The Wytches: The Haunt Brighton 05/12/2015: The Kings of Freak City!
“Are you drinking tonight?” the doorman ask when it was my turn to be front of the queue. “Yes” I replied. “Good man” he said with a grin “You’ll need one of these wristbands then” slapping another gig momento on my arm. When I checked it while walking into the Haunt it said “I am not a child”. I do like a venue with a sense of humour, and if you’re putting on a triple bill of Wyches, Black Honey and Morning Smoke, you’re going to need to get your laughs where you can, as those three aren’t known for their hilarious links in between songs. This is going to be a good night I thought.
Considering that the door had been open fifteen minutes, there was a reasonable crowd for the first support band. Morning Smoke got things going with crowd favourite Never Enough. Throughout its duration Morning Smoke delivered massive riffs that were drenched with echo and reverb. While they didn’t put on much of a show, the crowd was definitely into their brand of garage rock with subtle shoegazing flourishes. Plastic Womb followed on from Never Enough, expect everything sounded bigger and fully formed. Again the crowd lapped it up, which encouraged Morning Smoke to try and play more intense. Next up was the lead track from their debut single Soft Decay. This was when their set started to get serious. The song writing seemed more concise and the playing was far more intricate. Shame was a new track and it had benefitted from the Soft Decay sessions. The interplay between the guitarists was much stronger than on the previous four songs. Also the bass was a massive surging beast. The final track was How Does it Feel, and was the stand out moment of a strong set. Wailing feedback erupted from the speakers, before an explosion of riffs, drums and bass hit us smack in the face. We only really knew when the song was over as the band left the stage. The set hinted what Joy Division would have sounded like if they got into shoegazing. Lead singer Milo’s monotone vocals juxtaposed perfectly with the echo ridden spikey guitar riffs. This is a band that have plenty left to say and do.
After a short break, and a surge of people into the Haunt, Black Honey took to the stage. During the break the band placed a model flamingo on an amp. Would it make the set was one of my thoughts. While the end result is the same as Morning Smoke, how they get there is slightly different. Instead of the feedback fenzy for Morning Smoke, Black Honey opted for a cleaner 1950’s rockabilly sound, but with a slight punk attitude. Imaging Kate Pierson fronting the Cramps, while they cover some Duane Eddy and you’re on the right tracks. Opening track Spinning Wheel had a slow, sleazy, insalubrious Nancy Sinatra vibe to it. By the end the crowd were in their hands. Madonna was the next song of their set. It was in stark comparison to Spinning Wheel due to its heavier guitar sound, the anthemic quality of the verses. Teenager, felt like a mixture of the two and it was catchy as hell! This formula followed on for the rest of their set. Massive walls of guitars were backed by the fantastic range of singer Izzy Baxter. But as the set progressed, their sound started to skew towards a more US Alt-indie sound, yes the twangy guitars were still there, but it was starting to sound more measured. Final track You Said it All was an absolute beast and was very reminiscent of Primal Scream at their noise rocking best. And yes the flamingo made it to the end.
During the previous two sets the Haunt are fill to almost capacity. As their sets progressed the crowd, mainly comprised of young twenty somethings, was getting more and animated and as the bands created peaks and dips in their sets, the crowd acted as one, when Wytches hit the stage, the crowd exploded into a seething mass. Luckily by this point I was on the balcony upstairs and had a front row view of not only Wytches, but their beautifully deranged fans. As each song started a bellowing cheer was heard from the bristling mass below. Opening track Cside was met up cheers of approval and mass pogoing. Their thirteen song set was a mixture of old favourites and albums tracks, Gravedweller, Beehive Queen, Darker, Wide at Midnight, along with brand new untitled songs. By Holy Tightrope mass crowd surfing was taking place and the vibe of the crowd was one of almost happiness, rather than what the music would lead you to believe. During a slight reprieve I looked about the other members of the upstairs audience and spied that Ben Thatcher from Royal Blood was in attendance. This was a positive sign that he was supporting Brighton bands, as all three currently reside in Brighton. Maybe he was scouting a tour support, or perhaps he wanted to see something loud and ungainly, either way he look enraptured with the spectacle below. But alsmot as soon as they’d graced the stage, Wytches set was over, and after an encore of Riding on Horseback in the Desert it was time to make a move.
This evening’s gig showed that Brighton is still Freak City, as all the bands on the bill can be classed as part of the burgeoning freak scene. Following on from pioneers the Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster, in the early 2000’s there has been a healthy amount of bands veering away from radio friendly sounds and going off into darker unchartered territory. Sometimes this doesn’t work, but when it does, like this evening, it sounds like the best thing ever. This is a gig showed that Wytches are the current Kings of the freak scene. Long may their rein continue!