Live: The Warlocks, Engine Room, Brighton

So here we are again. Listening to a single chord, stretched out to encompass a million possibilities: filtered through circuits and electronic gates, treated, distorted, echoing, abused, spinning off into an almost infinite series of sounds within sounds, suggestions, associations, layers and angles, as though sound were light, passing through a hall of funhouse mirrors on its cyclical journey around this hot and dingy basement club. How can such deliberate simplicity and repetition never grow old or stale? To those of us doomed to worship forever in the temple of droning, harmonic noise it retains a hypnotic power and freshness, mystically reborn each time and causing other, more complex and melodic styles of music to seem almost facetious and unsatisfactorily ephemeral by comparison. The Warlocks’ churning psychedelia moves slowly uphill, bearing its own crucifix towards Calvary, and we follow dancing behind.

Tonight’s show nearly didn’t happen. ‘Technical failure’ pushed the door times back from 7.30 to 9, meaning supporting sets from Esben and the Witch and The Kool-Aid Electric Company were cancelled altogether, and clusters of pale-faced club rats watched an impressively flaming sun setting orange and egg-like over the beach, before being allowed back into their natural habitat. Some trouble with monitors, apparently, although that may have been the least of it. There was no way the 10.30 curfew could be extended either, as heroic promoters ‘Put It On’ found themselves stuck between a rock night and a hard place (forgive me…).

However, in the event The Warlocks rose to the challenge to deliver an incandescent set that fully justified our long wait. A short-haired Bobby Hecksher seemed in surprisingly ebullient spirits, while Amazonian bassist Jana Risher proved both solid rhythmic anchor and pleasing visual foil, literally giving Bobby a cowboy-booted kick up the arse on more than one occasion. Regular guitarists Ryan and JC were joined by a mysterious fourth axeman, hunched in hat and scarves and impressive classical tattoos stage left, and sadly only a single drummer, though whether the Engine Room’s cramped stage could have accommodated any more musicians is debatable. But when they played a well-received brace of Phoenix era numbers mid-set, including ‘Shake the Dope out,’ ‘Hurricane Heart Attack’ and ‘The Dope’s No Good,’ I missed the duelling beats and pounding cross-rhythms of the two-drummer line-up from that era.

Ultimately though it hardly mattered, any more than the abscence of The Warlocks usually overwhelming fog of dry ice did. It was great to hear the darker and denser songs from last year’s excellent Heavy Deavy Skull Lover album being given a live workout, and the band even managed an encore, Bobby strutting the boards sans guitar and thrusting his mic into the protesting, overloaded amps as effects pedals were sorely abused all round and the other Bob, behind his kit, did his best to drum for two. The Warlocks finished on a high; the hill climbed, their cross erected. Now- how do we get back down?

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One Response to “Live: The Warlocks, Engine Room, Brighton”

  1. Andy Says:

    Good review. I too missed the dry ice and the twin drummers but like you say still a good gig. Long may we climb the hill to worship at the temple of drone :).

    Some pics from the gig if you haven’t seen them:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/litost/sets/72157607040740686/detail/

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