Earthtone 9 (Friction Tour) – Bristol Thekla 21/05/11 (Live Review) + Tide Of Ambition (Video)
Finally the Friction Tour rolls in to Bristol. The wait is all but over but before the evenings main draw, there are three other bands to contend with. The Thekla has a crazy curfew of 10pm due to their Saturday evening club night. Considering doors were half six, shoehorning four bands in seems like a pretty tall order. Humanfly take to the stage just fifteen minutes after doors which unfortunately for them means that the modest audience is still adjusting to their surroundings. The band deals in sludgy adrenaline injected stoner riffs mixed sparingly with vocals that range from deep death metal growls to Iron Monkey esque yelps. 25 minutes isn’t long to get your point across and it’s even harder when the audience is so small but given the circumstances, Humanfly were pretty impressive this evening.
Maybeshewill sounded exactly as I thought they would tonight, I’m still trying to figure out whether this is a good thing or not. For me they seem to perfectly sum up Explosions type post-rock with all of the relevent boxes neatly ticked. Upon initial listens I was pretty excited by their sound but the more I listened the more I suspected that there was something amiss. Not that I could possibly level any kind of criticism at the band, although the boy band posturing and graceful hair flicks did catch me off guard a little. There is something that keeps me liking Maybeshewill but stops me loving them, I just can’t quite put my finger on what that thing is. Seeing them live only cemented my indecisiveness.
The Ocean were up next. Second time seeing them, the last time when they supported Dillinger Escape Plan. I couldn’t remember too much about them but after a couple of minutes it all came flooding back. The Ocean have everything they need to be an arena metal act; expensive looking gear, elaborate CD packaging, eye-catching light shows, not to mention all the moves. What they lack though is substance to back up all of that style. Not only that but they sounded pretty awful too, for all of his rigorous endeavours the singer may as well have not been anywhere near the stage. Even when the band weren’t at full throttle during the token singing parts, he was barely audible. Things improved slightly towards the end of the set but I remain unimpressed.
I reckon I must have seen ET9 around 7 or 8 times back when they were last active, on not one of those occasions did I leave the venue feeling anything less than blown away by what I had witnessed. I feel a strong connection with the band having witnessed them progress both in terms of their recorded material and also as a live band. To get the chance to see them again almost a decade later is both exciting and unnerving in equal measures. Some things are best left in the past, all of those memories could easily be crushed with a dodgy, poorly judged re-union. My nerves were appeased somewhat by the new song Tide Of Ambition which was a scathing return to form and easily sits alongside past glories. Part of me was hoping that they would open with Grind & Click but when Off Kilter exploded from the Theklas tiny stage I couldn’t help but shed a grin. A grin born of pure elation with a hint of relief, ET9 all of a sudden seem like the most essential band in the world again. Back 10 years ago I was watching an incredible band struggling to get the exposure that they deserved, now I am watching a triumphant second coming and these songs have grown in to the classics that I always knew they would. Even songs from debut album Lo-Def(inition) Dischord sounded absolutely phenomenal, I have never heard Withered sound so colossal. True, Karl and the boys don’t necessarily move like they used to but shit, they sound exactly like they used to. My only complaint is the brevity of the set, fifty minutes simply wasn’t long enough and surely on the back of this a headline tour is imminent? Tide Of Ambition was the only new song to get a stroll out but live, it was a set highlight. They conclude with I Nagual Eye, and leave the stage to rapturous applause from a modest but floored crowed. When I reflect back on why this was such a good gig, it comes down to the fact that the band looked like they were enjoying themselves like I’ve never seen before. I think that Karl spoke more tonight than he did during all of the times I saw them combined, it really seems like the band are as excited to be playing for the fans as the fans are to be seeing the band. the new EP is a cracker too, will try to get a review up sometime soon. If you are unfamiliar with ET9 and like a bit of metal, I would highly recommend you check out the digital best of (of sorts) Inside, Embers Glow which is available for FREE HERE.