Carnage At Christmas Live Review (The Parrot, Carmarthen. 13/12/12)

First off, there’s a confession to make: local gigs never really whip up any interest in me; at least not in comparison to the excitement of seeing international bands touring the UK. However, this event organised by Before The End Promotions reimbursed any faith I had lost in the local scene and rock/metal gigs in the Carmarthenshire area over the past few years.

Admittedly, I was only loosely aware of each band’s sound having checked out one or two tracks each, and thought I knew what to expect… but then everything I didn’t expect to happen, happened.

The starter of the night was Carmarthen’s own The Droids You’re Looking For; who infuse the electronic/key elements of Rolo Tomassi with the musical technicality and fun attitude of Pulled Apart By Horses. While they were probably the least physically active of the four bands, they played with impressive nonchalant precision as vocalist Jack went through cleans, screams and growls through the band’s experimental yet heavy songs. Starting at an early time and being the first band for the night is a tough challenge, but The Droids definitely did all they could have done at the time.

Next was Storm The Walls, a Swansea-based band who have garnered a reputable name for themselves within the local metal scene. The quintet ploughed their way through the set with their metalcore grooves and breakdowns as vocalist Michael Collins hurled himself across the floor in frenzy, trying his best to incite some sort of crowd interaction but was unfortunately left with bobbing heads and one member of the audience re-enacting the Gangnam Style shuffle. Despite the lack of crowd reaction, Storm The Walls played with full force when the situation could have made many-a-band shrink into a corner.

Blue Collar Decade from Bridgend took to the stage next and were the first band to really grab the focus of the audience – mostly due to people making sure they weren’t caught in the crossfire of each guitarists’ axe swings. Playing post-hardcore along the lines of Glassjaw, the charismatic Andrew Harris mixed clean vocals and screams while guitarists Andrew Bishop and Daniel Griffiths stalked the area in front of the stage. Bishop seemed like he would have fitted in with The Dillinger Escape Plan or Every Time I Die, looking as if he was trying to choke his guitar while swinging it with violence; meanwhile Griffiths seemed like an insane Angus Young, clearly riled up by the guitar problems during soundcheck, which ultimately worked in the favour of his angst-ridden performance – yet neither guitarist seemed to miss a note or fall out of time.

They also set a challenge near the end of their set: anyone who would pour a pint at arms length into their mouth from above would win a free t-shirt of theirs – a challenge bravely accepted by one of the guys from TDYLF, then followed by a more successful attempt by BCD’s bassist Vince Chan at the end of the set.

Then came the time for Newport/Cardiff based Blowgoat, a band that describe themselves as a drunk “rip off [of] The Bronx and Every Time I Die” – translated as fast, southern blues-influenced hardcore. It’s probably safe to say that no-one, at least myself or anyone new to the band, knew what was coming… but it was great.

The band started off the same high-energy as BCD with members of the band bouncing around the floor without compromise, always close to catching someone with a mic stand or the head of their guitars. Tables and speakers were stood upon while vocalist Paul’s nose seemed grazed and bleeding; as he and bassist Barry took part in several head-wrestling competitions, the two pushing their weight into each others’ skulls. A few songs in, Paul and Barry began venturing into the crowd, testing the water, until all of the sudden the atmosphere flipped from mild-interest to full captivation as Barry and one half of the guitars, Matt, took to the street outside and thrashed out on the pavement – the faces of passers-by could be seen from inside and were absolutely priceless!

Then there was a moment when the whole venue became a moshpit with bodies flying everywhere, including Blowgoat members throwing themselves into the mess. At one point, a member of Storm The Walls hung from the overheard lights bar upside-down as one member of BCD (at least I think) hurled himself off a table into myself and a few others while many chairs were knocked over and tables pushed against the walls. Absolute chaos that nobody had expected at the beginning of the night but fully embraced it.

Blowgoat finished the set by pounding their instruments into submission, leaving a sustained roar of distortion and feedback as they were clearly done, the audience left in complete shock and awe.

In the end, it was a gig that truly deserved a packed venue, but perhaps it was just as well that no more than 30 people were there, feeling like an exclusive and special event that no one will be able to boast about than we who had witnessed it. Many people left grinning maniacally and it will definitely be a gig to be talked about at The Parrot for a long, long while.

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