, and the ever-present synth and organ strains of dB. The thick pall from an unrelenting smoke machine, the four inscrutable totemic white neon symbols flanking the stage and the lack of any direct communication with the audience all contribute towards an aura of mystery.
It’s a powerful, psychedelic and at times strangely hypnotic performance. But the main band Prog is here to catch are Northamptonshire’s finest instrumental post-rock/prog/indie/metal purveyors The Fierce And The Dead. They have become sterling champions of instrumental music that defies easy pigeonholes. Out of the blocks, the short, fuzz-heavy Magnet In Your Face comes over as a 60s garage band on steroids, while 1991 follows with an almost jaunty bass and drum backbone, interspersed with space and jangly guitars.
While the band’s output can seem discomforting and forbidding, tonight its members seem to be having a thoroughly good-humoured and joyful time of it. Bassist Kevin Feazey exchanges easy banter with the audience, inviting people to “dance if you want” to the murky punk funk of Verbose, which also features guitarist Matt Stevens in “angry soloing” mode.
With an upcoming album on the horizon, fan appetites are teased with the new tune Parts 7 And 8, which moves between groove-orientated guitar work and noisy intensity before a breakdown punctuated by Stevens’ use of screaming feedback. After that, the bass leads us back in to a terrific slow build and a frankly huge, majestic ending.
Finishing with a frenetic rendition of 666…6, this relatively brief set demonstrates much of what marks out the Fierce And The Dead live experience – material that’s by turns gritty, surprising, atmospheric, intense, airy and heavy as anything, but rarely, if ever, entirely predictable.