2016: The Year CHUNK Broke @ Brudenell Social Club, Leeds

Posted by vibrations on 08-02-16

For anyone who doesn’t know yet, Chunk is a music/art collective providing a rehearsal/gallery/venue space on the Hyde Park/Meanwood borders and is currently cradling an extremely fertile group of musicians and artists responsible for some of the best cutting edge left field rock and extreme metal bands in Leeds just now. This event had the dual purpose of raising both money for, and the profile of, Chunk, and the extremely good turn-out hopefully did both. The afternoon session took place in the Main Room and roughly alternated between spoken word/comedy acts and bands, while the pace of the evening session quickened with mainly bands alternating between the Main and Games Rooms.

While it must be terrifying opening an event like this entirely on your own, billing yourself as a comedian when you have barely two jokes to rub together and not even a good understanding of the mechanics of comedy to fall back on, things are not likely to go well. Sadly, whatever Freddy Vinehill Cliffe is, he's not a comedian.

First band of the day is Oil, and several members appear to have been drinking the stuff by the look of their blackened lips. If so, it’s done their lubricated take on hell for leather punked up psyche a lot of good. It's huge fun to listen to because the band are clearly having a huge amount of fun playing it. Debut gig too, clever bastards. Human Certainty fill the next slot but their unimaginative and undynamic, one note goth doesn’t do much more than that. A band with half an idea looking for its lost limb.

Two poets close the afternoon session and it would be hard to find two more different styles and approaches to spoken word. Karl Whiting delivers a highly physical performance, prowling the stage like bear with a sore head and frequently doubling up with the effort of spitting out his desperate, rough-hewn words that he forces into some kind of brutal blank verse. The effort he puts into it leads to frequent non-verbal gasps for air and grunts that emphasise the despair and urgency of the pieces. By complete contrast J S Gordon recites proper poetry direct from a printed pamphlet of his poems. Gordon is tall and seems to stretch himself even taller as his querulous, piping voice delivers a stream of melodious words from his mouth. The subject matter alternates between dark and light with similarly shaded humour being deftly employed. Gordon’s other Chunk persona is as the deranged, shrieking singer with fearsome noise rock trio Irk. So there.

Shifting gear from pulling pints all afternoon to opening the evening session with a set of blazingly fantastic garage blues must be weird, but Hank Haint, in conjunction with The Sonic Heartbreakers, seems to make the transition effortlessly enough. Back in the Main Room, Cottonwoolf’s sophisticated jazz songs up the levels of woozy cool despite the odd lapse into proggy widdle. The players have chops to spare and any band that includes guitarist Craig Scott knows what it’s doing. In the Games Room punky trio Ecate are already barrelling through songs driven by buzz saw guitar and a thumping rhythm section that makes for super energised riot girl punk. Healing Powers turn out to be two thirds of Human Certainty with another bass player and play a weird kind of grunge with oddly restrained shrieked vocals. Perfunctory and soulless.

Sat in the middle of all the sonic mayhem is comedian Sean Morley, who delivers a very high concept act based entirely on the deconstruction of comedy as a performance art. Employing techniques of audience manipulation at Machiavellian levels, Morley introduces himself, heckles himself, makes the audience sit crossed legged on the floor singing a ribald version of God Save The Queen, harangues everyone for not behaving as they should and announces the gig and the Brudenell has been closed because of this outrage. He ends by telling everyone to leave and then stands statue still until everyone HAS left. This bare bones description may sound a bit lame, but the sense of uncertainty about what may be coming next and the propulsive energy of Morley’s delivery made the whole thing giddily hilarious. And he told not one joke.

The run in was headed by Girl Sweat. A man alone with his noise generating gadgets and an extravagant costume (flowing gold shroud, face paint, singlasses and er, smart brogues) can often spell disaster unless there’s an underlying unifying purpose. Mr Sweat falls between two the stools really, because there appears to be no real underlying concept or intent, but it is great fun. The Casio keyboard labelled ‘Badass Mother Fucker’ is a nice touch. By complete contrast, Post War Glamour Girls quite simply crack the sky. The band’s music has become a thing of terrible beauty, crushing and heartbreakingly tender at one and the same time. Singer James Smith continues his slo-mo transformation into a shaman possessed in equal measure by demons and angels. They finish with a quite extraordinary cover of Bowie’s ‘Heroes’.

Thereafter the party vibe ramps up considerably, with high energy funk punk outfit Zozo managing to evoke post punk heavyweights like The Pop Group without ever losing the desire to move feet and bodies. Their technical and equipment problems sap the momentum somewhat but you’d be hard pressed to find a better band imbued with more upfull positivity. And to finish Cowtown again. Always Cowtown. If you haven't seen Cowtown yet just go and see them. And if you don't like Cowtown you're dead inside and to me.

And go be Chunked.

Steve Walsh

On the Vibrations stereo...